Halfway around the world, there is an avid woodworking enthusiast spending much of his retirement creating miniature hand-tool models. His name is Merv Deith and he lives in the small town of Elimbah, which is approximately 30 miles north of Brisbane in Queensland, Australia. His creations include 1:8 scale models of planes, chisels, saws, hammers, gauges, hand drills and more.
"I have made several hundred different woodworking tools," says Deith. "I think they have taken over the house as they seem to gather in small groups in different stages of completion. I have a well laid-out shed with a large collection of normal-sized tools but, looking around, the larger tools fade into the background as my new passion takes hold."
Deith is so passionate that anytime he sees a tool he hasn't done, he immediately starts working on it. He is very particular about making the details perfect. The whole idea started after Deith was featured in a local magazine for his collection of normal-sized tools.
"A photo of me was taken alongside my tools and appeared on the front page of the magazine. My daughter decided she wanted to frame the article and the framer suggested a small tool accompany the magazine cover in the frame. This started the idea of making the smaller version of woodworking tools and so it grew."
Deith now sells his tools to a worldwide customer base through his website, as the miniatures can be shipped easily and inexpensively. He also exhibits at local shows and markets. Prices range from $45 to $400. His main clientele consists of woodworkers, collectors and those looking for a unique gift.
"I have often heard the comment that people have never seen anything like this, so in my local area they are unique. They are unusual and make a great gift for the tradesman who has everything. People often take one of my business cards at a show and sometimes 12 months later they contact me with an order as they are looking for that perfect gift for a relative or friend," says Deith.
The miniature tools often feature brass, steel and Australian hardwoods. He favors the wood mulga for the natural oil it contains.
Patience - and plenty of it - is the main requirement for making miniature tools. Deith will spend up to two days making a miniature with the aid of a wide range of files and drills. A plane is the most challenging to make, he says.
"Woodworking has always been my love and making the miniatures keeps my mind active and keeps me in the shed. At the shows where I display my tools, I receive a lot of positive feedback, which I also find very rewarding."
For information, visit www.miniaturetools.net.
This article originally appeared in the December 2010 issue.