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Woodcraft to Acquire Japan Woodworker

comments (15) November 5th, 2012 in blogs

HenryBelanger Henry Belanger, contributor
thumbs up 9 users recommend


According to a statement released last week, Woodcraft will soon acquire Japanese hand tool retailer Japan Woodworker. Owners Fred and Sally Damsen, who have run the California-based business for 34 years, say that Japan Woodworker's website, mail-order catalog, and customer service number will continue to operate under Woodcraft's ownership, but the retail store in Alameda, CA, will close its doors.

On the bright side for Japanese tool lovers, some Japan Woodworker products will now be available at Woodcraft's 75 retail locations in the U.S. The sale won't be finalized until mid-November, according to the Damsens' statement.


To our Valued Customers,


I am pleased to announce that Japan Woodworker will remain a strong company in the capable hands of Woodcraft Supply, LLC., who has signed a Letter of Intent to acquire Japan Woodworker. Japan Woodworker and Woodcraft share many similarities, longevity being one – Woodcraft has been in business for 85 years! And like us, they pride themselves on providing professional quality woodworking tools. Woodcraft is also a strong, recognized brand, but most important Woodcraft is very service oriented and is known for providing its customers with exceptional service. Simply stated, Japan Woodworker and Woodcraft are an extremely "good fit" with regard to business values and service to customers. It is important to Sally and me that we leave you in good hands. It is our intent to conclude this transaction on or about November 15, 2012.

Woodcraft will continue to operate the Japan Woodworker website and catalog, while staffing the 800 customer service telephone number, just as Japan Woodworker does today. To this end, our customers will still be able to visit the Japan Woodworker Internet site, receive a Japan Woodworker catalog, have product questions answered, place orders and receive services from Japan Woodworker, just as they do today. While the local Japan Woodworker retail store on Clement Avenue in Alameda, California, will cease operations, retail customers nationwide will now be able to purchase Japan Woodworker products from one of Woodcraft's 75 retail store locations including two in California.


[Read full statement here (PDF)]


It remains to be seen whether the deal will benefit woodworkers. Fred and Sally Damsen are selling the business so they can retire, they say; it's not clear whether the sale was prompted by any other factors, or how much input they'll have in how Woodcraft runs Japan Woodworker. Which Japan Woodworker products will be available at Woodcraft stores? Will the catalog and website offer the same diversity of products?

I contacted Woodcraft for comment on these questions, but they declined to elaborate on Damsen's statement. "As negotiations progress and more information is known," a Woodcraft representative told me via email, "it will be communicated accordingly."

So, for now, all we can do is speculate.

I'll keep an eye on it. When I know more – in a couple of weeks, probably -- I'll, um, communicate accordingly.

posted in: blogs, hand tools, Woodcraft, Japan Woodworker

Comments (15)

tigo tigo writes: My warmest farewell to Fred and Sally. May they greatly enjoy retirement. They built a unique institution that has been one of my favorite discoveries in buying woodworking tools. I will miss them dearly. Thanks for all of the great Japanese tools you offered.
Posted: 8:07 pm on April 6th

jacko9 jacko9 writes: I'll miss Japan Woodworker after my 33 year relationship buying from Fred and his friendly staff. My shop is full of fantastic high quality hand tools and supplies and I can only hope that Woodcraft would seek to preserve some of that good will and expertise. Fred sold me my first table saw and a few weeks ago before shutting the retail outlet, I acquired some very nice wood planes. Happy retirement Sally and Fred.
Posted: 7:53 pm on December 8th

yorkpitch yorkpitch writes: I wonder if the relationships Japan Woodworker has with all the different blacksmith/tool makers will be maintained. That may be the key to such a wide selection of wonderful tools.

For sure you can expect price increases. Woodcraft is nothing if not expensive. It is the last place I look.
Posted: 9:00 am on November 11th

Linc Linc writes: This is not the closing of a store, or of a business. It is the shuddering of an INSTITUTION. We should all take a moment of silence while plying our craft to recognize how this business has help us and pay thanks to the wonderful people that have served so many other over the years. Yes we can choose to purchase tools and supplies from a catalog, but that is not the same as walking into that building and being greeted as a friend. The fine experiences will be held in high regard for a long while. Best wishes to the staff and owners for all you have provided for others.
Posted: 4:01 am on November 11th

Beorcutt Beorcutt writes: The Japan Woodworker retail site in Alameda has been one of my favorite haunts for the last decade or so. They sell the best Japanese steel cooking knives and have kept them sharpened gratis. The place is steeped in quality and relationships with many West Coast woodworking folks like Kevin Drake and handplane expert Scott Wynn and many others whose names don't come to mind. They've traditionally held a sale/openhouse - there was one today - to which many vendors come to talk and present their wares. They have the greatest stock of Festool I've ever seen.

One more ache for a place of human warmth replaced by an online catalog.

I must say, I generally like WoodCraft. They have good people, at least in the local Dublin store, they are well stocked and their people knowledgeable and nice. It's hard to see the retail store go though, it's an institution.

I'm going to miss being able to oogle the handmade Japanese chisels, their purchase justified by supporting a marginal industry and tradition of excellence.

...good idea dwabyick, Taunton should consider the purchase!

Sally & Fred, thank you for many good years.

Posted: 9:32 pm on November 10th

lclement4 lclement4 writes: I'm pretty bummed about this news. If the Asian woodworking products that can only be found at JW may not make the transition to Woodcraft, that would be a great shame. I've always looked forward to going to Alameda to visit the JW store in person. It looks like I'll never be able to do that, now.
Posted: 9:31 pm on November 10th

user-4297722 user-4297722 writes: I am a woodcraft fan. To me that will mean that woodcraft will have that much more to offer,
Posted: 5:22 pm on November 10th

drkarl drkarl writes: I am also dismayed by the news. Japan Woodworker offered high quality hand tools. I am not a Woodcraft fan either.
Posted: 3:27 pm on November 10th

sawdustmaker411 sawdustmaker411 writes: Well I'm saddend by this.I'm not a Woodcraft fan.I will have to search elsewhere for my asian handtools.
Posted: 12:45 pm on November 10th

Marthinus Marthinus writes: It's more devastating than just sad to see these great storesshut their doors. It is symptomatic of a decline in values and skills. The decline in good education as can be seen by cutting woodshop, music and art from the curriculum has led to a superficial, throw-away, society.
Posted: 11:46 am on November 10th

dwabyick dwabyick writes: maybe somebody else should step in and buy it. how about tauntan press!
Posted: 10:07 am on November 10th

Troy Troy writes: I was saddened to hear about this. I live in Alameda and their store is one of my favorite places to loiter. The store also is a great place to buy Festool products as well as finishing products. The people who work there are super nice and are able to answer a lot of questions about almost any kind of woodworking or tool question. Loosing a store like this is always very sad. The phone staff is always very good about recognizing regular customers as well. They always are nice to my father when he calls. Good luck to Sally and Fred.

Posted: 2:28 pm on November 8th

HenryBelanger HenryBelanger writes: >>Does this mean the Japan Woodworker will stop selling Lie Nielsen tools?<<

Great question, Tim. That hadn't occurred to me, but there's good reason to wonder. It was Lie-Nielson that pulled out of the Woodcraft relationship, so there's a chance they'd extend that decision to JW; on the other hand, they'd be reaching still fewer customers. I'll be sure to ask the folks at Woodcraft/LN when I follow up next week.
Posted: 12:32 pm on November 7th

woodworkertim woodworkertim writes: So, does this mean the Japan Woodworker will stop selling Lie Nielsen tool now?
Posted: 8:11 pm on November 6th

MikeSweet MikeSweet writes: I loved that magazine/store. Really different stuff. High quality too
Posted: 2:36 pm on November 6th

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