Over the past year, an ambitious young Amish woodworker (and tool collector) named Dan Raber has stripped a nondescript storefront in downtown Millersburg, Ohio down to its bare elements and transformed it into a store selling home goods and tools with the strange and wonderful idea that customers looking to equip a colonial-era homestead could find everything they need within its walls. Dan makes and repairs wooden furniture using traditional tools from a shop in the back of the store. In an era where so many Amish businesses are permitted to use (diesel-generated) electricity under the ordnung of most assemblies, the traditional way of making things (and thus, the tools) have been largely forsaken in favor of more efficient methods and tools. Dan is a real history buff, and he feels very strongly that by abandoning traditional tools and methods his fellow Amish are losing a real community asset, and his store offers classes as well as access to large stores of working antique tools for anyone (inside or outside the community) looking to keep up with this tradition of craft. It the most beautiful store I have ever seen.

The Colonial Homestead is located at 144 A West Jackson St. in Millersburg, Ohio. It does not have a website, nor will it. Dan does manage to call me whenever he finds antique leather working tools.

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I was in Amish country to tour various leather working shops. With all the demands of a non-industrial, horse-dependent community, Holmes County Ohio holds great interest for anyone passionate about hand-worked leather. I visited more than ten independent leather working shops and talked with a lot of fascinating craftsmen. I started with a visit to the amazing Weaver Leather, just down the road from the farm where we stayed:

The smell of thousands of tanned hides was pretty great, but my favorite thing I saw at Weaver was when the lunch whistle blew and half a hundred Amish women emerged from the off-limits parts of the warehouse to head outside and play volleyball!
After that I visited a number of smaller leather shops, and saw a lot of really interesting old sewing machines (some of them hand-cranked, some pneumatic-powered) beyond the typical Singer 29ks and Tippman hand stitchers:

I had to stop at Yoder's Blacksmith Supplies as well. How could I not?

Look at all the anvils!

If anyone on your Christmas list is looking for an anvil, you can't beat the selection at Yoder's!

Also, not far from Yoder's is Edna's farm stand. I recommend the raspberry jam. It's $2.00, on the honor system.

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