History of the Museum

tool museum building

The Museum started a bit by chance in 2004.  Local resident, John Weisenberg, was seeking a permanent home for his extensive tool collection of over fifty years.  John wanted a home to preserve his treasured collection, and his friend Mike Snegg and family were a perfect fit.  

The Snegg family had a long tradition with tools. Snegg’s father, David Snegg, owned The Tool Crib in Pasadena and was one of the pioneers of the equipment rental industry starting just after World War II with surplus military equipment.

Designer, Gary Chapman had a great deal to do with the design of how the tools hang on the wall.. and he hung most of the tools!

Mike describes the heritage of the museum for an article in The Union

There is no such thing as an old hammer to Mike Snegg.

“When you hold it, you are sharing the DNA of the guy who used the tool,” said Snegg, standing inside his barn whose walls are decorated to the ceiling with thousands of antique tools from around the world.

Snegg’s father, David Snegg, owned The Tool Crib in Pasadena and was one of the pioneers of the equipment rental industry, his son said. 

“I’ve been around tools my entire life,” the younger Snegg said.

What began as a hobby has turned into a full-blown nonprofit, Grass Roots Antique Tool Museum, housed in an old barn on Mike and Nina Snegg’s five-acre Nevada City farm. The tools are intricately arranged by category; saws, drills, yard sticks, hammers, locks, levels and date back 200 years and more.

“This isn’t a bunch of tools thrown against a wall,” Mike Snegg said. “This is an art installation.”

Knowing his deep appreciation for tools, Snegg spends hours each day making beautiful bowls from every kind of wood imaginable. Friends have passed their tools along to Snegg so that he may share them with the world.

Half of the tools belonged to John Weisenberg, an owner and salesman of the Proto Tools Company. 

After his retirement, Weisenberg began collecting tools before passing away in 2008.

Collections formerly belonging to Gerry Green and Bill Gallino also adorn Snegg’s walls. 

“Most of it is a bunch of old guys’ stuff,” Snegg laughed. “These people put 50 years into these collections.”

Snegg also has scales, a hedge trimmer (one of his favorites), a cornhusker, barrel-making tools, lathes, drill braces and even a horn cutter. 

“Most people collect saws, hammers, or drills — but I collect all categories,” said Snegg, who moved to Nevada City and opened a natural food store more than 40 years ago. 

He would eventually start his own real estate company (Grass Roots Realty).

From Turkey to Lithuania, some of the tools come from all over the world. 

Snegg pointed to a prized Japanese ice cream (mochi) maker dated 1886. 

Snegg’s collection was the subject of Chinese artist Shi Guorui’s work displayed in 2007 at the de Young Museum in San Francisco 

“I don’t have a favorite tool, I like the collection as a whole – the way they are arranged.” Snegg said. “When you walk out here, it blows you away.”

Read the article at TheUnion.com