Michael Dix may not have a background in design, but he has managed to elevate one of the humblest household objects to a thing of beauty.
Inspired by the hand-painted baseball bats and canoe paddles made by Pillbox Bat Company and Sanborn Canoe Company—brands that “saw there was value in a useful tool that is as beautiful as it is well made,” Dix says—he began reimagining the simplest tool of all: the screwdriver. His hand-painted designs are simple and striking. Some feature classic, primary-color combinations; others are adorned with splatter-paint and camouflage patterns.
Of course, they’re not just pretty. Sturdy enough to tackle big projects, and backed by a lifetime warranty, each tool is designed and manufactured—with birch sourced from Maine and a steel alloy forged in Connecticut—by Grace USA, a family-owned business that has been making wood-handled screwdrivers in Michigan for more than 75 years.
“I wanted to create tools that would last; that you could hand down for generations,” Dix explains. “I used my dad’s tools a lot growing up, and there’s something special about things that have that history to them.”
Dix’s business, Neighbor Supply, began as a vending machine in a Denver coffee shop, from which he sold local makers’ wares. When he added his tools to the mix, they flew off the shelves—a challenge that continues to this day: The screwdriver sets (priced from $36 for a two-piece, wood-finish set) are currently sold out online, with more coming March 19. In the meantime, you can find them locally at Berkeley Supply and Judith & Joe.
Up next for Neighbor Supply are new sets painted by local artists, and “The Last American Toolset,” comprising essential household tools sourced from American manufacturers. “Our strength has always been the people we partner with,” says Dix, who teamed up with Denver-based Winter Session to design Neighbor Supply’s canvas tool rolls and pouches. “Whatever we do in the future, I see it continuing to be largely in partnership with other makers and creators.”