Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tool talk

Enough of this workshop productivity; time for frivolity. Dunno about the rest of the country, but Saturday morning dawned bright and clear, and the mood came upon me to go out into the big wide world.

Okay, so to be strictly accurate, it came upon me to go and look at some rust that wasn't mine.

The tool gods apparently thought this was a Good Idea and smiled upon me, for barely had I reluctantly passed on a nearly new Stanley pin hammer and a unremarkable but crispy bradawl, but who should I then stumble upon? After a long, long gap, none other than The Tall Scotsman. (Yes, okay, so these days I know TTS's real name and need no longer describe him thus, but where's the fun in that?) We exchanged pleasantries, the dire state of tool dealing at the moment, and I was barely warmed up before he revealed he had recently tried, and failed, to sell a Rogers Patent Mitre Planer.

Kids! A Rogers Patent Mitre Planer! Anyone with a passing familiarity with my forum postings will be aware I have a something of a jones for this wondrous device. Where two woodworkers gather together to mutter about the Stanley #51/52, there will be Alf saying "Ah, yes, but what about the Rogers Patent Mitre Planer, eh?" To know there's one in the county at all, and for sale? Sheesh. So consider this a For Sale notice on a kidney. Your choice of left or right... Anyway, it seems the heathen still think the Stanley #52 is the dog's wotsits so at least I was able to bring enthusiasm and knowledge of the RPMP's existence to the party. And envy. Lots and lots of envy.

While still reeling from this information, I was lured in my weakened state to go and look through a couple of boxes of moulding planes, amongst which were some really nice examples. Some old ones too, including a Madox round, and a Nelson (but whether of London or the much earlier York, I couldn't make out), and some really nicely done repairs on well-worn side beads and whathaveyou. Some of them had as many as four or five previous owners names stamped upon them. Yes, I was desperately tempted, but the financial gods had seen fit to have my card ripped off last week, and until the new one comes I can't get any cash out. So I was pretty safe with only a fiver in my pocket. How else could I consider myself safe to step out to look at other people's rust? Anyway, it's early January. You don't expect to see anything worth having in early January.

So anyway, this lack of funds also luckily saved me from a crispy and complete Marples bow saw (with spare blades) and other goodies. Lucky, lucky me... But the conversation made up for it; it's rare to get a chance to talk tools face to face with someone who's eyes don't immediately glaze over. Alas, my time was, unfortunately tight (plus it was too perishing freezing to be standing about, nattering) and I had yet to visit my regular stop inside the market. But before I could get away, TTS, continuing the setting out of his wares, dragged a couple of saws out of his trailer, looked at them (they looked back, rustily), looked at me, and said "Here you go" or words to that effect.

I tried to give them back. I really did. Nope, he'd only bin them - take them. But he could at least sell the saw nuts, I pointed out. Nah, he'll just chuck them. And herein lies the problem. Like me, TTS, likes the tools as tools. The feel of them, the clever touches in design, or the way a previous owner has made it his. Breaking up tools to sell the bits does not really seem to be his thing. This is why I'm certainly never going to make my fortune from tools, and why I tried to give those saws back. Because while every fibre of sense in my being screams "Salvage the nuts and any of the plate that's worth having as scrapers and bin the rest", what actually happens if someone hands me a tool that's "had it", if there's even a glimmer of hope for that tool, I will try and rescue it. I will hate myself for doing it; I will swear and curse whoever let the poor thing get like that, but I will be compelled. And I need another tool to rescue like Chris Schwarz needs a another workbench...

So torn between gratitude and foreboding, I walked away with two saws. The top one's a straight-backed 6pt rip, nib all present and correct, that looks like it was never used. But the plate is fairly pitted and bent to boot. The other is a 22" Canadian Disston D8, 10tpi.

Yes, of course the handle of the rip has woodworm. It's a basket case.

But see how the saw nuts have never been tampered with? A fairly shapely handle too, just to rub salt into the wound.

The etch was lost to human sight on both, but I could just about make out "Disston" and "Canada" on the saw nut on the other one, under the rust. From looking at the Disstonian Institute, I reckon it dates from the mid- late-50s. Hah, modern crap. Only 50 years old... Previous owner didn't want to lose it and marked it with a diamond. Badly.

Probably the same guy who did the sharpening job on it. A more classic case of cows and calves you've never seen. Plate's all rusty, pitting front and back in one area and a slight curve along it too.

Yeah, they've "had it" all right. Bugger.

But in the meantime I popped into the inside market to check out the dealer in there. First up what do I see? The tidiest, cutest, most impractical workbench you've ever laid eyes on. A Sjobergs of the continental design, with a shoulder vice and tail vice. With wooden screws! But only about 3ft long all told. Threatened to tip over backwards if you breathed heavily on it, but an enterprising previous owner had braced the legs with ply and it actually resisted wracking pretty well.

Reader, I fell for it hook, line and sinker.

Thank goodness for that luck of mine. Not only couldn't I afford it, but it would neither fit in the car to bring it home, or fit in the workshop. But if I could have found somewhere to put it, boy, I would have. It was just... cute. And yes, I'm sorry, I've come over a bit girlie about this. I wouldn't have painted it pink, if that helps at all.

Dragging myself away from that, I looked further and in quick succession fell over a tasty little metalworking lathe, two user-made infills of utter hideousness but strangely appealing, and a Footprint hand drill in beautiful nick but no chuck key (I believe Footprint were unique in offering keyed chucks on their hand drills. Can be very handy, as you'll appreciate if you've ever had one of those "Pull the drill away, leave the bit behind" moments). All remained where they were, and I reckoned I was getting away pretty lightly - until I had the Stanley Odd Jobs put in my hand.

On the plus side I don't have a jones for the Stanley #1 Odd Jobs. But I mean honestly, were the tool gods extracting the Michael here, or what? Was I doomed to fall over rarely seen tools in all directions, but only as long as I was strapped for actual cash? Possibly. Anyway, should you be unfamiliar with it, the Odd Jobs was supposed to be the device to fulfil all a carpenter's needs. With a hammer, a saw and an Odd Jobs you could build a house, or something like that. See? It did everything. There's a reproduction in production, if you're grabbed. I notice that PDF of the instructions show it with a four fold rule instead of the type Axminster supply; makes it rather more useful and ups the gizmocity levels a bit. This one was missing its rule, but I was able to supply a few pointers on finding the very information I've linked to above.

Anyway, at this point I'd had about as much as I could take, gave a low scream and beat a retreat, dragging the basket case saws behind me. Tomorrow I'll tell you what I did on Sunday.

Go on, guess.


  1. You're so right! I've got saws that ought to be organ donors, but they're so nice to rehabilitate!

    I can't quite believe that you left all these tempting goodies behind though. Do they not take IOUs in this un-named toolie paradise you describe?


  2. .

    Oddly enough, I saw that Rogers mitre for sale and with a starting price of 500 smackers I’m not surprised he isn’t parting company with it.

    I kept an eye on it to see what it would eventually go for …… perhaps the punters were trying to tell him something.

    Rare or not, it’s only worth what someone will pay for it.

    All best, Howard


  3. I can't believe I did that either, but there we are. That's what comes of not being a collector... ;) And the tool paradise was Pool Market, located between Redruth and Camborne. But more often than not it hides its paradise credentials rather well; this really was an exceptional morning.

    Howard, yeah, it's a lot. But how exactly do you find out the going rate for one in this country? I know Martin's been in a similar position - in fact I wondered if it's the same one!

  4. >> Probably the same guy who did the sharpening job on it. A more classic case of cows and calves you've never seen.

    Surely not! I often read on forums that saw sharpening involves grabbing a file and having a go - no mention of difficulties or negative consequences...



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