Monday, September 10, 2007

Size isn't everything

So it looks like I'm going to be a trifle wrapped up in going through this Tool Haul for a while - anyone interested or should I keep it to myself? If the latter the blog may be a tad on the quiet side.

While you decide here's the text of the etch on the Spear & Jackson "Spearior 88" I cleaned up last week - not often I get to see saws with etches. Saw etches seem to reflect national characteristics, and thus those on British-made saws seem to be a little self-effacing and generally not inclined to intrude on the saw as opposed to the ones on Disstons which seem sufficiently deeply etched to withstand nuclear war... Anyway, the bulky bit of it says:

The Balance, Grip and Temper
of this saw
conform exactly to a specification
based on Special Test Reports from
over 100 Skilled Carpenters

So there.

I suppose the Spearior 88 is the equivalent of the Disston D8? It's certainly a nice saw, taper ground and so forth. It'd make a change if British wodworkers appreciated what they've got on their doorstep instead of what the 'Murrican market tells them are worth having based solely on what's available in 'Murrica. Heigh ho.

But fear not, gentle reader, I'm not going through a bout of dodgy nationalism, despite the England cricket, football and (just about) rugby teams all winning over the weekend. In fact I'm thinking very international as I translate the metric measurements I use to make mini bashers into LV newsletter-friendly fractions of an inch. The ever-polite Kate, should she read this, will be glad to know I had my nose to the literate grindstone over the weekend having been politely prodded as to whether I had anything "in the can". Well naturally I didn't when asked, but a polite but insistant prod goes a long way towards inticing the muse it seems. So I have too many words (as ever) now stored away to be re-read with a fresh eye on the 'morrow in hope that I can see my way clear to employ my own blue pencil for a change. Subject to not feeling the need to totally re-write of course... Even then Kate will do a better job of trimming it than I can ever do, for which I will be eternally grateful. Apparently something on removing rust would be welcome too, but that's causing me some angst. It's one thing to say what I do to my own tools, but quite another to suggest it's something to do on some unspecified tool. What happens if one's advice results in a rare and valuable tool biting the dust? I worry about these things (quote from David Kossof in "Indiscreet" fyi).

On the subject of knowing what you're doing with tools, I see the charity called Tools for Self Reliance doesn't. Putting up a Stanley #1 on Ebay without knowing what it is, forsooth? What other tools have passed through their hands that could have raised serious money to help their worthy cause of sending tools to help craftsmen in Africa support themselves? A brief look at one of their advisory documents on rehabbing saws made me shudder too. Chuck the saw if there are any teeth missing in the middle section? Ouch. Concave - chuck it. But it'll have to be jointed and sharpened anyway, won't it? Rivets or only three screws? Poor quality and it gets binned. Glad I'm not an 18thC saw, aren't you? Urgh. Okay, so you may argue it's not likely, but who'd have bet on them getting a #1? 'Zactly.

Oh yeah, took a trip to Hayle yesterday, for one of the largest car boot sales we have in Cornwall. My mum was dodging Chapel and desired to go (for shame - if she doesn't look out for my immortal soul who else is going to?). Anyway, slogged our way round the lot and bought not one jot. Stopped off at Carn Brea on the way home to drop off some books with the Tall Scotsman that he'd lent to my dad and nipped round the car boot sale there that's about a quarter of the size. Came away with a nice little patternmaker's hammer and a pre-metric edition of the Woodworker's Pocket Book. Oh, and my mum bought me a copy of the August 1939 edition of the Amalgamated Society of Woodworker's monthly journal. So the moral of the tale is dodge Chap-, er... I mean, the moral of the tale is, despite what everyone may tell you, "size isn't everything"


  1. Al
    Please blog your way through the tool haul - you might inspire me enough to clean up some of my own pickings.
    The Spear and Jackson saws are indeed good quality - and you can find them at most car boots for 50p or so. Isn't it about time we got the Yanks interested in them? They must be board of all those Disstons by now ;)

  2. Don't you dare mention S&J, Sorby, Taylor Brothers, Moulson, uh, al! No sir, no way...

    My best vintage saws are English. These are my daily users--they help make new saws. They have shaped how I view "proper" saws.

    I think there are many issues surrounding why Disston became dominent. But I do not think it is because he built a better saw than most English saw makers (he himself is a product of said makers).

    No. Let's keep it our little secret--until I get one or two more...

    Take care, Mike

  3. Ah, yes. The Stanley No 1 did almost slip though due to an error by a volunteer. We have been admiring it today. It will be sold for Tools for Self Reliance by The Tool Shop auction now. We do our best to pick out the collectors items from the mountain of tools donated every week.

    We have to be ruthless in sorting the tools because we are looking for top quality tools for craftworkers and artisans in Africa. The refurbishing is all done by volunteeers so they select the best tools available to work on. The saying here goes, 'we aren't looking for good homes for poor tools, we are looking for good tools for poor homes.'

    Thanks for noticing us.

    Larry Boyd
    Tools for Self Reliance


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