Canvas print of a group of carpenters and joiners.

Nashua Tool Show, September 2015

If you love old tools, the Nashua Tool Show is always the place to be. I used to get up at dawn and drive up from MA, but the past few years living in Merrimack, NH I’ve been lucky as the show is on my way to work so I can go extra early on Thursday and Friday morning before work.

We had some beautiful weather for the September 2015 Live Free or Die Tool Show and Auction.  Below is a recap of my semi-annual pilgrimage to tool nirvana:

A sampling of some of the wares you'll find out in the parking lot.
A sampling of some of the wares you’ll find out in the parking lot.

We interrupt this blog post for a quick Public Service Announcement:

The lot looked pretty full with some different vendors I had not seen before, but a few of my old favorites were not around. Apparently the hotel — the Nashua Holiday Inn — decided they wanted to try and make more money off of the event and start charging to tool vendors out in the lot for spaces and by the table. Many of these vendors are retirees who drive from around the country to be at this event, buy from the auction and pay to stay in the hotel for several days — most doing it for fun as I doubt what these folks are making off the tools goes too much further than covering expenses. Some of the elders of the tool selling crowd apparently spoke with the Holiday Inn management and threatened to move the long running event and management capitulated, which is good news. Unfortunately several folks had already left when they heard about the fees, and since this event is not overly advertised, they may never come back. Given my posts about the show seem to get a lot of hits around the time of the show I am hoping some folks may read this and return to the show in April. So if you get this message and know of some other vendors you didn’t see, especially those who may not be on the internet, please reach out to them as I want to see this event continue to be a highlight of the tool year. 🙂

This concludes our PSA, now back to the tools:

The first of three aisles of vendors out in the parking lot.
The first of three aisles of vendors out in the parking lot.

The first aisle closest to the hotel is where all the high end tools tend to live. The closer you get to the highway the more likely you’ll find a deal or a diamond in the rough. As a user more than a collector I do tend to buy from the vendors in the middle aisles.

Studley-ish Workbench
An almost Studley looking workbench. The seller said it was the first bench like this he was able to get in 30+ years of selling tools and that it had vises very similar to those on the Studley workbench. He also sold it at the show to another collector for a good amount of money.

Above is a great looking bench that had a vaguely Studley look to it. Apparently it also has vises with very similar hand wheels. The seller mentioned Don C. Williams book on Studley and said he was searching for a bench like this for the past 30+ years. Given the hunt I thought it was interesting that he already sold it to someone else for a pretty penny. I hope it gets cleaned up and back into service for the lucky person who picked it up.

Jugs of Johnson's Wood Dye
Jugs of Johnson’s Wood Dye

Above are some old and still sealed gallon jugs of Johnson’s Wood Dye.

A view of the till
A view of the till

An interesting tool chest for sale with LOTs of round headed screws for decoration and as part of the construction of the chest.

Side view of tool chest
Side view of tool chest

The carcass was dovetailed and the screws seemed to be backup support and decoration.

A view into the open chest.
A view into the open chest.

Interior of the chest. The lower tills were open trays. The top till had a lid and a single divider inside. On the front wall was a nice tool rack carefully sized for the various chisels and tools that once inhabited the chest. The hinges for the lid were also nice.

Interesting pattern of round headed screws on the chest lid
Interesting pattern of round headed screws on the chest lid

The lid also made liberal use of the round headed screws in an interesting pattern and likely helped protect the wood top as wood and other things were inevitably put on the lid and slid across the chest. The wood on the top looked to be in remarkably good shape.

Tool chests displayed by Bill Garrett of Sparrowbush NY
Tool chests displayed by Bill Garrett of Sparrowbush NY

Above are some chests on display by Bill Garrett of Sparrowbush, NY. You may remember him from this earlier post.

What I bought at the tool show this year.
What I bought at the tool show this year.

And now on to what I bought. I happy to say I didn’t spent too much this year and got some interesting items. From left to right: Some interesting books (The Barn, The First American Finishers Manual, The American Craftsman, and the Little Book of Early American Crafts &Trades). A new in package Bahco scraper, New in package Stabilia Torpedo Level (I’ve had one for years that lives in my toolbelt so its nice to have a spare/one for the shop), Ulmia Jointer Plane, ECE Shoulder Plane (Being of German Descent, and the fact that Americans don’t seem to like these sorts of plane, it has been interesting to collect and test out German style tools in my shop),  Inside/Outside Calipers similar to what you see in the Studley Tool Cabinet, Dixon wood marking crayons donated by a friend, Paring Chisel with modern handle crammed on, a nice box of small carvers slip stones, a nice big gouge for coping when timber framing, and a very neat brass stencil given to me by Cynthia and George Short that says “W.W. & C.R. NOYES, 2388, BOSTON” that was likely used to mark crates or similar objects. As I have been reading up on Civil War re-enactors who build their own furniture, crates etc it was something I wanted to try out. So if anyone out there knows who the Noyes were or what they sold I would be interested to hear from you. The prior owners contacted some historical societies and didn’t get a firm answer. I’m hoping to use it as a model as I eventually want to make my own similar stencil with my own name on it.  I’ll be sure to post about it.

Canvas print of a group of carpenters and joiners.
Canvas print of a group of carpenters and joiners.

And last, but not least the photo above, on canvas, though a modern reprinting of an historic photo. It’s a great shot of carpenters and joiners in the mid-late 19th century. I’m making that date assumption based on the architecture in the background and the more modern lumber they are sitting on. Even though they are sitting on a fairly modern looking lumber, likely to be used in a balloon frame, the men are holding slicks, mallets, draw knives, chisels of the scale used for timber framing, an earlier pre-bailey bench plane, framing square, bits with wooden handles, an adze, boxwood rules, a hand saw, a two man crosscut saw etc. It looks to be an amazing image of the time when things were transitioning from the old ways and heavy timber work to lighter construction methods. Other things of note in this picture are the various hats, pipes, aprons and overalls the guys are wearing. The guy in the first row, third from the left who looks like he’s in pretty rough shape. The well dressed man in the front row, third from the right  with no tools in his hand — was he the owner? Or the foreman?  Often the man with the framing square in a photo like this is the master, but the young man to the right of the well dressed man does not look like he’s the most experienced out of this lot. There is also an unusual building behind the head of the bearded man holding the two man saw that might help identify where this photo was taken. The seller thought it might be from southern MA, in the New Bedford or Fall River area. So if anyone has any further insights to add, please add them to the comments below.  The photo opens up as many questions as it answers and will look nice hanging up out in my workshop.

I hope to see you at the next Nashua tool show in April.

Take care,
-Bill

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