Tag Archives: Anarchist Tool Chest

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

Nashua Tool Show, April 2015

This past week I made my biannual pilgrimage to the ‘Live Free Or Die Tool Auction’ and tool sale out in the parking lot behind the Holiday Inn in Nashua NH.  I’m glad my schedule worked out that I was able to go on Thursday morning — it was a beautiful day, I saw some friends who were only around on that day and didn’t spend too much money.  Friday morning it was pouring so I briefly stopped by to see some friends from the school but many of the vendors were all packed up.

Let’s take a quick tour of some of the more interesting items I checked out:

The cabinet below from the Union Twist Drill company of Athol Massachusetts (same town that is home to Starrett Tools) looked to be in great shape.

Union Twist Drill, Athol MA cabinet
Union Twist Drill, Athol MA cabinet

Inside the cabinet was a nest of drawers which once housed all kinds of drill bits and similar hardware. It was also interesting to see the notes scribbled on the inside of the doors.

Union Twist Drill, Athol MA cabinet
Inside of Union Twist Drill, Athol MA cabinet

On another table was a nice looking moxon style vise with threaded wood handles. Made from a fairly large bit of timber I like how the maker removed a bunch of wood to make room for an angled saw.

Moxon Vise
Moxon Vise

This year I finally got to meet Tony Murland in person. Over the years I’ve bought a lot of wood planes from his shop in the UK — including my matching pair set of hollows and rounds, snipes bills, sash planes and complex molders.  On hand he had a great assortment of French Plumb Squares — some of which had some great decoration on them. I would have loved to get one if I had room in the budget this season for it.

French Plumb Squares from Tony Murland
French Plumb Squares from Tony Murland

Casks of cut nails and a nice old tool tote with a dovetailed in handle and interior partitions.

Nail casks and tool tote
Nail casks and tool tote

Next to a box of saw sets was an old 1980s Ertl Metal ‘Case’ backhoe/loader which was one of my favorite toys as child — and something I had not seen in years. If it was in better shape I might have even picked it up.

1980s Ertl Metal Case Backhoe
1980s Ertl Metal Case Backhoe

As always some interesting benches found their way to the show.

Leather apron and bench
Leather apron and bench

And here is a nice old tool chest that I spent some time looking at. Constructed with finger joints, this chest had some handsome hardware I wanted to highlight.

Nicely appointed tool chest
Nicely appointed tool chest

Inside the paneled top there were some great old reference/conversion tables tacked into place.

Reference charts under the lid
Reference charts under the lid

The corners had some nice brass hardware and all of the screws were carefully clocked (oriented in a specific way) —  I know this makes my OCD happy as it likely will make my friend Chris Schwarz smile as well.

Clocked screws on the brass hardware
Clocked screws on the brass hardware

And last but not least was an ‘Elite Tool Chest for Boys’ that was used to haul some wares to the tool show.

'Elite' Tool Chest
‘Elite’ Tool Chest

What did I buy this year? Not too much which is probably a good thing. I’m trying to keep to the tools I regularly use and I have a very good working set. Also my tools/wood/toy budget has been saving towards a tractor and building a barn this summer — more on that in some upcoming posts. I bought nice Stanley Bailey transitional jack plane that I’ll be using to clean up some timbers — that wood sole will be a lot easier to use on green timbers. A nice  metal block and tackle with a line lock that will be useful on a gin pole and about a dozen old manual training guides, tool catalogs/reprints and old woodworking texts.

Take care,
-Bill

Nashua Tool Show Sept 2014

I’m generally not a morning person, but twice a year for the Live Free or Die Tool Show and Auction in Nashua, NH I seem to have no trouble getting up at 5am. The night before is more or less what Christmas Eve was like for me as a kid — not sleeping much and excited about what the next day will bring.

First aisle of tools on Thursday morning
First aisle of tools on Thursday morning

At this point I don’t need much by way of tools, but you never know what you will find in Nashua and the show is literally on my way to work. So I have been going on Thursday and Friday mornings. Thursday to shop, Friday to see friends from NBSS and see if I missed anything.

Tool chests for sale
Tool chests for sale

I always enjoy snapping a few pictures of tool chests and tills. (Including the nice H.O. Studley inspired cabinets here).

Student sized workbench
Student sized workbench

And examining the benches that make their way to the show.

Metal lined chest
Metal lined chest

This very utilitarian chest was largely made of heavy metal sheets.

Outside of metal lined and reinforced chest
Outside of metal lined and reinforced chest

And for the tool collector who has everything, why not pick up some giant metal shell casing, or a paint mill. The latter I did kind of want…

Everything from massive shell casings to paint mills
Everything from massive shell casings to paint mills

Or maybe a carved golden goose?

The golden goose?
The golden goose?

Friday morning with the auction in full swing you’ll find and even wider array of vendors selling their wares.

Friday morning, even more vendors
Friday morning, even more vendors

Along with some of the lots that are coming out of the auction.

Tool chests and levels
Tool chests and levels

This year wooden levels seemed to pop up a lot.

My finds
My finds

And of course, what did I come home with this year? I did pretty good this year, got some nice items and didn’t spend too much. I bought a nice  full set of Irwin auger bits — we’ll see how they compare to the Russell Jennings pattern bits I bought last year. A nice in the package Marples blue chip chisel set (The ones that were still made in the UK by Record) — they’ll make a nice set of travel chisels and/or for the classroom. A few old books including Charles Hayward’s ‘Furniture Repair’, and ‘Staining and Polishing’, Wood Turning with Richard Raffan, and an interesting book from the 1940s with a Sloyd-ish feel called ‘Visualized Projects in Woodworking’ by J.I. Sowers. A nice Stanley English 4 ratcheting jaw bit brace. A nice big redirect block to use with my gin pole. A pair of machinists 1-2-3 blocks. A Nicholson Saw Display. Pair of Starrett Dividers. Pair of Ulmia Bench Dogs. A real nice E.C.E. Coffin/Smoothing plane. And a nice 5″ deep 28″ long Atkins mitre box saw to go with the Stanley mitre box I bought in April — at the time it came with a 6″ deep Disston saw that worked fine by was a bit too tall for my liking, so this was a better fit.

Time to get all this stuff out into the shop before my wife kills me and get back to work on finishing a crib I owe a certain newborn.

Take care,
-Bill

The Early Bird Doesn’t Always Get The Worm…

Every year the tool show gets earlier and earlier. I’m referring to the semi-annual ‘Live Free or Die Tool Show and Auction’ in Nashua New Hampshire which occurs every April and September. On Friday and Saturday the highlight for most folks is normally the tool auction at the Nashua Holiday Inn. Outside in the parking lot vendors setup to sell or swap tools — many fresh from the auction. That is where I spend my time and money — I’m into nice user tools.

Nice inlaid tool chest
Nice inlaid tool chest

Folks would get there earlier and earlier on Friday. Vendors started getting there on Thursday to be ready. Eventually those folks figured — well if I am already at the hotel on Thursday I might as well setup and sell what I can. This process repeated itself and now some folks are dealing tools on Wednesday afternoon.

Nice selection of sea chests, cabinets and small chests
Nice selection of sea chests, cabinets and small chests

This year I went on Thursday morning again and about 80% of the usual vendors I like to buy from were there and I figured I’d have an edge in getting whatever tool I was hunting for or whatever new treasure I didn’t know I needed until I saw it. Unfortunately the early bird did not get the worm this year — I only bought a couple of small items and only saw a few friends from NBSS. Normally the tool show is one of my favorite days of the years but the meager haul left me wanting more —  so I decided to go on Friday morning to see a lot of my friends from NBSS and meet some more of the new students.

Interesting painted tool chest lid
Interesting painted tool chest lid

Friday was a much better day — less wind and a little sunnier. It was great to see lots of old friends and the rest of the vendors I normally frequent.  I also found a couple of great items that made my day. Throughout this post you can see a sampling of some of the more interesting tool chests and cabinets at the show. It is interesting to see what has survived and how folks laid out their tills and decorated their tool chests.

Sloyd style youth workbench -- though not a Larsson bench
Sloyd style youth workbench — though not a Larsson bench

Directly above you can see an interesting workbench. Designed for manual training or a similar classroom setting, this bench looks like it was a competitor to the Larsson Improved workbench I wrote about here.

Great selection of molding and bench planes
Great selection of molding and bench planes

This year there were more vendors compared to recent years and there was a particularly great selection of molding planes and bench planes.

Classic tool tote
Classic tool tote

The iconic tool tote above looks like it had a long service life — hopefully it went to a new home where it will see some use.

Nice clean modern tool chest with finger joints
Nice clean modern tool chest with finger joints

The tool chest above with simple finger joints and nice hardware looks pretty new, but I am glad to see some more recent projects circulating around.

Incredible telescoping tool chest (for sale by Patrick Leach)
Incredible telescoping tool chest (for sale by Patrick Leach)

The chest above which I believe was being offered by Patrick Leach was an incredible piece. With multiple levels of till, some on hinges and some with telescoping elements this chest looked quite heavy even without any tools in it. It clearly showed off the skill and the massive tool set of its original owner.

Interesting hand drill
Interesting hand drill

I was drawn to this interesting hand drill with a nice turned handle and unusual machined elements.

Cooper's planes
Cooper’s planes

Shown above are a nice selection of cooper’s planes — used to plane down staves — the plane is fixed and the stave is moved along the sole of the plane to make a shaving.

Nice plumb level
Nice plumb level

My friend Billy McMillen (Of Eastfield Village,  Historic Richmond Town, EAIA and CW Tinsmithing fame) had this nice plumb level for sale. The plumb bob and string is a age old way of determining level that dates back to ancient Egypt or earlier times.

One of two Hammacher Schlemmer tool cabinets for sale this year
One of two Hammacher Schlemmer tool cabinets for sale this year

A larger cousin to the Sloyd Tool Cabinet — this Hammacher Schlemmer tool cabinet was home to a large set of tools targeting a high end home user market. I was surprised to see two of them for sale. One model was joined via finger joints and the other was held together via rabbets and nails. The cabinets had an austere look and did not seem to make good use of the space in the cabinets. I spent some time examining the hooks and clips that once held the tools in place, but most of of the clips and hooks were pretty simple and straightforward.

My finds this year -- Stanley 358 Miter Box _ Disston Saw, Carpenter and Joiner's Union Sign, Starret Rules and Dividers, Mini Framing Square, ECE Frame Saw, Heavy Duty Snatch Block, Auger Bit Handle
My finds this year — Stanley 358 Miter Box _ Disston Saw, Carpenter and Joiner’s Union Sign, Starret Rules and Dividers, Mini Framing Square, ECE Frame Saw, Heavy Duty Snatch Block, Auger Bit Handle

And now on to the big finale — what did I get this year? I got some nice items off the nice to have tools list in my head. I’m particularly excited about the large and complete Stanley 358 Miter Box and large Disston saw to use with it — I’ve wanted one of these boxes for a while. Once I clean it up and tune it, I’ll post about it. In the back of the photo you can see a round sign for the ‘United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners’ that will look nice hanging in my shop. On the left side of the photo you’ll see a large and heavy duty snatch block that will come in handy when moving heavy timbers and the like around in the yard. On the miter box you’ll see a Stanley mini-framing square, a handle for square tanged auger bits, a Starret 12″ Satin Rule and a 12″ Starrett Rule that is metric on one site and 1/10ths of an inch on the other. In the foreground is a nice pair of Starrett loose leg dividers. On the right is an ECE/Ulmia frame saw — I seem to be going through a frame saw phase, and given I have more frame saw blades than frame saws I figured, what the heck. All in all, it was a good show. I look forward to putting these new tools to use in the shop. Now it’s time to start saving for the September show.

Take care,
-Bill

The Woodwright’s School

For Labor Day weekend this year I flew down to the Woodwright’s School in Pittsboro, North Carolina to take a 3 day class on making a Jointer Plane with Willard ‘Bill’ Anderson (more on that in an upcoming post).

My flight got in early on Friday and I had the chance to hang out with some friends at the school during the last day of a class on building the Anarchist’s Tool Chest with Chris Schwarz.

The Woodwright's School
The Woodwright’s School

The Woodwright’s School is located in downtown Pittsboro which is a scenic town about 20 minutes from Chapel Hill.

Roy Underhill planing a groove
Roy Underhill planing a groove

Don’t let the sometimes quiet streets fool you, once inside the school you are in a lively space full of folks who as passionate about woodworking as you are. Roy was on hand to help students as they worked their way through the last day of week long class on building a traditional English tool chest based on Chris’ book ‘The Anarchist’s Toolchest’.

The class busy working on their Anarchist's Toolchest
The class busy working on their Anarchist’s Toolchest

One of the attractions to Roy’s school is its focus on only using traditional English/American hand tools — there were no whining power tools, no Dozuki saws and no plastic handles to be seen — or at least none that I saw when Roy was making his rounds. 😉

Feeding Bill's bar tab and Khrushchev's shoe
Feeding Bill’s bar tab and Khrushchev’s shoe

If you ever read Roy’s book on public speaking you’ll get why Khruschev’s shoe is an interesting trophy. Beyond the witty stories and advice on how to keep a crowd engaged and entertained, the last chapter on the morning after a presentation was the one that resonated the most with me. Applying the advice therein has improved several lectures I have to make each year.

Drilling out a mortise
Drilling out a mortise

Traditional woodworking can feel like a very small world at times — the gentleman in the photo above was also in the class I took earlier this summer on making a Name Stamp with Peter Ross at Roy’s school — even though I was 700+ miles from home I happy to see that I could still run into people I knew.

Roy's corner cabinet
Roy’s corner cabinet

Loitering in the back of the classroom is a corner cupboard you may recognize from Roy’s show. I heard his wife has been waiting on it for a while — which made me feel a tiny bit better about the dresser I owe my wife Alyssa — which reminds me I need to get working on that again….

Chris Schwarz teaching
Chris Schwarz teaching

It was also great to spend some time hanging out with my friends Chris Schwarz and Megan Fitzpatrick including a stroll through Ed’s tool shop above the school.

Chatting with Megan Fitzpatrick
Chatting with Megan Fitzpatrick

No toolchest is ever completely filled and Ed’s shop has a huge collection of traditional tools on par with some of the best regional tool shows. I tried my best to be good and save my pennies for the Nashua tool show later this month, but I did find some new toys.

Chris' Dutch Tool Chest
Chris’ Dutch Tool Chest

I had fun chatting with everyone, examining some interesting tools and helping to sweep up before a trip to the City Tap — which is a awesome bar just behind the school with great food and drinks.

Roy helping a student
Roy helping a student

On my way out of the school I saw my old friend Otto Salomon and various other proper woodworking models from the Teacher’s Handbook of Sloyd.

Sloyd Prints
Sloyd Prints

It seems the Woodwright’s School is full of new and old friends that are literally popping out of the woodworking.

If you’d like to learn more about the school, make some new friends, meet up with old friends, or sign up for a class you can check out the school’s website here.

-Bill

Anarchy at the Tool Show — Classic Tool Chests

I need to get something off my chest– literally. Ever since reading the Anarchist’s Tool Chest I’ve had Tool Chest envy. My wife and I recently moved up to NH from Boston and it seems like it has been taking a lifetime to get my shop setup and fully functional again. Teaching, work, life, smaller projects and commissions keep getting in the way. Once winter sets in and I get more ‘me’ time in the shop I plan to build my own proper tool chest — though right now hand my tools ride around in style via a mobile tool chest/cart I built as a student at NBSS — complete with curved fenders, a retractable handle, 4 drawers and a tray top  (I’ll post more on that in an upcoming post).

This past week I was at the Live Free or Die tool show and auction in Nashua NH — and is part of my twice annual pilgrimage to the ultimate old hand tool show. Beyond great deals on hard to find tools, it’s also a great place to see lots of faces from NBSS, vendors I’ve been buying from for years and the one random guy who only seems to sell very ornate turned plumb bobs every year.

Below are some of the more interesting tool chests I was able to find and photograph with my camera phone (please excuse the quality of them).  The wide variety of what survived was a great source of inspiration.

 

You can learn more about the Anarchist’s Tool Chest here on my friend Chris Schwarz’s blog. (Along with other great books by the Lost Art Press)

Sorry Chris — I was unable to find any slant topped chests, but I gave it a good try.