Gems & Junk

I stopped by the legendary Liberty Tool Co. the other day when my family was passing through town. It’s always a delight to dig through the bins and shelves on a kind of treasure hunt for pre-industrial tools. It is difficult to leave empty-handed.

The shelves were packed full for our visit, and I was glad to have the assistance of my kids in carrying out the afternoon’s haul. There’s always a spectrum of tools to dig through, and two that I found illustrate that spectrum well.

First is this sad bevel-edged chisel. Socket chisels often show damage from hammering without a handle in place, but I have never before seen one so abused. After this one lost its handle, someone kept beating on it until the socket was extraordinarily misshapen. I find it hard to imagine what the task was that led to this – how often do you pound the daylights out of a 1-1/4” bench chisel with a hammer? Were they cutting bricks with it? And at what point do you say, hmm, I seem to be damaging my tool? For a couple bucks, it is a good conversation piece.

On the other side of the coin, here is a lovely Swedish trying plane, likely dating from the mid-19th century. The iron was made by B&O Liberg Rosenfors, a small firm that was located in the southeastern part of the country. The plane itself features an offset tote, nicely rounded chamfering with decorative scribed lines, and a diamond-shaped strike button made of bone or ivory. I typically keep a mental limit of $20 for a tool – it has to be special if I’m going to spend more than that. For $40, this was an easy decision. With just a little bit of cleaning and some honing of the iron, the plane will be making shavings for many more years to come. “PM,” whoever you are, thank you for taking such good and loving care of this tool. I promise to do the same.

Old tools are worth saving.



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