Monday, June 20, 2011

Not a Tool Collector

When I was doing woodworking I collected a few tools which had more of a historic interest than a modern usefulness. In the days when they could be found in a flea market or antique shop for a modest price searching for them was fun.

By the time I became interested in blacksmithing the price of tools was going up a lot and the supply was getting picked over too. Now it has probably been over ten years since I was in an antique store.

About that same time I explored eBay and bought a few items. Within a year I had acquired all the tools I couldn't build myself and lost interest in following the auctions. Everything I bough I intended to use with one exception. In 1999 I bought a handled set tool for beading-grooving which Francis Whitaker had touchmarked. It came with a letter from Bill Gichner who owned and operated Iron Age Antiques. As I recall the head was made in 1944, the number is stamped on the head, and was later modified by Francis for a specific project.

These thoughts about tool collecting occurred to me recently as I was using a pair of scroll pliers made by M. Smyth Boone and bear the M.BOONE touchmark. See -

Mike sold them to me when I was at a conference in Carbondale. They had a wonderful feel and he assured me the tool steel was tempered perfectly. They are gracefully made and a real pleasure to use. Today they are still one of my favorite tools.

As I pondered the significance of the touchmarks I decided the significance is in the eye of the beholder. The makers placed their mark to identify and proudly claim it as their work. From my perspective I wouldn't have purchased the beading tool if it did not have the touchmark as I had no real use for it. On the other hand, I would have purchased the pliers even if there were no touchmark because of their masterful construction and utility. Still, it is nice to notice the touchmark from time to time and recall the times I've watched Smyth demonstrate and our conversations.

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