Tools turn up from time to time which have probably been made specifically for or by a craftsman to make their lives easier or due to availability or cost. Many of these tools were rarely given much thought or even appreciated by collectors but it seems things are set to change as there is growing interest and appreciation for the skills used in making them and here is why.
Often unnamed Blacksmith hand made tools from the 18th/19th century were created to fill the gaps left by the main manufacturers of the time. These highly skilled tradesmen would often create practical solutions and their workmanship should be appreciated for its purity.
There were many reasons why craftsmen made or commissioned tools by using local foundries and blacksmiths, with many of the wood parts being undertaken by the craftsmen themselves to help reduce cost.
I often find myself asking this question, ‘was their time worth less than the known manufacturers especially when what they were making was often unique?’
This doesn’t alter the fact some pieces can be comparable or better quality to some better known makers. Scottish planes would be a typical example of this but there are craftsmen pieces that occasionally turn up that are true works of art in the skillful sense and this is is an area that interests me greatly.
Whilst collectors have traditionally stuck to named tools I would like to think they would also appreciate the skills of the trades and will also take on board there are also many interesting aspects to collecting tools and that these trade-crafted tools are all part of tool history subject which should be preserved as a testament to those who created them.
Lets just take the example of a thread gauge shown above and look at this carefully. It’s handmade and hand forged, it has been hammered into shape using steel probably refined before hand and shaped into what seems a simple object. I’m no blacksmith but given this was almost certainly made in the early/mid 19th century without the use of dormer drill bits or off the shelf taps for threading it, how on earth was it formed? I’d say with some degree of difficulty and skill especially when it had to be accurate. This gets me asking further questions such as who would commission this tool with a blacksmith and what trade did they work in?
Now all that aside how long must it have taken the blacksmith to make it? Probably most of the day and that’s before tempering the steel to ensure it didn’t wear with use. This leads to further investigation and learning but all part of the fun when you nail the answers. This is exactly why I feel this area of collecting is very interesting but also one that will almost certainly increase in value over the coming years now that the internet helps us find answers that were once impossible to find.
What’s it worth? How much would have cost back in the day in our money? What would it cost today to make the same tool in the same way?
Tools like this are still very affordable but will I believe this will increase dramatically when prices start to reflect the skill, time and scarcity in the years ahead.
So its worth looking out for those interesting, unusual and bespoke handmade tools, you might just enjoy it more than you realise.