Tides of Change

Well to say it’s been anything but a crazy few weeks would be an understatement.

The fall is always a busy time, compounded by shorter daylight and the recent Superstorm Sandy. Thanks, Mother Nature! The last two weeks have been a whirlwind of activity, both positive and trying at times. In the wake of Sandy I really weathered the storm far better than many. As someone who grew up mostly in south Jersey, the devastation to the shore points I enjoyed so much is deeply saddening. Anyone who knows us New Jerseyans knows a lifetime of living in the shadows of cities around us breeds a determination that is not easily crushed. Like that scrappy dog that knocks over your trash can, you can shoo it away, but the minute you turn your head he’s right back at it.

My trip out to OH preceded this and I’ll have future posts on that fun adventure. Because of the media hype that always precedes a storm, I decided to head back Sunday night allowing me to get things in order before the storm. As is often the case when traveling in Pennsylvania, the highways that are FREE are backed up because of road construction that takes decades to complete because there is no funding. Regardless, I struggled my way home. CB in hand talking with westbound drivers, I jumped off Rt. 80, avoiding accidents and a few construction backups to arrive home at 3am Monday. The rest of the day was spent getting some supplies together, then hunkering down. Not being much of a TV watcher, I was content listening to NPR while finishing up a few customers’ saws. It was around 10pm Monday night when I lost power in my apartment.  Sandy was mostly over by that time and my work had already announced we would be closed for Tuesday. Having no internet or television when I got up, I quickly grabbed my camera and walked the few blocks to where I store my VW van, aka Vincent Van-Go, in a locked lot. Along the way I snapped a few pictures of the devastation I encountered. Fortunately for me, I spend a good deal of time off the grid, unlike 95% of the city dwellers around me. So I jumped into my van, filled up the teakettle, and dug out my coffee press. It really doesn’t take much for me to adapt to life without power, but doing so in a city sure seemed odd.

My work closed for most of the week and with the lack of electricity and short hours of daylight, it didn’t leave a lot of options for the apartment dwellers. The first day I spent contacting family letting them know I was okay and also checking that others were okay. This was followed by a big walking loop in the area to see firsthand some of the devastation. I live in the heights of Jersey City but Hoboken located below the hill saw widespread flooding. By day two it was obvious that getting into the city for work that week would be impossible.

I found I had really good light in the hallway due to the larger windows. So I dragged my saw filing equipment out and had the fun of filing by daylight, something I’ve done for demonstrations but not extensively. I was pleasantly surprised that it was easygoing and worked fine. I found I could get about 4 good hours in before the light dropped off for the day. By Thursday the lack of power and camping in the van was getting old. Considering I planned to attend the Brown antique tool sale on Friday, I headed to my shop where power and heat were readily available. On a sad note, Saturday and Sunday were to be the fall release of the Tohickon Creek,  a friendly gathering of boaters from all over the northeast that marks the last scheduled whitewater release in the area. Those of us who don’t mind a little cold weather camping stay at the takeout on the shores of the Delaware. It’s one of the nicest spots I camp at all year and is just upstream from the historic spot where Washington crossed the Delaware. Due to the loss of power and many downed trees in the area, it was canceled.

I’m going to leave the Brown Auction and my trip to Mike Stemple’s for another time and finish off by happily saying that power was restored 6 days after the storm and things are getting back to normal. I finished the weekend up by getting some customers’ saws boxed up, as well as a few ready for sale. New Jersey in general is still recoiling from the storm; PSEG is doing a great job of getting power back.  I am a longtime resident of the state and I know full well that anyone living in this state has got thick skin. I’m optimistic that by the time summer rolls around many businesses will be back.

Joe Federici
Mongering off the grid


Measure Of Success

Success is all too often associated with money, and we all need it. But my goal when starting Second Chance Saw Works was enjoyment in what I’m doing, with hopes that it would lead to a better product and a market would follow.

With that in mind the show was a big success and I want to thank all the people who took the time to stop by. As ANYONE who knows me, I enjoy talking and tend to be passionate about things I enjoy, like saws. Being the new guy and latecomer to the event, my location originally was outside. But thanks to a little arm-twisting from Allen and Mario (boys in blue seen below) of Philadelphia Furniture Workshop, I got a location tucked inside which was nice due to the forecasted rain.

The show was both Friday and Saturday and I was told the turnout Friday was quite big with over 500 people. Saturday started off strong with lots of people interested in seeing the mill operate. I spent most of my time by my area so I didn’t get to check out all the offerings. Most people seemed to gravitate to tools; the selection offered by Lie-Nielsen is second to none.

At some point I struck up a conversation with Johnny, whose last name was “Apple” (per his nametag) which sounds a little suspicious. He works at Hearne Hardwoods. I watched him throughout the day demonstrating just how strong the new Festool light was by throwing it up about 15 feet in the air and watching it bounce off the concrete floor. I witnessed this at least 25-30 times and was struck by the thought that his own moxie might win out over the engineer’s design. I can happily report that when I left the light was still working. He also went over the use of their board rules (seen below) with number gauges to figure out size, something I’ve read a little about but never had the chance to use.

Due to the short notice I didn’t have a lot of time to gather things but did bring a few saws and my filing gear. One bonus for me was getting great ideas for future blogs; I’m always looking, so feel free to ask. Also exciting was getting invited to speak at one of the future meeting of the Delaware Valley Chapter of the Society of American Period Furniture Makers. Who knows, I may even try my hand at teaching. As they say, more TK. . . .

Joe Federici
Saw Monger-at-Large

Meet the Monger at Hearne Hardwoods

I realized this is very short notice but if you can make, or plan to attend the event please stop by. I’ll be outside setup near the mill.

Lie-Nielsen holds a few hand tool events throughout the US and I’ve been invited to attend the free one at Hearne Hardwoods. To read more about the event click here and directions clock here.

If you live in the Philadelphia area and haven’t visited H.H you really should make the trip now or in the future. They are one of the largest specialty lumberyards in the world, with over 100 species of domestic and exotic hardwood lumber in stock. Their facilities include a lumber showroom, woodworking classroom, milling & molding machinery, and a 67” vertical bandsaw sawmill capable of resawing almost anything. The mill alone is work the trip.

With the short notice I’m not sure what I can cobble together but for sure will bring my workmate/vice-stand and a few saws. I won’t be offering sharping there but happy to talk all things saws for those of you interested.

Hope some of you can make it otherwise next year I’ll do a better job of getting the word out.

Joe Federici
Your Saw Advocate

The Monger in Motion

Left picture of the group. Right me running pillow rapid. Raft Co take picture to sell back to commercial rafter and private boaters.

I had a great time in WV for the first weekend of the Gauley release.  September in WV is the reverse of March in NJ.  Comes in like a lamb and leaves like lion, and we had near perfect conditions with some rain on Saturday thru midday.

I did pack my camera, sadly with a dead battery, but forgot the charger.  I boat with a great group of friends, but netted one picture between all of them.  Pictorial historians they are not.

Getting home late for me, 1:30 AM, then scrambling Monday to get saws packed and off to the post office set the tone for the week.  I’ve been busy with my day job and whispering to saws at night.  Happily, the sharpening end of the business has picked up.  As a new card carrying member of North American Vintage Tool Monger Association, or NAVTMA, I’m working double time to keep turnaround at a minimum, often shipping back in the same week.  So thank you to those that continue to send in stuff for me to ogle.

Next week is another busy one for the Monger.  It’s a mash-up of work and hobbies.  I’m leaving Wednesday after work and driving to New Hampshire for the MJ Donnelly fall auction.  I’m mostly interested in the tailgate that runs through Saturday.

Friday Tailgate at Nashua Spring 2012

Due to my regular job, my plan consists of getting there late Wednesday, then getting up crazy early with the rest of the fools.  Thankfully for me, having a stove next to you, aka my VW camper, eases the pain.  I’ll be the only one with coffee in hand while walking with flashlights.  It’s a real sight to see grown men run across a parking lot to the boot of a car as someone pulls a table out.  I’m sure a grad student could find some interesting research but I digress.

From the turning trees of New Hampshire I’ll head southwest to Watkins Glen State Park in the Empire State to rendezvous with a group of VW vandwellers at Westies at Watkins.  The gathering is in its 11th year and becomes the fall destination for most vandwellers in the northeast.  Good turnouts number around 50 vans and drivers coming from Canada push the numbers north.  The short two days I’m there are mostly spent catching up with fellow friends, talking all things VW, and hiking the surrounding gorges.  Did you know Ithaca is gorges?

By this point most would throw in the towel but not us Mongers!  Monday I’ll head towards Rochester to meet up with a local collector to look over some saws he’s hoping to sell, and with a little luck I’ll meet up with my roommate from college for lunch before heading back home.

Round trip just under 1,000 and 18 hours of driving. I guess it goes without saying, “I love a good road trip!”

And in keeping with the circle of life theme this 16 inch Robert Sorby is in deck for a full Resto-Saw process. more shortly . . .

Joe Federici
Saw wrangler-at-large


What’s in a Name?

When it comes to owners marks and other flaws in tools, I find people fall into two camps. They sand and paint everything until it looks new or they touch as little as they can to preserve it.

I tend to fall into the latter, focusing on just what’s needed to preserve, but not alter the look. You find some owners marks are done with great care while others are hastily burned in. As someone who restores saws, I don’t love them all but unless they hamper use they stay. In the process of collecting and buying I ask about names and marks and every once in a while you get a surprise. Such is the case with this S. L. Allen mark found on this early 1900’s Disston D-8. I credit the connection to the current owner and collector of farm implementation made by S. L. Allen Co.

Samuel Leeds Allen and the formation of Moorestown. Although there were property owners as early as 1680 the Village wasn’t founded until 1682.

Not recognizing the name I did a little digging and realized although the name wasn’t familiar we’ve cosmically crossed paths for years. Samuel Leeds Allen was born in Philadelphia went to Westtown School  It was there he developed a love for Sledding, or “coasting” as it was commonly called. He went on to graduate from Friends Select and founded the S.L. Allen Co. in Moorestown, N.J. to manufacture agricultural machinery.

The Allen home built in 1841 named “Breidenhart” which means “broad hearth stone” or “hospitality.” The gardens were laidout by Charles Miller the designer of Fairmount Park. Breidenhart Castle was purchased in 1920 by Eldridge R. Johnson, inventor of the Victor Talking Machine.

Raised Quaker his future marriage was held at the Moorestown Meeting House, now part of Moorestown Friends School. A school and Meeting House I attended (authors note: under protest) while I attended the school.  Samuel patented over 300 pieces of farm equipment that were sold worldwide, however, he’s most famous for the flexible flyer. The story goes the sled was developed in part to a concern over year-round work for his employees.

Patent for the Flexible Flyer

The sled was a side project started while attending Westtown School and finished with help from his daughter at there home “Breidenhart” in Moorestown. The modern “castle” estate was built on property acquired from the Stokes family and hill across the street retained the name “Stokes Hill” and was used both by he and his daughter Elizabeth for sledding, or “coasting” as it was commonly called.

Ads possibly depicting stokes Hill pictured on the right

Growing up in the 80’s near Stokes Hill, sledding in the winter was top of mind.  The minute snow was forecasted, and on snow days the hill was busier then grand central in NYC. Being a tinkerer and love for speed and danger, I tried just about every known object including the hood of a Volkswagen bug and many home made toboggans in the quest for maximum speed.  My friends and I, like drag racers, closely guarded our favorite techniques, mine being Johnson’s paste wax.  The same paste wax I use on saw plates today!  Later in high school it was popular to meet up after dinner when the hill would be frozen over producing it’s fastest runs.

I started working at the kitchen in the Lutheran Home, which was just down the street from Stokes hill and who’s administration building I now know was Samuel “Breidenhart” castle. It must have been an impressive stretch of land as today there are over a dozen houses between the hill and home.

Although my hobbies and interests have changed, I still ride by the hill when the conditions are right.  I see a lot more plastic in kids hands but the flexible flyers are still prevalent.  I did see they are still being made in the US by a long time sled manufacturer, Paricon in Mane.

So as I pack up the D8 for it’s trip to the west coast my thoughts drift to its possible use and Joy it brought. The saw was made in the early 1900’s and at that time his company’s manufacturing would have moved to it’s final location in Phily. This being about 25 miles from his house in Moorestown and less then 5 miles from the Disston plant located near the Tacony–Palmyra bridge.  By today’s standard, that was considered around the corner, however, at the time it was a difficult commute considering the bridge wasn’t built till 1929!

One thing’s for sure, I have no idea where my sled is but I plan to borrow one and make plans for a late night run on Stokes

Joe Federici
King of the Hill

Even the wright’s of yore had a day off

This past weekend was the WXPN XPoNential Music festival at Wiggins Park located at the Camden waterfront in NJ. I’ve been attending the festival with friends for about 7 or 8 years. It’s changed locations over the years but what I love about it has stayed the same;  the low-key family vibe. Coolers and food are allowed. No hostile pat downs or rifling through your things. They even allow readmittance which is nice in an outdoor park if you forget something or it starts to rain.

This year’s weather was hot (as expected) but better then past years. WXPN the local non- commercial (commercial) radio station put together yet another great 3-day line up. Highlights for me included The Lumineers, Dawes, Delta Rae (who cover of The Chain was worth the price of admission), Dr. Dog, John Wesley Harding’s Cabinet of Wonders, (including a cover of  5 years by Rhett Miller, another off the charts performance).and Rhett Miller and the Serial Lady Killers. A perfect high energy ending to a great weekend.

If you live in the Philly area it’s a great value and a lot of fun.  I’ve been working on the saw business most weekends and the festival was a welcomed break. I did however sneak in time sanding plates before we left and started on future blogs while basking in the rays. Who says that work crack-berry does have some positive aspects.

Joe Federici
Music Lover

lets get this party started

If for some reason you’ve stumbled onto my site. Hello and welcome. My name is Joe Federici and Positive Rake is a place for me to share things I’ve learned while running a small web business as well as, tips, trick, and other inspirations from my life.

stay tuned . . .



Disston uses large stone wheels to taper grind there saws. When the stones became worn down they were used to build bulk heads on the Delaware river.