As the saying goes, finding a job is a full-time job. Add to that the economy plus balancing the saw business and well my time has been in short supply. That said, I’ve been picking up some freelance pre-press/graphic production work and although the sales have been light, the sharpening has been steady. And most importantly, I’m still happy and enjoy the little wonders I find when working with old tools.
One such is this backsaw. I don’t normally take in UK saws as I deal more with users and I already have more then I can currently work through. The owner, however, was looking for a 16” user and I figured it was an early brass backed saw. Who among us isn’t enamored by brass in tools? It’s like moths to a flame.
- Big sweeping cheeks on the handle
- The use of Rivets and two versus three on a saw this size
- Scalloped edges on the stamp
- Dots between Love and Spear & German and Steel
- The use of German over spring or Cast
So with a little web searching I found some clues pointing to be pre-Spears & Jackson collaboration from the late 1700’s. Way cool to think something is that old! This fueled the fires and a quick trip to the S&J website yielded the following:
In 1760, John Love, a drapery maker, changed directions and started a steel making company in Sheffield. This was in large part due to the rapidly growing production of metal production due to the abundance of raw materials. Love was joined by Alexander Spear, a wealthy merchant from Wakefield (local to the area) and the newly formed firm was named Spear & Love.
Over the next few decades the company focused on the production of saws and business grew. In 1814, with the firm now run by Alexander Spear’s nephew, John Spear, an apprentice named Sam Jackson was added. Jackson proved a capable assistant and in 1830 the company was renamed Spear & Jackson. You can read more here.
So with that I snapped a few pics and emailed a friend who’s knowledge of UK saws far exceeds mine.
David emailed back the following “They (Love & Spears) don’t appear in the 1781 Sheffield Directory. They do appear in Gales & Martin’s 1787 directory as “factors and steel refiners” on New Street. They next appear in Robinson’s 1797 Directory as “merchants, factors & steel refiners” on Scotland St. But they do not appear in Baine’s 1822 directory.”
Love & Spears are at least from 1787 to 1797, give or take a little bit. It’s interesting that they’re not listed as sawmakers, but rather as merchants and factors, who have other people make things for them.
I know the line between tool collector and user is often made of barbed wire, but we can all enjoy geeking-out over the craftsmanship and the history.
Whenever I look at a saw from this point in history; late 1700 to early 1800’s, I first think about the maker or company as it’s hard to strip value from any tool, it’s part of what I do. But when I stop, and realize most saws were NOT made by the stamps namesake but rather nameless craftsmen, I can better focus on the details. Details like the ultra fine lower ogee that starts with a small lamb’s tongue and terminates at the London style handle with a clip. Yes, I’ve seen more ornate versions of both, but in many ways, it speaks to balance of design. We often hear the cost of these saws could cost the original owner a week of wages, so it’s important that form follows function. Although in later years, details are ornate and come at a cost of broken handles. One detail I love and often overlook is the area where the back butts the handle. The chamfer, chamfer stop, into the beak. The transition in particular from the chamfer into the stop is just so simple and perfect with that micro transition as it terminates into the hook. Perfection.
Now I’ll do my best not to ramble about the history but when you think about England and America around the time this was made, well, it’s mind blowing to think this saw is A. here and B. still in once piece. . .
Just to recap some history. In 1774 the colony had established there own governmental institution but still recognized the British Crown and empire. The British responded by sending combat troops and well, in short, we told king George III to go piss off and the American Revolutionary War AKA American War of Independence ensued between1775–1783.
So to think this saw was made between the tail end or shortly after the war, then travel to ground zero in the Philadelphia area is just wild. We know Love & Spears were in business on or before 1787 in England, while here in the US The battle of Monmouth was fought on June 28, 1778, a turning point for George Washington after loosing his foothold on Philly. The win turned the tie of motivation in our favor. The location also happens to be within miles from where it was found. Coincidence? Who knows, but so very cool!
And with that I wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving and offer food for thought on all thing tools.
Enjoying the mystery