Reference this!

Well, this past weekend was a little disappointing. I had hoped to make it to what’s been a rare Spicer auction and visit with some family, but it would seem that it just wasn’t in the cards.

I emailed with a friend to commiserate; knowing I’m a car guy, he said that also means you know when you’re screwed as well. I blew the low side power steering line, or lower pressure return line from the rack. I’d had the high side done a month or so ago, and the mechanic, a high school friend, warned me about old cars and hoses. My ‘98 Saab has been a flawless performer so I can’t really complain. I also got lucky; the distance was within the AAA tow range and by dealing with a friend, the repair was also completed by weekend’s end.

So I guess I’d better work on filling the karma tank back up and rest in the solace. There are always more tools at the next show.

With the holidays behind us and facing the winter stretch, I thought I’d recommend some good reference books. This by no means is complete and I welcome any recommendations. Most are reprints and can still be found online or at your local auction or tool reseller.

Simonds_1919First off is the nicely reprinted catalog: The Simonds Saws & Knives, 1919. Although the world loves Disston, like the Yankees or Cowboys, there are other quality makers. Simonds, being one, had the honor of besting Disston at sales of hand saws for a few years in the early 1900’s. The truth is the Simonds’ patented steel does have a wonderful feel. They also tend to be a better value than Disston. Keep an eye out for the No. 61 (straight back), 361 (skew back) or No. 5, just some of the more popular saws from their “Blue Ribbon” series. Also check out the Simonds Saw page by Brian Welch. The reprint and paper quality is much higher than normally used. They are still available and I’ll be offering them shortly along with the Disston 1876 price list. They do also pop up at auction on eBay.

HandsawCatalogAstragal Press offers a number of books for those of us interested in antique tools and early trades and technologies. For the saw lover they put together: The Handsaw Catalog Collection. It’s a 136 page collection of 4 popular saw makers’ catalogs.
Akins 1919
Disston 1918
Simonds 1910
Spear & Jackson 1915

The overall quality of reprint is quite good although I thought the images were a bit small. I don’t come across a lot of S&J saws but have used this a few times when identifying them.

TNSC_catalogIf you’re into the secondary makers (like me!) The National Saw Company, Newark, NJ is one of the best references out there. The National Saw Company was formed to market and sell the remaining inventories from Richardson Brothers, Wheeler, Madden & Clemson, Harvey W. Peace, and Woodrough & McFarland. All were once independent operations that Disston incorporated into their line. As the story goes, the NSC was formed to run out inventories of remaining stock. The 192 page reprint was published by the Mid-West Tool Collectors Association in 2006. Sadly the print quality is low but I’m sure that has to do with the orginal copy. These also pop up at auctions on eBay from time to time.

Disston the brand America loves, the Cowboys & Yankees embodied in steel, and as such there are a few reprints as well as free PDF’s downloadable on the Web.

Disston_19141914: Henry Disston & Sons Incorporated: This was reprinted in the late 70’s and if you can find a copy it’s quite nice to have as it covers most of the golden year models 7, 8, 12, 120 and so on as well as a wide variety of saws, squares, levels, gauges and so on. The 237 page orginal was pocket size but the reprint is larger, around 9” x 6”.

Disston_1876For the early years I really like Henry Disston & Sons’ Price-List, January 1st, 1876. The 6.5” x 10” 86 page softcover book was reprinted in 1994 and I thought until recently was out of print. It’s a great reference for the early golden years of saw making. This is just after split-nuts when the glover patent screws were in use. It also has examples of custom etch 200 series of saws that can be tricky to identify. I should have new copies to offer of this in the next few weeks but used copies pop up from time to time as well.

I’ll put this in the “if it’s free, it’s for me” column. Wheeler, Madden & Bakewell as well as the later Clemson were all part of Monhagen Saw Works 1860. The company in general was very incestuous with owners breaking off and starting other companies.  I defer to Mike Stemple on all matter Bakewell. 1860 – Monhagen Saw Works – Price List does cover most of their early saws pre-Clemson, who was brought in after Bakewell left. The overall quality is marginal but still helpful when researching. Download a free copy from the link here; then click on the adobe acrobat icon in the upper right.

MonhagenSawWorksAs far as compiled research on saw manufacturers, there are two definitive works by Erwin Schaffer. The first is entitled Hand-Saw Makers of North America. This is currently out of print but a PDF version can be ordered. I would however (in my opinion) say it’s WAY overpriced as the scan quality isn’t great, and after printing the PDF I found image quality hard to read.

HSMONA_Evr SchafferUsed copies are also getting out of hand with copies costing around $100. HOWEVER, and you read it here first, an updated version of the book is in the works. The publisher, after talking with yours truly, has been coerced into updating and reprinting. This is a joint effort that’s being headed up by members of the Mid-WTCA. Erwin Schaffer’s second book with the help from Don McConnell was entitled Hand-Saw Makers of Britain. Last time I checked this book was still available.  It’s also important to note that since the writing of both these books the popularity of saws has grown quite a bit, but neither of these books is the last word on the subject.

HSMOB_Erv SchafferI’ll hold off on internet resources as there are many great sites and collections. I’ll just add two that go along with this topic. Often my first stop when identifying British or non-US makers is Ray, who started and runs the site, as well as the members are extremely helpful when flushing out dates and filling in the blanks on research. I’ll also add to check out his reference list and other articles in addition to the bulletin boards. The other useful reference is a list of reprints available online from Old Tool Heaven.

As always, thanks for reading. I’d like to wish everyone a Happy new! May all your dovetails turn out perfect in 2013. As I post this I just took delivery of some new old stock of both the 1876 price list and the Simonds 1919 catalog. check my website shortly if interested.

Joe Federici
Always buying, Always selling, and Always sharpening.



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