John Porritt, a collection of details — Windsor & Stick chairs

Although I don’t make many Crafts (tool collectors) of New Jersey meetings, my good friend John Porritt was scheduled to speak about Windsor and stick chairs. With the distance we live from each other, this made for an easy trip to catch up.

The craft monthly meets start off with a boot sale. The weather was a little overcast but not bad. About a dozen people set up. Recently I took down a large red oak in the backyard and was now looking for a few additional metal wedges; you can never have enough when splitting a big wheel.

Around 1 we moved inside for the talk that was less a chronological history and more a free flowing talk on a dozen or so chairs that John had brought with the help of Jim Bode. They ranged in age from1740 to the present and in condition, as John is skilled in the ways of restoration, as you many have read in my other posts about him.

Now just being honest, I do love some vintage tools, but my furniture likes are more in the Frits Henningsen or Peter Hiort Lorenzen, aka Danish modern world than classic English and Welsh.

John however has a great way of seeing past the obvious and finding the subtler details easily missed at first glance. Mix that with a strong knowledge of wood and furniture construction and even a mid-century geek can find common ground.

John bounced around the room pulling chairs from the tables, pointing out details and/or repairs that might be needed or had been made in the past. With a group like Craft you have a wide variety of woodworkers and John answered questions as he worked through the chairs.

After about hour it was time for me to head home. Craft is a bit of drive for me so it was good to see a few members I’ve done work for in the past and to catch up with John. He’s admittedly not a child of the internet but if you reach out to me I’d be happy to put you in contact. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing many of his repairs, restorations, and chairs. I happily recommend him to anyone in the market looking for help with a restoration. His skills and technique in the field are not something you’ll find on Youtube.

And with that I’m off to the bench to get some saws ready for market.

Joe F. AKA the saw Monger

The William Incident—Tool Karma

Since we’ve established the saw advocate (AKA me!) hasn’t been blogging much, I’ll provide a quick synopsis. About 2 years ago I relocated from North Jersey to the burbs just outside Philly. In doing so I moved from a one bedroom to a house that needs some TLC and updating. It’s been mostly positive except for the loss of free time.

That said, I still hit a few local estate sales, auctions, and Mid-West Tool events. Of these the spring & fall MJD auctions in NH are a must. Over the years I’ve made friends with a group of buyer/sellers in the parking lot and we set up next to each other. The mornings are fast paced but by afternoon we’re thick as thieves.

The parking lots fill up year after year not just because people are looking to buy or sell, or the allure of finding the diamond in the rough, but to catch up with like-minded friends, to hear stories of barn finds and what the kids are up to. Sprinkle in a little tool history, rubbing elbows with the parking lot bully, AKA Patrick Leach, who thinks he has divine right to all tools, a few beers, dinners bull shitting, and it’s a fun time I look forward to each year.

Now onto what I’ve dubbed the “Will Incident”. Parking lot picking is all good and fun and honestly, some like Patrick make it more of a physical sport, most of us just take the high road. Josh, of the infamous hyper kitten tool co, once said to me, “There will always be more tools,” or something to that effect. So when I find myself wrapped up elbows deep, ready to pull tools out of someone’s trunk before he’s parked, flashlight in hand, leveraging my body to block off others, I stop and remember this is all for fun.

So now that I’ve set the stage for the high paced, fast moving world of tool picking, I’ll continue with the “Will Incident”. Around mid-day, after the morning rush of sellers showed up, a car pulled in with NY plates. I walked over to do a cursory check for saws. Patrick on cue, seeing me, quickly asks, “Do you have any saws?” Knowing that if he goes through them quickly he can take time on the rest. The seller Chris said yes and points out a till. Patrick opens the box and looking down at the handles from the top proclaims, “I can tell from the handles none of are interest.”

At this point he turns and walks away. I talk with Chris a bit. Similar story to all of us, he buys and sells a bit. These are some he had been holding for a bit and was now looking to clean out space. I first notice the till. It’s nicely built, hand dovetails, missing the front latch, with steel hardware on the side. It’s a good size.

Realizing it won’t be long before the rest of pack finds this latecomer I get looking. I quickly find a few really nice ones, Patrick and his magical eyes missed. I pull four panel saws out of the till, Disston No 7, two D8s, No 12, and a No 9 made for HS hardware in NY. That last one is one I’d never seem. Most of the HS hardware saws are No 7s or No 4 Backsaw.

I pay Chis and ask if the box is for sale. Chris says not at this time; it’s holding the saws but maybe tomorrow. So I happily take my winnings back to show my friend Will and tell the tale of the fish that got away from Patrick. I also said let me show you this till; it’s a good looking one and I’m going to see tomorrow if he wants to sell it.

An hour or so go by and Will and I do a walk around to check out any price drops. I point out the box to Will who quickly asks if it’s for sale. Chris says, “Wow, this is a popular box but no it’s not for sale at this time.” I pointed out to my friend “Mr William” I was interested in the box. Now just to keep the story going I’ll fast forward to the next day. Most vendors drop the price on stuff and Chris still had a few good user saws so I walked over to relook things over. I decided to pass as I was hoping to bid on a few auctions. As I’m looking at a cute 16” No 7 that had the slightest bend in it, agonizing as I often do, knowing the bend won’t affect the cut but explaining that to the common ebay buyer is impossible. I look up and Mr William says, “I’ll offer you 40.00 for the box,” and just like that’s it’s sold out from under me. What? What just happened?? I had a plan and was just about to field an offer. I’m crushed, hurt, angry, bummed. How could my former friend and tablemate in sales do this?! And what could be worse you ask? I’ll tell you. To be asked to help carry said box back to his car!

Now let me stop and say: hopefully you know at this point it was all in jest. Will is a very good guy and friend. The grilling he took the rest of the weekend far outweighs the worth of the box or my need to own it. In fact, I’ve paid an old Italian woman to curse the box so any tools inside will turn useless, parts will go missing and all will rust.

So I was so busy giving  Will a ribbing I forgot to take a pic of the box. I did request one but that request was denied.

I should also point out I did a very similar thing to a friend last year over a Richardson Brothers No 7 panel saw. A friend asked me to look it over; I did, then asked how much, and said I’ll take it. I was thinking he was pointing it out to me rather then asking my opinion. Karma can be a bitch and when the tank runs dry things are bound to happen. The William incident is the tool gods’ setting the scale right along with Patrick’s oversight of the 4 saws.

The rest of the weekend was spent in the auction. I normally buy a few saws on Friday in the Auction and this year won 2 nice Disston Hardware etched saws. The rest I haggled for in the parking lot.

Thus ends another spring auction and I look forward to seeing my New England friends in the fall.

Karma tank restored. . .

The saw Monger