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Nick Allen

Tool identification

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Hey guys,

I just remembered that I have this old divider/compass that I got at a barn sale a few years ago. It looks pretty old, and I can't figure out the period from which it may be from. But I know you guys have seen it all collectively and may be able to help me down the right path. 

They look pretty crude to me, buy still work fine. 

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https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/antique-hand-forged-steel-screw-1778659169

Similar divders for sale here...did a previous owner saw off some of the screw on yours, possibly? And the screw looks bent...also...the threads are definitely old. But if they work fine for what you need to mark out, that's great.

Keep them- you have won the lottery: old, useful, and pretty tool found at barn sale that was not left outside for years to rust into uselessness, nor kept covered in fresh motor oil to make sure it is properly lubed up! Victory 

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10 minutes ago, not telling said:

No fair. You definitely did not get that at a barn sale in the American midwest.

Not sure if that was directed at me or not, but no I certainly did not ha ha.

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1 hour ago, Shelbow said:

Not sure if that was directed at me or not, but no I certainly did not ha ha.

I figured not.

But listen, Nick, I like barn sales too. You spot a sign written in pencil that says Tool Sale...you go park on someone's lawn ten miles out of town...you get followed around by an old man in overalls crossed in the front who explains the fascinating history of every item...what's not to like? 

It's so unlikely to find anything good at one though. And if you do, they always seem to know what they have (with the exception of high quality sawblades). I too am also always tempted to see old tools though. There's going to be one time that I'll buy fifty things at a barn sale and make off with thousands of dollars of beautiful old tools, someday. Definitely. I suspect I need treatment for a gambling problem though. 

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10 hours ago, Nick Allen said:

...They look pretty crude to me...

The only reason they look crude is that they are pitted with rust.  But they are very finely made -- hand-forged and finished by filing.  The three initials seen in your first picture are typical of the way tools used to by stamped by their owners; the "W" on the thumb screw may be a maker's mark.

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2 hours ago, Brad Dorsey said:

The only reason they look crude is that they are pitted with rust.  But they are very finely made -- hand-forged and finished by filing.  The three initials seen in your first picture are typical of the way tools used to by stamped by their owners; the "W" on the thumb screw may be a maker's mark.

That's what I figured. The initials were just a previous owner. I can't find anything on the maker. I figured they'd be mid 19th century or thereabouts. They're nice, but need sharpened again. 

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3 hours ago, Shelbow said:

It was free though. 

The drill looks new. It could be 1500's to last year for all I know. It's really lovely, and free is nice.

 

53 minutes ago, Nick Allen said:

That's what I figured. The initials were just a previous owner. I can't find anything on the maker. I figured they'd be mid 19th century or thereabouts. They're nice, but need sharpened again. 

What will you do with them?

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That style of divider was made for centuries I believe. I would guess yours is most likely from somewhere between 1830 and 1930.

Is the thread bent too much to work properly?

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44 minutes ago, David Beard said:

That style of divider was made for centuries I believe. I would guess yours is most likely from somewhere between 1830 and 1930.

Is the thread bent too much to work properly?

No they work just fine. The shaft on these type dividers seems to always have a bent shaft. Although the threads are a little rounded over by now. I don't understand how the spring section still has so much tension in it even after all of this time under tension. It's pretty neat. 

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13 hours ago, not telling said:

 

I figured not.

But listen, Nick, I like barn sales too. You spot a sign written in pencil that says Tool Sale...you go park on someone's lawn ten miles out of town...you get followed around by an old man in overalls crossed in the front who explains the fascinating history of every item...what's not to like? 

It's so unlikely to find anything good at one though. And if you do, they always seem to know what they have (with the exception of high quality sawblades). I too am also always tempted to see old tools though. There's going to be one time that I'll buy fifty things at a barn sale and make off with thousands of dollars of beautiful old tools, someday. Definitely. I suspect I need treatment for a gambling problem though. 

I also got a few old J. Addis gouges, one of which I use for like everything, for around $2 apiece. They were both well lapped on the inside and free or pits, plus plenty of length left. Also a fully restored and tuned #6 Stanley clone for like $80 in perfect shape.

The Tool Barn in Bar Harbor Maine is my pilgrimage site. 

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Omg amazing find on the gouges. Very awesome. That does not tend to happen to me. I see otherwise serviceable planes and files soaked in motor oil all the time though. Kansas...

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49 minutes ago, not telling said:

Omg amazing find on the gouges. Very awesome. That does not tend to happen to me. I see otherwise serviceable planes and files soaked in motor oil all the time though. Kansas...

Better to be soaked in motor oil, rather than salt water.

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11 hours ago, Bill Yacey said:

Better to be soaked in motor oil, rather than salt water.

I can maybe see your point, but for violin work most people take care of their tools obsessively. That's all I see. I'm guilty of thumbing my nose, I'm bad. 

I guess I don't understand the conditions hand tools would be sujected to, normal use, where they are constantly in imminent danger of rusting. But at typical barn sales,basically a huge yard sale at a farm and sometimes in the actual barn, wow! I don't even know.how someone can put some of those tools on a table and think it's worthy of a price tag.  It would be nice to remove all traces of motor oil before sale day at least but that's asking way too much.$40 on an oily, mottled, destroyed Stanley plane post-WW 2 that has never seen flat..but it's a Stanley, miss. It's very collectible. Lol. That's typical. Sometimes you see a better tool getting the oil treatment, or on a table as a past recipient. It's not something my husband will deal with. I used to argue for cleaning those tools and he seems to think it's not worth it.

Still, I love a big tool sale. The hunt is addictive.

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1 hour ago, not telling said:

I can maybe see your point, but for violin work most people take care of their tools obsessively. That's all I see. I'm guilty of thumbing my nose, I'm bad. 

I guess I don't understand the conditions hand tools would be sujected to, normal use, where they are constantly in imminent danger of rusting. But at typical barn sales,basically a huge yard sale at a farm and sometimes in the actual barn, wow! I don't even know.how someone can put some of those tools on a table and think it's worthy of a price tag.  It would be nice to remove all traces of motor oil before sale day at least but that's asking way too much.$40 on an oily, mottled, destroyed Stanley plane post-WW 2 that has never seen flat..but it's a Stanley, miss. It's very collectible. Lol. That's typical. Sometimes you see a better tool getting the oil treatment, or on a table as a past recipient. It's not something my husband will deal with. I used to argue for cleaning those tools and he seems to think it's not worth it.

Still, I love a big tool sale. The hunt is addictive.

People will buy old tools, in the belief that they are automatically superior. The same thing goes on with old fiddles.

I, personally, do not own any old tools which I have found to be superior to moderns stuff, with the exception that I would like to own the old Stubai gouge set that Hans Weisshaar owned. They were amazing!

Old Stanley planes and the like? Meh. Been there, done that, no interest any more. In the time it takes to get the plane working semi-well, one can make from 1/2 a violin to several violins.

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Having a tool with a design identical to the one Stradivari had is pretty fun (assuming it works just as well as a recent version). This is the stuff it's possible to find at a barn sale though, and although this divider design is rare to find in great condition, if you frequent enough sales you will. Even my older kid has two or three old dividers in different sizes.  It's fun. I taught him a little about how to use it.

I understand now about planes: getting a perfect plane by flexing your index finger a couple times on a mouse is preferable. As awful as it sounds, I keep going to these sales because at some point, someone's kids might be ignorant of the value of certain tools and have no interest in getting more than $500 at a yard sale for the contents of a well-appointed wood shop. Better any of us appreciative and more knowledgeable than average folks find that stuff, than someone else.

I frequent these sales more out of a deep aversion to paying retail, and possibly some hope of preserving historical objects that are awesome, than any belief in the superiority of old tools. 

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