Kitchen tools for tiny hands & a country kitchen
  • Wall plaque of vintage woodworking tools
  • A bounty of old hand tools that will Wow! you
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    Auction Finds

    When kitchen and farm tools were more than just functional

    Antique kitchen and household tools have a style to them. The tools I use today in my own kitchen are pretty simple and utilitarian, and no one would mistake their design for art. They were made to be used, not admired.

    Flipping through an 1890s product catalog at auction recently, I saw how mundane our modern tools are. They are more efficient but that’s about all.

    The nifty-looking household and farm products in the catalog at auction were being sold by several companies. The one that first made me do more than just glance was a drawing of the handle for a screw driver and other similar tools. The details were so intricate that I figured each handle must have been made by hand, which they probably weren’t. It was like looking at a work of art.

    Tool handles

    The boxwood handle at bottom looked too pretty to hold a tool. Both came with metal tools, and were good for odd jobs around the house.

    I was so taken by that handle that I decided to continue looking through the catalog to see what other beautiful objects the industrial designers had created. Not all of the others were as fancy, but their designs were both interesting and telling. I’d seen similar items – such as an apple corer and cherry pit remover – a few years ago at another auction house. They had been part of a collection or left over from an antiques store that had been shuttered.

    They were all cast iron and unbearably heavy, but back then this equipment helped to make chores a bit easier. Some of them are no longer in use, their purposes supplanted by other tools that were even more efficient.

    What I like about these antique tools is what they tell us about the lives of the people who used them. They give us a peephole into how people lived, what they (and manufacturers) considered important, and even the foods they ate and processed on their own.

    Here’s some of what I found. What do you think?

    Sad iron

    This sad iron had a circular walnut handle that fit “naturally to the hand, and will not harm the arm or wrist.”


    antique coffee mill

    This coffee, spice and drug mill stood seven feet tall. Lovely.


    Antique tool

    This easy and durable machine was marketed to farmers and butchers who stuffed their own sausages and made their own lard.


    Antique tools

    This tool combined several carpenter tools.


    Antique household tools

    This cheese knife was made primarily for a shop for cutting a pound or more for a customer. It was finished in colors and ornamented in gold.


    Antique farm equipmen

    The Rogers saw, touted as the best cheap saw on the market.


    Tool cabinet

    A Gunn’s Tool Cabinet, which came in either cherry or hard maple plank. A “finer” version had a cover like a sewing machine and could blend in with the décor.


    Antique tools

    The industrial-size meat chopper at left imitated the “snipping process of a pair of scissors,” and sold for $200. The meat cutter at right worked well for families, butchers and farmers.


    Antique tools

    A mill for grinding corn, bones and shells (left) into chicken feed, and a meat chopper demonstrating how to grind three pounds of meat in one minute. It weighed 12 pounds.

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