Wall plaque of vintage woodworking tools
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    Auction Finds

    A bounty of old hand tools that will Wow! you

    The text message from my auction buddy Janet wasn’t very encouraging to me:

    “You going to Briggs tomorrow?” she asked. “They have 12 vintage cookie jars and a bunch of old/rustic tools for sale. Could be a blog post.”

    I’d written about cookie jars before so that didn’t spark my interest. Neither did the old tools. I envisioned a handful of iron tools that someone had left in a garage or barn to grow rust and spawn spider webs. It’s not that I don’t like hand tools; I bought one at a house auction a few years ago and still don’t know what it does exactly. I just loved the look of the thing.

    antique hand tools

    An array of tools and other items, from domestic to farm.

    When I got to the auction house, I didn’t head straight for those old tools. I figured that mess could wait as I wandered among tables in the back room where small items had been placed in cardboard-box flats on tables and inside glass cases.

    When I finally made my way to the front room where furniture is sold, I found loads of vintage and antique tools and other such items neatly laid out on several tables. They were, in fact, amazing – nice and clean with barely a hint of rust. Then I knew why Janet had directed me to seek them out.

    They were so clean that I figured they were not original to the person who had consigned the auction house to sell them. These had belonged to a dealer in old tools, because some of them had identifying labels and a few price tags strung on them.

    antique hand tools

    More hand tools and other items.

    I had no idea what most of them were, but several auction-goers apparently did. A number of the tools bore small green stickers indicating that buyers had left absentee bids.

    One of the more interesting items was a short piece of thick chain that, according to the label, was a “heavy hand wrought chain used as a brake on a Conestoga wagon.” I was familiar with this type of wagon because I had written a blog post a few weeks ago about a farm wagon for sale at another auction house, and my research had led me to Conestoga wagons. They were the fabric-covered ones  I’d seen in TV westerns.

    How authentic was this chain? Who knows.

    antique hand tools

    Some items I actually recognize: From top left, wooden molds, corn-muffin bakers, candle-making tins and sad irons (note the large metal lock at the bottom right).

    Other items with labels were an unidentified tool from the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, MI; a wheelwright’s traveler used to measure the diameter of wagon wheels; a hay tester used to pull out hay from inside a bail for inspection; a sugar devil fruit auger for loosening sugar or fruit in a barrel; oversized calipers; an unidentified hand wrought tool made of rough rusted metal with a $25 price tag, and a box of porcelain “plumbing escutcheons 1920-1930.”

    I wasn’t totally ignorant about everything on the tables. I recognized candle-making molds, sad irons, corn-muffin bakers, wooden molds (for what, I don’t know, but I’d written about wooden industrial molds before), fireplace tools, hand drills, surveying tools and oversized cooking spoons.

    Here’s a sampling of the tools. Don’t you just love them.

    antique hand tools

    Top photo: Cooking utensils and calipers. Bottom photo: fireplace tools.


    antique hand tools

    At left, a wheelwright traveler. Top right, a hay tester. Bottom right, a sugar devil fruit auger.


    antique hand tools

    The chain at bottom was said to have been used as a brake on a Conestoga wagon.


    antique hand tools

    A table of hand tools and other items.


    antique hand tools

    Tools hanging on a peg board gives some idea of how they could be used for decoration.


    antique hand tools

    Auger drill and other tools, including plumb bobs in the box in the center, used in construction and surveying to establish a vertical line.


    antique hand tools

    Metal pots, a 28-pound weight, pestle and other items, including the bottom half of a tong for lifting blocks of ice.


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