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TM reader Jeremy dropped us a line and tipped us off to something that’s been eating my time ever since: a site containing scans of hundreds of old pieces of industrial equipment ranging from machine tools to steam and gas engines, and even advertisements for many of them.

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Chuck likes to give me a hard time about my Skilsaw because he says I bought it for the sole reason of not using the term “circ saw.” That’s of course untrue — I also got it because it was on clearance. It’s lasted 5 years thus far and is still going strong, but it has nothing on longtime reader Putnam Eco’s old Black & Decker.

This saw has lived through about 8 American presidencies and roughly 4 major wars, and its still sees service today judging by the modern Diablo blade perched on the spindle. Folks love to talk about the Sawcat, which is one of the saws that built Black & Decker’s rep in the American workforce back in the day. But this bad boy was the foundation that the Sawcat was built on. Sidewinders today don’t look that much different, in fact.

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Scientists have known for at least a century that the human hand has unique characteristics designed for gripping and manipulating objects, as opposed to the locomotion-designed hands of our closest ape relatives. Recently, Dr. Stephen Lycett and Alastair Key of the University of Kent, England, published an article in the Journal of Archaeological Science showing an important breakthrough: Darwin was right — about our hands, that is.

Lycett and Key’s study measured how hand size affected users’ ability to cut rope using stone-flake tools similar to those discovered in Africa and used by early humans 2.6 million years ago. To sum up, hand size did prove to be a significant factor in how well different people could manipulate different forms of stone tools. The experiments support the concept that natural selection favored cave-folk with the correct “biometric variation” (i.e. more modern and less ape-like hands) — and therefore, those better able to use tools were more likely to live on and reproduce.

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Flickr user whiteforge has a great collection of forged and antique tools, as you may remember from previous TM posts. This set of adjustable wrenches he posted caught my eye, since I’ve never seen any quite like them. Oldtools in the UK has some cool-looking twisted handle wrenches that are similar, but not identical.

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The “Heavy Duty ‘Driver’ Bench Saw” from a 1931 Sears/Craftsman catalog, only four years after Sears registered the brand, boasted that it came “complete with motor” and Timken tapered roller bearings. It cost $9.50 at the time (an average month’s rent on a house was $18), and was considered innovative for its speed and durability. What I find interesting is how little the basic technology of the table saw has changed in 80 years — or how advanced it was for its time.

1972 Craftsman 10" bench saw for $159

1972 Craftsman 10 Inch bench saw for $159

Modern Craftsman 10 Inch Table Saw, $799

Modern Craftsman 10 Inch Table Saw, $799

The modern Craftsman 10″ runs on exactly the same 1.5 hp, and at 3450 rpm is in many ways the same tool as the Depression-era saw. Though I have to admit that I see some pretty big changes in the 40-or-so years between the first saw and the second — besides the fact that the price seems to have dropped significantly, at least in relative terms. (Considering that one can rent a house now for $750 to, say, $1,500, you can now own a Craftsman 10″ saw for somewhere between half and the same price.)

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One other curiosity I found among the wreckage of my friend’s garage was this old Craftsman 18-inch belt sander. It’s in surprisingly good shape considering it’s older than I am. What I found to be an even bigger surprise was when I plugged it in, it fired right up.

It’s seen better days — the cord would need to be replaced and it’s leaking oil from within, but all in all I’d say it’s a pretty good find. All the adjustments still work and it looks uber-sweet. It’s funny to see it doesn’t look all that different from the models of today really.


The old man and I recently went out to a friend’s place to help her clear out her garage. Way in the back of it we found a giant tool chest of drawers and a few cabinets full of tools. Most of it was crap and we didn’t get to go through everything that night, but in the fading light of evening what we did manage to find made us very excited. This old Stanley level was buried back there gathering dust.

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TM reader Noel C. Hankamer recently posted pics* in the Flickr pool of his massive treasure trove of “old, rusty tools” — all purchased from a single local source. According to Noel’s photo captions, wrenches, saws, levels, planes, valve tools, coffee grinders, grease guns, screwdrivers, jacks, and a kerosene blowtorch were among the collection. We at Toolmonger offer you a hearty congratulations on this great find, sir!

And one last question: if other Toolmongers came across a similar diamond-mine-in-the-rough, what would you be most pleased to find in there? I’d personally go for anything related to musical instruments — horns, guitars, drum keys, etc. Let us know in comments!

*Thanks to Flickr user Noel C. Hankamer for use of the great cc-licensed photo!


If you happen to pass through Oroville, California (hint: it’s a good bit north of Sacramento), you might want to take a minute to stop by Bolt’s gift to the tool world: an antique tool museum. Opened back in 2006, it looks like this little metal building houses all sorts of old wrenches, blacksmith tools, household tools, and other sorts of neat stuff.

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Inspired by a cool find by Toolmonger reader whiteforge, I dug up a photo of this unusual curved wrench, courtesy of Ron Geeson of Made in Birmingham. The wrench was made for the English Fordson tractor, or “automobile plow,” that Henry Ford & Sons Company developed in 1917 — in the 1920s manufacture moved exclusively to Ireland and England. The Fordson was the first mass-produced tractor that small farmers and ordinary people could afford, and was in production until 1991 when the company sold its tractor division to Fiat.

This particular wrench has a unique snail logo in relief on the handle. It was tough to track down, but evidently it comes from Snail Brand tools, a division of Smith Francis in Birmingham, England, who’ve been in business since 1934. While these vintage spanners are primarily in circulation overseas, a recent eBay auction (now closed) shows you can still get them for around £18, or about $30.

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