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It’s a funny thing that happens when a tool is left forgotten in a tool box for fifty or so years before it’s pulled back out again. Suddenly adjustable wrenches like these are not called a nasty old tool, but a vintage tool. We find the change itself interesting.

When you look at these adjustables, what do you see? The lower one says Speednut and is recognizable as a wrench but there are subtle differences that let us know this is not something new — the adjustment for one, the handle for another. I’ve never seen one like it, but I know exactly what is is and more or less how to use it. They are reminders that we haven’t got everything quite figured out yet but always strive to do better.

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I love this wrench posted by Toolmonger reader Whiteforge because it reminds us that we’ve been trying to come up with bigger and better wrenches for a long time. If the caption on the image is correct, this “Any Angle Wrench” was designed in 1916.

So for the better part of a hundred years, we haven’t come very far in adjustable wrench innovation. Folks tinkering around the shop the same time WWI was going on wouldn’t have any trouble identifying wrenches of today. I find that fascinating. Nice find, Whiteforge.

Toolmonger Photo Pool [Flickr]

 

This may be the most impressive woodworking feat I’ve ever seen. The photo above was made in the mid-1800s by a Mason named Henry O. Studley, a piano maker and carpenter. Materials include mahogany, rosewood, walnut, ebony, and mother-of-pearl, so finely crafted that each tool clicks snugly into place and remains when the wall-mounted box is vertical, even though there are no built-in locks. Two layers on one side and three on the other are enough to store around three hundred tools in 39″ x 20″ x 9″.

It takes a Toolmonger with a heart of stone to avoid falling in love with this remarkable chest. An expert craftsman with a lifetime’s experience in a demanding trade made this practical and fantastically beautiful box from scraps, and was probably the kind to use it every day. If this were your work, imagine the little twinge of satisfaction every time you reached for a tool. Mr. Studley’s work is a practical, gorgeous display of his incredible skill, and he’d undoubtedly be proud to see his work on display at its current home in the Smithsonian.

The H.O. Studley tool chest [Fine Woodworking]
Henry O. Studley [Wikipedia]

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Pictured above is my very own “YANKEE” No. 41 (from North Bros. Mfg. Co. in Philadelphia, PA) that I got many (many) years ago from my dad. I have no idea how old it is. My dad may have gotten it from my grandfather, but I can no longer ask either one of them. Soon after I got it, I broke one of the bits, but was able to stop into my friendly local hardware store and pick up a set of replacements — those were the good ol’ days. It’s an oldie but a goodie that I still like to use. In fact, I recently broke — well, kind of bent it (see above picture) — a bit, and found that replacement bits are now somewhat harder to find and getting expensive as they’re often classified as antiques or collector’s items. Fortunately, a bit of web searching turned up a possible solution: a shank adapter complete with bits.

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Sometimes the answer to the famous “What is this thing?” shop question is as fruitful as it was for reader ghb624 who was cleaning out some old hand-me-down gear and came across this piece of tool history. As it turns out, some folks tracked it down for him.

This was among the items in a box of odds & ends which I inherited. It came to me along with an old Goodell Pratt lathe which had been in the family for 60-some years. I have no idea what it is used for, and am going to post a query on an appropriate discussion forum to see what I can find out.

I found a downloadable copy of the Goodell Pratt catalog for 1926, and here is the exact item:

All right: that is officially cool. Not only does he know what it is now, but it’s pretty clear that this is where it came from. For some reason seeing a direct link to the past like this always puts a smile on our faces.

Toolmonger Photo Pool [Flickr]

 

This anonymous British text from the 1860s was designed as “an instructive text on the importance, dignity, and techniques of labor.” It details the work of over thirty trades including millers, sugar refiners, and shoemakers, with over 700 illustrations — many of tools of the time period. If you’re into antique tools or the history of hand craftsmanship, this book is an inexpensive (street pricing runs around $11) and interesting guide to the kind of work your great-great-grandfather might have done.

Book of Old-Time Trades and Tools [Dover Publications]
Via Amazon [What’s This?]
Street Pricing [Google]

 

I’ve been cleaning up all the tools for the ShopSmith, and it’s an uphill battle — however, the process got a little more interesting when I got to the scroll saw and found out it’s the only attachment that’s not SS-branded.  It was obviously made to work with the ShopSmith since it sports the telltale driveshaft that hooks into the headstock, but this is the first time I’ve run across a Dunlop brand power tool.

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Last week we saw a sled that carries heavy objects — this week we’re stepping up to wheels.  It looks like you attach this rig’s hooks to one end of each log;  then we’re guessing you drag ’em out of the forest by ox or horse team.

This style of wood removal was probably slow and tedious, not to mention a workout for the animals, but back in the day it was the best technology to be had:  one or two horsepower and a few wheels.  I’d love to watch the guys on Ax Men be handed this stuff and see if they could get enough timber off the mountain.

Thanks to reader Goblirschrolf for the sweet photo.

Toolmonger Photo Pool [Flickr]

 

Ever since I began shaving I’ve used the big-brand cartridge razors, until recently I had a revelation:  I hate spending money on overpriced razor cartridges.  My local knife store turned me on to the old-school pleasure of wet-shaving with a double-edge safety razor.  Blades cost 25 cents apiece — and there’s something cool about shaving the way my grandfather used to shave.

There are many options in razors — I use a vintage 1950s Gillette — but one of the best razors that balances cost and quality is the Merkur 33C safety razor.  It runs about $26 without blades. If you’re interested, check out Badger and Blade where you can find anything and everything related to shaving.

Merkur 33C [West Coast Shaving]
Street Pricing [Google]

 

The thing about the world’s largest anything is that there can only be one.  Each of these things is in a class all by itself, and we tend to give them a healthy respect — especially when, as is the case with the Creusot steam hammer, it can flatten us like a pancake.

This huge-ass steam hammer was built in 1877 by Schneider and Co. in the French town of Le Creusot. Its big selling point was the unholy ability to deliver a blow with up to 100 tons of force. We’re guessing it made a little noise, too.

The funny part is that the forge work it was responsible for is now done in a different manner — so a steam-powered machine that was built over a hundred years ago is still king of all hammers.

World’s Largest Hammer [New York Times]