Lee Valley Tools    Woodworking Newsletter
   Vol. 6, Issue 5
   May 2012
   From the Collection

Eskilstuna Mythical Properties

Lee Valley antique tool collection

Not wishing to restart the eternal woodworking debate regarding the merits of being a collector versus a user, there is a sidebar that has to be heeded when creating a research vehicle such as the Lee Valley antique tool collection. Ephemera, whether in print or other form, always seem to accrue. They could be advertising, packaging, internal documents or products that have been assembled by a previous avid collector. The following three items are good examples of this practice and are part of the permanent Lee Valley collection.

Eskilstuna is a small Swedish city with origins dating back to the 12th century. By the 1700s, there was a flourishing metalworking trade there. This industry became extremely important and allowed for Eskilstuna to sometimes be compared to Sheffield, England, and Solingen, Germany, as one of the great world producers of quality steel during the 1800s. Cutlery and other edged items, along with machine tools and firearms, were among the products produced and shipped worldwide. Most important, the quality of the Swedish iron ore and its lack of impurities gave the raw steel manufacturers an almost two-step start in the race to market their products.

Some woodworkers today have a desire to own and use chisels made from fine Swedish steel. Brand names include Berg, ES Steel, TECOmaster (an Eaton's brand here in Canada). This cult has many similarities to the one that espouses the 1959 Sunburst Gibson Les Paul as the pinnacle choice of an instrument for any successful rock-and-roll musician. The early chisels had handles made with birch root burl, which were extremely attractive. This reverence for early edge tools, with their almost perfect steel, is another long-standing tradition. There is no doubt that some of today's modern steel formulations can replicate or even exceed the performance of cutting tools from the past, much as modern sound technology can recreate the older Les Paul sound, yet there is something about using an older item that has an unexplainable mystique.
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   Other Articles from this Issue
  • Using Magnets to Store Chisels
  • Folding Workstation for Crosscuts and Dadoes
  • The Reconstruction of a National Historic Site
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