Lee Valley & Veritas
Woodworking Newsletter
 
  Volume 8, Issue 3 - January 2014    
 
From the Collection
From the Collection   From the Collection
 
Readers who have a long history with Lee Valley may remember the 1980s when the company would purchase large amounts of discontinued hardware and offer it in catalog supplements or at special store sales. It was during such a purchase of a large American hardware wholesaler's store and warehouse that this one-off item was discovered and then packed away for future inspection. After the delivery of five tractor trailer loads, which also included an entire oak hardware showcase wall, the one-offs were loosely re-sorted and then offered on sale tables at various stores. Somehow this item was not put out for sale and instead made its way into the permanent Lee Valley tool collection. I'm not sure why, but I suspect it was kept for research purposes. Also, it was in its original cardboard box and had complete labelling, and I do know that the owners of this company have a fondness for items from the past retained in their original packing.
 
From the Collection
 
The end label is marked with "The Imperial Brass Manufacturing Co.", a company that was created in 1905 and is still in existence today, having been reworked through several corporate mergers. The label also shows a picture of the item and an explanation as to its use. There is no mystery here: this is a vise for holding thin wall tubing while making a square end cut on that tubing with a hacksaw. Tubing typically has a much thinner wall than pipe, and conventional gripping techniques would distort the shape, making the tube non-cylindrical. When inserted into the fixture, the small wedge prevented rotation and allowed for a clean, square cut. The vise is clearly designated as the "No. 184-F Imperial Beaver".
 
From the Collection
 
It is the second label on the top of the box that makes one think of the famous quote, "This is where the story really starts". It indicates "Do not open except for use". I don't know about you, but the first thing anybody who has ever laid hands on this box has done is immediately open it, and that includes this writer. I can confirm, however, that at least 80% of those who opened it were none the wiser as to its why and where of use.


But wait, there's more. The label includes, "Preserved at NSD Bayonne N J" along with a date of 1955. By 1940, new construction had started on naval supply depots (NSD) on both coasts of the United States. These NSDs were the warehouses and restocking facilities for the large American Navy. They were also the places where warships and stocks no longer needed were decommissioned, stored or destroyed and in some cases released back to the public. It is surmised that this is what the dated label refers to. Bayonne, New Jersey, was chosen for its proximity to the large commercial marine facilities in that area. The facility eventually became known as Military Ocean Terminal at Bayonne (MOTBY). By 1999, it had closed, and the site was released to a private consortium to develop for public use. Development is still ongoing, with much discussion as to feasible end uses.

D.S. Orr

D.S. Orr has been a collector, user and student of woodworking and metalworking tools and practices for more than 40 years. Recently retired, he has devoted even more time to these endeavors.
 
 
 
 
     
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