Lee Valley & Veritas
Woodworking Newsletter
 
  Volume 11, Issue 2 - November 2016    
 
What Is It?
What Is It?
 

In the early 1960s, there was a surge in tool collecting primarily due, in my opinion, to the demise of the apprentice system for traditional trades where skills were passed from generation to generation. Rapid industrial growth post Second World War meant that many were trained on the job, and there was no need to spend a long period learning all the intricacies of a particular trade. This change meant a difference in how tradespeople approached their tools. No longer did one have a tool chest full of items to cover any aspect of work one might encounter. In some toolboxes, these tools could have been apprentice pieces or owner-made interpretations of more costly items or perhaps a gift from a master who was passing on the craft to a deserving individual.

The embellishment and care in construction applied to these tools elevated their appearances and made them stand out. In fact, a sub-class of tool collectors has developed that focuses on these unique pieces within a display collection. The item could be an elegant gauge or an overly decorated cutting device or just a simple and timeless construct that catches one's eye. It matters not. The unique aspect is that one realizes that the item has an appearance and proportion along with the maker's special touch to separate the item from the rest of the pile. Sometimes manufacturers created such items for expositions. "Tools as Art" or "Tools Are Art" are two popular descriptions to classify these types of tools.

 
What Is It?
 

Commonly called a stair saw, the item shown is essentially a trenching tool. It is used to cut a cross slot to a specified depth in a piece of wood. Normally made with a one-hand tail, this example is perhaps a copy of a coming-and-going plane. This is a wooden plane that was infrequently made in this two-handed style and used to cut a tongue-and-groove joint. These planes were made commercially, but are often user-made, much like this saw.

Constructed of walnut and measuring about 16" long, it is not a small thing. A brass plate covers the peg-tooth blade, which is probably from a conventional saw. This blade is locked in with the plate and also two screws that facilitate changing the depth of cut. Early European stair saws were often decorated with animal effigies such as a bird or animal's head, along with incised carving. The form lent itself to further decoration.

 
What Is It?
 

This is a simple tool made with ordinary parts but with exceptional skill. The symmetrical look leads us to appreciate the time taken by the maker and the obvious pride in making this tool. In keeping with the Lee Valley collection principles, no cleaning has been done to this tool.

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. Now retired, he has devoted even more time to these endeavors.

 
 
 
 
     
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