A typically occasional series by Christine Cox
I’m sure that if I had been a seamstress I’d save meaningful bits of fabric, or if I had been an engineer I’d collect antique slide rules or something similar. The fact is that I’m a metalsmith and a bookbinder. I collect antique tools made for those trades.
They’ve come to me in various ways; purchased in antique stores, given to me by a doting grandfather, found on garage sale tables. What they all have in common is that they are functional and that they wear the patina of time.
What to watch out for:
Avoid rust, or be prepared to clean it off (a nasty job that can yield great rewards)
Check that nothing is loose.
Wooden handles don’t last well. If the wood is dry and cracked, walk on by. The tool won’t be safe to use.
Because they are antiques, they often aren’t up to their original jobs, but metalsmiths are nothing if not flexible. I was once the honored recipient of an ice pick that had rusted, but the pick’s pedigree made it a worthy acquisition. I cleaned off the rust, but the underlying metal was pitted. It wasn’t up to picking or poking anymore, but perfect for stirring, and that’s its new life. I think the original owner would be pleased that it’s still being used.
I’m sure the file pictured with this article was sharp and robust at some time in the past, but now it’s teeth are worn. I use it as my “fine” file and smile every time I do. The beautiful file is now reserved for only the lightest finishing strokes on a piece and it’s exactly the right tool.
Keep your eyes open. They’re out there!