Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Rare Veneer Saw

I love meeting with other woodworkers who collect tools. I guess it's like any club where the members share a deep knowledge of the topic and new members discover another world exists.

I have been sneaking out before dawn for years to meet with other like minded collectors at secret locations, known only to the people on the inside. Parking lots, behind stores, in hotels, anywhere which will allow a small group of crazy people to set up tables and park their carts or trucks.

The experienced people always bring their flashlights and bags and lots of small bills. In a special place they usually put a few folded hundreds, "just in case". They are the first to arrive, but they do not set up their stuff immediately. They wait for the next person to arrive, and they pounce. They pick through the boxes of tools in a hurry, anxious to see what there is to find. Often just a quick glance is enough to tell them if further digging is required. Like a scientist digging in earth strata, they know exactly which layer might produce the next discovery.

A quick, quiet offer is made, cash is exchanged and the purchase moves from the bottom of the junk box into the collector's sack. Later, after the sun breaks through the morning mist, the same item appears on his table, ready for sale, at an enormous appreciation in value. Only the fellow dealers get to hear the details of the transaction. The buyer never knows that he could have purchased the same tool only a few hours earlier for a fraction of the price. In fact, the buyer is more than happy to buy it at any price and considers himself lucky to get it.

After years of attending, dealing and purchasing antique tools at these meets, I have heard some amazing stories. There is the dealer who showed up with rolls and rolls of perfectly sharpened high quality carving chisels, hundreds of them. When I asked him how he got them, he said he had gone to a garage sale, and the lady who was selling the tools in the garage mentioned that her husband had died, and she just wanted to clean out the space. There were the normal tools, bent and rusty handsaws, an old table saw, and other average tools which had no special value. Just before he left, he asked her if there were any carving chisels. She said, "See all those cabinets at the back of the garage? He just kept buying chisels and sharpened them and put them into drawers. He never used them. You can have them all for $100." You can imagine what passed through his mind when he opened the cabinets and found he had purchased hundreds and hundreds of high quality carving chisels.

Another dealer I visit frequently sells antique furniture keys. I pay him from $3 to $5 for each key. After years of buying these keys, 10 to 20 at a time, I asked him why he never seemed to run out of keys. He said that he was at a sale, and found a large basket full of keys, over a thousand. When he asked about them, they said the price was $5. "For each?" he asked. "No, for all of them," was the reply.

The saw posted here is one of my stories, although not quite as profitable, but just as exciting. I noticed a group of dealers standing around at the corner of the meet, and silently approached to see what they had. Each person was passing around this saw and trying to figure out what it was used for. When they noticed me standing there, they said "Give it to Pat; he might know." I was handed the saw and the first thing I said was "How much is it?" I then purchased it immediately.

After I bought it, I announced with great certainty, "This is a very rare English veneer saw, probably made during the late 18th century. Thanks." I then retreated with my find to look for more treasures.

It is a wonderful tool, and I made several copies for gifts to my friends in Paris. I love old tools.

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