When the ReUse Tool Library opens this year, it will have about 550 items in its inventory. Most of those will be new, but around 200 will have been donated through the thrift store. The first step for a tool donation entering the system is to figure out what it is, who made it, and what it’s used for. All this is necessary for archiving the tool and determining its replacement value. Sometimes this is easy—a clear manufacturer name and model number plus a good internet connection means it’ll take just a few minutes to track down even the rarest object. Other times, we’re not so lucky. Often I know enough to guesstimate a few possibilities. Though just as often, I'm clueless. When desperate, we crowd source an answer from Reddit. In those situations I usually end up learning something. These tools are typically not widely used or have fallen out of fashion. Chances are they may never be borrowed from the library. But they can still tell us about the way certain activities can be accomplished and just how resourceful people can be.
Here are a few examples of some of the more interesting or esoteric tools that have come through my door.
Manufacturer: Lawrence Stationery Co.
Eyelet fastener pliers or leather punches were used, unsurprisingly, for punching holes and placing eyelets in leather. Made in New Haven, Connecticut, around the turn of the century.
Model: Clipmaster 78150-013
A variable speed clipper approved for trimming horses, cattle, llamas, and goats. Might work on other animals. Figure we’ll give it a test run when my co-worker buzzes his head for the summer.
When drilling the hole for a dowel, a doweling jig helps guide the bit. Placing dowels are an essential part of creating joints in woodworking. Not sure what year it’s from, but here’s its instructions.
Model: Ratchet Versatool
The original combination screwdriver. Includes a Phillips-head and a wide and narrow flat-head. One eBay seller claims it was given away by the Lebanon Connecticut Business Association between 1902-1973. Based on its plastic components, I'd say toward the end of that range.
Manufacturer: Granberg Industries
Model: G-106 File-N-Joint
Any idea what this tool is called or what it’s for? It’s a file guide used for sharpening chainsaw teeth. Looks like a tedious process, but keeps you from having to purchase a new blade. Check out this video demonstrating how it’s done.
Manufacturer: Tec Imports
A gimlet is a small hand-tool used for boring or drilling, usually into wood. This particular gimlet was made in Germany.
Part multi-tool, part Russian nesting doll, the steel and brass hammer breaks down into three different flat-head screwdrivers..
Manufacturer: Henry Disston and Sons
Here’s a pretty unique crosscut handsaw. The blade and the hardware were made by the Henry Disston and Sons company in Philadelphia sometime around 1917. The handle doesn’t seem be the original and looks to be homemade. The new design actually makes it hard to saw with….oh well.
Manufacturer: Henry H. Taylor Tools
This is a vintage (that is to say, patina’ed) set of wood graining combs. Wood graining tools are used to apply a grain like pattern in paints or glazes. These metal ones come from in Sheffield, England.
Manufacturer: E.C. Stearns & Co.
And finally, saw set pliers or a saw set tool adjust the amount a saw tooth bends away from the blade. This affects how the saw cuts and helps to keep the blade from binding.
Have any unique tool you’re proud of? Bring it by the ReUse Tool Library.
- Zach Swick