Tuesday, 19 January 2010

It Would Be Nice To Keep It In The Family...

Fascinating, yet frustrating stuff, this tool-collecting thing.

I was walking through the first tool fair I ever attended two springs ago and came across a beautiful little fret saw that I fell in love with immediately. For 35 bucks, it was mine and I was thrilled to death to have it, as it really was a beautiful little thing.

A while later, I came across its big brother on eBay. It had the exact same turned handle, the exact same metalwork and the exact same thumbscrews that hold the blade and the sliding adjuster. Man, I thought I died and went to heaven, especially when it became mine for the mere sum of $9.99 plus postage.

I have seen other exact matches to these two since, but none seem to be in as good of condition as mine, so I let them pass. There have also been a couple that had the same frame, same handle, same thumbscrews, but have the added feature of a blade tensioner at the font of the frame. The first one I missed, forgetting about the eBay listing ending while I was out spending money on other silly things with my wife; dumb things like food and gas for the car. There is a match to it listed currently, but the seller has it at one of those, “give your head a shake” Buy-It-Now prices.
As an update to this, I emailed the seller of this saw asking if we could work out a better price, walking on eggshells throughout it so not to insult the guy. What I got back could only be described as disgustingly rude and arrogant, so much so that I was happy we couldn't come to terms because I wouldn't want to deal with the likes of the eBay seller; Miliki's Shed from Southwest Iowa.
It is ok, though. I have the little guy and his big brother, and I am happy with that, or at least I was until my morning constitution yesterday, it being a cruise through jimbodetools.com to see what his daily listings were. My God! There, in all its warm tones of browns, peering back at me from my monitor, was these two guys’ great-great grandfather. It blew me away.

Have a look at "me boys" granddaddy…

Now have a look at “me boys”…

Pretty similar, aren’t they.

I immediately packed off an email to Jim asking if there were indeed related, and he came back at me with the affirmative, stating that the gens were the same, mine being how the design for the saw evolved over the years to bring down the production costs and his being the original.

This saw design keeps popping up in my life over and over again. The Lee Valley Collection has one and so does the Sindelar Museum, their site, I just discovered, no longer being accessible. Many of the examples I have seen lately were made by different American manufacturers, although the original producer is believed to be German. Most of the early 20
th century examples by the original manufacturer, like mine, have no markings except for some have a number cut into them in odd places. Later versions have either “Made in Germany” or “W. Germany” stamped on them. Other “knock-offs” have different and assorted manufacturers’ names stamped on them, even Brookstone getting in on this act.

Rob Cosman, of the dovetail fame, offers a fret saw for removing waste when cutting these joints in 3 minutes or less, and his saw is based on Jim’s granddaddy saw. I asked Rob about it a week or so ago and he stated that he brings them in from a manufacturer located here in Ontario, Canada, but that was all the information about them he could give.

I have run into a number of these saws over the past two years, and asked each one if they know the name of the manufacturer. Sadly, no-one knows and only answer, “I believe it is German”. It is too bad that such a fine toolmaker has to go down as being an unknown.

You can bet your sweet petunia that I want that granddaddy saw. I have been salivating on my monitor since first seeing it, as that image you see above is currently my desktop wallpaper. The problem I have is that over the last couple of weeks I have purchased a few planes, a float and a couple of squares, and they have blown my tool budget for this month. FRUSTRATINGGGGGGGGGG.