Saturday, 23 July 2011

I Know What It Is...The Question Is Why Does It Exist...

The Mid-Summer Antique Expo at Heritage Park in Milton had its inaugural run today and my wife, our dog and myself attended. It wasn’t the greatest of days for wandering an outdoor antique fair.

Around 11 a.m. the temperatures hit 33°C (in English, that would be  91.5°F). Calculating in the humidity, which weatherman seem to love doing, it hit 41°C (again, in English, that would be  104.8°F). Think about this the next time one of your fellow Americans suggests driving up here in the middle of August to do a bit of skiing.

We lasted about a of the way around the grounds before the heat did us in. Out of the three of us, only the dog seemed to be able to withstand the temperatures. I'm not surprised, though. Almost every dealer was pushing a bowl of water at her; ignoring the hell out of my wife and I, but they just swooned over the dog. It was so bad, in fact, that she didn't touch the bottles of water we brought for her.

There were a few dealers that we did see that were selling some tools, but most of the offerings consisted of some very good Canadiana furnishings, carvings, signage and knick-knacks. While my wife scoured the tables for china and porcelain, I checked out what few tools I could see. I looked at a gutter plane made by Wallace, who made planes in Montreal, Canada between 1845 and 1858, and in Scotland before then. As was usual back then, Mrs. Wallace took over when Mr. Wallace passed away and she keep the business going until about 1885. Someone had refinished this example of their work, though, so it was worthless. For some reason one dealer I visited had a lot of Casey, Kitchel and Company planes on display, a plane maker I haven't seen much of up here. From what I have read, this firm made a lot of planes in New York State between 1847 ad 1858, mostly using “convict labor”, as they were the company that held the contracts for this during that time. Casey and Kitchel eventually parted ways in 1858, with Casey starting the Auburn Tool Company and Kitchel fading away into obscurity. I would bet it was Casey that did the deal with the government for those contracts as it sounds like he was the “mover and shaker” between the two. Now there is a salesman I would like to hire. Imagine walking into the Department of Corrections back then and saying, “We want to contract for convict labor. We want to hand them sharp chisels to fashion wood and give them access to big files to fashion steel”. Man, would I like to have been a fly on the wall during that meeting.

So we left early and all I got for spending a few hours in the boiling sun depleting my bodily fluids was this cutter for use with an auger…

It wasn't what I had in mind going into the show, but I couldn’t think of going home empty handed. As we were heading for the exit I noticed it sitting forlorn and unloved on a dealer's table, so I went to it, and when I saw it marked with the princely price of 15 bucks...I scooped it.

Ok, in truth, from a distance I thought it was a Stanley No.47 auger stop, so I moved in for the kill. Getting close enough to see what it was, my mind quickly switched from going in for the kill, to; what the hell is that?

I have seen similar items before, but not quite like this, and not for an auger. It’s maximum circumference is 3-inches, the minimum is 1¼-inches. As you can see from the photos, it pivots around a centre-point, and a cutter rotates around it removing material like a granny’s tooth would handle it, but this has the upright cast to the side of the blade, instead of the back of it.

The radius and depth adjustments are pretty simple, really. Loosen the wing nut and move the blade where you want it, move it, that is, if it doesn’t fall out and onto the floor first. I know that the shape of a wing nut can help to  determine a rough manufacturing date, but damned if I can remember what shapes were around for what dates. If your looking for some fun, try researching it. In Google, I entered “timeline of a wing nut” and my biography popped up with a picture of me at birth. Go figure.

The photo above shows the shape of the wing nut and the stamping on the arm. It has the radius values rather crudely stamped, along with what appears to be “RCLF, Newark N.J., which would be the maker’s stamp. I wasn't surprised that I couldn't make out this maker's mark. Maker's marks are a dead give-away about the tool's worth.  They are like wine bottle labels. If the wine is good, the label design is brilliant. If it sucks, the label is so busy, it turns you into a jitterbugger before you even drink it. (For those that have lead protected lives, "jitterbugging" is a slang term for predominant shaking brought on by alcohol, or rather, the lack of it.)

This last photo also shows the “teeth” that hold the blade in position, or what is left of them. Seeing how badly they were beaten up in the dealer's tent blew me away because I didn’t think this thing would have been used enough to incur any damage like this. Without a spur on the outer edge of the blade, how does this thing cut wood without tearing it? My first thought was that something was missing. Either it fit into something like a holesaw, or had another attachment that pre-cut a circle ahead of the horizontal blade digging in, but there isn’t any way to attach these things to it, so I figured it must be complete.

One day, when I have a scrap clamped to the table I’ll give this thing a whirl. To be honest, my expectations of it working are slim to none.

Until then, for the grandiose investment of 15 bucks, I’ll keep it on the shelf so it can remind me that junk for woodworkers has been around long before Pierre Omidyar wrote his first line of code for what became eBay.



Updated Monday, July 25...
I Might Be Wrong...

Because Stephen has suggested in the comments that this little tool is for another purpose, I have created a line drawing of it to try and make its appearance clearing to everyone. I have set it off to Stephen to see if he still thinks it is a leather washer cutter. That one scares me because, with the cutting edge configuration, the only way I can think it would cut leather washers is if the hide is still on the cow.

I'll update again once I hear back from him.



Updated Wednesday, July 27...

Stephen Shepherd's reply...
Stephen Shepherd replied about the line-drawing stating he was more confused than ever. He thought it was a leather washer cutter, but realized that to work it, you would have to turn it in a counter-clockwise direction, so he wasn't sure about it.

Jim Bode of Jim Bode Tools...
Jim Bode also offered his opinion on this one, stating he thought it was a washer cutter that had been converted to chamfer the ends of dowels or posts, possibly to prep them for a hollow auger. He also said it, "wouldn't work for a hill of beans".

I did sharpen the blade and tried to take it for a test drive...Jim's sucks!




  1. An interesting tool indeed.

    Please stop tarnishing England's good name: In English (and all other languages and dialects), 33°C is 33°C. In 'American', alone, it equates to 91.5°F.

  2. To explain the "in English" remark; Canada, like other English speaking countries, came into the metric system quite late. We did't officially adopted it in 1970, five years after Britain.

    Those of us that had been around a while and weren't engineers or chemists didn't have a clue about this system as all we knew was Fahrenheit, pounds, ounces, feet and inches. Because of this, some things changed, some things didn't, and some things are double-listed, which only serves to make matters worse for us "old farts".

    For example, in Canada you by a 4' x 8' sheet of 1/2" plywood and while it actually is 4' x 8', it is only 12mm thick. Another example can be found at every farmers' market across Canada. One butcher will post his prices in kilograms while the butcher across the aisle from him lists his in pounds.

    The result is a whole generation that has gone through their adult life not knowing what the actual temperature is, or whether or not the hamburger they bought yesterday was had at a good price.

    You can always tell a Canadian from this generation because when something comes up that calls for conversion to their "native" way of thinking, many ask, "What's that in English?"

    Also, our heritage in this country is English, tried and true. If you will remember your high school history, when the Americans were fighting the British for independence, many of their neighbours left and moved up here so they could pay high taxes like the rest of us "bloody Brits".

    I will mention that I am only a second generation Canadian, and that is only on my father's side, not my mother's. So coming from a long line of English, Scots and Irishmen, I have to ask you one question. Who told you England has a "good name" to tarnish? (Ok, don't get your knickers in a knot. I was only kidding.)

  3. I think the cutter is in backwards?


  4. And I think it is a leather washer cutter for a brace.