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!



Saturday, 16 July 2011

An Eggbeater Whipped Me Good...

I spent this morning writing a post for this blog that discussed the rebuild of the Miller Falls No.2 eggbeater that I purchased last year.  I spent about 4 ½ hours writing it, as not only did I have to write it, but also follow an email trail, reading each to determine the gist of their content, as well as establish the timeline. 

Once completed, I felt that the facts it listed did not reflect well on the tool restorer that did the work on the drill, so I sent a copy of it off to him, allowing him an opportunity to refute any of the points I had listed as untrue before posting it.

I have since trashed that article because I had made two major mistakes with it. My first mistake was writing it. My second was sending it to the restorer.
This is a compilation of the drill as it was
before I sent it off for restoration

So what are my problems with all of this?

To try and make a very long story shorter…

July 18, 2010
I purchased a very rough Miller Falls No.2, circa 1910 ($30)

August14, 2010
I spoke to the leading restorer of Miller Falls drills
I was told a mechanical and cosmetic restoration - quoted $180

August 15, 2010
I spoke to the restorer again to discuss not doing cosmetic work
Restorer agreed to only a mechanical restoration - quoted $180
Told 3 month turn-around
Told once drill was apart, he would contact to discuss cosmetics

August 20, 2010
Shipped drill to restorer ($34)
Paid restorer’s invoice through PayPal - $180 plus $25 shipping ($205)

January 18, 2011
No drill, no contact – emailed to request delivery date
Restorer stated he broke his wrist in October which put him behind

May 26, 2011
No drill, no contact – emailed to request delivery date again
Restorer stated he planned to start work the following Monday

June 9, 2011
Received email from UPS stating shipping label had been issued
Emailed restorer to ask what was going on as still no contact
Restorer answered I should “relax”, only the label was issued

June 11, 2011
Received call from restorer to discuss cosmetic requirements

June 14, 2011
Received email with 10 photos of completed drill attached

June 20, 2011
Received email stating drill was in transit

July 4, 2011
Drill delivered by UPS

As you can see from this ridiculous list, I sent the drill to the restorer almost a year ago and paid out $269 at that time to buy it, ship it and pre-pay for its restoration. I did this because I took this guy’s word on face value that the drill would be returned to me in 3 months. Needless to say, that didn’t happen.

On top of that, I felt like the guy was treating me like a mushroom; keeping me in the dark and feeding me poop. Here’s a guy who broke his wrist, an injury that I would assume would pretty much shut him down for 6 weeks or so and he didn’t bother to let his customers know this had happened, at least not this one. What kind of businessman has so little concern for his customers that he does something like that?

The biggest issue, however, is that the drill arrived broken. As I was unpacking it, pieces fell out of the box onto the table. The handle’s cap had been broken in three pieces during transit.

I had sent the restorer a very tired drill that had a very worn handle and no cap. What I had in my hands after waiting a year and paying out a couple of hundred bucks was a refreshed drill with a new handle and a broken cap. As far as I was concerned, the cap was toast as a broken cap is not that much above not having one at all.

The most important part of all of this was that this broken cap negated my investment in the tool and meant the time, effort and money I had invested in it was wasted. Let’s be real here. Even whole, this drill will never see a value that will even come close to what I have invested in it during my lifetime, and possibly my son’s. Without a proper cap, that loss is even worse.

Although I consider it garbage, to be able to live with it, I glued the cap back together so I could at least live with the drill until a replacement arrived. Obviously, at this point, I was still under the impression I was dealing with an ethical businessman. I also took the pictures you see displayed here, one with the broken cap and shipping box and the other with the cap clamped together with tape to hold it together until the glue set. You can easily see the cracks where it was broken. I then emailed the restorer to inform him of the problem, attaching the photos.

Sadly, here is how things came out of the box
I did a glue up of the cap so I could live with it,
but anyone can see this cap is toast. It would
appear that the restorer has lost his pride
for his work as he was quite comfortable
leaving me stuck with it.
His answer back was pretty simple; I should glue it up myself, and if that doesn’t work out, I should pay to have the drill shipped back to him so he can do something.

At first my reaction was just simple shock. As time went by, the shock was replaced by anger. After I sent him a copy of the write-up I had done about this experience this morning, he called me. By the time I hung up on him, I was just downright furious with the guy.

Because I don’t want to relive it, I won’t bore you with the details of that discussion, but to say that an apology wasn’t in it would be more than an extreme understatement. Yes, he believed there were some mistruths in the article, one of them being I stated the bill was $187, and it was only $180. Can you imagine someone writing an article to post on a public forum that completely brings into question your business ethics, and the first point you bring up is a discrepancy in the figures of 7 friggin’ dollars????

The gist of my telephone conversation with him was that this entire fiasco, by his estimation, was entirely my fault. Huh? Hello? Customer screwed here…hello?

I know I’m screwed and he knows I’m screwed, and here’s why. The cap is rare. I have spoken to a few in the business and they have told me that these caps are almost impossible to find. My best chance is to find another No.2 that is trashed, but happens to have a good cap, something that rarely comes up. If I do find one, I can expect to have to pay out another $40 or $50 to get that stupid little cap landed on my desk.

It was obvious from the get-go that the restorer wasn’t going to take any responsibility for the broken cap. It might be possible that the space inside him is so full of knowledge about Miller Falls tools that there isn’t any room left to hold ethics.

I can’t even go back to PayPal and open a dispute, as their customer transaction “Protection” is only good for 45 days from the date of the transaction. In 35 days, this transaction will have its first year anniversary.

Nope, I’m nailed to the preverbal barn door on this one.

Giving this nonsense some serious thought, the old adage, “…he has read so many of his own press clippings that he has started to believe them”, comes to mind. We all get a bit carried away with our own reputations when they raise us above the norm. It is only natural to do so. What separates the great from the imitation, though, is the knowledge that it takes as much work to maintain a good reputation as it does to create it in the first place.

The biggest irony of all here is the fact that I didn’t even want this drill in the first place, but bought it only because of superstition. Well over two years ago I started looking for a Stanley No.624. One of the first in the business that I contacted was this restorer, asking him if he had a Stanley 624 with a spoked pinion. The fact that I never heard back from him at all should have been an omen to me. After over a year of looking and not finding a Stanley, I bought this Miller Falls thinking that if I bought what I didn’t want, what I did want would turn up. While the Miller Falls cost me way more than I ever imagined, within weeks the Stanley I was looking for came up on eBay and I bought it. I was going to send that drill to the restorer for the same treatment once the Miller Falls came back, but hey, life is way too short to have to go through that nonsense again. I’ll deal with it on my own.

So there you go. Admitting that I have been very quick to praise those that I have had successful business transactions with, I realize that I have to be just as quick to let you guys know about the ones that didn’t turn out as well. This is the first negative report on a member of the vintage tool community I have had to do and after living through this experience; I truly hope it is the last.



Added the afternoon of July 16th, 2011...

If you would like to know the name of the restorer, please email me at I will be more than happy to supply his name.

When I wrote this post last night I glossed over my last telephone conversation with the restorer for the reason of brevity. Having thought about it this afternoon, I realized that there was an overall theme to his statements to me that, in hindsight, I think explains a lot. Reviewing his excuses for just about every one of my complaints, almost all can be paraphrased as; I didn't do anything wrong because you never complained to me about anything. Having spent over 40 years in the past dealing with the public, and having the bad habit of watching how people act in the checkout lines to-day, I have to say that it is astounding that anyone connected with the public today could even come up with this as an excuse, let alone use it. I think stating that because I wasn't bitching about anything, he didn't think it was necessary to act ethically is about as lame as you can get.



Tuesday, 12 July 2011

If You Thought My First Dirty Movie Was Boring...

It's time to put a proper sheen on this sucker...