Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Another Addition to the Collection...

I haven't been shy about telling the world I collect one particular 19th century toolmaker, one named H. E. Mitchell. I have researched his ancestry as well as mine, and while I haven't been able to literally put one of his in bed with one of mine, the fact that they two families trace back to the same town in Ireland leads me to believe we are related. There is also a number of other anecdotal bits of evidence to support this as well. Related or not, though, it is way cool to view a bunch of tools made 130 to 160 years ago that all display the same last name as mine.

Just this week I was able to add another counter-stamped coin to my Mitchell collection, this one advertising Henry Edward Mitchell's Edge Tool Grinding Mills, circa 1885. This one is similar to the previous one I purchased, a 10 centimes French coin, but this one struck in 1853. You can read about the previous counter-stamped coin that I purchased and what they are all about here.

(Image copyrighted by Simmons Gallery)
I bought this counter-stamped coin from Simmons Gallery
through their online auction. This is one of the most
professional companies I have dealt with to date.
While I am itching to get back into blogging, I'm not quite ready yet to start my next project so I decided to elaborate more on ol' Henry today. 

H. E. Mitchell planes were introduced to me by Jim Bode at Jim Bode Tools when he sold me an almost complete set of beading planes made by Henry. The name intrigued me so I started doing a little research and through that, contacted Gary, a very cool and knowledgeable guy who operates Toolemera. Gary didn't have any information on ol' Henry, so he gave me some advice as to where I could find some - he sent me to ancestry.com. Now I'm not sure what I did to Gary that would result in him treating me so badly, but I must have done something. While it is true that I found out more about ol' Henry than even his mother knew, the fact is, Gary fed me to the lion, the one known as genealogy.

Now I'm not sure if you are aware of ancestry, but I am sure you have viewed their many commercials and other promotions. Don't believe them. While it is true that it is quite easy to come up with 1874 census information on Henry Mitchell, what they don't mention is that there were probably 1200 other Henry Mitchells kicking around jolly old England in 1871, half of them related to each other. You have to be a real sleuth to figure out which one is which. It is mind boggling how families recycled given names through the generations back then. What is even more shocking is that, given the sad reality of the high child mortality rates back then, families had a habit of constantly reusing a deceased child's name. I have one ancestor who gave the name William to four consecutive sons. Sad. Maybe I'm blaming Gary for something he wasn't aware of. Maybe he doesn't know that when someone falls into the genealogy abyss, they really get caught up in it, similar to the way a junkie gets caught up with heroine. Maybe Gary just didn't know...or did he?

Anyway, here is what I discovered about ol' Henry...

H. E. Mitchell, Saw maker

December 5th, 1839
Regent Street, Chelsea, Middlesex, England
Source Citation: London Metropolitan Archives, Saint Luke, Chelsea, Register of baptisms, P74/LUK, Item 173

Stephen Mitchell, full-time soldier and part time saw-sharpener
Charlotte (madden name unknown)

December 29th, 1839
Event took place at Chelsea St. Luke, Middlesex, England

1841 Census:
Living at 32 Blenhym Street, Kensington, Middlesex, England
Source Citation: Class: HO107; Piece 688; Book: 6; Civil Parish: Chelsea; County: Middlesex; Enumeration District: 12; Folio: 38; Page: 23; Line: 3; GSU roll: 438804

1851 Census:
Living at 9 Holland Street, Southmark, Surrey, England
Source Citation: Class: HO107; Piece: 1557; Folio: 221; Page: 40; GSU roll: 174790

Moved to Brighton:
Stephen was discharged from the army and moved his family to Brighton, England in 1851, approximately. At that time, Henry was 12 years of age.

1861 Census:
Living at 17 Kensington Street, Brighton, England
Father listed as a “Saw Sharpener”
Henry listed as a “Saw Maker”, unmarried and 21 years of age
Two brothers listed; George F. 9 yrs, Charles 6 yrs, both listed as born in Brighton
Source Citation: Class: RG9; Piece: 597; Folio: 165; Page: 17; GSU roll: 542668

1865 First Toolmakers Business:
It is believed that Henry started his first business in 1865, a saw making and tool dealership located in Eastbourne, Sussex
Henry was 26 years of age
Note that "British Planemakers from 1700" by W. L. Goodman, lists Henry E. Mitchell as starting his plane making business in 1855. This would have made Henry 16 years of age when he hung up his shingle, a tad too young even by 19th century British standards. I could find no evidence to support this claim as this, the bankruptcy, is the first true entry regarding his own business.

1868 London Gazette - Bankruptcy:
Filed for bankruptcy on February 20th, 1868
Operating as a Saw Maker and Tool Dealer in Eastbourne, Sussex
Residential address given is No.12 High Street, Brighton, Sussex
Granted an Order of Discharge on March 5th, 1868

1871 Census:
Living at 15 North Road, Brighton, England
Married to Mary Morton Hyland
5 children; Henry 10 yrs, Elizabeth 4 yrs, Mary 2 yrs, Percy F. 1 yr and Frederick W. 2 months
Also has servant, Edith Tanner 17 yrs.
Source Citation: Class: RG10; Piece: 1083; Folio: 46; Page: 2; GSU roll: 827499

1874 Postal Directory Listing:

Listings for Henry Mitchell’s business first appear in 1874
He is listed as being located at 4 North Road, Brighton

1874 Trades Directory Listing:
He also listed his business in the Trades Directory in 1874

1878 Trades Directory Listing:

Henry E. Mitchell is listed in the 1878 Post Office Directory

1881 Census:

Living and operating “H. E. Mitchell, Tool Maker” at 4 North Street, Brighton
His son Henry, EST. age 20, is not listed in this census, nor is Frederick W., EST. age, 10 yrs
(It was later confirmed that Henry Jr. passed away in 1877) 
Elizabeth, Mary and Percy are present, as well as Albert - 9 yrs, Edgar - 6 yrs and Violet - 3 months
Source Citation: Class: RG11; Piece: 1089; Folio: 70; Page: 1; GSU roll: 1341256

1882 Trades Directory Listing:

Henry E. Mitchell, Saw Maker is listed in the 1882 Kelly’s Directory

1891 Census:
Moved to Keymer, Sussex, England
Living at “Hatherley Villa” on Bella Vista Road
Daughter Elizabeth has married, last name now Hilton, but no husband listed at this residence but has a son, James 8 months
Violet still living with parents
Additional children; Daisy 10 yrs, Lily 5 yrs, Henry E. 3 yrs (supporting Henry C. passed) and Rose 2 months
Source Citation: Class: RG12; Piece: 793; Folio 68; Page 11; GSU roll: 6095903

Keymer was a village north of Brighton. It was close enough for Henry to commute back and forth between his home and his business, but not without some difficulty back before the turn of the century.

1899 Trades Directory Listing:
In the Kelly’s Directory of 1899, Henry Edward Mitchell is listed twice
One listing states:
Mitchell, Henry Edward, Saw Maker and Green Grocer, 57 Coleridge Street, Hove

Change in Business Name:
In the Trades Directory of 1899, H. E. Mitchell, Saw Maker has been changed to Henry Edward Mitchell & Co. Ltd., Furnishing Ironmongers; Office & Stores, 4 North Road, Brighton

While I have no evidence of this, I believe Henry realized that the steel plane industry was only going to take away more of his sales so he decided it was time to make a change. Two very rare examples of Henry’s ultimate baces showed a high level of metal work and I believe this craft was the specialty of Henry’s oldest living son, Frederick William. Based on those two assumptions, it is not surprising that the young Frederick took over the business on North Road in approximately 1898, incorporated it and started producing Iron fixtures for stores and offices. Given Henry’s age at the time, I don’t think he was ready to retire so he opened his combined green grocer and tool store where he continued sharpening saws, making planes and selling carrots and potatoes until he final called in quits in the latter part of 1900.

1901 Census:
Henry Edward 58 yrs, Retired Ironmonger
Living at “Hatherley Villa” on Bella Vista Road
Lily 17 yrs, Henry E. 15 yrs, Rose J. 10 yrs
Servant, Alise Spilargki 24 yrs
Lodger, Jeffery M. May 60 yrs, Living on own means
Source Citation: Class: RG13; Piece: 910; Folio: 75; Page: 16

This is the first time Henry has used "Ironmonger" for his profession, although it is in keeping with the new direction of his business. All of the planes that I have in my collection have "Sheffield" blades in them, telling me Henry wasn't in the iron works business until his son took it over.

3rd Quarter 1914, Keymer, Sussex, England

Markers' Marks:
H. E. Mitchell’s makers' marks start with one that simply displays, “H. E. Mitchell, Eastbourne”. When he started his second business, his new mark was "H.E. Mitchell, Brighton". Around 1875 he started to consistently display his mark as “H. E. Mitchell, 4 North Road, Brighton”. In the early 1890s he added the lion crest to the text.

Judging by the listings in the census throughout Henry’s life, his early bankruptcy aside, he was a reasonably successful businessman. His success is proven by his ability to retire at the early age of 58, living out his remaining years as a country “gentleman” in his servant run “villa”, located in a small town north of Brighton.

His business was always listed as “Saw Maker”, but he made a number of  “Joining Tools” for the carpentry and cabinetmaker trades. He was a dedicated promoter, never missing a chance to advance his business, as shown by his listings in the different directories and his use of counter-stamped coins, the equivalent of today’s coupons.

While his tools are very rare and difficult to locate today, I have recently found examples in England, the United States, Canada and Australia. While their numbers are very limited compared to other 19th century toolmakers’ examples, they do not command a premium in price.

Examples of Henry E. Mitchell’s Tools:
Here is a photo of my Mitchell collection as it stood in December 2010. Thankfully, I have been able to add a few more examples of his work since then.

Offer to Purchase:
If you have any examples of H. E. Mitchell tools in your cabinet, let me know what it would take to get you to part with them. If you have a saw or brace of his that you don't want to part with, I'd be forever grateful if you could send me a photo of them. My email address is mitchell@liquiddesigns.ca

While reaching out to ol' Henry's direct decedents I discovered that the vast majority of them didn't know Henry was a toolmaker. Not one of them held an example of his work, nor did they know anyone who did. My gut tells me we are related, so I am not collecting this man's work to use or as an investment. I am collecting them so future Mitchell's will know what their ancestors were all about.



Friday, 8 February 2013

An Enjoyable Way To Recuperate...

Occasionally, since starting this blog, I have allowed my love for cars to creep into its posts. I don't think that is a bad thing as I don't remember meeting too many woodworkers that aren't into cars to some degree. Two that quickly come to mind are Chris Schwarz, with his restored Karmann Ghia and Jim Bode, who once was a car dealership manager. I guess it makes sense as fitting wood and messing with tools is in the same area as fitting metal and messing with engines.

I used to change cars as often as I changed my socks. As a kid, I would buy an old junker for $25, mess with it enough to make it unique and at least run reasonably, then sell it for anywhere from $100 to $200, making a small profit on most. Where I used to loose money on the deal was when I decided to swap engines, dumping the old flathead 8s (most were old Fords) for more current power plants. I didn't do this often, but when I did, I usually went overboard, which never surprised anyone. I must add here that there is no better feeling of accomplishment and power than dumping the clutch and feeling the front end of the car lift two feet into the air.

As I grew older, my income grew enough that I could finally afford to really mess with cars. The problem I had was that, to maintain that income, I didn't have the time to do a build. During this period of my life I got in the habit of changing cars every four years, instead of every four months.

When I closed my business and turned to teaching, I had the time but not the inclination to build a car. Getting my hands all grimy and burning my butt with a torch all the time no longer appealed to me, so I took another route that allowed me to still call myself a "car-guy". I started buying a car and keeping it, doing most of the maintenance myself. I kept my last car 11-years and put 350,000-km on it, or 218,000-miles. That doesn't sound impressive until you realize that I am talking about a 1995 Ford Taurus Wagon that never had a head off of it or any work done to the tranny. It probably ran better the day I sold it than it did the day I bought it.

I replaced it with a 2007 Ford Fusion, which, due to its size, my wife likes much more than the Taurus, although I miss the extra cargo area of a wagon. Given my wife is the driver in the family, it is important that she be happy with it. While on the road I'm just the navigator, but when it is sitting in the driveway, I'm the primary maintenance man, and that is the part I truly love in this arrangement. The Fusion is 6-years old now and has 130,000-km, or 81,000-miles, but with luck and a bit of elbow grease, it might surpass the life of the Taurus.

While I mainly maintain the car for my own enjoyment, the reality is, we save a fortune each year by doing so. A car takes its biggest hit with depreciation in the first four years of its life. We bought the Fusion for $32,000 and after 4-years, it was worth, retail, about $11,000. Three years later, it is down to $7,000, so you can see how much the depreciation factor is slowing. In another couple of years it will be worth $3,000, and that is where it will sit for the next four or five years. At this point in this Fusion's life, depreciation is no longer a factor in the cost of owning it. Now, the only number that counts is how much is spent on maintenance and repairs.

I believe the better a car is maintained, the less it will need in repairs, and it is the repairs that cost the money. Maintenance needs to be consistent and properly scheduled. The Fusion, like the Taurus, receives a going-over four times a year. The oil and filter is changed, using synthetic for its higher lubricating properties and its longer life. The air cleaner is changed, belt inspected, all levels checked and topped up, and the tires rotated. Once a year the radiator is flushed and refilled with new anti-freeze, the brake pads are replaced, every system is inspected, adjusted or replaced as required, and the  engine and transmission are shampooed, as a clean engine runs cooler. Every 3-years, the transmission is flushed, the gasket replaced and new fluid added (this is why the Taurus transmission lasted, unlike every other Taurus on the road), as well as replacing the fuel pump filter.

While this isn't a complete list, you get the drift. I keep the car on a consistent maintenance regiment, changing out parts before they fail so the drivetrain components and the parts they mate to are protected.

One of the things I do when I replace parts is look to the aftermarket for a better product. Because the brake pads got changed every year since the car was new, the brake rotors never needed turning as they didn't get heavily scored. While changing out the pads this often costs me more, for me, it was worth it to avoid turning the rotors as I believe once turned, they are not as effective. Now, going on 8-years of use, it is time to change those rotors out.

I don't understand why anyone would play loose and fast with their brakes. When my son came to me to ask me to help him hop-up his Scion, he asked me what was the first thing I thought we should do to it. I told him that the brakes are first, and after he could stop, then he should look at going faster. He changed his brakes out with drilled and slotted rotors with ceramic pads and then we added a supercharger, custom exhaust and other modifications. He took the car from 160hp to about 250hp, and while it will go like scat and corner like it is on rails, it has a shorter stopping distance than it had when it left the factory, and to me, that is more important than any improvements in its numbers on the track.

Searching the aftermarket, I came up with a company just outside of Toronto that produces and sells drilled and slotted rotors, as well as ceramic pads for the Fusion. I ordered a complete set, which were delivered last week. The cost of these aftermarket rotors are not much more than Ford replacement parts, but this aftermarket set-up fades less, runs cooler and as a result, stops the car in a considerably shorter distance. This last point makes any extra work and costs well worth it as my wife drives this car, not me, and if I can give her an edge to keep her safe, I'm going to do it.

Replacing the stock brake set-up with this aftermarket one is for my wife's benefit, but making them pretty is strictly for me, so before they go on, I want to paint out the areas where the pads don't touch, but the rust can grow. Obviously, I really don't need to do this, but it is just one of those little touches that makes my older car look better than it did when it was new.

Once the weather breaks, I'll change out the rotors and pads, painting the callipers with the same heat-resistant brake paint I used on the rotors. At that same time I'll swap out the summer wheels and tires for the winter ones that are on it now.

The one on the right is an untouched front rotor. The one in the
middle is a rear rotor taped for painting, while the one on
the left is a finished rear rotor, ready to install.
Given I am supposed to be taking it easy, recuperating from the instillation of a pacemaker, I can't think of a more enjoyable way to spend an hour or so a day then messing about with some car parts.



Friday, 1 February 2013

I'm Way Too Young For This...

Sorry, but to be frank, I'm way too young for this shit.

Yesterday was a pretty weird day for me. It started in my family doctor's office where I went to have the stitches in my head removed. I first had to sit for ¾ of an hour with a peroxide-soaked rag on my head. The peroxide had to dissolve the gunk that covered the cut so they could find the stitches. Once the forest was cleared, it felt like they went at them with a dull knife and ripped them from my skin using fencing pliers. Wow, what an ordeal for a couple of threads.

After the nurses had finished having their go, the doctor came in. I have been a patient of this doctor for about 35-years and he is, without a doubt, one of the coolest people I know. We often compare notes on our lives during the 60s and 70s, or at least what we both can remember of those times. He came in, had a look at the nurses' handiwork, took my temperature, had a listen all around my chest and back, and then took my blood pressure. Once he was done with all of this, he then inspected the incision and the bulge beneath it to ensure that the pacemaker was still where the specialist put it. When he was all done he announced, with great gusto I might add, that I was doing "splendid" and "wonderful" and everything was "perfect".

I think he was a bit disappointed in me as I didn't clap my hands in glee and jump up and down giggling. It is not that I'm not appreciative and I do feel lucky I came through this with less aggravation and pain that what I have experienced having a root cannel, but dammit, I'm way too young for this shit.

When I arrived back home I checked the mail and there was an envelope from Biotronik, the company that made the pacemaker. Opening it, I found a plastic registration card and a covering letter.

Strangely, I am happy about the card, another one that I shouldn't leave home without. It tells the readers that I am the not-so-proud owner of a Biotronik Model 359529, Serial Number 66260638, along with the same information for the two probes that snake through my arteries and into two of my heart's chambers. It also gives my name, address and physician. I am happy to have it because if I didn't, my wife would force me to wear the t-shirt shown below for the rest of my life.

The strange part of this little package was the accompanying letter. In it, I was told to verify the personal information displayed on the card and if there were any mistakes or omissions, I should let the company know. The reason the contact information is so important is so the company can "notify (me) of new information concerning the safety, effectiveness or performance of the implant, and any required corrective action." How is that for giving you the warm and fuzzies of comfort?

I guess I should be thankful they didn't close the letter with, "...and thank you for choosing a Biotronik product."