Saturday 5 April 2014

They Gave Plumbers Their Own Saws???

This ugly little brut is the latest addition to my H. E. Mitchell tool collection...

This saw is interesting on a couple of counts...

How I came by it is a story about the kindness of others...

A few years ago, after researching Henry Mitchell on, I came to the conclusion that W. L. Goodman was a little off in his "British Planemakers from 1700", regarding when Henry started his own tool making business. Goodman had him listed as starting in 1855, but Henry was born in 1839, so at 16-years of age, even back then, Henry would have been too young to go off on his own. I believe he opened his first shop in 1866 or '67 in Eastbourne, Sussex, a business that went into bankruptcy in 1868.

I ended up contacting the group that took over the updating of Mr. Goodman's book and sent them off my research results and conclusions. Whether or not it was accepted or not, I don't know, but they did ask me to contact a Mr. Simon Barley, a noted saw expert in England, and offer him my same findings. I believe the reason for this was that Henry always advertised as "H. E. Mitchell - Saw Maker", even though he made a full array of jointing tools. Mr. Barley was receptive, said "thank you", I said, "your welcome", and that was the end of it, up until a couple of weeks ago.

Somehow, Mr. Barley remembered me when he came across this saw in his travels. While I think that is a bit astonishing in itself, he was also kind enough to contact me and offer me the saw for far less than a reasonable price, which I accepted. Within a few weeks, the saw was sitting on my doorstep. In this day and age, to me, that was truly impressive.

The saw, in itself, is an interesting one...

When I first viewed the photos of it that Mr. Barley sent me, I thought it was a "Pruner's Saw", but he explained that it was actually a "Plumber's Saw". Both edges of the blade are toothed, one at 12 teeth-per-inch and the other at 8. Neither run of them have much of a set to them, so I would class each as set for cross-cutting. While Pruning Saws are similar to this one, their course edges are set with 4 to 5 double-teeth per inch. On this one, Mr. Barley explained that the 8 tpi edge was for cutting wood while the 12 tpi one was for cutting lead pipe. Go figure! He also stated that the saw was produced around 1900.

Then there is the maker's mark...

This saw came with two maker's marks; the one I am interested in, being, "Mitchell - Brighton", and another, the Isle of Man coat of arms with the initials "J" and "T", the mark used by Joseph Tyzack & Son. What's up with that?

My first job with the saw was trying to figure out why it had the double maker's marks, hoping dearly that I wasn't going to put credence to the thought that was running around in the back of my head that ol' Henry was a bit of a rouge and wasn't beyond re-stamping someone else's work.

First I looked at the etchings themselves. They were obviously made from different transfers, as one was sharp and intricate while the other was course and uneven. They were, however, well aligned with each other and there was no evidence that the Mitchell mark covered up the usual "Joseph Tyzack & Son - Sheffield", which is commonly displayed with the Isle of Man coat of arms. I came to the conclusion that the saw came from Tyzack with just the coat of arms, which, after a little research, I discovered was odd.

I then looked for a medallion, but sadly, one wasn't used on this saw as the cheeks are too small. If it had a "Warranted Superior" medallion, then it would have been put together by Mitchell. If it had the Isle of Man coat of arms, it would have been a Tyzack tote. Not having a medallion wasn't going to help me, so I looked at the tote itself.

It is pretty hard to credit any given maker with a saw tote that is over 100-years old. They get beaten up, reshaped and replaced over the years, so who knows if this tote was even the original. What I did note, though, was that this tote was shaped along the lines of other Mitchell totes I had seen (most in pictures) and didn't appear anything like any of the Tyzack totes I had looked at. Tyzack totes have a very pronounced line where the bottom round-over of the grip meets the flat of the handle. Disston has that same line, but Mitchell totes are much softer, the line being far from pronounced. There are a lot of "W. Tyzack" saws out there, but one by Joseph are much rarer, so finding images of them to compare this tote to wasn't easy. The few that I did find though, had one major difference over the W. Tyzack totes, and that was how the clips were formed. J. Tyzack had softer clips while W. Tyzack kept a distinct flat on their face. Mitchell also uses a flat clip design, but his designs are also much finer. Mitchell liked to remove as much meat as possible from his totes and this one is no different, odd considering its use.

I then put this together with the information I had about H.E. Mitchell...

Mitchell converted his business, "H. E. Mitchell - Saw Maker" to "Henry Edward Mitchell & Co. Ltd., makers of iron furnishings for stores and offices. I can't figure out who ran this new corporation for him, but it might have been a son-in-law, as Henry, himself, wasn't involved in its day-to-day operation. Instead, Henry opened up a one-man saw shop in the back of his oldest son's grocery store in Howe. I think he did this because, while he saw the writing on the wall regarding the demise of the hand tool business, he didn't want to give up without a fight. It didn't last long, as he closed his little shop down towards the end of 1900 and retired to his country home, “Hatherley Villa”, in Keymer, a small town just north of Brighton.

My conclusion about this saw...

Looking at what evidence I had accumulated, I came to the conclusion that H. E. Mitchell "probably" filed the teeth of this saw on a blank he bought from J. Tyzack and Son, not an unheard of practice. I also think Mitchell made the tote, and to prove, probably more to himself than to his customer, that he was still in the game, he re-etched the saw with his own mark, but doing so in such a way as to suggest a "partnership" with Tyzack in the making of this saw.

That's my story about this saw, and one I'm going to stick to.
I have used terms about saw totes in this post that I didn't know without looking them up, so to save grief for any of you that are in the same boat I was in, I have made up an illustration that will give you the names of the basic parts of a saw tote.