The history of tools and hardware tells the story of two conflicting impulses. The first was the urge—or, more likely, the necessity—to handcraft one’s home and furnishings. The second was the desire to take advantage of the opportunities available to entrepreneurs in the 19th century, when the Industrial Revolution enabled the mass-production of the tools that would give the rest of us the means to do-it-ourselves.

Hand tools, be they vintage or new, can be organized into a number of categories. First there are the striking tools, such as hammers and axes and hatchets. Cutting tools include chisels and knives by companies such as Keen Kutter—saws are really in a class by themselves. And then there are the planes, which continue to be produced in dizzying numbers and sizes to achieve specialized results. Other categories include boring tools, which include hand-operated drills such as braces.

The manufacture of hand tools and hardware in the United States essentially began in 1843, when Frederick T. Stanley founded the door-hardware company in New Britain, Connecticut, that bore his name. In 1857, Henry Stanley, Frederick's cousin, launched the Stanley Rule and Level Company, which acquired Leonard Bailey & Co. in 1878. Bailey held numerous patents on such mainstay woodworking tools as planes, which Stanley Rule and Level augmented with mitre boxes, hand drills, hammers, and, of course, its own lines of wood and iron levels. By 1920, the two Stanley firms had merged.

Today, despite the plethora of new-tool choices available to serious woodworkers and do-it-yourselfers alike, many people return to vintage and antique tools. In addition to being perfectly functional—a well maintained hand tool can last for decades—some of these tools are like small sculptures. When artfully arranged in a garage or workshop, or lovingly stored in a companion vintage tool box, these pieces can continue their work for decades to come.

Increasingly, home-improvement buffs, architects, and interior designers are turning to vintage hardware to give new spaces an aura of authenticity. As with antique tools, vintage hardware is often as good, if not better, than new pieces, which are typically made of thinner metals and weaker alloys. A cast-iron door knocker or brass door knob creates visual interest at a home’s entrance, while vintage drawer pulls and hinges keep new cabinetry from looking too new.

Of course, if some of these cherished workhorses from the past have outlived their usefulness, that doesn’t mean they have nothing else to contribute to a home’s feeling of distinctiveness. For example, an ornamental weathervane that once toughed it out during storms on a chimney top probably deserves a second life as a decorative object in a den or on the patio, while wood-and-iron pulleys, wooden rulers, and tough-looking locks make terrific conversation pieces.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

A Millers Falls Home Page

A Millers Falls Home Page

Randy Roeder has carved out a niche for himself with his fine website devoted to the history of the Millers Falls C… [read review or visit site]

Alloy Artifacts

Alloy Artifacts

A tool collectors’ dream, this site is a deep repository of photos and info on 20th century hand tools and the co… [read review or visit site]

Old Woodworking Machines

Old Woodworking Machines

This collective website, which started as an online discussion forum, now also includes a large database of manufac… [read review or visit site]

Drainspotting

Drainspotting

Josh and Cam Larios have created this site enabling people to upload and 'tag' photos of historic or artistic manho… [read review or visit site]



Most watched eBay auctions    

Lie-nielsen Usa Large Shoulder PlaneLie Nielsen Large Router Plane Wood Working Tool With Blade AdapterMuseum Quality Early Brass & Carved Bone Ruler - Important Example - Lions -rareLie Nielsen 60 1/2 Low Angle Adjustable Mouth Block Plane - In Box Millers Falls Skew Blade Block Plane #07, Millers Falls Company, Mass Stanley No. 602 Bedrock Plane Vintage Flat Side Woodworking Tool Patent 1910Stanley No. 71 Router Plane 1901 And 1907 Patents, 1/2" CutterStanley Bailey #4-1/2 Bench Plane - No ReserveAntique Spiers Ayr Infill Smoothing Plane - No Blade, Woodworking CarpentryRare Antique 4 Stage Folding Rule Bayern Paris Engineers Architects Ruler NrMillers Falls 07 Skew Angle Rabbet Plane Very Nice & CompleteVeritas Large Shoulder Plane 05p43.50 Made In CanadaFinest Quality Antique 4 Stage Folding Rule Baker London Engineers Ruler NrRestored Antique Myers Hay Trolley Barn Hay Unloader Pulley Vintage Farm CarrierStanley 750 Chisel Set 1/4", 1/2", 3/4", 1", 1 & 1/4", & 1 & 1/2" Good Cond.Rare Stanley Plane Rule & Level Miller ? Stanley #71 Router PlaneAshley Iles Bevel-edge Chisel SetStanley 50 Beading & Plough Plane - Complete Original Set Vintage 12" 1930 Sager Chemical Axe Puget Sound Felling Double Bit Axe Head Nice Antique Miniature Double Bit Timber Marking Axe With SheathStanley Rule & Level Co. #40 Scrub Plane - Nice - No Reserve!Antique Vintage 16" Bronze Metal Nude Mermaid Dragon Architectural Door KnockerVtg. Warren Axe Old Faithful Hatchet Hudson Bay Style Seldom Offered $.99 Start Collins 2 1/2 Hudson Bay Cruiser Axe Bush Craft Camping Single Bit Vintage ScoutXxl Early 17th Hand Forged Broad Axe Hand Forged Hatchet Wood Goosewing SignedCustom John Riley Viking Styled War Axe. Leather Sheath. Ca 1950 #370Vintage Antique Black Raven Axe "rare"Vintage .myers Unloader Hay Trolley With Drop Pulley Rare Stanley Plow Fillister Plane Antique Wood Working ToolRare Stanley Plane No 55 ? CuttersStanley Bailey #5-1/2 Bench Plane - No ReserveAntique Cast Iron Fe Myers Surelock Hay Trolley Pat. 1903 Unloader Farm PulleyVery Rare Vintage Embossed Cayuga Double Bit Axe Treman, King & Co Ithaca, NyVintage True Temper Kelly Perfect Single Bit Axe With Leather SheathAntique Hudson Barn Pulley Vintage Cast Iron Wood Farm Tool Hay TrolleyNe Toolworks (leon Robbins) Panel Raising Hand Plane Set Curly Maple Groton CtVintage Stanley No. 71 Router PlaneStanley Bailey No 8 C 8c Jointer Plane Clean 24" SharpStanley # 4 1/2 C Smoothing Plane 2 Pat'd Date Carpenters Wood Old Hand ToolsVintage Stanley No. 7 Woodworking Plane Pat'd 1902 Wood Working Plane SmoothStanley No. 71 Router PlaneRare Stanley Plane No 2Record #073 Shoulder Rabbet Plane Limited Edition + Wooden CaseStanley Bedrock 604 Corrugated Bottom Square Shoulder Smooth Plane Nice! Vintage Plumb 2-1/4 Lbs Axe Head Single Bit Old Steel,very Nice Ax Lqqk!Lie-nielsen 40-1/2 Scrub PlaneStanley No. 278 Rabbet And Filletster Plane - Original Condition & ScarceAntique Stanley "sweetheart" Cabinet Scaper Plane No.112 All Original+beauty!Stanley/bailey 5 1/2 Plane- Type 17, 1942-45,-userPair Stanley Bailey No. 5 1/2 Rosewood Fore Plane Hand Planer Tool Made U S A Vintage 4 Pair Glass Chrystal Door Knobs With Trim Ring And SpindlesLie-nielsen 5 1/4 Junior Jack Plane HandplaneVintage Dastra Germany Wood Carving Chisel Gouges 6 Total No Reserve1995 Bridge City Tool Works Jh 1h Jointmakers Hammer Signature Series NrVintage Stanley Bailey No. 7 Wood Plane Corrugated Bottom JointerVintage Record No. 4 1/2 Smoothing Plane Made In England Complete - Like StanleyStanley No. 7 Wood PlaneVintage Record 1/4" No 722 Router Plane Good Condition And In Original Box RareStanley No 8 Jointer Plane, Type 11, 1910-1918