November 29, 2011

Spoke shave
Photo by Jim Ruen
It’s funny that I found this Connecticut-made Stanley 51 spoke shave at a German flea market.

It was only fitting that before attending Agritechnica in Hannover, Germany, a farm machinery exposition known for showcasing the latest technology, I should find old tools at a flea market. One booth had large hammers, axes and other heavy tools, awkward to pack and carry. The second had several tools, smaller and potentially easier to carry.

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A Stanley 51 spoke shave caught my eye. The cast-iron bed had semi-gull wing handles and a 2⅛-inch iron blade. The blade edge was smooth and free of knicks or other flaws. While still in good shape, it did show plenty of wear, as the once-black enameled finish was mostly worn off.

The seller wanted 15 euros. I offered 10, and we settled on 13 euros, equivalent to about $17. In this case, I met my goals. Upon checking E-bay, most Stanley 51s (made in the 1850s until 1974) were selling at around $25 and higher. A new flat-spoke shave from my favorite tool distributor was priced at about $100. I decided I did all right. I didn’t pay too much, and I got a good tool.

While I like to pick up old tools, I don’t fancy myself a collector. I neither know nor care how old a tool is, nor what its current value is. My goal is to add a reliable tool to my workshop, hopefully for less than a new tool of similar quality would cost. In this case, I was intrigued to bring home a tool from my trip. How ironic that it’s a tool made in New Britain, Conn.

Now all I have to do is get my new workshop straightened out so I can put my new/old tool to use.

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