Search Deeply – One Man’s Junk has Hidden Treasure

There are always implications in the physical that have deeper implications in life; beyond what we can see I mean. Our consumerism causes abandonment in every sphere of life. If it didn’t, landfill would lessen overnight and and the decision to buy a dining table would be determined by whether it would last last through a century or so and not mere and artificial cost. The richer in stuff we become, the more we toss out, the bigger the acreage for dumped stuff and the deeper our failure would be toward others without. At the car boot yeterday morning, my turn for a Saturday off, or an hour anyway, I picked up a few bits that didn’t break the bank at all, had no slick, triple-layer packaging and no shipping costs to boot. I almost didn’t go but was so glad I did cos there in a bucket of another man’s junk was an I Sorby miniature brace that was in great nick, almost unused and a very rare treasure indeed. This is not just a short-sweep swing brace but smaller in scale all around. I love miniature tools; child’s sized tools, not junk stuff. 75 pence wasn’t too much to pay and pulling it from under broken wrenches and bent screwdrivers was more a rescue mission for me. I had not seen that it was a Sorby until I got it home. I did like the obvious quality of the tool and the feel of age it had though. Anyway, I will keep it for a full kit I want to put together for my grandkids to use when they come over. Any #1’s going for a song anywhere?


My newest addition is an I Sorby swing brace


I bought a couple of gouges and a 1/2” socketed chisel that came to life in the workshop and then there were other pieces from different stalls that seemed like orphans needing a good home somewhere. The full sized braces are almost always there, but we still use them often enough in our work because they offer a good alternative to battery-powered stuff. DSC_0004Counting the turns gives a guaranteed hole depth. One turn is usually 1/16” once the spur hits the surface and so four turns (called sweeps) takes you in 1/4” deep from surface to the bottom of the hole recess.

My mother was a dressmaker from being 13-years old when she began her apprenticeship in Ghent, Belgium until she was 70. Scissors were precious tools to her and I learned of their value and to sharpen and set them from working with her. One tap too many and the shears were too tight for a week. DSC_0006 2Most people might not notice, but to her it mattered. These scissor types are often discarded models these days but I still like them. So, anyway, I started to sharpen them on a Trend diamond sharpening plate, the ones with the diamond pattern across the surface. I haven’t used this plate type too much because I like the EZE-Lap well enough, and also the DMT. Sharpening the scissors on the diamond patterned side I noticed that the diamonds were starting to sloughing off. I doubt whether I have used this plate for more than an hour tops since I got it so it was quite troubling for so new a product. I went back to the EZE- Lap plates to sharpen and they scissors soon worked like new again. I realise now that the problem may be with the area creating the diamond pattern bordering the electroplated diamonds, where there is only the zinc plating between the steel being sharpened and the steel plate supporting the diamonds and the electroplating.

DSC_0006 - Version 3

The marking gauges with wooden thumbscrews are among my favourites still. They lock well, better than metal and plastic, and they just last for ever. This one looks OK here, but it was ugly before I reworked the surfaces, backed out the pin and worked on the stock with my rasp and plane. By the way, the best way to back out the pin is cinch it tight in a drill-driver and back it out with a careful pull stroke. Someone had cut the wood right by the pin, so it was quite unsupported. I wanted to keep the pin so repositioning was a simple step of refiling a four sided point and using the pointed pin as an exact sized drill bit. This cleaned off the rust and as soon as the pin point protruded just a hair I stopped. I then hammer-tapped the pin through so that it bites securely to the walls of the hole to the remaining depth. This minimizes the risk of splitting, which can happen otherwise.

DSC_0006 - Version 2The Eclipse bronze sawset and expanding bit were common enough and very standard.

I’ll spare you the details of a cast iron pipe wrench and the Eclipse Junior hacksaw.

13 thoughts on “Search Deeply – One Man’s Junk has Hidden Treasure”

  1. Andy in Germany

    I recently heard of a tradition that existed around here (and maybe elsewhere) until quite recently. On the birth of a daughter on a farm, whe faher would cut down an oak tree and place the planks in the rafters of the cow shed to dry. As they dried they would also take on the ammonia from the cows, and by the time the daughter was old enough to marry, the wood would be dry and ready, and given to the carpenter to make the wedding bed.

    When I heard this story it made me very sad to realise how much we’ve lost, how ‘stuff’ has become something we buy and impress people with for a bit, then throw away, rather than representing a story and a relationship. It made me even more determined not to live the ‘normal’ way of buying and consuming.

    To this end, I’m working on a basic tookit made up of used parts as well: I’ve now finished restoring a lovely bench plane from beech and guaiacum and I’d really like to restore my drill brace: it works as well as the day it was bought, probably sixty years ago, but it would be nice to be able to recondition the wooden handles. Is there a way to seperate them from the metal, or do you have to sand and oil/paint them in siitu?

  2. Reinoud Delporte

    That’s a nice pair of scissors you have there. My mother still uses the same type of scissors. I remember she was always cross with us if we used her fabric-scissors to cut something different than fabric. At some point she even put a simple lock on the handles to prevent us from using it. It was always difficult to find someone to sharpen the scissors and nowadays it’s almost impossible. I do wonder how you do this by hand.
    I was at a fabric fair with my wife recently and almost all salesmen/women used this type of scissors.

    It’s funny to see you write about your mother’s scissors and her apprenticeship in Ghent, having spent most of my life in Ghent seeing my mother struggle to develop the necessary sewing skills.
    I’d like to learn how to sharpen these scissors, it would make her happy if one of her sons could sharpen them for her.

  3. I have always had an affinity for old things. If I have a choice between new and old in good condition, I usually choose the older piece. Aside from a few manufacturers these days, the older stuff WAS made better.
    Old tools and musical instruments(and books) are especially dear to me, as I feel like I’m sharing in all of the work, music, and joy they gave to others before me.

  4. I really envy you! Here in the us, I don’t find old tools that often. EBay prices are insane and I am usually reduced to buying some junky tools from the big box store.

    1. I understand the problem and sympathise to a degree, however, you have many benefits too. You do pay one third to a half our prices for wood and you have a lot more choices of wood from many more supplier types than we do to. I really enjoyed the tool swap meets with the Mid-west tool collector’s Association, the Early American Industries Association, and the Southwest Tool Collectors Association, . US Tool Catalog prices are in general about 1/3rd less on new tool prices there and some British-made tools cannot be had here. I guess it all pans out in the end.

  5. Your post really struck a chord with me, Paul. I think it is really sad how we now live in such a “disposable” society. Since taking up woodworking last year, I have kindled a real love of acquiring old hand tools and restoring them to a workable state. I started off doing this via eBay, then via a local antique shop (although I think I was paying far too much for some stuff). Recently though, I have found a local company that specialises in house and garage clearance. Its a real joy to go rummaging through big boxes of “junk” and pull out old hand tools that were thankfully intercepted before they ended up in land fill. I recently found a perfectly functional old brace with the wooden knobs in good condition, an old chisel and a slip stone and only paid £2 for the lot! After watching your videos on saw sharpening, I managed to acquire two old saws; a gents saw and a dovetail saw. After stripping, cleaning and sharpening them they are now cutting beautifully fine kerfs – so much better than the hardpoint B&Q tennon saw I had before! I have no idea how old they are, but the are stamped with the original owners initials and look pretty old. I often wonder what sort of work they performed in the hands of their old owners….

    One thing is for sure – they will still be beautiful and functional many years from now – long after the laptop that I am writing this is on is just another piece of high tech junk….

  6. Definitely an advantage where wood is concerned. I picked up ten mesquite trees this weekend and dropped them off at my neighbors saw mill. While I was there he asked if I wanted some Osage Orange.Here in south Texas there are many good suppliers of furniture grade pecan, walnut, and oak.

    1. OSAGE!!!!!
      Osage makes one of the best mallets I know of. I have two of these old friends still in storage in Texas. Take me back to Bandera, Utopia, Sabinal and then south of Uvalde; follow the Nueces river and I will show you some of the biggest mesquites you ever saw.

  7. You are talking about my stomping grounds. I was raised in Uvalde and my parents now live in Leakey. I plan at least one mallet and one plane out of the Osage Orange. Maybe a dovetailed box. Working on a workbench right now. Following your blog keeps a man busy. Can’t thank you enough for sharing your woodworking philosophy with us.

    1. I miss the Texas bluebonnets, and, about now, no, another three weeks, the mountain laurels will fill the “land of one thousand springs ” with a scent so few of us have been privileged to know and those mesquites too will put out their long fronds for the Briscoe longhorns to feed on the beans in summer. I miss Garner State Park, throwing myself in a tube on the Rio Frio and floating down to Con Can, eating ice cream at Neal’s Lodges. I don’t miss the fire ants, the scorpions and the tarantulas crawling across my chest in the night time, but I’d like to hear the cicadas in the same breath and from where I built my house in one of the canyons where my son Joseph was born and the lone cry of a mountain lion too.

  8. Kevin Wilkinson

    This is just great. I’ve been looking to buy some well made scissors on eBay, now I’ll have to wait until the Paul Sellers Effect dies down:-)

    1. Kevin, you don’t need to wait. There are the good scissors still made in Sheffield, have a look at and support British Industry. Have a look round at the web site as well, they are the last scissor putter-togetherers still working, and past retirement age. What a shame it will inevitably die.

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