An antique tool
is generally defined as a tool
over 100 years old, but often this definition is used more loosely to refer to any tool manufactured before World War II
The use of tools is one of the primary means by which humans are distinguished from animals. Tools are the parents of all other antiques. Most manmade objects were made with the use of tools and great effort goes into the creation of newer and better tools to solve the production problems of the day. The study of antique tools provides a glimpse of human development and cultural preferences through history. People collect and use antique tools for a variety of reasons - some say they are better made than modern tools, and perform their jobs better. Others appreciate the handcrafting that went into their manufacture or their rarity or aesthetic value. Informally, those preferring hand tools to power tools are sometimes referred to as galoots.
The creation of a tool often makes possible the creation of more advanced tools. Advanced tools made possible the manufacture of internal-combustion engines, automobiles, and computers. In the future new devices will come along. But even the most advanced of these owes tribute to the most basic hand tools for their existence. Among those who like to collect, some may do so as part of a rigorous study program - they want to catalog all types of a specific tool, for example. Some collectors may wish to preserve some of the past for future generations. Some may collect as a financial investment. Some collect tools to use them - to be able to create things with them. Others perceive tools as works of art, or as fascinating mechanical design specimens.
With the advent of the Internet, sites have been created to assist collectors in sharing information. For example, those interested in collecting/restoring older power tools can utilize the resources at Old WoodWorking Machines to locate and/or identify older power tools they may run across. Search engines can be utilized to locate sites like this for whatever class of tools one may be interested in.
Tool Collecting Categories
Categories of tools range from the broad - planes, rules, braces, hammers, etc. to the specific - planes made by the Gage Company of Vineland, New Jersey for example. People who are new to the hobby, should know that there are many good modern reference books that will guide you in your search, as well as many reprints of the catalogs in which these tools were originally offered. It is necessary to learn the differences between various tools, their history and the history of their makers. Often tools will exhibit differences contrasting the different locations of their makers, or different features contrasting different time periods.
The following are some ways to begin collecting tools:
- Tools of a specific company or maker - for example, L. Bailey Victor tools, Seneca Falls Tool Company tools, Miller's Falls tools, Disston Saws, Chelor planes, etc.
- Tools of a specific type - hammers, braces, axes, saws, patented planes, transitional planes, treadle-powered machines, etc.
- Tools of a specific period - tools from 1850-1900, post WWII era tools, etc.
- Tools from a specific place - Scottish tools, tools from Massachusetts makers, etc.
- Tools of a specific occupation - cooper's tools, machinist tools, watchmaker's tools, garden tools.
- A combination of one or more of the above categories -- for example, one each of a specific type of Stanley tool, i.e. all Stanley saws, all Stanley marking gauges, all Stanley planes, etc.
- A "type study" of one specific model, for example, a type study of Stanley #6 jointer planes or Norris A5 smooth planes.
- Tools that show how a specific idea progressed over time, for example tools tracing the development of the plane's adjusting mechanisms, or tools showing how an early patent was bought out and developed by another company.
- Tool advertising and catalogs.