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  • Canadian vintage tools

    Just getting into woodworking as a hobby. Bought my first vintage socket chisels today at a very reasonable price with the idea of restoring them. Scraping off some black paint, I found the manufacturer's name stamp: Campbell and Fowler Ltd., St John NB. So I decided to do some research on them. Any manufacturer and restoration insights you may have, or advice on how to make a handle are welcome. This is what I found out about the manufacturer so far.

    Manufacturer: Campbell & Fowler Ltd.

    Manufacturer Location: St. John, New Brunswick, Canada

    Manufactured Date: Circa 1863 - 1879
    (Reference: http://www.thetoolgroupofcanada.com/..._1820-1914.pdf)
    Campbell & Fowler Saint John, N.B., 1863-1926 shipwrights axes and other tools. Workers: 10 (1878), 12 (1884), 10 (1891). Bcame W. Campbell in 1879; became Campbell Bros. in 1891; liquidated in 1926

    Apparently tools such as these were used in restoring the parlaiment buldings. (Reference: https://ingeniumcanada.org/ingenium/...=2004.2003.001)
    Campbell & Fowler of St. John, NB manufactured shipwrights' axes and other tools. In 1879 the company became known as "W. Campbell"; in 1891 the name was changed to Campbell Bros. The company was liquidated in 1926 ...

    Allen Klenman states in his article about Josiah Fowler on page 25 in the March, 1998, The Chronicle:
    Josiah Fowler Co., Ltd., Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada
    (Reference https://www.davistownmuseum.org/bioFowler.html)
    Just over the Maine border is the Canadian area of New Brunswick. In the nineteenth century it was supported by the huge ship building trade. Upwards of five hundred wooden ships, including some world renown sailing ships were made there. Among the workmen in the area were a number of top quality blacksmith families.
    These master iron workers and edge toolmakers came to Canada as United Empire Loyalists, American colonists who remained loyal to the British crown after the United States War of Independence. Josiah Fowler was a third generation U.E.L. He opened his first shop in 1860 and in a number of partnerships, was active in St. John as late as 1922. Good specimens of his axes are still located by sharp-eyed collectors.
    There was a large trade of edge tools between the United States and Canada over eight decades at least, up until World War I.

    Steel Quality: Likely from Sheffield England. The Maritimes took advantage of shipping to get materials from abroad. (I lost the reference to this idea, but it seems very logical).
    nnieman, KenL and 2 others like this.
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  • #2

    Re: Canadian vintage tools

    Good luck with your detective-ing.
    Marky's Grandpa likes this.
    Noel

    "Being so impressed with the beauty of nature, I never cease to be amazed at how the
    'touch of the human hand' can transform it into another kind of beauty that is so uniquely human.
    "

    John Snow, Outdoorsman and Retired Teacher

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    • #3

      Re: Canadian vintage tools

      I suggest turning the handles out of straight grained riven (if possible) well dried ash.The sockets look in good shape quite often one sees that the socket has been pounded with a steel hammer. Lastly don't pick up the chisels by the handle in Canadian climate with its widely fluctuating humidity as handles often come loose . a quick smack on the bench fixes that
      Marky's Grandpa likes this.

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      • #4

        Re: Canadian vintage tools

        It'll be interesting to see how well they perform once you've got them fully operational!
        Marky's Grandpa and smallerstick like this.
        All the best,

        Marty

        - Instagram: @apexwoodworks
        - facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Apex-Woodwo...0243458908979/

        Secretary of Kingston Wood Artisans Inc. https://kwoodartca.wordpress.com/

        Master Mistake Fixer (because I've made them all... at least once)

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        • #5

          Re: Canadian vintage tools

          I don't have any Campbell & Fowler marked chisels, but I do have a couple marked "Josiah Fowler Co Ltd, St John N.B." (Operating dates listed in your first reference given as 1877-1920). I'm not sure if Josiah Fowler is the same man as in Campbell & Fowler, but he was reported to have operated in a number of partnerships. My chisels are sitting in my "Canadian Tools" box waiting for handles, so I can't give an opinion as to steel/edge quality. Handle wood can be any hard wood, with ash, maple, oak.. being favorites. I've sometimes used shovel handle or chair leg for stock
          Marky's Grandpa likes this.

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          • #6

            Re: Canadian vintage tools

            Now I know that these chisels were made by different foundries. They were painted black and I found another forge stamp when I stripped the paint off of the next largest chisel. Can make only parts of it out. Made by xxxxx & Sons, Sheffield England. Am wondering who exactly that was. Has three three leaf clovers on the stamp. Anyone know what forge that is?

            Thank you for the tips on the handles Kiwi and Jay. Marty... I will have to wait until the summer to try them out. Live in a Toronto condo and play with hand tools in a seasonal cottage tool shed just north of Kingston.

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            • #7

              Re: Canadian vintage tools

              If you'll be using these near Kingston, you have to visit Marty's shop.
              It's a true destination.
              Marky's Grandpa likes this.
              Noel

              "Being so impressed with the beauty of nature, I never cease to be amazed at how the
              'touch of the human hand' can transform it into another kind of beauty that is so uniquely human.
              "

              John Snow, Outdoorsman and Retired Teacher

              Comment


              • #8

                Re: Canadian vintage tools

                The 3 shamrocks logo came from William Marples and sons in Sheffield

                Link to the wiki

                https://williammarplesandsons.com/history/
                Last edited by Steve in Ayr; 10-25-2020, 12:32 PM. Reason: Added the link
                Marky's Grandpa likes this.
                If a man speaks in the forest, and there's no woman around to hear him, is he still wrong

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                • #9

                  Re: Canadian vintage tools

                  Beach: Thank you for the idea. Hopefully by next spring this Covid thing will be under control. Never new that Marty had a shop.
                  Steve: Thank you so much! Exactly the information I was looking for!

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                  • #10

                    Re: Canadian vintage tools

                    Steve in Ayr ... That catalog is perfect! The only place I see a socket chisel with that particular shamrock logo is in Marples 1938 catalogue. So that must be the date of my chisel! TYSM!

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                    • #11

                      Re: Canadian vintage tools

                      So a few words about my motivation to restore vintage chisels... I uploaded some photos of my first woodworking project in many years from this past summer. Built a "Paul Sellers" woodworking table from his online videos. Great project for beginners! Made my first mortice joints ever and they were horrible! No matter how much I tried I could not get the clean cuts that Pauls Sellers has. And then with some more research I found out the chisel I was using is not considered a worthy chisel at all by seasoned woodworkers. They recommend either buying the super expensive Lie Nielson if you are rich, or restoring old vintage ones which are said to be just as worthy. So here I am restoring old vintage ones.... Did I mention that I love to restore vintage handplanes! The ones you see on the table are all vintage and mostly restored ones. In the fall I moved on to restoring hand saws... and when I restored enough of those I moved to chisels... my current projects. Not sure what I will do next... maybe a couple of egg beater drills?

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                      • #12

                        Re: Canadian vintage tools

                        Here is the result of my chisel restoration. Stripped of the paint, sanded with a fine emery cloth, sharpened and honed (which seemed to take forever!) I do not have a wood lathe, so can not turn handles. Best I could do was to restore some old handles. Good enough for me...

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                        • #13

                          Re: Canadian vintage tools

                          Function before form! If they work, they’re good. Nice job, Roy
                          Are you solving the problem, or becoming part of it?

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                          • #14

                            Re: Canadian vintage tools

                            Thanks Roy... I feel the same way!

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                            • #15

                              Re: Canadian vintage tools

                              I've turned chisel handles on my drill press a couple of times.

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