Last weekend we had a break from the renovating and racing about and headed to Bendigo for the day. The reason? One of Australia's best swap meets is why and boy was it worth the trip. With over 1600 stalls selling everything from pressed metal toys to parts for your '57 Chev, it was amazing. On the trip up I made a mental note of just what I was going to focus on....which of course was old tools, but I was also keeping an eye out for a nice old bracket to hang a sign on. Not just any sign but our 'shingle' for the new shop.
I hadn't walked 50 metres through the gate when I saw the familiar outline of a drawknife sitting amongst a few tables of fairly nice looking tools. As I made a b-line for the stall I began scanning to see what else was on display. Bingo. A very nice and full bladed scorp. So I picked up the drawknife, saw the name 'Sorby' on the blade, checked the back and it was as fresh as you could want for a drawknife. Not even a sniff of rust, let alone pitting. Great. As I held the drawknife I picked up the scorp with the other hand and zeroed in on the 'Matheison' stamp on it too. A very British affair so far. The Matheison had tight handles and again not much if any use. Two for two.
Just when I thought I was on a roll, a very large hairy hand scooped up a old brace right before my eyes. It was one of those moments that happened in slow motion. As it passed by me I confirmed in was a 'Spofford' style brace and then I saw the nickel silver bands around the rosewood centre grip, meaning it was a 'Fray.' The type that Curtis Buchanan swears by and the very same type and size ( 6 inch sweep ) that I had made my first Windsor chair with in Tennessee.
The largish fella that now held it walked off to look at other stuff and I put the experience down to not being quick enough off the mark! C'est la vie. Besides, he was about 6'4", had a neck like a Mallee root ( a very large, thick and hard tree stump for my overseas friends ! ) and arms that would shame a silverback gorilla. I wasn't about to ask if I could have a look at it..... Another scan and I picked up a nice old Thor brand copper headed mallet which was a nice consolation.
As I wandered over to the seller with my mitts full I couldn't believe what I saw next. The big guy casually walked past, popped the brace back on table and walked off. No sooner had the brace hit the Laminex, I gathered it up with the others and kept moving. With a bit of banter I agreed on a price for the lot ( including $20 for the brace with the bit! ) and walked away with a big smile on my dial. The day was looking good. Both the drawknife and scorp will be sharpened and honed ready for use and for sale in the shop.
Half the swap-meet later and I came across another great stall. A guy from Ballarat with everything including a kitchen sink. That's when it popped out at me. A beautiful old hand made, wrought iron sign bracket. It was a horrid green colour with about six or seven layers of old lead paint on it, but you could see just how well made it was and the hand finished detail in it. He would not budge from $150 saying that about 10 people had already picked it up and ummed and arhh'd over it. It's was a hell of a lot more than I wanted to pay, but I hadn't seen another like it and the seller made a good point. "Go get a blackmith to make a new one and see what it costs you!" Good point I thought.
Monday morning It was taken down to the local sandblaster who took a good 3-4mm of heavy old lead paint off it. Then, another surprise.....
A makers stamp. 'Vulcan Works Sheffield' and 'Sphinx' with a sphinx logo in the triangle. Bonus, made in England too and most likely when Sheffield was in it's prime as Britain's premier iron and steel manufacturing city
Repainted in matt black, replete with sign. ( ...a little touching up of weatherboards yet )
Keep an eye out for it when you come to visit.