Tuesday, 19 March 2013

The George Thwaites Tool Chest - Part II

Some of you who have been following my blog may recall the post about the tool chest of George Thwaites, one of Melbourne's first and most regarded colonial furniture makers. If you haven't seen it, you can read about it here.

George's Chest made the journey to Kyneton with us a little over 18 months ago and has been stored safely since. Time and commitments have meant that I rarely get a chance to do anything but steal a glance at it on occasion. That was until today, when Rob and Libby La Nauze came to visit both me and the chest. I had met the La Nauze's about 8 months ago when they were among a group of George's relatives and other interested parties who came and had a brief look at the chest one morning. Libby is a direct descendant of George.

Recently Rob had been asked to write an article about George's chest and tools. Rob has already written a book on another of member of the Thwaites family, William. William was the Melbourne engineer who was responsible for the entire Melbourne Metropolitan Sewerage system and has been apparently referred to as Melbourne's answer to  'Gustave Eiffel!' Here is a link to Robs book, Engineer to Marvelous Melbourne - The life and times of William Thwaites.

What was exciting about todays meeting at the workshop was the cargo that Rob and Libby arrived with. About 30 or so of George's moulding planes and tools! Rob has fastidiously catalogued and studied all of the planes in his possession and had a wealth of newly acquired knowledge and information, not only about the planes makers, but whether it was likely they were part of the original compliment of tools bought out in 1842, or purchased after George's arrival.

There were some absolutely suburb examples amongst Rob and Libby's collection of planes, including some extremely rare and very sought after makers. I don't want to precede Rob's article with too much information but there was one particular plane that really captured my attention.

This John Moseley & Son plane also had the retailer James McEwan & Co. stamped into the toe. McEwans was one of Melbourne's first hardware stores, having its origins in the Ballarat Goldfields in the 1850's. ( it was to be bought out in the 1990's by the monopoly that is Bunnings..... ) Melbournians of my vintage or older would remember Mc Ewan hardware stores well.

                                                Here's one of their early advertisements.

Could you imagine in those days, walking into your local corner hardware store and being able to put your hands on a brand new John Moseley & Son plane! Outstanding. That would be my kind of hardware store.

Suffice to say we had a great day and lunch on Piper Street, discussing George's chest and tools at length. It seems there is a lot more ground to cover and no doubt more information to come forth which is sure to be very interesting indeed. Thanks Rob and Libby for a very informative day. It's fantastic to talk with people as passionate about our history as I am.  I look forward to uncovering more about George's tool chest in the near future.


  1. It is fascinating to see the original details in this and your previous post on the George Thwaites chest.
    Any idea on the timbers used in its construction?
    I am particularly interested by the lid which appears to be a flush panel - is that right? This would make it convenient for use as an impromptu saw bench and is the design I most often see in old chests.
    Everyone now seems to making chests with raised panel lids which looks pretty but doesn't seem so practical.

  2. It's hard to say Rob as the patina is so heavy on the chest. I'd say Deal or Pine of some sort for the carcass, the drawer fronts I think may be Rosewood, with Mahogany sides and have Ebony beading. I'm almost positive that the draw tills runners are Mahogany too. Yes it is indeed a flat lid on the chest and it has definitely had its fair share of being used as a saw horse and work bench.
    There's a lot more work to be done with the chest, so I'm sure between Rob L and myself we'll have some more conclusive answers for you in the future.

    1. ..... sorry, meant to say that the runners were Ebony, not mahogany.

  3. My Grandfather had a few of Georges planes in his shed, his son-in-law, put the saw through them :(, his reason was that only steel Stanly's were any good only one survived the carnage and that is in safe hands now.