Please note

Because of the lack of published trowel and masonry tool histories, the information here is based on other sources that may be less reliable and certainly are incomplete. These include eBay and tools that I purchase myself that are the starting points for my research. I will write what I know as I learn it. If what you read here interests you, please check back often and look for revisions and corrections. Scanned catalogs are either mine or by Rose Antique Tools and used with permission, and are on Google Docs as pdf files. A few are links to other websites. Your photos and information are welcome. Please click on any picture to enlarge it. Comments are welcome, but any with links will be deleted as possible spam.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Brass Foundry Molding or Moulding Tools

A group of about 33 brass foundry moulding tools is on the UK eBay site, with these pictures. Brass foundry tools are rare in the US.
eBay Listing, Brass Moulding Foundry Tools

eBay UK
This group of molder's tools came from the USA, but are unmarked. Brass foundry tools are cast, and steel tools are forged. The brass spoons show the imprint of the sand mold inside the bowl.

Brass molder's tools 

Brass molder's tools

William Dobson, Maker of Molders' Tools

William Dobson, of Canastota, New York, was another major US manufacturer of foundry molding tools from 1896 to 1932. Dobson's tools can still be found on eBay.


"William Dobson, Maker of Molders' Tools

"Dobson, born in Scotland in 1867, spent his early years as an apprentice to a smith, mastering his skills on the forge, anvil, hammer, and iron. His abilities landed him a good job when he immigrated to America, settling first in Detroit, Michigan. While there, he developed his artisan skills, working in steel, iron, and brass. He eventually took to making molder's tools. In 1887, he accepted employment with Goodwin & Burr [4th & Porter Streets, Detroit] as a tool maker. In time, he became a member of management, and he eventually gained ownership of the company.

"Dobson moved with his wife and children to Canastota in 1896. He decided to continue making the celebrated "Detroit" molders' tools here. He started a partnership with Thomas Angel [Angell]; the men ran their operations from a plant across from the old Chapel St. School. After this partnership dissolved in 1901 [Angell was severely injured when a grindstone burst in the plant], Dobson chose a new location on Spencer Street for his new plant. This facility was fully equipped for large scale manufacture, and employed 30 men at one time. Dobson's tools were sold all over the North American continent and even abroad. His business continued to thrive until its closing in 1932. Dobson started preparing for his retirement in 1930. He built a gas station, known as "Wee House", on Seneca Turnpike in Quality Hill. A small house was added on to the building, and Dobson lived there with his wife until his death in 1937.

"William Dobson took an active interest in the community. He served as a Canastota village trustee for three terms and even ran for mayor in 1910. He also served on the local school board between 1913 and 1922. He was active in various fraternal and trade organizations as well, including the Masons."

Source of article
Angell & Dobson advertisement 1898

Dobson advertisement 1907
Dobson advertisement 1921

Dobson advertisement

Dobson foundry molding trowel
Foundry Molding Trowels on US eBay

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Stone Chisels

Types of stone chisels include the following:
Toothed chisel (2-tooth, 3, 4, 5, 6, etc.)
Flat chisel
Bolster chisel or drove chisel
Point, or point chisel
Angle chisel, skew chisel, or miter chisel
Rondel chisel, round chisel, or bullnose chisel
Inverted rondel chisel
Gouge
Cape chisel or splitter
Lettering chisel 
Generally they are sized small, medium, or large.   

Stone chisels made to be struck with a steel hammer are called hammer head. Mallet head chisels have larger, mushroom-shaped heads that won't damage a wooden mallet.    

Here are several photos from eBay of stone chisels, and at top an image of traditional French designs.
Traditional French stone chisels

Stone chisels in canvas roll

Toothed stone chisels (mallet heads)

Toothed, flat, rondel, and point chisels (hammer heads)


History of Kramer Brothers Foundry, Gem Brand Cement Tools

Kramer Bros. catalog
Beginning in 1893, Kramer Brothers Foundry, Dayton, Ohio, made high quality cement (concrete) worker's tools with the brand name Gem. Kramer Brothers' tools included nickel-plated cast iron, brass, and bronze edgers, groovers, inside and outside angles, out-curve and in-curve edgers, gutter tools, jointers, and imprint (indent) rollers. In 1914 they claimed to be the largest cement tool manufacturer in the US.
Kramer Brothers Catalog cement tools 6 pages

Kramer's other cast iron products included parts for cooking and heating stoves, coal furnace parts, piano mover casters, sewer fittings, street lamp standards (posts), floral urns, lawn settees and chairs, and garden statuary. Their garden and decorative products are in the US Smithsonian collection and sold in high-end auctions.

My scan of Kramer Brothers 1955 Highway, Street, and Sewer Castings Catalog is on Archive.org.

More about Kramer Brothers Foundry is available on the website of a successor company:
Talladega Foundry Company History



Kramer's operation was between Dell St. and Keifer St., between Deeds Ave. (formerly Daller) and the railroad tracks. The building and site are occupied by what appears to be a junkyard, and "THE KRAMER BROS. FDY. CO." is still painted on the building.

Kramer Brother's tool line was sold to Bon Tool Co., date unknown. "Bon Tool Co. announced that it has acquired the operating assets from Kramer Brothers Foundry Co. of Dayton, Ohio. Kramer Brothers was the exclusive manufacturer of Gem Cement Tools, many of which Bon will continue to produce."
Bon Tool Corporate News

Kramer Brothers Foundry Gem No. 27 groover
Kramer Brothers Gem No. 27 groover
The history at the below is from "History of the City of Dayton and Montgomery County, Ohio, Volume 1" by Augustus Waldo Drury (1909).

Kramer Brothers in 1909
Kramer Brothers No. 24 brass groover

Monday, April 28, 2014

History of Godwin & Burr and Burr's Damascus Tool Works

Burr advertisement 1906
A century ago, Burr was a major US manufacturer of molder's tools, along with Dobson and Monk. They began as Goodwin and Burr, and later traded under the name Burr's Damascus Tool Works. Burr was located in Detroit, Michigan.

The proprietors were Doctor Theodore Burr (1816-1897) and his son Celenus Lorraine Burr (1852-1940). The elder Burr, who went by Doctor T and D.T., was a machinist who received US Patent 544,477 for a steam engine. Both men were listed in an 1880 Detroit city directory as proprietors of Burr's Damascus Steel Works. In January 1902 Burr's Damascus Tool Works won a court case against a Michigan competitor who was using Burr's brand names.

Goldblatt carried Burr's full line in their 1938 catalog. Burr trowels can occasionally be found on the US and Canadian eBay sites. There are 4 pages of Burr tools in the 1921 W.H. Anderson catalog, another Detroit firm.

William Dobson began his career with Goodwin and Burr, then moved to Canastota NY to found his own company.

Burr molding tools 1913 advertisement
Burr moulders' tools 1938
Burr foundry molding trowels


How To Recognize Lower Quality Trowels

What items go into one's collection is a personal choice. Generally, better quality items are the most collectible and command the highest prices. Some collections may include lower quality items by personal choice, or because they are the only items of their type or age available, or because they are part of a manufacturer-based collection. Whether lower quality items are part of your collection or not, it's helpful to be able to recognize them. Here are some characteristics of lower quality brick towels:

Blade is welded, riveted, or brazed to the neck
Blade is not taper ground, or grinding is uneven
Smaller neck
Slimmer or shorter handle

Low quality riveted or brazed trowel