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.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

History of W. Tyzack, Sons & Turner, Ltd.

W. Tyzack, Sons & Turner, Ltd. was a Sheffield, UK maker of hand and circular saws, agricultural knives and machine parts, steel, files, chisels, twist drills, hammers, and plastering trowels. The firm's logo was an elephant, with the word "Nonpareil", meaning unrivaled. This scanned catalog includes all of their tools, but not their agricultural machine parts.
W. Tyzack stone hammers 1950
W. Tyzack Sons & Turner 1950 Catalogue

W. Tyzack Sons & Turner originated from the division of the William Tyzack (1781-1858) family tool-manufacturing into 3 competing businesses, following the death of his son Ebenezer Tyzack (1807-1867). Ebenezer's brothers William (1816-1889) and Joshua (1816?-1889?) were the founding partners. In 1870 their sister Ann's son Thomas Turner joined them, forming William Tyzack, Sons and Turner. The business incorporated in 1906 under William's son Frederick Tyzack, and Tyzack family members continued to largely control it. Here is a collection of photographs, most from 1912, courtesy of Mr. Don Tyzack.

Frederick Tyzack, 1912 (from Don Tyzack) 
W. Tyzack Sons & Turner was unusual for Sheffield tool makers, in that they operated 2 separate works simultaneously for over 55 years. The initial partnership operated as tenants at Abbeydale on the River Sheaf, where the elder William leased rights in 1849. W. Tyzack Sons & Turner operated there until 1933. Abbeydale Works is now a living history museum. The short film from the 1970s shows Abbeydale's machinery running, clay crucibles being made, and tools being forged: Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet - Colour.

In 1876, they purchased a corn mill in Heeley, down-river from Abbeydale, with rights to Little London Dam. They constructed Little London Works, enlarging it over time. The business was also distinctive in preferring to use water power over steam or electricity. Little London Works had a water-powered forge as late as 1926. The business address was Saxon Road, on the north end of the works. The firm was taken over by its rival W.A. Tyzack in 1987, the works were demolished in 1988, and the company broken up and sold off in 1991.

Little London Works (picture Don Tyzack)
Today, Broadfield Court enters the site from the south. The Google Street View below shows the eastern entrance from Little London Rd.

W. Tyzack plasterer's trowels 1950

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Millstone Tools

The Miller, Millwright and Millfurnisher, 1882
Millstones were used for grinding grain, pigments, graphite, and other granular substances. As millstones wear from use, they need to be dressed, meaning resurfaced, as shown in the YouTube videos below. The primary tool used is a mill pick, also called millstone pick or a mill bill and thrift, which is a steel mill pick head that is wedged into a thick wooden handle. This article, "The life and times of Michaelchurch Mill" has a picture of millstone dressing tools. The high spots on the stones are checked with a wooden paint-staff onto which red oxide or chalk is rubbed. The paint-staff is can be checked for straightness against a cast iron proof-staff.
Most US manufacturers of stone mason's tools made mill picks at some time. Several small businesses and probably many individual blacksmiths specialized in forging mill picks and resharpening them. Used picks would be delivered or mailed back, to be heated, the edges drawn out, tempered, then sharpened on a grindstone. These small US makers included John C. Higgins & Son of Chicago, IL, J. Knight of Baltimore, MD, and J. G. Pollard of Brooklyn, NY.

The Roller Mill, Vol 17, 1898

Millstone pick, J. Knight, Baltimore

The Roller Mill, Vol 17, 1898
Millstone pick, Norway (missing one bit) 

Monday, December 21, 2015

Joseph Richards and the Patent Hammer

The patent hammer has a number of sharpened thin steel blades which are bolted into a heavy head, and is used for finishing granite and hard sandstones. The blades are called "cuts" and were available in sets of 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12 cuts per side by varying the thickness of the steel used for the cut. The most common jaw opening was 7/8", and other sizes from 1/2" to 1" were offered. Cuts were also used to specify the number of grooves per nominal inch, as an 8-cut finish. The patent hammer produced a grooved surface much faster than a hand chisel, and the cuts were easily removed for sharpening. Other names for the patent hammer were patent bush hammer, Scotia hammer, and patent Scotia hammer. Scotia hammers were usually smaller, with 5/16" and 3/8" jaw openings. The picture to the right shows patent-hammered work on Old City Hall, Richmond, VA. This YouTube video shows a bush hammered finish with a different hammer. Excellent photographs of patent-hammered work are in the 1938 booklet Granite in Architecture at

Richards' patent drawing
The patent hammer was invented by Joseph Richards (1784-1848) of Braintree, Massachusetts. The US patent was issued 20 Feb. 1828 for a "Stone-Working Tool". The retroactive patent application number is X5010 or 5010X. His invention spurred many other inventors' designs for patent hammers. There are at least 55 more US patents for hand hammers and chisels with multiple blades which can be removed from the head for sharpening. The US Patent Office classified them as mill picks or bush hammers, avoiding confusion with any other patented hammers. I have saved these patent applications and drawings into one pdf file, which is here.

Fayette Plumb patent hammer, 1906 
Patent hammers were made and/or sold by Brunner & Lay, H.H. Harvey (5 styles), J.M. Kent, George Main, Nutting & Hayden, Plumb, Trow & Holden (2 styles), Pinel Brothers, Vulcan, Wilcox & Donahue, and others. Five of these companies were in the Quincy, MA area. Several manufacturers stamped serial numbers and manufacturing dates on their patent hammers.
Patent hammers were used in cutting sheds (Wooster, MA)
A History of Old Braintree and Quincy: With a Sketch of Randolph and Holbrook, by William Samuel Pattee, 1879

Mr. Joseph Richards (1), of the former firm of Richard & Munn, was a man of uncommon ability and intelligence, and was possessed of much inventive genius.  About the year 1831, he invented the bush, or axe hammer; which term is the more proper we are not able to say, as no name for it is to be found in any of the dictionaries, although this instrument has been in use about half a century.  The name of bush hammer is evidently local, as at Philadelphia and some other places, it is called axe hammer, from the several little axes being keyed into the cheeks of the instrument, and we think it the most correct name of the two.  There are six, eight, ten, or more axes connected with it. The number used depends upon the fineness the artisan desires to dress the stone.  This useful instrument to stone-cutters was first made by Mr. Richards, solid or wholly in one piece, for which he received a patent; since then improvements have been made upon it by constructing it in several pieces. [Richards' patent is for a design with several pieces.]

(1) Hon. Joseph Richards was born in Cummington, Mass., Aug. 20th, 1784, and was educated in the District School.  When about twelve years of age, he removed with his parents to the northern part of the State of New York, where he was engaged with his father in farming, until he was eighteen years of age, when he left home and came to Quincy.  His first engagement in this town was with President John Adams, as coachman, who after a few months’ service in that capacity, suggested to him that he was worthy of a higher position.  From those suggestions of Mr. Adams, he went to Abington, where he undertook the duties of a school teacher, a position for which by nature he was eminently qualified even at that early age. possessing as instinctive knowledge of human nature, he governed without force or coercion.  He was an ardent lover of the science of mathematics, in the higher branches of which he was quite proficient.  Form Abington he returned to Quincy, or “Braintree Neck,” (now Quincy Neck) in 1803, where he engaged, for many years, in quarrying and working stone with Bryan Newcomb, his future father-in-law, in the summer, and school teaching in the winter until the increase of the stone business in which he was engaged, engrossed his whole time.  Although obliged to abandon the profession in which he delighted, his love of knowledge continued unabated until the close of his successful life, Feb. 12th, 1848.  He was chosen to the State Senate for the years 1843 and ’44.  Mrs. Richards survived her husband a number of years.
Trow & Holden hammers & chisel, 1910
If you have a Trow & Holden patent hammer as in the 1910 advertisement, please take note. In addition to the 4 large bolts, there are 2 steel pins holding the head together. These pins are ground flush so may not be visible. Clark Holden's patent drawing shows 2 smaller bolts in this position. As later manufactured, these were replaced with 3/8" pins. If you have one, do not attempt to pry the head apart unless absolutely necessary, and you must drive the pins out first. All parts except the bolts should be replaced in the same locations.    

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Sears Roebuck & Co. Masonry Tools

Throughout the 20th century, Sears Roebuck & Co. was the largest mail order company and probably the most recognizable retailer in the United States. Tools that Sears sold have benefited from that popularity. Sears contracted with manufacturers to make most items with Sears brand names, and this private label manufacturing continues today. Unfortunately for tool collectors and historians, Sears has not revealed who those makers were. A considerable amount of time and effort has been spent by those collectors and historians to determine who the manufacturers were, and this research is ongoing at websites like Alloy Artifacts.

Sears Roebuck was founded by Richard W. Sears (1863-1914) in 1886 in Minneapolis, MN, and moved to Chicago IL in 1887, where Alvah C. Roebuck joined the business. Initially they sold watches and jewelry by mail, and quickly expanded to include many other household items. In 1893 the business became Sears, Roebuck and Co. By 1895 the firm was producing a 532-page catalog with "shoes, women's garments and millinery, wagons, fishing tackle, stoves, furniture, china, musical instruments, saddles, firearms, buggies, bicycles, baby carriages and glassware, in addition to watches and jewelry” (source of quote). Chicago clothing manufacturer Julius Rosenwald bought into the company in 1895, becoming vice president, and then Roebuck resigned because of poor health. Growing rapidly, the firm moved to a new 6-story building in 1896, and continued to build and lease other buildings in Chicago. In 1905 construction started on a 41-acre plant and office building on Chicago's West Side. When it opened in 1906, the 9 story, 3 million square foot mail order plant was the largest business building in the world.

Sears tool brands include Fulton Tool Company, Craftsman, Dunlap, and Sears. Their masonry tools sold in the past included a brick trowel, pointing trowel, finishing trowel, concrete edger, concrete groover, brick hammer, and other common masonry tools. Here are the pages with masonry tools from 6 Sears catalogs from 1957 to 1972, with the cover pages to identify the year.  

Sears did not register Fulton Tool Company as a trademark, but no single maker has been found for the wide variety of tools that Sears sold with the Fulton name. Fulton tools began appearing in 1908 catalogs, and included hand saws, crosscut saws, axes, planes, chisels, hammers, pliers, and more. The only references I have found for Fulton as a tool maker are an Ohio manufacturer of mining tools and a file and rasp maker in Brooklyn, NY.

The famous Sears Craftsman brand dates to the 1927 registration of the Craftsman trademark, and a history of the brand is on the Sears Archive at Craftsman History. Craftsman masonry tools include a forged brick trowel, brick hammer, brick jointer, and brick chisel.

Craftsman 6553 11 inch brick trowel
The Dunlap brand was primarily a line of economy tools that sold from 1938 to at least 1960. It may have been named after Tom Dunlap, the manager of the Sears hardware division from the 1930s through the 1950s. Sears filed a trademark application for Dunlap in 1938 and the trademark was issued in 1939. Dunlap tools first appeared in the in the 1938-1939 Fall and Winter Sears catalogs. The Dunlap name replaced some tools that had previously sold as Fulton or Merit (wrenches). Dunlap masonry tools sold on eBay and elsewhere include a variety of masonry tools.
Dunlap cast iron edger & groover

Sunday, December 13, 2015

A Look Inside a Tool Factory in 1911

The James Swan Company's 1911 catalog includes 6 pictures of their factory interiors showing the steps in making their tools. While Swan made wood chisels and auger bits, not masonry tools, the processes and equipment involved is very similar to those of manufacturers covered on this website. The 6 pictures and one of the exteriors of their 2 facilities is here. The catalog was scanned by Rose Antique Tools and is used with permission.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Wagner of Steckborn, Switzerland

Wagner was a maker of foundry molding tools in Steckborn, Switzerland. Steckborn is on the Untersee of Lake Constance (Konstanz), part of the Rhine River, directly across from Germany. Wagner's tools are steel and brass, and appear to be high quality. Their tools are stamped with a smith's mark, "WAGNER", and a model number. Some also include "STECKBORN" or "Made in W. Germany". My research has not found any information about the company's history. There is a Wagner Metallgiesserei AG in Thurgau (Steckborn's canton), but it was formed in the late 20th century.

Steckborn Wikipedia (EN); Steckborn Wikipedia (DE).

Thank you to reader Tom for his 2 pictures.

Wagner No. 109
Wagner No. 109
Wagner No. 120 A, made in Western Germany

Molders at work in a German foundry

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Removing Concrete and Mortar With Sugar-Based Products

Cleaning old concrete and mortar from tools by scraping or with acid is difficult and can result in damage to the tools. Recently I learned there are several cleaning products containing cane sugar which are made to dissolve or soften concrete and mortar which have set. Here are links to 6 products available in the USA and one each in the UK and Australia. There are probably more products available, and if I learn how to mix your own concrete dissolver I will post it here.

Sakrete Concrete Mortar Dissolver cleaned the lettering
Here are some suggestions after trying the Sakrete product:
The surface should be dry; water, tar, oils, or wax will keep the remover from working.
Expect the dissolver to work slowly and unevenly, depending on the hardness of the material.
If the dissolver is able to work, a white crust will form as the concrete or mortar dissolves.
Brush or scrape off material loosened by the dissolver before adding more dissolver.
Use tools like a brass brush and wooden or plastic scraper.
The dissolver evaporates slowly, so spot applications are effective if you let them work.
It does not eat steel, brass, or bronze, and does not appear to cause rust while it's working.
Be patient, this may take days on some tools.

Sakrete Concrete Mortar Dissolver
US products:
Chisel concrete remover
Consolver Concrete Remover
Five Star® EZ-Cure® Concrete Remover
Mean Klean Concrete & Mortar Dissolver
RoMix Back-Set concrete removermanufacturer's video
Sakrete Concrete Mortar Dissolver

United Kingdom:
SpeedyClean Concrete Dissolver

CSS Crete-Off Concrete Dissolver

Sugar also acts as a concrete retarder, and was used on an accidental spill in London Underground’s Victoria Line, enabling the mess to be shoveled up before it set.
Article in the UK Telegraph on how sugar acts as a concrete retarder.

Kramer Brothers brass groover, cleaned with Sakrete Dissolver

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

History of United Engineering and Malleable, Victoria, Australia

United Engineering and Malleable manufactured cement tools, builder's hardware, and metal components in Footscray, which is 5 km west of Melbourne. They were established about 1887 and were operating as late as 1947. The original location was on Elizabeth St., and in 1944 the foundry was on Gordon St. For National Library of  Australia search results on hardware company John Danks & Son Pty., Ltd., who carried UEM's products, click here.

Thank you to Chris from Australia for photographs of his tools and links about this company.

UEM No. 119 corrugating tool
UEM 116A external angle
UEM 196 step noser (altered)
From The Age, Melbourne, Victoria, 2 May 1935:

United Engineering & Malleable's products, 1940s
....In the foundries of the United Engineering and Malleable Co. at Footscray, metal products previously imported from America and England...are being turned out....

Carried on for 48 years, the industry was originally established by Shiner and Co., in Elizabeth-street. All that time the works have specialised in mixed medium-weight job work and machinery repetition work in agricultural machinery and general engineering requirements. The process illustrated on this page is used in connection with the filling of moulds, prepared by skilled tradesmen, in the malleable iron foundry. Taken from the mixing ladle the metal is agitated, then poured into small hand ladles, each moulder carrying his ladle and pouring the metal into his own moulds. The rod shown in the hands of the tapper is 8 or 9 feet long, on the end of which is a shaped daub of clay. This is forced into the orifice, a small opening at the bottom of the cupola, for sufficient time to enable the congregation of another 5 or 6 cwt. of metal to be treated for, say, 30 minutes. As the process takes place sparks fly about in a thrilling pyrotechnic display.

"Malleable" is a term to define the making of metal ductile so as to stand up to shocks and blows, particularly in the case of articles which are too expensive to forge. Under strict scientific control, this manufacture is not completed until the moulded articles have been treated for many days in the annealing ovens, which are maintained day and night, Saturdays and Sundays, at certain temperatures. Metal parts used in the railway and electricity undertakings call for constant analysis, and pyrometer control in this way. The manufacture of detachable link sprocket chain and attachments, used in conveyors, elevators and agricultural machinery, has replaced heavy importations of this product. In the industry also is found a complete plant for the output of builders' hardware, including metal stamping, manufacturing and assembling and electroplating of different finishes, and the packing and distribution. The company reports splendid support of the Australian-made products.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

History of Iron City Tool Works

Iron City Tool Works of Pittsburgh, PA, was a medium-sized manufacturer of hand tools for railroads, mines, blacksmithing, and stone masonry. Their logo, stamped deeply into all their tools, is a 6-pointed star with IRON CITY inside the star. Older Iron City tools may also say WARRANTED CAST STEEL, as did tools of many makers. Here are 2 pages of Iron City's tools in 1937.

Pittsburgh directory 1863-64
According to Pittsburgh city directories and, the business began about 1862 as Kloman & Co. iron mill in Millvale at the northeast edge of Pittsburgh. Brothers Anthony (originally Antonius) Kloman (1826-1897) and Andrew (Andreas) Kloman* had learned forging as boys in Prussia. After a year, they separated the business into 2 firms. Andrew started an iron and steel rolling mill and went on to an association with Thomas and Andrew Carnegie. Anthony began making tools using the name Kloman & Co., Iron City Forge. The tool works had a succession of partners through 1878. From 1864-66 it was Kloman & Phipps, from 1866-67 it was Kloman & Voelker, in 1867 it changed to Kloman, Buerkle & Co, and in 1872 it was Kloman, Park & Co. The first use of the secondary name Iron City Tool Works is in the 1868-69 directory.

George F. Konold & son, 1920
In 1879, Anthony Kloman gave up control of Iron City Tool Works, and the business became Park, Long & Co., with steel men David E. Park and Joseph D. Long. This lasted about 2 years, and the firm reorganized about 1881 as Iron City Tool Works, Limited. Christian Konold (1833-1888) became superintendent, and his family would eventually own the company. Christian had been hired in 1868 at Kloman, Buerkle & Co. as a hammerman, and later his 2 sons joined as forgers.  After Christian's death in 1888, his son George F. Konold (1864-1924) was superintendent for 23 years. George's brother William F. Konold (1866-1933) followed in the position, and at his death had worked for Iron City for 57 years.

William H. Hays (1847-1926), a Pittsburgh bookkeeper, managed the business beginning in 1881. He was chairman from 1887, or earlier, to 1926, and his son William H. Hays, Jr. (1877-1966) was treasurer in 1903. Son John Crossan Hays (1891-1968) followed his brother as treasurer. Nothing else about Mr. Hays's business background or his financial stake in Iron City is known. The house Mr. Hays built in the late 1880s at 5200 Westminster Place suggests that he was already wealthy or that Iron City Tool Works was very profitable for him.
Pittsburgh, 1882 map by G.M. Hopkins

The original tool works was on Butler St. (renamed Railroad St.) between Smith (30th St.) and Morton (28th St.), then at Butler St. and Wilson St. (32nd St.). In 1869 they were still at 32nd Street and Railroad St. This building expanded over the next 30 years until it occupied almost the whole block from 32nd to 33rd. By 1890 there was a second building at 32nd St. and Smallman St. Iron City suffered a fire in 1903 and rebuilt on the same spot, remaining there until 1958.

Apparently Iron City sold to wholesalers and did little advertising, and surviving catalogs are rare. I have located their 1891 product line in their New York agent's catalog, and extracted those pages for you. The Pittsburgh Commodity Index of 1913 lists Iron City's products:

bars (17 styles)
blacksmith’s tools
breast augers
caulking tools
chisels (17 styles), including brick, splitting, and stone cutters’ chisels
coal drills
coopers’ tools
hammers (18 styles), including bush, hand drilling, macadam, napping, paving, spalling, stone, and other hammers
hoes (6 styles)
mattocks (9 styles)
Iron City 6-lb. spalling hammer
mauls (6 styles)
mining machine bits
picks (19 styles)
plow anvils
punches (5 styles)
rail forks
sledges (8 styles), including limestone, pein and flat face stone, stone
spike pullers
stone workers’ axes
swages (4 styles)
tongs (3 styles)
track tools
track wrenches
vises (6 styles)
wedges (10 styles), including stone wedges

Warren Tool Corp., founded in 1911 by George F. Konold, took over Iron City in 1958. Warren made many of the tools that Iron City did. In 1994 Warren Tool was sold to Wilton Corp. of Palatine, IL, and continued to operate as Warren Tool Group until Walter Meier Holding Company AG bought Wilton in 2002. Iron City's former building at 3201 Smallman St. still stands.


Iron City Tool products, 1953
Iron City Tool advertisement, 1908
*Andrew Kloman is remembered for Pittsburgh's historic Smithfield Street Bridge.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

History of H.H. Harvey, Augusta, Maine

H.H. Harvey was a manufacturer of tools for quarry workers, stone masons, and blacksmiths, with a factory in Augusta, Maine, and a store and office in Boston, Massachusetts. They were in operation from 1871 to at least 1914 (possibly 1920). The business was named for Henry H. Harvey (1840-1928), a native of England. The plant was destroyed by fire in 1893, and the announcement that it was being rebuilt said that Mr. Harvey's 3 sons were then active in the business. They were George H. Harvey (1862-1902), Fred M. Harvey (1863-1945), and Frank A. Harvey (1867-after 1930). The 1894 book, Boston and Bostonians has a page about the business that is very complimentary of Henry Harvey and his products.

H.H. Harvey patent bush hammer
Alexandria, VA newspaper, 7 Nov. 1871 
In early 1913, an announcement in several trade publications said  the business was incorporating as H.H. Harvey Manufacturing Co. with a capital of $25,000, with Henry H. Harvey as president, grandson George H. Harvey (born 1886) as treasurer, and Fred M. Harvey. The 1913-14 Augusta city directory listed only the H.H. Harvey Handle Co. The 1919 Augusta directory listed only the H.H. Harvey Hammer Co. The 1920 US Census described Fred's occupation as "manufacturer, tools". The 1923 Augusta directory has no listing for a Harvey company.

Iron Age, 6 April 1893
It's indicative of the family's character that one of the newspaper articles I found was from 1874, saying that 12 year old George H. Harvey found a $5 bill on the railroad tracks on the other side of the river, and the owner could claim it at his home near the factory.

H.H. Harvey's 1896-97 catalog was reprinted by Early American Industries Association in 1973, indicating an early interest by collectors in Harvey's tools.  Its title is H. H. Harvey's Special Illustrated Catalogue for 1896-7: Granite, Marble and Soft Stone Workers' Blacksmiths' and Contractors' Hammers and Tools, Manufactured by Him in Augusta, Maine.

H.H. Harvey's works were at 108 Bangor St., corner of Locke St., Augusta, on the east side of the Kennebec River. There is a fire station on this site now.

For more information about patent bush hammers made by H.H. Harvey and others, see Joseph Richards and the Patent Hammer.

Augusta, ME 1878; number 23 is H.H. Harvey (right side) 
H.H. Harvey stone hammer
The Granite Cutters' Journal 1912

Friday, October 23, 2015

Gauging Trowels

Tyzack gauging trowel
In the plastering trade, gauging means mixing specific proportions of plaster or cement with water. It has also meant a particular mix of plaster, which might be called the gauge, and a gauge board would be used for mixing plaster.

The gauging trowel is a versatile tool used by plasterers for  mixing (gauging) small amounts of plaster, pulling plaster out of a bucket, and occasionally for applying small amounts of plaster to a wall or surface.

WHS gauging trowel
One of the best books on decorative plastering, Plastering, Plain and Decorative, by William Millar, 1905, refers to 2 sizes of gauging trowels. The smaller one was like a pointing trowel, 6 by 3 inches, with a point. The larger one was 7 to 9 inches long by 3 to 3½ inches, tapering to a round tip.

The modern gauging trowel is sized in between those, with a round end. Gauging trowels are manufactured on both sides of the Atlantic, but a comparison of UK eBay and US eBay shows that old gauging trowels are much more common in the United Kingdom. This is a result of plastering being more common in the UK than the US.
Plastering Plain & Decorative, William Millar 1905