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 29, 2016

History of W.S. Godwin Co.


W.S. Godwin edger and groover
W.S. Godwin manufactured road contractor's tools, equipment, and supplies from about 1897 to after 1950, with a break in the late teens. The businesses were named for William Selby Godwin (1875-1944), a mechanical engineer and inventor from Philadelphia, PA. Their line included a variety of cement tools designed for street and sidewalk work.

W.S. Godwin & Company was making cement worker's tools in Philadelphia in 1898. Godwin also sold asphalt tools and machinery beginning in 1899 from New York City. While in Philadelphia, he invented a brick and block molding machine, and filed for a US patent in 27 Jan. 1903.

He closed the Philadelphia business and moved to New York City to manufacture the molding machine with a partner, as  American Block Press Company of Brooklyn, NY. In a 1904 professional directory, he was listed as general manager of that business. Godwin recommended the machine for asphalt paving bricks. The most famous American street still paved with asphalt bricks is Monument Avenue in Richmond, VA, paved from 1907 to 1910.

American Block Press Co. either failed or was renamed, because Godwin sold paving machinery from New York as W.S. Godwin for about 10 more years. By 1918, he had left New York, and was chief engineer for the International Steel Tie Co. of Cleveland, Ohio. Godwin continued to work on inventions for concrete paving.

By 1920, Godwin had moved to Baltimore, and as W.S. Godwin Company, was making steel paving guards at 2111 Garrison Ave. In 1924 W.S. Godwin was located at W. Race and McComas Sts., Baltimore. Today, 222 W. Race St. in Baltimore houses Schuster Concrete, commercial and industrial construction. W.S. Godwin's steel paving guards catalog is on Archive.org.

Unlike his fellow business owners, William S. Godwin did not put down roots anywhere, and lived in hotels or apartments. He married late, in 1912, to Christine Keller of Brooklyn, and they had 1 child.

William S. Godwin had at least 9 patents relating to paving streets and around railroad and streetcar tracks. All are in his name as the inventor, but the last 3 are not signed by him and are after his death in 1944.

Molding-machine, publication date 28 Feb. 1905
Paving-guard, publication date Dec 9, 1919
Paved railway, publication date Aug 25, 1925
Paved or similar railway structure, publication date May 6, 1930
Curb guard and facing, publication date May 22, 1934
Shield and dowel assembly, publication date Dec 23, 1941
Dowel supporting assembly [for concrete road joints], publication date Jan 25, 1949
Road joint, publication date Apr 14, 1953
Dowel apparatus for paving joints, publication date Oct 30, 1956

William S. Godwin also wrote a poem which was printed in asphalt paving publications in 1901 and 1908, Asphaltina's Soliloquy.

W.S. Godwin groover

W.S. Godwin bronze indent roller

Saturday, December 17, 2016

History of Klein-Logan Co.

Klein-Logan Co. was a Pittsburgh, PA, manufacturer of tools for railroads, paving, blacksmithing, and masonry. The following is from the company's 1944 catalog.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE KLEIN- LOGAN COMPANY

Origin

On July 1st 1868, John C. Klein and Frederick C. Klein, brothers engaged in the manufacture of coal picks, hand shovels, pokers and other small iron items since 1856, took as a third partner Edward P. Logan and continued business under the firm name of Klein, Logan & Co. Because the business was located in Birmingham, at that time a suburb but now that part of Pittsburgh lying along the south bank of the Monongahela River, the Birmingham Tool Works was selected as a descriptive sub-title.

Development

Pittsburgh was not only a railroad center but also the outlet of the product of the western Pennsylvania coal fields, and picks soon became a major item of the new company's products. John C. Klein, the older of the brothers, had an active, inventive mind which he directed to the then most difficult problem in the manufacture of picks— the eye. In 1874 he was granted a patent on a machine for the forging of pick eyes which, while crude and complicated if judged by modern presses, was a definite step forward.

Although soon involved in law suits with local competitors in connection with the eye machine the new firm prospered. John C. Klein, the president, was in charge of operation; F. C. Klein, vice president, in charge of sales; and Edward P. Logan, treasurer, looked after finances. Progress, if slow, was uneventful except for a fire in 1884 which destroyed the plant. Rebuilding and resumption of operations was made possible by a fortunate banking connection, Mr. Logan having been elected a director and vice president of the Iron & Glass Dollar Savings Bank, founded in 1871 to serve the community of Birmingham. At that time it was customary for business men to serve as senior bank officers, giving some time each day to advising and supervising the whole time officers. Mr. Logan served more than fifty years as vice president, president and chairman of the board of the bank. This connection continued after Mr. Logan's death in 1930, a member of the firm replacing him on the board of the bank and the president of the bank serving on the board of the present company.

A Landmark

Sledges, wedges, crow bars, railroad track tools, mining tools and blacksmith anvil tools were early added to the list of products while shovels were dropped shortly after the introduction of natural gas. In 1876 the firm showed its complete line at the Centennial Exhibition at Philadelphia, the sledges and hammers displayed being polished over all instead of on the faces only, the usual commercial practice. The highest award was given when it was shown that the mirror-like finish was not a plating but only highly polished iron and steel. Several of these tools remain today in as perfect condition as when shown 68 years ago.

Incorporation

In 1891, J. C. Klein having retired from active business and wishing to be able to transfer his interest to his children, the firm was incorporated as The Klein-Logan Company. Up to this time a son of F. C. Klein had traveled for the company, covering the entire United States and selling to hardware wholesalers in the larger cities. The appearance of distributors in smaller cities made this no longer practicable and arrangements were made with Surpless, Dunn & Co. of New York, manufacturers' agents handling many non-competitive lines, to sell in the east and middle west. Later Louis Williams & Co. of Nashville took over sales in the south and much later the E. R. Palmtag Co. of San Francisco looked after the territory west of the Rocky Mountains. Dayton, Price & Co. of New York, handled most of the exports, especially in the Far East.

The Future

Throughout the years the company has remained in the hands of the original families, management and more than 99% of the stock being controlled by direct descendants of the founders. The youngest son of John C. Klein, the only son and a grandson of Edward P. Logan now manage the business; another grandson and namesake expects to rejoin when he returns from over-seas service. A granddaughter of F. C. Klein is assistant treasurer, one grandson is shipper and three others hold key positions in production. The policy established by the partners of concentrating on the making of a few tools of the highest quality is the policy of the present management. Although the outside of the building, as shown by the photograph, remains unchanged, constant changes are taking place inside. The tools themselves have changed little in appearance; better methods of manufacture to produce tools of higher quality is and will be our constant aim.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Granite City Tool Co.

Granite City Tool Company is a major tool and machinery supplier to the stone trade. I have scanned Granite Tool's Catalog No. 12, from about 1952, and uploaded it to Archive.org.

Granite City took over making Dallett pneumatic tools in the 1940s. I have also scanned a Dallett Company catalog from the early 1930s, also at Archive.org.

The Google Street View below shows Granite Tool's Barre, Vermont buildings, surrounded by old stone sheds.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

History of Charles H. Besly & Co.

Charles H. Besly & Co. was a manufacturer of foundry molding tools at the turn of the 19th century, with a factory in Beloit, Wisconsin and store in Chicago, Illinois. The company made and sold metal-working tools and machinery, eventually specializing in taps, dies, and grinders.

The following obituary appeared in The Iron Trade Review, 28 Jan., 1909:

DEATH OF C. H BESLY.

Charles Howard Besly, whose death on December 31 last [1908] was noted in The Iron Trade Review of January 7, was founder of the firm of Charles H. Besly & Co., Chicago. He was born in Milwaukee, on June 16, 1852, and had been a resident of Chicago since 1863. He was educated in the high schools of that city and started his business career with Marshall Field & Co. In 1873, he became manager of the Bergen Tool Co., Batavia, Ill., and traveled extensively.  He also was a broker of machinists’ supplies and opened a small store on Lake street, near Clark, Chicago, in 1873. In 1881, the firm of Charles H. Besly & Co. was established at 175 Lake street, being composed of Charles H. Besly and David J. Kennedy. In 1886, Mr. Kennedy retired from the business and the business has since been conducted by Charles H. Besly. In 1891, the business was moved to 10 and 12 North Canal street, where it continued to grow until 1903, when it moved to its own building at 15-21 South Clinton street, where the business is now conducted. In 1886 the Beloit factory was established in a small way for the manufacture of die stocks. This business grew and later its specialties were developed, including Besly disc grinders, Helmet temper taps, etc. At the present time, it occupies its own buildings at Beloit, Wis. The business was left in a strong physical and financial condition. Charles H. Besly & Co., Chicago and Beloit, will be continued as heretofore, under the direction of Edward F. Welles, his nephew, who has been associated with the company for the past 22 years and since 1896 as general manager.

The 1897 Besly Catalogue D is on Google Books, although erroneously labeled as 1908.
Besly advertisement 1914 

Besly molder's square trowel


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Line or Corner Blocks

W. Rose patent line block
Line blocks, also called corner blocks, have been made in a variety of shapes and materials including wood, aluminum, steel, iron, and plastic. The cast aluminum line block below was made by United Builders of Muskegon, Michigan. W. Rose made cast iron corner blocks, on page 24 of their 1929 catalog. The Rose tools were invented by Daniel Lee (1880-1944), an Irish-born bricklayer in nearby Chester, PA, who received US Patent 1066926 on 8 July, 1913.

For a short article on line pins with advertising, Collecting Mason's Line Pins.


United Builders line block

Saturday, November 19, 2016

History of C.H. Baum & Son

Cement World, 1910 
C.H. Baum & Son was in the metal plating, polishing, and buffing business in New Britain, CT, in the early 1900s. New Britain, home of the famous Stanley Works, was a tool-making center. In 1910 Charles H. Baum (born about 1862) and his son Henry C. Baum entered the concrete tool market with cast iron jointers, edgers, and other tools. Baum offered them in polished, nickel plated, and another unspecified anti-rust finish. There is a Baum Peerless No. 3 groover for sale on eBay as of this writing. Baum was advertising concrete tools in the 1913 New Britain city directory, and the electroplating business was in the 1923 directory.

Baum groover
Cement World, 1910



Monday, November 14, 2016

History of Vicker Tools

Vicker Tools ZA is a South African manufacturer of builder's (masonry) tools. Their main facility is in Johannesburg with a smaller plant in Mbabane, Swaziland. Isaac Mijon, an engineer, founded Vicker Tools in the early 1940s, and the business is now run by his son Vic Mijon and grandson Arnry Mijon. Arnry received a Masters in Engineering in Industrial and Systems Engineering from the University of Florida in 1997, then returned to South Africa to work with his father.

Vicker makes brick trowels, plastering trowels, pointing and gauging trowels, moulder's trowels, corner, nosing and jointing tools, line pins, putty knives, and other tools. The tools forged steel and most are in the traditional patterns of the United Kingdom, with one American pattern brick trowel and 3 Continental European trowels.

The London pattern brick trowel has a through tang capped wooden handle. The broad heel New York pattern is made with the through tang capped wooden handle, leather, plastic, and soft grip.

Their current production is marked with labels and do not appear to have a stamp or etching on the steel. The finish appears above anerage, with finer grinding than found in the USA.  

Thank you to a reader, Patrick, for suggesting this company and for the pictures.

Vicker Tool London pattern brick trowel
Vicker forged and ground trowel


 Through tang capped handle

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Cement Tools by Bonney Vise & Tool Works

Bonney No. 9J jointer
Bonney Vise & Tool Works, renamed Bonney Forge & Tool Works in 1921, was a manufacturer of wrenches and other automotive-related hand tools. In the early 20th century they also made what may be the largest known line of cast iron and bronze concrete tools. Their Bonney Cement Tools Catalog No. 19 was issued in 1915, and a scan is at the site Tool Archives. Bonney also made beaders and 6 different indent and grooving rollers, also in iron and bronze. It's unknown when they stopped making masonry tools.

Bonney No. 1CE bronze curb edger
Bonney Vise & Tool Works began in Philadelphia in 1877, and moved to Allentown, PA in early 1909, while retaining a sales office in Philadelphia. The plant was at 716 N. Meadow St., between Tilghman and Green Streets. Bonney remained in Allentown through several ownership changes until the plant closed in 2001. Now called Bonney Forge, the company makes forged industrial valves and pipe fittings instead of hand tools.

Bonney was known for using alphanumeric codes on their tools. Cement tools had a number with one or 2 letters, like 2CE being  a #2 curb edger.

A full article on Bonney and their wrenches is at Alloy Artifacts, another history is on Tool Archives, and a short article is on Wikipedia. The 1919 Bonney Vises & Wrenches Catalog No. 19 and others are on Tool Archives. Bonney's 1967 catalog is on Archive.org.
Bonney advertising sign

Friday, November 11, 2016

History of William Gilpin, Wedges Mills and Churchbridge Works

Trades' Guide, 1879, page 157
William Gilpin was an English tool manufacturer in Cannock, north of Birmingham. The firm operated 2 works near each other, Churchbridge Works and Wedges Mills. Gilpin operated from as early as 1834 to 1946 or later. Grace's Guide has a short page about them. We will try to add to this information.
History, Gazetteer and Directory of Staffordshire, 1834 

Gilpin brick and moulder's trowels
The Churchbridge Edge Tool and Axle Works, Churchbridge, 1926 - Britain from Above

Thursday, October 27, 2016

History of Abram Cement Tool Co.

John Dixon Abram (13 Apr. 1869 - 14 Nov. 1945) was an inventor, manufacturer, and businessman whose Abram Cement Tool Company popularized long-handle concrete finishing tools.

Concrete World, May 1915
Abram Cement Tool Co. was in business in Indiana and Detroit, Michigan from 1915 to about 1933. Their first Detroit location was in 1916 at 29 Woodward Ave., and in July 1921 they moved to 3818 Grand River Ave., about a block from Abram's home. In 1926 they moved to a better location, 2300 Michigan Ave., at the corner of 15th St. The Grand River Ave. building still exists.

Abram Cement Tool Co. building, 2300 Michigan Ave. 

















John's brother Ira Martin Abram (1867-1942) invented the company's long-handled tools with articulating joints. Ira was president of Abram Cement Silo & Construction Co. of Dugger, Indiana, next to Greene County where the Abrams grew up. Abram Cement Tool Co. was established in Dugger, as a successor to Twentieth Century Manufacturing Co., 1651 Lowe St., Chicago Heights, Illinois. Later advertisements do not mention Dugger.
American Builder, Vol. 32 Jan. 1922

John D. Abram had these patents:
Horse collar, US 993,137
Tamping machine, US 1,677,422
Tamping machine, US 1,882,681

Ira M. Abram had these patents:
Trowel attachment, US 1,027,396
Trowel, US 1,074,646 (with Joseph E. Runner)
Surfacer, US 1,590,342

The following biography is from The City of Detroit, Michigan, 1701-1922, Volume 3, 1922.

JOHN D. ABRAM.  In commercial circles of Detroit John D. Abram occupies a foremost position as the head of the Abram Cement Tool Company, engaged in the manufacture of cement finishing tools, a product of his own inventive genius. This is one of the largest industrial enterprises in its lines in the city with a large domestic trade, while its products are also shipped to many European countries. In the control of his interests Mr. Abram has displayed marked executive ability and initiative spirit and success in substantial measure has rewarded his labors. He was born in Greene county, Indiana, a son of Frank H. and Margaret (Christie) Abram and a representative of an old American family. The father at first followed agriculture pursuits and subsequently engaged in the building of bridges in Indiana, attaining a position of prominence in that connection.

Following his graduation from the high school at Worthington, Indiana, John D. Abram there became connected with mercantile interests, with which he was identified for three years, and then went to Nebraska. Locating in Custer county, he acquired a section of land and engaged in stock raising, continuing active along that line for three years. On the expiration of that period he disposed of his interests and erected a hotel in a western town. This he later sold, and removing to Tekamah, Nebraska, he there entered the lumber and coal business, with which he was identified for fifteen years. In 1905 he came to Detroit and was employed by the Pearson & Hough Company until the 1st of May, 1916, when he established his present business as a manufacturer and dealer in cement finishing tools, conducting his interests under the style of the Abram Cement Tool Company, with offices at 3818 Grand River Avenue. These tools are manufactured from Mr. Abram’s own patent and have revolutionized the cement tool business. The prime principle upon which they work is an automatic double action, which presents the tool from digging into the cement. As the value of the output has become recognized his patronage has increased and his trade now covers every state in the Union as well as extending into Canada and many European countries. He has direct exporting connections in New York city and also maintains a direct agency at Dundee, Scotland.  During the progress of the World war Mr. Abram supplied large quantities of those tools to the United States government, having a standing contract to ship a certain quantity of tools monthly, but on the day the armistice was signed he voluntarily stopped work on the contract, thus saving the government additional expense. While engaged in this work he received an unsolicited order from a firm in the Argentine Republic, calling for forth-five thousand dollars worth of cement tools, but fearing that the tools were destined for Germany, Mr. Abram laid the matter before the United States government, which confirmed his suspicions and warmly commended him for his public-spirited action in the matter. It is needless to add that Mr. Abram refused to execute the order, thus giving unmistakable proof of his intense loyalty and patriotism. He is an astute, fair-sighted business man with the ability to control extensive interests and his business activities have ever measured up with the principles of truth and honor.

On the 24th of June, 1897, Mr. Abram was united in marriage to Miss Luella M. Houston and their many admirable traits of character have endeared them to a large circle of friends in this city. They are earnest members of the Christian church and guide their lives by its teachings. Mr. Abram is deeply interested in all that pertains to the welfare and progress of Detroit and is the president of the Builders Show Association, of which he was one of the organizers and which, owing to the liberality of Mr. Abram and other public-spirited citizens, has become a successful and popular institution, although at its inception it experienced many vicissitudes. His connection with any undertaking insures a prosperous outcome of the same, for it is in his nature to carry forward to successful completion whatever he undertakes. His initiative spirit and notable ability have carried him into important relations and while attaining financial independence he has also been a factor in promoting the industrial development of Detroit, in which city he is widely known and highly esteemed.

Engineering & Cement World, 1 Feb. 1918
Abram Cement Tool employees, Stanley Masulis at far left
Thank you for the photographs to the great-grandson of Stanley Masulis, an Abram employee in the 1920s.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

History of A.L. Swett Iron Works

1923 catalog
A.L. Swett Iron Works of Medina, New York, was a foundry which made a variety of cast iron tools, building hardware, and plumbing specialties. Their masonry tools included a brick carrier and several tampers for concrete, gravel, paving, and sod.

Albert Louis Swett (1850-1924) founded the iron works in 1889, when Swett bought out his previous partnership with William H. Samson, known as the Medina Manufacturing Co., then as Samson & Swett from 1873 to 1889.

A.L. Swett 10" x 10" tamper, maple handle
A.L. Swett Iron Works was located at 145 Glenwood Ave., Medina, a short distance from the Erie Canal. Parts of several stone buildings are still standing.

The foundry was run by son Raymond Fuller Swett (1885–1961) after his father's death. The company ceased operating in January 1961, laying off 40 employees, and the corporation was dissolved 10 Feb., 1983.

Swett's 1923 catalog is on Archive.org, but it does not include the brick carrier.      




A.L. Swett brick carrier

Thursday, October 20, 2016

History of J.S. Costello & Son Brush Co.

J.S. Costello & Son Brush Co. of Saint Louis, Missouri, was a manufacturer and dealer of brushes and trowels, particularly for the plastering trade. Founded in 1858 by John Stephen Costello, the company was in business as late as 1966. Management passed to his son Francis Xavier Costello, then to Johns's son-in-law Martin J. Brennan, and next to John S. Brennan.

Costello's 1924 catalog includes trowels and other tools sold under their name and others made by E.C. Atkins & Sons, Marshalltown Trowel, and J. Tyzack.

Catalog of Costello Brushes & Tools for Plasterers, Cementers, Tile Setters, Lathers, Moulders, 1924

The Book of St. Louisans, 1906
Costello 1924 catalog



Costello brush

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Scanned English Tool Catalogues

Sheafbank Works, Sheffield
This site has many scanned English tool catalogues with tools for many trades. Please see the list of links to the right, in alphabetical order. Additional ones are on another site of mine. As of October 2016 I have been adding them to Archive.org.

The ones I have purchased in the US and from the UK and scanned are stored on Google Docs and now Archive.org. A few links are to other people's sites, like Toolemera and WK Fine Tools. Some of my scanned catalogs are on WK Fine Tools also. A few are from a friend in Australia.

These are posted for non-commercial educational purposes for the benefit of tool collectors world-wide, and to promote the firms and brands that are still exist.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Plaster and Stucco Brushes

Flour City Brush Co.
Historically, a variety of brushes have been used in some plaster and stucco finishes, as well as for other purposes in the masonry trades. Here are several from the 1935 Flour City Brush Co. catalog, Minneapolis, MN, and the Goldblatt Tool Co. 1910 catalog.
Flour City Brush Co.

Goldblatt Tool Co. 1910
Goldblatt Tool Co. 1910

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Tools for Concrete Formwork and Rebar

Ideal tie wire reel
The Ideal tie wire reel is the most popular tool of its type, and is made by the Ideal Reel Co. of Paducah, KY. It was invented by George E. Beiderwell, who received US Patent 2683000 on 6 July 1954. His application summarized his invention as follows:

This invention relates to reels for dispensing tie wires and it has for its object to provide an improved type of reel adapted for use by either right or left handed persons and from which short sections of tie wire may be dispensed, for the use of workmen employed in fastening together the elongated steel rods or other shapes used as reinforcing for concrete buildings, bridges or other structures.

This YouTube video shows an Ideal reel: Tying Rebar by Kris Charpentier

Old cast iron and steel form tie wedges
The reusable form tie wedge is another tool for concrete formwork. An early form tie wedge was US Patent 1808912, patented 9 June 1931. The wedges can be cast iron or stamped tempered steel.

An early rebar bender is below. All parts were forged steel, it weighed 200 pounds, and it was bolted to a plank or beam.

Acme Bar Bender, 1910
Please contact me with your information and pictures to add to this article.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

History of Crescent Tool Manufacturing Co. of St. Louis

Gazette of the U.S. Patent Office, 1919
Crescent Tool Manufacturing Co., 1002 Cass Ave., St. Louis, MO, made cast iron and steel cement worker's tools beginning around 1919. A 1920 manufacturer's directory lists Crescent as also making carpenter's tools, caulking tools, and edge tools. Frederick William Grundmann patented an edger with an upturned edge, issued 25 Feb. 1919, US Patent 1295735, assigned to Crescent Tool Manufacturing Co. He was a physician with another masonry tool patent and 2 orthopedic brace patents.

Abraham Backus of St. Louis and his son Charles M. Backus of St. Louis and Alton, IL, were early shareholders and executives of Crescent Tool Manufacturing Co., Missouri Pressed Steel Co., and Savidge Tractor Co.

In 1925 the firm reorganized as Crescent Tool & Manufacturing Co., with Dr. F.W. Grundmann (1858-1927) as president and his son Dr. William H. Grundmann (1901-1994) as vice president.

By 1932, Attilio Marcelli (1885-1964) was running the business, after working there as a machinist. Crescent Tool was listed in St. Louis city directories through 1939.

Crescent Tool No. 70 edger 
Crescent Tool No. 70 edger

Crescent Tool No. 153 edger



Crescent Tool outside corner tool

Monday, September 12, 2016

Hand Powered Masonry Drills

The early hammer drill to the right was sold in the USA by Orr & Lockett Hardware Co. in 1914. The Rawlplug Mechanical Hammer was patented and sold in the UK and manufactured in the UK and Belgium. Another US maker was the Diamond Expansion Bolt Co. of New York City. Their hammer drill was patented by James T. Hoal on 4 August, 1914, U.S. Patent No. 1106306.
Orr & Lockett hammer drill

Rawlplug Mechanical Hammer
Rawlplug Mechanical Hammer

Diamond drill patent

Diamond Expansion Bolt drill, photo by Martin J. Donnelly Auctions