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.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Lohmann & Co. German Export Trowels

Lohmann & Co. logo
Lohmann & Co. was a tool manufacturer and exporter in Bremen, Germany. Lohmann was founded about 1891, and their logo was a double bullock (ox). The pages below are from an undated Lohmann catalog from the interwar period. The complete 230-page catalog shows that Lohmann was able to make all types of hand tools, and to reproduce popular tools from countries to which they were exporting, including Britain and the United States.


Saturday, July 9, 2016

"The Illustrated Sheffield List" by Edward Brookes, Sheffield

The Illustrated Sheffield List, published in 1871 by Edward Brookes, is one of the oldest English tool and machinery catalogues available on the internet. It was digitized by Google from the library of Oxford University and is available on the Internet Archive.

Also, I have downloaded and edited it down to the pages with trowels and masonry tools. Some pages only have one masonry tool, others have several. The entire index is included should you want to refer to the full copy on the Internet Archive.

I have not been able to find a history of Edward Brookes on the internet, but the firm bears a close similarity to Samuel Newbould and Co., as described on Grace's Guide.

Monday, July 4, 2016

History of Vlchek Tool Co.

Vlchek Tool Co. of Cleveland, Ohio is best-known for wrenches and its private-label manufacturing of Craftsman hand tools for Sears & Roebuck. Frank J. Vlchek (born František J. Vlček 4 Jan. 1871, died 10 June 1947) began in 1895 "making and sharpening tools for stonecutters and masons. By 1909 the firm was shipping hammers, wrenches, and stone cutters' tools throughout the country." Brick hammers and scutches continued to be part of Vlchek's product line until the end. The 1907 advertisement shows an F.J. VLCHEK stamp, and later tools are stamped VLCHEK.

As his business grew, Frank Vlchek was able to streamline his production lines to produce good quality tools at the lowest cost. This efficiency was the key to his success with Sears, auto makers and other large buyers. In 1959 Vlchek Tool Co. was sold to Pendleton Tool Industries Co., which merged with Ingersoll-Rand in 1964. In 1969 Ingersoll closed Vlchek's E. 87th plant, laying off 275 employees.

Vlchek's shops and plants were at these Cleveland addresses:
The Bricklayer, Mason & Plasterer, 1907
279 Lincoln Ave., occupation listed as tool dresser in 1896
1537 Central Ave., built in 1903, street was later renumbered
8017-8023 Central Ave. in 1909
10709 Quincy Ave., Google Street View below
1950 West 12th St., land purchased in 1917
3001 East 87th St.

The site Alloy Artifacts has a detailed history of Vlchek.

Vlchek 24 oz brick hammer HL240

Vlchek brick hammers 1938

Building Age, 1917
Remains of 10709 Quincy Ave. plant

Vlchek's last plant, 3001 East 87th St.

History of Ennis Manufacturing Co. and Vernontown Tools

Ennis catalog cover
Organized 24 Dec. 1929, Ennis Manufacturing Co. took over the factory of Reading Saddle & Manufacturing Co., 316 Maple St., Reading, PA. John L. Ennis had been one of the organizers of Reading Saddle in 1900. By 1944 Ennis had moved to 8th and Oley Streets, Reading.

Ennis made many of the hardware specialties that Reading Saddle had made, with fewer cast iron items and more forged steel tools. The quality of Ennis products ranged from low to average, for the household market. Later Ennis items carried the brand name Vernontown Tools. These included average quality concrete and plaster finishing trowels in carbon steel and stainless steel, guaranteed against blade breakage. Both Ennis and Vernontown items have a logo of "NS" in a diamond, a phonetic rendering of "Ennis".

Ennis's building was damaged by fire 28 Jan. 1969, but the company continued operating for an unknown time. The Vernontown trademark was taken over by Barco Industries for "masonry tools; namely, margin trowels, pointing trowels, brick trowels, plastering trowels, spreaders, floats, putty knives, linoleum knives, scrapers, groovers, edgers, and tampers."  The Vernontown trademark was cancelled 21 Feb. 2004. Barco history is covered at Yesteryears Tools.

Vernontown stainless steel plastering trowel 11'' X 4.5 ''

History of Reading Saddle & Manufacturing Co.

Hardware Dealers' Magazine 1913 (note misspelling)
Hardware Dealers' Magazine 1922
Reading Saddle & Manufacturing Co. was one of many U.S. makers of cast iron cement tools at the beginning of the 20th century. They were organized in 1900 to take over the American Saddle Company's works, which made bicycle saddles. They occupied a 2-story brick plant surrounded by housing in the industrial city of Reading, Pennsylvania. The 45 by 60 foot building at 316-318 Maple St. was built for Reading Nickel Plating & Electrical Co., founded in 1883, which did electroplating and manufactured electric motors and dynamos and sold those made by others. American Saddle may have replaced the electrical side of the business before closing. Reading Saddle & Manufacturing's organizers included one of the plating company's officers, and Reading continued to operate the metal plating side of the business. Their cement tools were nickel plated.

By 1922, Reading Saddle & Manufacturing Co. had expanded their plant to 316-332 Maple St., and added a weeding hoe, block planes, and a hacksaw to their large line of hardware specialties. Specifically, this included box and can openers, butcher knives, carpet stretchers, cast hammers, cement tools, chisels, clamps, cleavers, coat and towel hooks and racks, glue pots, hatchets, ice picks, levels, lunch boxes, pincers, pliers, plumb bobs, pulleys, putty knives, sad iron handles, screwdrivers, shears, spading forks, tongs, vises, wall scrapers, window sash hardware, and wrenches. Reading Saddle's products may be identified with these variations in spellings and letter spacings:

Reading Saddle #63 curbing edger 
R.S. & MFG. CO.
R. S. & MFG. CO.
Reading Saddle & Mfg. Co.

The 1929 Reading city directory lists Reading Saddle at 316 Maple St. By the end of 1929 Ennis Manufacturing Co., which also manufactured hardware specialties, had replaced Reading Saddle at 316 Maple St. John L. Ennis had been one of the organizers of Reading Saddle in 1900.

Reading, PA was also the location of the larger and older Reading Hardware Co., which had no known connection with Reading Saddle.

Reading Saddle & Mfg. Co. Cement Tools

Reading Saddle #2 edger, nickel plated