Chris Schwarz's Blog

A Visit to the Famous Maine Tool Barn

toolbarn_brace1_IMG_9890

The first rule of buying old tools: If you think you might buy it, grab it. You can always put it back.

So today I did a dumb thing. I spent a couple hours at the Hulls Cove Tool Barn in Maine with Joshua Klein, a woodworker and furniture restorer. That, however, wasn’t the dumb thing. That was smart – the Tool Barn is a Mecca for woodworkers.

What was dumb was this: I want to replace my trammel points. I own my grandfather’s set, which was given to him by his Japanese hosts when his visited Japan. They are beautiful. But (sorry grandad) they functionally suck eggs. They will not lock on the wooden beam.

toolbarn_front_wall_IMG_9892

So today I saw a nice set of trammels that were locked to a brass bar that was stamped with homemade numerals. It was sweet. I picked up the trammels and pondered the idea of setting my grandfather’s tool aside. It’s a tough decision, so I put the tool back.

Moments later, a blonde in a blue tank top picked them up and showed them to her very cologned man-friend. She made the universal sign for “What the heck is this?” He suggested the tool was something like a compass. She walked off with the trammels.

toolbarn_hammers_IMG_9893

All that was OK. Really. Maybe she had some large arcs to scribe.

But then I heard her talking to someone else. She and the man-friend were pickers from an interior decoration company in Massachusetts. Suddenly I saw (in my mind) the trammels screwed to the wall of a Cracker Barrel.

So I followed her around the store, waiting for her to put the trammels down for a moment. She got a little nervous, I think, then paid for their stuff and left.

toolbarn_clamp_IMG_9896

Aside from losing the trammels, I had a fantastic time at the Hulls Cove Tool Barn. If you want to buy every saw, plane and chisel you need to get started in woodworking, a visit to the Tool Barn will get you set up. The prices are much lower than eBay. And there are about 150 saws to choose from, 200 planes, 1,000 auger bits, 20 braces, a dozen eggbeater drills and thousands of other bits of metal in tool shapes.

Bring a friend who knows tools.

What did I buy? Not much:

1. A Hargrave clamp from the Cincinnati Tool Co. Awesome. ($15)
2. A Millers Falls baby miter box with a cracked casting for $6. (Its parts will upgrade mine.)
3. Two gross of slotted steel screws, Nos. 8 and 10. New in the very old box. ($3)

So even though I didn’t get the trammels, I did walk away happy.

— Christopher Schwarz

toolbarn_bits_IMG_9902

13 thoughts on “A Visit to the Famous Maine Tool Barn

  1. jeberle

    By dumb chance my wife and I were vacationing in the area this week and stopped by. I asked the gentleman if he had a Stanley #48 and went downstairs and come back with a beauty. Two other guys were standing next to me to grab it if I declined and let out a deep sigh when I said SOLD. Bought a mess of other things.
    Great place e and great people.
    Thanks for the heads up.

    Joe

  2. Blue Brummie

    This place is truly phenomenal. Every year we head up to Acadia National Park, and just 2 years ago I became aware of this secreted little shop of delights. Now I have even more reason to make the 6 hour drive up there. Great place, friendly helpers, lots of tools and tool bits to help you restore your own tools (found a nice adjustment knob for my #6 Stanley.

    Go there if you can !!

  3. sepeck

    I wonder if Henry Roubo could have been described as a “very cologned man”

    Out of curiosity Chris, did you make that stool to help you look down your nose at that “blonde in a blue tank top” you then stalked through the store? I mean as a guy I wouldn’t find some tall bearded gent following me around in a store creepy at all. I understand regret but could you not have just asked her if she was going to buy it and told her what it was?

  4. prrk47002

    Jonesport Wood is the link for Hulls Cove Tool.
    Their other physical site is Liberty Tool but that appears to be up for sale. I visited both locations (as well as Lee Neison) last time I was in Maine and can attest to the sheer amount of tools they have. Bought an old Millers Falls miter box I’d been looking for since I hate the big noisy scary power ones.

  5. southbendmodel34

    Did you see the squirrel? I had a close encounter of the Sciuromorph kind up on the second floor of the Hulls Cove Tool Barn. The roaming cat responded PDQ and the squirrel departed the premises. Was quite a surprise to see that furry gray face staring out from among the shelves !

  6. horologist

    Tough lesson.

    Now about your grandfather’s trammels.
    Did he actually use them?
    Perhaps they were useless from day one, but it may be that there is a relatively simple modification or repair that could make them useful. I run into this frequently when buying antique tools or clocks.
    Just a thought, as tools with family history are hard to come by and it is better to make it them work than have your own decorator set.

  7. gumpbelly

    “She got a little nervous, I think,”

    Now I’m not saying you were, but you weren’t walking around rubbing your nipples like you are want to do, were you?

    Whatever the answer is this is the coolest blog posting ever. The Schwarz outdone by a blondie designer chick, and her girlie man parfumed doodette. During (this is where it gets awesome) a tool pick. Maybe it’s just me, but I have laughed……………………………

COMMENT