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Thread: Time Capsule

  1. #1
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    Time Capsule

    A couple of weeks ago we were all discussing how many sets of chisels we all had. That got me thinking (a dangerous pastime) about the first set of chisels I ever bought. It was Christmas, 1984 and I came home from College with the 1984 Woodcraft Catalog with items circled as part of my Christmas list, annually passed around to relatives. I had circled virtually everything in the catalog from an awl for a few bucks to a Lion Miter Trimmer for just over $200.

    My family didn't get their act together to order from the catalog, so they took up a collection, wrapped up the catalog and an envelope of cash (about enough for the Lion Miter trimmer) and let me pick out what I wanted. By the time I got back to college, the pizza and beer tax had whittled down this ponderous sum to just over $100.

    On my list was a set of chisels and a block plane, a set of palm carving tools (swiss made) and with the couple of bucks I had left I threw in an awl.

    I remembered wanting a set of Stanley No. 40s, but they were more than double the price of the set of Woodcraft Branded Chisels, and would leave me little to buy the other items. So I went with the Woodcraft paring chisels. This was well before Woodcraft sold Chinese tools under the Wood River brand. The chisels were likely English, Spanish, or by some other European Manufacturer. They are very nice, take and hold a good edge and I've used them regularly for nearly 40 years. But I still longed for a set Stanley 40s, which I just bought, new in the pouch a set of six. They're beauties.

    Anyway, I got thinking about that first year I really got into hand tool woodworking and how I used to browse through the Woodcraft, Garrett Wade, and Silvo tool catalogs. So, on a whim I tried looking up available old catalogs online, mostly to reminisce. While there are a lot of old catalogs available online, they are mostly manufacturer's catalogs (Stanley, Sargent, etc.) not retailers.

    So I tried eBay and sure-enough I found a copy of the very same catalog I had circled all those years ago. I just received it. What a trip down memory lane! I pieced together that first order and it came out to about $106.00. It's amazing that you could still buy pretty good, American, English, and European tools back then. This was before LN and LV and all the premium tool companies of today. The most expensive bench plane in the catalog was a Primus wooden jointer at $89.95. The most expensive plane of all was a Record Combination Plane at $129.95

    Now all I need is a time machine...

    WC-1984.jpg

    WC-1984-2.jpg

  2. #2
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    Now all I need is a time machine...
    Me too!

    There were some old 1980s era Woodcraft around here. Not sure if they still are.

    jtk
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

  3. #3
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    Those all got a lot of my money then and the decade before. Silvo Hardware got the most by far. I still have all of the tools and still use them. There were a few others too. Id love to have a Silvo hardware catalog from 1976.

  4. #4
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    Stanley no. 40s are still some of my favorites. I have a bunch.

  5. #5
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    Found Silvo catalogs from 1979 on eBay. Thanks for this. Will bring back lots of good memories.

  6. #6
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    I have some woodcraft catalogs from the 70's. Back when it was just the one store in Mass. I haven't thought of Silvo for a long time. 1977 or 78 one day we got rained out at work so my friend and I drove up to Silvo to look around and buy some tools. We get there and it's just a small room. I asked "where is the showroom". the guy said "we don't have one". I turned the catalog over and pointed to the blurb that said over x amount of warehouse and showroom space. With a straight face he tells us "it say we have space for one, not that we have one". They were great. Pretty funny. They brought out anything we wanted to see and we each got some stuff. Now trying to find our way out of Philly to get home was a whole other thing. Great memories.

  7. #7
    Many years ago (45+) I lived in Arlington Mass about a 15 minute drive from the only Woodcraft store in Woburn Mass. I tried sometimes successfully, sometimes not, to stay away from the store. It was horrendous temptation and one which I could ill afford when raising a family. I particularly remember the Ulmia benches sold for abound $250-400 depending on style and size. Back then I also received the Garrett Wade catalog but tended to buy from Woodcraft instead because of no shipping charges and I could go into the store and actually put my hands on the tools. I still have and use my 6 piece Swiss Made beginners carving set with the handles factory dyed a mahogany color. They cost me $40 back around 1980 and currently sell for $219.95.
    Dave Anderson

    Chester, NH

  8. #8
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    Leichtung was another catalog. I bought my little Lervad workbench from them for $199 with free shipping in 1977 from a mid Winter sale flyer. It was the first time I had ever seen free shipping.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  9. #9
    I walked into Silvo Hardware on a rainy day in the fall of 1976. It was a room about 8x10 with a few chairs, a coffee table and a few catalogs. I tried to buy a 78 rabbet plane but they didn't seem to have one.

    I did buy Henry Taylor carving tools in that era: $6 a piece for unhandled tools.

  10. #10
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    It's raining here in CT. I can't work outside, so I took out the tools that I bought from that 1984 woodcraft catalog. They are all still in regular use! The small ECE wedged block plane less so than the others, repeated flattening of the sole (on a belt sander...) has opened the mouth enough that I need to inlay a block to close it up a bit. The item next to the awl is a little sheath I made for it so I wouldn't get stabbed every time I was looking for something in open tool tote. The palm carving tools, were the first carving tools I ever had. I bought them to do a small shell carving on a fireplace screen, made as a gift for my mother-in-law. Came out pretty well for a first carving. I've since added more carving tools to my kit. Hundreds.

    I arranged them "artfully" on my old Sjobergs bench, bought later that year after I left college early to take a "real job" and had some money (before kids), and snapped a picture.

    WC 1984-3.jpg

  11. #11
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    The 1979 Silvo Hardware catalog came today from ebay. Looking through it, I feel like I must have been one of their best customers in the 1970's. That was when I was still single and had started building new spec houses in 1974. I bought most of my power tools from them as well as all sorts of other tools. I don't know what I would have done without catalogs back then. The only other place I had to buy tools were local building suppliers. That was a couple of decades before the internet, and longer before we had box stores, so the only way to learn about what tools were available was from catalogs. I was spending a large part of the money I made on tools back then, and still have and use most of them. What woodworking books I had came out of those catalogs too.

    I first found out about the catalogs from the Whole Earth Catalog, and ordered by first sharpening stones from the WEC over the phone.

    I have a Leichtung catalog coming from back then too. I expect the catalog stores knew me by name back then.

  12. #12
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    The late 1970's Leichtung catalog came today. The standard price of the little 5' Lervad bench was $259, so I'm thinking I remembered the sale price of $199 to be correct. It's paid for itself many times over since 1977.

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