Today, May 12, 2009 was the first day of the Spring session of Brimfield. At daybreak the "constantly opened fields" are available, with dealers opening their tents as they awake. At 4:45 am (when I get there) it is pretty dark, and a flashlight is a necessity for peering into the dark corners of dealers tents. I've found that the ideal flashlight setup is one of the LED lights that straps over the head, sort of a miner's light setup.  These are popular with trout fishers for tying flies onto tippets in low light (dawn and dusk) situations.  Mine has several settings (bright, diffuse, green) and I find it exceptionally useful to use, allowing both hands to manipulate tools being considered.   Iíll wear a long sleeve shirt, ready to peel it off to a tee shirt as the day warms. Good walking shoes, shorts, a baseball cap, and a light backpack with extra tote bags complete the uniform.

Today I started at the Quaker Acres field, and visited dealers who have had tools in the past.  As soon as I started, two other tool guys showed up, so it was apparent that this would be a competitive day.  My first dealer stop was aborted, since he wasn't yet open--but around the corner I found a MF #5 drill in decent condition for a good price.  Casting about the field as dealers opened their tents, I drew a blank until getting to the originally intended guy.  He didn't have too much, but I bought a Kimball & Talbot registering caliper, in the largest size (which is not common).  Around the corner, another dealer had a Lufkin catalog at a decently low price.  I like to buy these as references to keep on my shelf.  When leaving the field, an unusual tool caught my eye.  It can be described as a goose-wing hewing hatchet, with original offset handle.  A nail-pulling slot in the blade suggests work as a shingling tool.  It is old, hand forged, and has a couple of unreadable touchmarks.  I think it is nice.

A walk across the street to "Central Park", and then the "Meadows" was not too productive--just a decent Greenlee draw knife.  Returning to Central Park, I found a familiar dealer open and managed to buy a complete Stanley 78 plane in a ratty box, and an unusual (for me) a Stanley No. 0 level in its original box in pristine condition.  To this was added to another nice tool, a mint Starrett combo square with protractor  It was a product of Stanley's Roxton Pond manufacturing site in Canada.  On the way back to the truck I found a bunch of tools in a roadside stand, and took a tough bargaining position, garnering another No. 78, one of the uncommon Sherman pocket levels in great condition, a Stanley 80M scraper, and a crispy Gladwin & Appleton boxed ogee molding plane.  The dealer quoted a decent price, but being contrary, I got him to come down a bit more.

After unloading these tools at the truck (it was now 7am) I moved to the east to the first fields that you meet when traveling west on rte 20 coming through Brimfield.  After looking at some way overpriced whalebone items, it did buy a small chest of caulking and shipwrights' tools, including a decent wooden needle case, and copper ladle.  It was ok for the price, but a brute to carry.  So stashing it with the dealer, I walked the field, finding only a Simonds saw with good etch that will clean, and then a crispy and old Stanley No. 15 block plane.  After picking up the chest, again I retreated to the truck, and then headed west to look at the fields at that end of the fair. 

There were lots of dealers today, with even a new field developing west of Heart of the Mart.  Not too many tools showed up, but I did pick up another complete No. 78 and a mitre jack that needs some help, but the price was right, and a nice Wilkinson folding draw knife.  Tom, a friend from central Mass. sold me a common Stanley 62 rule in very nice condition.  By this time the first field of the day, "Dealers' Choice" was due to open, so I joined the crowd.  If there were a lot of dealers, there were even more customers.  I think this was about the most crowded that I've seen Brimfield--and most people were buying!

Making two turns around the field, I picked up (in no order), two Cantello folding draw knives, a simple race knife, and a small chisel with a complex patterned pewter ferrule. Next came a set of John Mosley plough plane irons, and then a lot of talk with other dealers and customers.  In the middle I bought a large, very primitive sword or agricultural knife, that spoke to me.  It was a fun time.  After an hour and a half of this, the final field to open was "Brimfield North" at 1 pm.  This is a large field, and takes some walking to cover it.  Near the start I saw one dealer with some nice things, but high prices, so I moved on to find, close by, a good Mathieson Scottish brace with ebony handle.  It will clean up nicely.  This was followed at another dealer's space with a small pile pile of tools, including a fine MF No. 24 plane (Stanley No. 8 equivalent), MF No. 1 shave, Starrett 6" combo square, and a pair of small boxwood planes by Sanborn & Gouch.  This is a three star maker from Worcester, Mass, and the pair included a steel-bottom compass plane, and a flat steel-bottom plane, each only 5 1/4" long.  They spoke to me.

Now carrying a load, I went back to the earlier dealer, and negotiated for a Millers Falls No. 140 ratchet corner borer brace (an uncommon tool) and a large mallet with ebony head, brass rings, and an elaborately turned rosewood handle--a showy mallet!  This was enough for the day, and with the sky threatening I trudged the long path back to the truck carrying three draw knifes, a mitre jack, MF No. 24 plane, sword and other assorted tools.  It was a trek, but a good day.  Tomorrow gets underway when the New England Motel field opens at 6am.  I'll be there.