Today, July 14, 2009 was the first day of the July session of Brimfield. At daybreak the "constantly opened fields" are available, with dealers opening their tents as they awake.  Yesterday I spent a happy day preparing for the week.  Money was gotten from the bank (most Brimfield dealers deal in cash, and eschew checks or credit cards, except for big ticket items), the truck gassed up, and all the gear assembled.  This included stowing rain gear in the truck, along with bottled water, back pack with extra tote bags, some reference books, cell phone and camera.  I set up the coffee pot and breakfast, ready for a 3:00am wakeup and 3:30 departure.  Right on schedule I reached the parking lot at about 4:50 am, and soon started to hear stories of a very active speed trap in Sturbridge, just off the Mass Turnpike.  At least 3 guys that I know had been ticketed between 4:30 and 5:00 in Sturbridge for doing 40 in a 30mph zone.  The tickets were not trivial--ranging from $100 to $150 dollars.  Fortunately, I'm a slow driver!

Today, as usual, I started at the Quaker Acres field, and visited dealers who have had tools in the past.   My first dealer stop was with a guy that I've bought a lot of things from in the past.  This time he didn't have much new in the way of tools, but game me a great deal on a 4' model of a New Jersey marsh skiff (the dealer is from Atlantic City) that had been made in the 1940s.  It is wonderfully made, cedar planks screwed to the ribs with the smallest brass screws you are likely to, and with the frames arching across to provide a foundation for deck planking.  It is probably a model of a skiff meant for rail bird shooting, or shellfishing.  I was happy to get it.  The only tool I bought from him was a Yankee No. 35 with the uncommon conical thumb protector.  With no other decent tools appearing in this field, I wandered south to the Crystal Brook and Mahogany Ridge fields.

Here too, tools were pretty scarce, after passing some over priced block planes I did pick up a decent Starrett adjustable square, and a Stanley 58 rule.  It did not look like a good day!  Of course there were lots of tools about, but many were in marginal condition, or just over priced.  Years ago, I might have bought some of them.

So I walked back west to  "Central Park", where I got side tracked into looking through piles of old French engravings and lithographs.  Recently I bought a great example of an early English whaling lithograph, so I was hungry for more.  I didn't find any direct whaling prints, but I did get 7 or 8 engravings from a European book that had depictions of stranded whales, and a number of ship board scenes of 18th century sailors parcelling rope, mending sails, and pitching hove down sailing ships.  These were well worth the money, so I bought them, and carried them back to the truck.  The next step was to head back to my starting place to pick up my boat model.  En route I went into a dealer's tent that had a lot of fishing gear and some other sporting stuff.  A signed etching by Roland Clark of a single Bob White quail caught my eye.  I've seen Clark's signed etchings of ducks sell at auctions in the $300 to $350 range.  This dealer quoted  price of $75, which was quite attractive, but when I balked, he asked me to make an offer.  $50, I sez, and then we settled on $55.  It will hang in my library.  On the way back, I found a nice Stanley 9 1/2 block plane.


After carrying the boat model and the etching to the truck, I started west again, through the Meadows and beyond, down Rte 20.  Not too much to report.  I did pick up a decent unmarked ogee molding plane and a small Bedortha Bros plumb and level.  A dealer friend is doing a study of Bedortha levels, and has asked me to pick up any that I see.  This one is in great condition, and when I see him at his booth tomorrow, we'll do a little trading.  At one dealer, I made quite a pile of Starrett machinist tools in the box, but the dealer quoted a price that was twice what I'd hoped. So they went back on the shelf.  So, with few tools in the bag I ate a bit of lunch and got ready for the opening of Brimfield North field at 11:00am.

Brimfield North was sparsely filled with dealers (July is always a poorly attended show), and with a plethora of tool guys waiting for the gates to open, I figured that it didn't look good for my chances in this field.  But the Gods were kind, and not long after enduring the opening rush, I found a box of tools that included a couple of crispy Millers Falls block planes, two MF jacks (one corrugated), a later Stanley 65 marking gage, and some other decent tools.  I held up the block planes, gage, and a jack and asked the dealer for a price, he said the entire box was marked at one price, and then his wife chimed in, "Yes, its $Xy."  The husband corrected her, "No dear, the price is $yX, and you can have the entire box for $y0."  Sold--I needed a good deal like that.   The rest of the field brought to light only a brass blacksmith's rule and a fine Stanley jack plane.  But I did also buy a baleen busk, scrimshawed with eagles, ships, and "Sperm Whaling."  It was kind of nice for the money.

After carrying this load all the way back to the truck (about 3/4 mile) I returned for the 1:00 pm opening of Dealer's Choice field at 1:00.  This field also was pretty much a bust for tools.  Right off the bat I bought an unusual larger mallet, and then walked for a long time before finding a pair of wire gages on the pattern of  Darling, Brown & Sharp pocket wire gages.  The smaller is marked by the W&M Mfg Co. of Worcester, while the larger one bears the name, "Prentiss / Holyoke."  I've seen the former one before, but not the Prentiss.  With not much hope for more decent tools, I finished this field by purchasing a weird domed box that had applied pieces of bone or walrus ivory on the top and sides, that had been densely scrimshawed by pricking it with a sail needle to make a volcano, two seals, a sailing ship and various decoration.  The bottom and inside had been refinished, and new hardware applied.  But the price was dirt cheap, and it may be an interesting piece.  The long walk back to the truck was broken up by buying some more of the sailing ship engravings, and a boxed set of six Millers Falls Ford bits.

The weather was pleasant today, and the wider net I cast, made it a good one.  Tomorrow three fields open up, starting at 6:00am.  I hope to be there.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Another day dawned bright and cool--uncommon for July--at Brimfield.  The first field to open was New England Motel at 6:00am.  This is usually a mediocre field for me, and today was no exception.  There are just one or two dealers who routinely have tools, and so I made a beeline for the first when the gates opened.  As it turned out, I needn't have been so aggressive, as the number of tool seekers was way down (no Tony Seo, no Walt Quadrato, and virtually none of the other tool regulars but for Phil Whitby).  The the first dealer coughed up relatively few tools, but I did claim a decent Stanley No. 6 with decal on the handle, an uncommon Stearns spoke shave, a newish but perfect Marples mortise gage, and a full original box of six Sargent zinc-coated ZD-30 plumb bobs--something not often encountered.  I passed on a type 3, solid nut Stanley No. 4l plane, which missing a tote and quite rusty did not justify its $120 asking price.

The following hour of walking the field produced nothing more than a nice Stanley hammer and a Goodell-Pratt hand drill.  But it was pleasant to chat with old friends, and poke through piles of "stuff".  Maybe the most bizarre thing that I saw was a full size chair, with legs and seat frame made with welded together chain saw blades, and a seat back made from a fan of welded-together hand saws.  It put painted saws to shame!

With some time to kill until Heart of the Mart field opened at 9:00 am, I unloaded at the truck, and then hiked out to the west end Brimfield to visit a dealer that yesterday had a Westmorland milk glass candy dish that I saw yesterday, and which my wife had some interest.  Alas, the dealer had departed, but the exercise was good for me!

At 9am Heart of the Mart opened to a reduced dealer population and warm, sunny skies.  Usually this field doesn't cough up much in the way of tools, but today that form didn't hold.  Right away I found a table with some overpriced things at one end, and some decent ones at the other--go figure.  At the decent end I piled up a type 1 No. 48 match plane in great condition, a couple of carriage makers wooden planes, and small endearing wood smooth plane, a nice Beatty & Son slick with original handle, and a couple of screwdrivers.  This was enough to weigh down the  backpack.  Then, a few dealers further on I piled up a couple of more carriage makers planes, a Killam adjustable sash plane, and an uncommon  Stanley No. 65 3/4 marking gage.  This is the one with the pencil holder and is in the desirable boxwood configuration. So the bag was getting heavier!  Traversing the diminished field I spent some time at a dealer who specialized in marine, nautical and scrimshaw stuff, and chatted about the state of the scrimshaw world.  It was a nice conversation.

My final stop for the field was at old gent's stand who hales from Connecticut and who routinely overcleans his tools and over prices his metal planes.  As usual his planes were high (Stanley No. 8 @ $245) but I did garner good deals on a Witherby slick, Stanley try square, GP small ratchet screw driver, nifty black smith hammer, Decatur Coffin screw driver, another uncommon Stanley marking gage (No. 265), a great boxwood calipers, a C. Disston saw knife, and a French-made 3' 2-fold blind man's rule.  With this loot it was time to return to the truck, unload and return to the field. 

The object now was not to buy tools, but to sell them.  So I took a whalebone smooth plane, gotten a while back from a local picker, to the scrimshaw guy and he immediately bought it for more money than I've spent this week.  It was a day maker!

The last field today, Jean Hertans at noon, was a bit of a disappointment.  Not much in the way of tools at all.  I did buy a French-made alidade rule and level, and a neat craftmans-made plumb and level with a plumb mounted on the side and a couple of neat heart-shaped stamps, and a Disston No. 7 hand saw..  The last purchase was not a tool, but a A. Pope Jr. chromolithograph of a pair of Mallard ducks.  I already have the American Widgeon and Redhead Duck examples from the same series.  So now I have a collection!

Tomorrow sees the Mays Field open at 9am.  I can sleep in for a bit in the morning and join in the hunt once again.