The Summer (July) Brimfield Fair.
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Always the hottest, stormiest, and most uncomfortable of the
three annual Brimfield Fairs, the July meeting is known for its reduced dealer
enlistments, and smaller crowds. The only mitigating factor (for us dirty
old men) is that the young ladies are attired in the skimpiest costumes, and
this more than atones for the hot and uncomfortable weather. Today, the
opening of the July edition of the Brimfield Fair held true to two of above
axioms, sans only the stormy weather. Yes, it was sunny and hot (but with
a refreshing breeze at times), and yes, there was abundant female flesh in
evidence so the day was not bad, at all. The dealer population was down by
at least 40 or 50 percent compared to May, but the buyer crowd was also reduced,
and that sort of reduced the competition, so to speak. I left the house a
little earlier than normal (3:15 am), and a good thing too. There was an
unannounced detour getting onto the interstate, which caused an unexpected trip
through the wilds of Fall River, Mass, and eliminated an expected early arrival.
But I arrived at 5am sharp, getting a primo parking space.
My first field is always "The Meadows" on Tuesday, and even
before getting to my favorite dealer, I picked up a nice 6" Kimball draw knife.
The favored dealer welcomed me into his tent before he opened, so I was able to
cherry pick his tool finds, and gathered up a couple of 18th century wood
planes, a 6" B&S combo square, ratcheting corner brace, and No. 95 Stanley edge
trimming block plane, and two interesting small squares. Both of these had
ebony handles. One, a 3" try square is unmarked, and probably English.
The other is a Winterbottom's patent try mitre square with two patent dates, and
is the first Stanley square I can remember seeing with an ebony handle.
With these tools in tow a further walk through the field
produced minty examples of Stanley 151 and 63 shaves, and a funky--apparently
cut down--version of an early L.L. Davis wooden level. These things are
early, and not particularly common, so it is an interesting find. This
just about closed out this field, so the tools were unloaded into the truck, and
my path led me East, toward the Sturbridge end of the Fair. This first
group of tools is shown below.
My journey to the East produced zip in the way buyable tools. So, with a
wasted hour behind me, I worked back West, finding some of my usually productive
honey holes non-existent, and garnered only common Stanley folding rule, a
Millers Falls jack plane with rosewood handles, and decent mitre jack worth
buying. This trip extended all the way to the western boundary of the
Fair, and it was surely depressing to go so far for so little. The only
positives were meeting up with a good bunch of other tool seekers, and chatting
with them. They professed the same results as me (but you really can't the
tool guys that much!)--so tools seemed to be scarce. Since it was getting
onto 9 am, I unloaded my pitiful findings in the truck, and then headed back to
where I started for a second perusal of the same ground. Here are the few
products of a couple of hours of walking
Back in the Meadows Field, my luck quickened, and in pretty
short order I picked up three wooden planes, including a nifty apple compass
plane, a 1/8" grooving plane with flat chamfers, and shapely stair builder's saw
that will clean to be quite nice. The dealer was quite interesting
in my take on these tools, as he didn't know a lot about them, and the result
was that a good deal was forged. Further on, another dealer I'd visited
earlier, had a pile of nice hammers, but my object was a unique Cooper's
hoop driver. We closed a deal on that, plus a Stanley (England) router
plane in its box with all the parts. Finally I went back to the dealer
where I started, and relieved him of two wonderful saws the he had. One
was a very crispy Atkins, and the other a thumbhole D-8 with 4 1/2 tpi rip
filing. I was happy to get these, and head back to the truck for some more
unloading and a refreshing cold beer.
Refreshed, it was time to head back to the west on Rte 20 for
the opening of two new fields (Dealer's Choice) at 11am, and Brimfield North at
1pm. These are historically spotty fields for tools, and with the day's
reduced dealer participation there wasn't much hope for a big score here.
These fields, however, are pretty rich in dealers that have scrimshaw, and
nautical things, so at least I could count on looking at some interesting, if
pricey pieces. True to form, there wasn't much in the way of tools at
Dealer's Choice. I picked up only a JE Childs (RI) side bead plane, and a
12" no 10 Stratton Bros level (from a scrimshaw dealer--he gave me a good
price), but there was lots of time to chat, and line up some customers for some
of my nautical things. By the time Brimfield North opened, I was pretty
beat from the heat and all the walking--hey, I'm 72 years old, and have had two
heart attacks. Again, there were minimal decent tools on this field, but I
did buy a Stanley No. 90 marking gage IOB, a No. 98 side rabbet in wonderful
condition, and a newish brass bodied instrument maker's plane with ebony wedge.
This added to a neat walrus ivory bodkin finished the purchases for the day.
So, with these tools in tow, it was back to the truck for the
1.5 hour drive home, and some time to relax before heading back to Brimfield
tomorrow for the opening of three new fields.
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