The Summer (July) Brimfield Fair.  Wednesday, July 13, 2011

It was another warm, sunny day at Brimfield.  The Wednesday schedule involves the opening of three fresh fields--New England Motel at 6:00am, Heart of the Mart at 9:00am, and Jean Hertans at noon.  In my experience tool finds at all three fields tend to be spotty, and especially with the smaller dealer population at the July show, nice tools can be scarce.  That dreary expectation certainly held true for the first two fields this morning, and the last field to open, Jean Hertan's, helped a bit, but it was still a modest buying day.

Waiting for the New England Motel gates to open I had the good fortune to run into John Viera, a former student of mine and one-time member of oldtools.  John still buys tools, but is most interested in ephemera.  He finds some nice catalogs and other neat paper.  One of the joys of Brimfield is to touch base with old friends and colleagues.

When the gates opened, I trudged around the field (down maybe 30% from the dealer count in May), and had a tough time locating a single tool worthy of purchase.  Finally I spotted a large sailor's fid, and a small but shapely anvil, and in desperation bought both, even though the cost was a bit uncomfortable.  The dealer was known to me, and I had brought along a couple of knives that I knew this guy liked--so the trade managed to take some of the sting out of the cost.  Not tool long after that I found a nifty tool in the unlikely booth of a furniture dealer.  It was ornate, hand forged, and very decorative.  I would describe it as a pliers-vise, but one person thought that it might have been a screw mold.  Here's a picture:

It definitely was a neat thing.  A second pass around the field turned up a few more things.  First was a robust MF772 brace with lion chuck, and then a first type Millers Falls small block plane.  And that's about it.  I liked the pliers vise so much that I carried over to a dealer from Maine who likes these things.  True enough, he liked it, and had just bought a mackerel plow from another customer.  Well, I like mackerel plows, and we did a nice swap, with some cash involved as well.  So my fairly meager take from New England Motel is shown below.

Before Heart of the Mart opened at 9am, I took  little walk around one of yesterday's fields, and managed to find an overlooked Stanley 4C plane of WWI vintage in decent condition, so that went into the bag.  When Heart of the Mart opened, again there was a long hiatus before tools appeared.  First was a Goodell-Pratt push drill in one of its many forms, and then a decent Stanley double beam mortise gage.  The search was somewhat noteworthy for some pricey spoke shaves being offered for sale.  These included a curved bottom spoke shave from a Massachusetts maker at $100, and a small Sheffield shave marked at $125.  At last I found a dealer with a few decent tools.  These included a gigantic cooper's bung starter mallet, that I really liked, two crispy Stanley No. 5 jack planes, and a clock key that I need for one of my tick-tocks at home.  So that was about it for Heart of the Mart--another fairly disappointing day on this field

The final field to open was Jean Hertan's at noon.  This field is a real scramble competition.  The crowd can mingle with the dealers before the opening, but the dealers have to keep their wares covered until the dot of noon--then the scramble begins.  The good side of this is that dealers cannot pick other dealers before the show starts.  The usual strategy is to walk the field peeking through tent flaps, and engaging dealers in conversation, hoping to locate those that might have tools.  Since there are no dedicated tool dealers on this field, it is very much a crap shoot.  Today I was lucky enough to locate a spot with some likely tools, and at the bell was waiting for the dealer to open up.  So within just a few minutes I had claimed a nice 3" slick with good handle, a large Underhill framing chisel, a signed and dated machinist's hammer, a decent curved bottom spoke shave, a Worcester wrench and a small Stearns spoke shave.  Best of all, the prices were discounted to a reasonable range.  A further walk through the field produced a group of three Barton crank necked chisels, a clean MF breast drill, and a very unusual handled hollow auger that cuts a tenon about 1 inch in diameter.  A bit more walking produced nothing further, so I went back to the original dealer and bought a nice Douglass framing chisel and a hefty brass plumb bob that weighs more than 3 1/4 lbs.  So altogether, this field made the day more of a success than it started out to be.

Tomorrow sees the opening of just one new field--Mays at 9am.  I will be there with my wife along for the excitement.  Then we meet my sister for lunch in Sturbridge.  It should be a good day.