A historical saw…

Do you know why I love collecting antique hand saws? Because you never know what you’re going to find.

Living in New England as I do provides the most fertile environment for the rabid tool collector (and believe me…tool collecting IS a disease!!!) because these lands are steeped in history. And thusly, the materiel of days gone by are no more present than they are here in the basements and barns of our near lands.

Exhibit A:

A few months ago, in the early days of summer, I was on my way to my wife’s grandparent’s house to help them refinish the oak floors in their living room. While sanding and sanding and sanding and sanding hardwood floors is not the worst way I could imagine spending a beautiful day, it certainly isn’t at the top of my list either, but nonethless I was happy to help (if you’d tasted Nana’s strawberry pie, you’d wanna help too! :o) And most sincerely, strawberry pie was the most I was expecting in the way of gratitude…which would have been more than sufficient.

As I pulled up to the house, I was greeted by Pa in his customarily friendly, “Hi” followed by, “I’ve got something to show you.” Okay I though, not knowing what I was about to behold. As Pa shuffled into the garage and returned with hands full, he said that he had just come home and passed by a yard sale around the corner. At this yard sale, as he continued, the elderly gentleman was selling a lot of old rusty saws and was asking 25 cents a piece for each. Now, Pa, being the astute kind of guy he is, and knowing of my aforementioned disease, takes the whole lot of 5 or 6 saws for the hearty sum of $1.50….and this is the bounty which he lays at my feet upon my arrival. “Here….” he says “I got these for you.” As I begin to exclaim how kind and thoughtful it was of Pa to buy the saws for me, I quickly realize that this was no ordinary lot of rust from the neighborhood yard sale…these were some premium saws. And the pick of the litter? That was a hand saw of 26 inches or so with a characteristic nib and London pattern handle that caught my eye immediately. While there was no etch to identify the saw, there was instead a stamped makers mark spelling out K-E-N-Y-O-N.

My heart stopped. Then it started racing. Then my voice cracked. Then my palms got sweaty…it felt  like junior high when I asked Kara Aucella to dance with me all over again!!!!

“Pa!” I said, “This one is special!!!” And special it was. Needless to say, I couldn’t wait to finish sanding to get home to inspect my new prize. And Pa was plenty proud of himself for the score, and very glad that my “payment” for the floor was up to snuff.

So, as soon as I got home, I laid her out on my bench and beheld her….


Yes, she was badly beaten and broken. Yes, she was duller than a bread hammer.  And yes, her teeth were as crooked as an Irish pollster….but she was mine! I stood there drooling over her and in awe of her very presence! And much UN-like Kara Aucella in junior high, this little lady let me inspect her every conrner and crevice to my heart’s content! My findings were numerous….the odd chamfering along the top of the handle, the shape of the nib, the break in the lower swoop of the handle, the initials scratched into the underside of the flat handle return…I took in every detail and relished every sense of her.

Upon further inspection, the makers mark read fully “Kenyon Sykes & Co” and she the plate was indeed 26 inches in length.

Now, for those of you who are unaware, John Kenyon is perhaps the most notable British saw maker of the colonial era, due in part to his crafting of the legendary Benjamin Seaton chest of saws. These saws, locked away in a museum in the Old Country, are practically priceless, and origianl Kenyon saws in the wild are rare and valuable. Kenyon, in addition to his solo work, also had a number of partnerships throughout his career. In this case, the partnership of Kenyon and Sykes lasted for a handful of years around 1815 and THIS saw was one of their offspring…now in my noted possesion!

So, how frickin’ psyched was I!?! I was the proud owner of a piece of history!!! A legendary saw from the most legendary maker of British saws!!! After having the saw appraised (its worth a snot load more than the 0.25 cents Pa paid for it), the appraiser, Pete Tarran actually THANKED me for showing it to him!!!!! Just like they do on Antiques Road Show!!!! How cool is that!!!! Pete further counciled me to NOT restore it and bring it back to useable condition (as is my liking with antique tools, ’cause I likes to use ’em!) as he stated it was indeed a piece of history and should remain in its historical condition.

I can only imagine what history this saw has beheld….who elsed owned it, used it…what perhaps famous homestead or building had it helped create? What young apprentice slaved over sharpening its teeth….what noted craftsman labored within its grasp? History indeed!!! This is why I love old tools…because forever locked within their rusty and burnished souls are the tales of so many hardy men passed before me…some greater, some not so great, but all lovers of the craft and true men nonetheless!

Well, every tool collector has one of these stories….the Big One…the Big Score…the Monster Gloat….the greatest and coolest find in their tool collection. Odd that I should have mine so early in the onset of my disease…most old coots have to wallow around in rust for decades before they score a saw like this. The again, I guess Pa did the wallowing!!!!

Thanks Pa! ;o)

And here are some more shots of the jewel of my collection…

Published in: on October 21, 2010 at 11:13 am  Comments (5)  

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Matt, Idon’t know who was more excited about the Kenyon, you or me. Probably for different reasons though. PA

  2. I think that would be me, Pa…but I’m glad to hear your enthusiasm!

  3. A lovely example – rare indeed! I’ve seen a back saw with this name, but never a hand saw.
    I’m compiling a reference book on British saws and saw makers, and am trying to include as many photos of saw marks as I can – the idea is to try and help tool collectors identify saws that might have imperfect marks.
    So – do you think you could email me a close-up of the maker’s mark for me to include? – with acknowledgement, of course.
    I’m hoping to get the book to publication by the middle of 2011.
    Many thanks Simon Barley

  4. Matt so glad of your find. Hey I happen to have two saws with Naylor Vickors & Co. Cast Steel Sheffield. One is a back saw and the other is a regular saw. Found some history on company but not on the saws. Know anything about them? Sharon

  5. […] 3) 26 inch Kenyon and Sykes as told of before here […]

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