Old tool life: Drawknife

Somewhere in the past decade I have moved from enjoying new and shiny power tools into relishing quieter tools whose age alone commands respect.  As I spend time using certain tools, I often wonder, who in my heritage would have used this tool when it was new?  When I use my drawknife that bares a date stamp of 1832, made by Barton & Belden in Rochester NY between 1844-1848, I wonder about the user.  In my family, my Great-Great-Great Grandfather John Wirt would have been in his thirties when this tool was new.  Unfortunately, this was not his tool (I picked it up in an antique store), but it helps me put it in context.  The funny bit of history is that my GGG-Grandfather lived just outside of Rochester NY during this time.  Conceivably, he could have used the tool, AND bought it directly from the D.R. Barton, the tool’s maker.

Barton and Belden Drawknife

My Barton & Belden Drawknife made between 1844-1848 (owner's marks of JRB)

John Baptist WirtWhen researching my GGG-Grandfather, I found his obituary which had this piece in it that was poetic, striking and contains just enough detail to allow me to picture him using my drawknife as I use it to strip the sapwood off of old cedar trees or shave down a peg.

A few lines from his obituary (1814-1899):

He was of a jovial and mirthful disposition, looking always on the bright side.  Well can we remember the old time logging bees and barn raisings where neighbor Wirt was always on hand with a strong sinewy arm to do his part and greet us with the voice of song when the work was done.

So now all I have to do is learn some old time barn raising songs and my skills will be complete. 😉


Related links:

D. R. Barton Tool info from wkfinetools.com