Groups keep history of antique trade tools alive

Julia Baratta, Freelance Writer
This American scroll saw was one of many rare and unusual items for sale at the Antique Trade Tools Auction.

WATERVLIET, MI — In this day and age of current technologies that revolve around electronic devices, there are still some tools available that were the most impressive offerings in days past. Many of these can be found in barns, attics and basements and, unfortunately, aren’t appreciated for their historical value.

The Fine Tool Journal in Watervliet, MI is doing their part to change society’s perception of these useful pieces of equipment. The publication is full of information and pictures of the relics from the farms of America’s founders and pioneers. It is also a source for sales and auctions of antique tools, equipment, and other paraphernalia relating to a time where handmade was the only way.

On July 15, Tillers International was the host for an Antique Trade Tools Auction, presented by the magazine, and the meeting of the MWTCA Area C members. The MWTCA held a small swap meet with 30-35 tables loaded with a variety of items for sale. Tillers also got in on the fun by providing a demonstration of a manual drill and observation of blacksmithing as a class was in session during the daylong event.

The auction was the climax to the day as over 350 lots were listed for attendees to appreciate and purchase. The items ranged from agricultural antiques, cobbler and coopering tools, woodworking tools, tool boxes and benches, and equestrian equipment to surveying and scientific items, books, and a print by Eric Sloane, a favorite artist and author who featured early Americana in his art and books.

Many hand tools were featured, some plain while others were decorated with wood chipping or painting. While a large number of the items were ready to be used, an occasional piece required additional repair or the replacement of parts. 

A few household items were available for those pursuing the items commonly used by women in the home. Books containing information about tools and their uses were for sale in lots and included works by Sloane and Popular Mechanics publications.

These auctions are popular with tool collectors and enthusiasts. 

The magazine offers a number of services related to the auctions including the selling of tools on consignment, absentee bids, online bidding, and the marketing of the items for sale along with working with the auction service.  

The Fine Tool Journal runs several auctions a year and more information can be found at