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Bruce Johnson 
Leather Tools

My Collection

I had an old friend who taught me a lot about tools. He had been in the trade his whole life and knew handtools and uses. Some of my best times were sitting with him and he'd say "Did I ever show you how to do this?" or "Did you ever try one of these edgers?". He'd pull out a tool and show me some little tip, and usually I'd buy the tool. Education is priceless but not free. I got to where I knew the common Gomph, CS Osborne, HF Osborne, and PB McMillen tools pretty well.

I never really set out to start a tool collection. That sort of changed with finding a Francis & Ward draw gauge in a local antique store several years ago. I brought it home, put a blade in it, and it just fit my hand well. I used it for maybe a month and got interested – who were these guys? I did a little internet research and found that it was made between 1856-1859. One hundred and fifty years old from Newark NJ and I was dragging it though reins and belts in Oakdale, CA. A short while later I found an old draw gauge with a short trigger and marked "HOS". A really nice draw gauge too that bled history. That introduced me to Henry Sauerbier tools and the horse left the corral so to speak. I had developed an interest in not only the 100 year old tools, now the door opened for their predecessors. If anyone has any further information or corrections on these makers I would sure appreciate it.

Last year I curated an exhibit of saddle making tools for our local cowboy museum. I got a lot of emails and calls from people who had visited and surprised at the age of the tools and designs that really haven't changed much in 150 years. With that in mind, I have decided to share some of the other tools in my collection. I know several who collect tools. A lot times their collection is squirreled away and only they and people who visit them ever get to see it. Like a lot of collections, my tools are probably not for sale except for a scant few duplicates. Every once in a while I still put a blade in a Huber, or a Crawford, or an English and pull a few straps. Pretty cool feeling to wonder who used it 150 plus years ago and what was he making.