The Society for the Preservation and Study of American Wooden Planes 

The Society for the Preservation and Study of American Wooden Planes

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President's Column
Welcome J. W. GIBBS? President's Column Jointer Interview


The Society for the Preservation and Study of American Wooden Planes

The Society For The Preservation And Study of American Wooden Planes

Post Office Box 152, NEW MILFORD, NEW JERSEY 07656 - 0152


About a quarter of a mile down the road and across a small bridge from my front door is a water treatment plant. It is no longer in use, having been replaced by a newer, more efficient system housed in chrome and glass. That has left us a problem. We now have two marvels of technology. One that provides us with clean, fresh water albeit not the best tasting stuff. The other is a monument to the great minds of yesterday. I will leave it to your imagination to mull the hardships if the first was not in place. The second is posing a problem of a different nature.

A local citizen has come forth with a plan to save the old treatment plant. It involves saving all of the buildings, including the ones with the settling and chlorinating tanks, basically, large holes, filled with water. These are the oldest buildings. The newer building, c. 1917, houses the double stage steam pump system, a wonder which I cannot explain at all. To refurbish this newer building would cost about $4.5 million .However, the building and pump do not qualify as historic. The out buildings, of no character and little interest ARE old enough. Therefore to preserve ALL the buildings, a $15 million project is the only way to save the part of importance. This woman has therefore proposed that she be put in charge of a project to develop the area, while preserving the integrity of the site. Just deed over the property to her and she has backers waiting! Who are these backers? She can’t tell us. Not even a politician is dum enough to fall for that one.

The result is an all or nothing proposition. We can either give up all of the of history we have, or deed it over to a person of questionable motive and keep our fingers crossed. No need to discuss the latter option.

Unfortunately, the tool collecting community is divided along similar lines. One group believes that tailgating and auctions are a detriment to the purity of the history. Others are involved only for the commerce and a chance to earn some money. Luckily, there are others who have struck a balance. They realize that something desirable has an intrinsic value and is therefore an item for trade. While that will raise the price of antique tools, our cherished planes included, we must realize that it also raises their value, historically as well as monetarily.  

The evidence of this can be seen virtually everywhere you turn. Prices keep climbing at auctions, at flea markets (which have become big business) and antique stores which only recently decided that “tewels” were allowed in the door.

Note that it musts be pronounced “tewels” in this case so as not to soil the pallet.

If there were ever any question, click on Ebay. Forget that sellers have no idea, many times Buyers have no idea! You will notice a trend that the old tool market seems tied to the Stock Market. There is a logical reason for this. If stocks go up, there is money to burn. If stocks go down, there is the mortgage. So if you are looking for a bargain, don’t do it when IBM announces higher than expected growth. Wait for the week that Gateway reports decreased sales.

All of this having been said, I have not noticed anyone refusing to eat steak or discontinuing heating their home because of price increases. These price increases we have come to accept, even expect in our more cynical moments. Why should our “toys” be any less susceptible to the rigors of the economy?

To those who would argue that these are pieces of history, I answer, “Yeah and your point is?” I recently did an installation at the Samuel Morse Museum in Poughkeepsie, NY. It was a major job, being installed into a new building that come with a price tag to make our exhibit structures look like a drop in the bucket. I had a conversation with the curator during a lunch break, during which he detailed the massive in-fighting going on in the museum business. He equated it to the “Publish Or Perish” side of the academic world. And there is big money there as well.

Now for another question. If you followed the news earlier this year you might remember the story about a fossil of the earliest known bird being put up for auction amid protests that this was sacrilege and that scientific relics should not be sold. Forgive my ignorance, but what are Grants? If you think about it, people are paid to go dig this stuff up, the publish and go on PAID speaking tours. Yeah, that bone was free.

So far we have eliminated the argument of history being free and anything remaining the same for long. Believe me, I wish I had been around for the early days. And I wish those days were still here now. I have a friend who tells a story of the days when the way to collect was to go to estate auctions at the end of the day and offer to haul off those boxes of old tools if the owner or auctioneer paid you $10.00!He swears it’s true.

Oh well, the bottom line is the same here. Buck up, grin & bear it. And dig a little deeper if you really need that plow.


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Last modified: March 07, 2001. 
Copyright (c) 2001 by The Society for the Preservation and Study of American Wooden Planes. All Rights Reserved. No part may be reproduced by any means without express written permission.