Today, May 12, 2009 was the first day of the Spring session of Brimfield. At
daybreak the "constantly opened fields" are available, with dealers opening
their tents as they awake. At 4:45 am (when I get there) it is pretty dark, and a
flashlight is a necessity for peering into the dark corners of dealers tents.
I've found that the ideal flashlight setup is one of the LED lights that straps
over the head, sort of a miner's light setup. These are popular with trout
fishers for tying flies onto tippets in low light (dawn and dusk) situations.
Mine has several settings (bright, diffuse, green) and I find it exceptionally
useful to use, allowing both hands to manipulate tools being considered. Iíll wear a long sleeve shirt, ready to peel it off to a tee
shirt as the day warms. Good walking shoes, shorts, a baseball cap, and a light
backpack with extra tote bags complete the uniform.
Today I started at the Quaker Acres field, and visited dealers who have had
tools in the past. As soon as I started, two other tool guys showed up, so
it was apparent that this would be a competitive day. My first dealer stop
was aborted, since he wasn't yet open--but around the corner I found a MF #5
drill in decent condition for a good price. Casting about the field as
dealers opened their tents, I drew a blank until getting to the originally
intended guy. He didn't have too much, but I bought a Kimball & Talbot
registering caliper, in the largest size (which is not common). Around the
corner, another dealer had a Lufkin catalog at a decently low price. I
like to buy these as references to keep on my shelf. When leaving the
field, an unusual tool caught my eye. It can be described as a goose-wing
hewing hatchet, with original offset handle. A nail-pulling slot in the
blade suggests work as a shingling tool. It is old, hand forged, and has a
couple of unreadable touchmarks. I think it is nice.
walk across the street to "Central Park", and then the "Meadows" was not too
productive--just a decent Greenlee draw knife. Returning to Central Park,
I found a familiar dealer open and managed to buy a complete Stanley 78 plane in
a ratty box, and an unusual (for me) a Stanley No. 0 level in its original box
in pristine condition. To this was added to another nice tool, a mint
Starrett combo square with protractor It was a product of Stanley's Roxton
Pond manufacturing site in Canada. On the way back to the truck I found a
bunch of tools in a roadside stand, and took a tough bargaining position,
garnering another No. 78, one of the uncommon Sherman pocket levels in great
condition, a Stanley 80M scraper, and a crispy Gladwin & Appleton boxed ogee
molding plane. The dealer quoted a decent price, but being contrary, I got
him to come down a bit more.
After unloading these tools at the truck (it was now 7am) I moved to the
east to the first fields that you meet when traveling west on rte 20 coming
through Brimfield. After looking at some way overpriced whalebone items,
it did buy a small chest of caulking and shipwrights' tools, including a decent
wooden needle case, and copper ladle. It was ok for the price, but a brute
to carry. So stashing it with the dealer, I walked the field, finding only
a Simonds saw with good etch that will clean, and then a crispy and old Stanley
No. 15 block plane. After picking up the chest, again I retreated to the
truck, and then headed west to look at the fields at that end of the fair.
There were lots of dealers today, with even a new field developing west of
Heart of the Mart. Not too many tools showed up, but I did pick up another
complete No. 78 and a mitre jack that needs some help, but the price was right,
and a nice Wilkinson folding draw knife. Tom, a friend from central Mass.
sold me a common Stanley 62 rule in very nice condition. By this time the
first field of the day, "Dealers' Choice" was due to open, so I joined the
crowd. If there were a lot of dealers, there were even more customers.
I think this was about the most crowded that I've seen Brimfield--and most
people were buying!
Making two turns around the field, I picked up (in no order), two Cantello
folding draw knives, a simple race knife, and a small chisel with a complex
patterned pewter ferrule. Next came a set of John Mosley plough plane irons, and
then a lot of talk with other dealers and customers. In the middle I
bought a large, very primitive sword or agricultural knife, that spoke to me. It
was a fun time. After an hour and a half of this, the final field to open
was "Brimfield North" at 1 pm. This is a large field, and takes some
walking to cover it. Near the start I saw one dealer with some nice
things, but high prices, so I moved on to find, close by, a good Mathieson
Scottish brace with ebony handle. It will clean up nicely. This was
followed at another dealer's space with a small pile pile of tools, including a
fine MF No. 24 plane (Stanley No. 8 equivalent), MF No. 1 shave, Starrett 6"
combo square, and a pair of small boxwood planes by Sanborn & Gouch. This
is a three star maker from Worcester, Mass, and the pair included a steel-bottom
compass plane, and a flat steel-bottom plane, each only 5 1/4" long. They
spoke to me.
Now carrying a load, I went back to the earlier dealer, and negotiated for a
Millers Falls No. 140 ratchet corner borer brace (an uncommon tool) and a large
mallet with ebony head, brass rings, and an elaborately turned rosewood
handle--a showy mallet! This was enough for the day, and with the sky
threatening I trudged the long path back to the truck carrying three draw
knifes, a mitre jack, MF No. 24 plane, sword and other assorted tools. It
was a trek, but a good day. Tomorrow gets underway when the New England
Motel field opens at 6am. I'll be there.