Life in the Village and beyond, based around the interests of my life.

Life in the Village and beyond, based around the interests of my life. Sunset at Telegraph Point.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Happy Australia Day

January 26 is our national day, and is a day for citizenship ceremonies, and for reflecting on what a wonderful country we have, and are a part of. We have a population from many diverse backgrounds and ethnic origins, and we all do our best to thank and honour the way that these are shaping our national consciousness.
As I look back on the changes that I have seen in my life, I am pleased with some - and yet I have a tinge of regret about other things that we have lost along the way.
If we take woodworking as one simple example - we have almost lost the self sufficiency of manufacturing, that was such a big part of post World War Two re-construction.

This is a small sampling from my own workshop of tools that were made during that period.  It was tools such as these that built Australia during the 1940's, 50's and 60's.

Here are a pair of planes made by Carter Tools Pty Ltd of NSW - a number 5 jack plane and a C1 rebate plane.  These are rugged old workhorses that are well made and have excellent blades. They serve me well.

Wooden plane manufacturing occurred for a time - and in NSW, Bergs Tools Aust used local hardwoods to produce a range of traditional European handplane designs.

We still have one quality wooden handplane maker in Alstonville NSW.  Terry Gordon has been hand making beautiful planes like this smoother for many years, and his planes are highly sought after.

I pay tribute to Terry Gordon on Australia Day in 2013.
One aspect of both planemakers is the quality of the steel used in the blades.

Bergs - at least mine anyway - show no branding (and Terry does not brand his either) but are excellent steel and hold a sharp edge well.

The Silex brand was marketed by Howard F Hudson Pty Ltd of NSW, and included many cast iron and steel handtools such as these.

These were everyday builders' and carpenters' hand tools, and there would have been very few tool boxes that didn't have at least one Silex product in them.

Here are a sliding bevel, a square and a dowelling jig.

Another indispensable tool that every builder treated with the care shown to cut glass crystal, was his builders level.  This is one of the most common - the Cowley Automatic Level.
It came with its own tripod, measuring staff and sighting crossbar.  Measurement was in feet and inches of course.  I have built two homes and done dozens of renovations with this one.

Of course, it wasn't long before Stanley began manufacturing in Australia as well.   True to their  proven formula of buying out their opposition, they soon acquired many of the smaller Australian hand tool manufacturers.

As well, they manufactured their own products in country.

This was my very first hand drill.  All I had until my first electric drill - a venerable Lightburn - also made in Australia.

One of the great success stories of Australian tool manufacturing was the The Titan Manufacturing Co Pty Ltd of Tasmania.  Titan chisels are highly sought after today by both craftsmen and collectors alike, and they hold their own very well against the current crop of manufactured tools from around the world.

Registered firmer chisels are not very popular these days, as bevelled edge chisels have largely supplanted them as the most versatile bench chisel style.  Nonetheless, they are still manufactured by Trent Powrie under the Harold and Saxon label.  I think that he was inspired in one of his designs by these traditional Titan firmers.

 While not strictly woodworking tools, spanners and socket sets made by Siddons were a byword for the highest quality in automotive tools.  Sidchrome tools found their way into almost every Holden or Falcon owner's toolkit.
These days we have access to high quality hand tools from around the world, but I know that lots of Australian woodworkers still use those tools that were made back in the good old days.

Thanks for walking this little tour of amnesia lane with me.
Have a very happy Australia Day

...and happy woodworking to all.


  1. It's interesting to learn something about Australian-made tools.
    As a student in Australia in the early 1980s I had an old Falcon and could have used that socket set!

  2. Ciao,
    I like those lovable Titan firmer chisels, their handle shape and the label on them. Really fine tools.
    Happy Australia Day!