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Saw Talk #30: Warranted Superior Medallions

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Blog entry by Brit posted 11-24-2013 11:14 AM 5683 reads 1 time favorited 22 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 29: Holtzapffel Saw File Handle Dimensions Part 30 of Saw Talk series no next part

Over on the Saws, using collecting, restoring buying forum, summerfi (Bob) asked the following question with the accompanying collage of warranted superior medallions:

I have a question about Warranted Superior medallions. I’m most familiar with the eagle medallion, which came in several versions. There are several other WS medallions though (see pic below of medallions copied from the internet). My understanding is that some British sawmakers used the WS medallion on their saws, and some of these made their way to North America. When saws began being produced in the USA, some makers used the eagle WS medallion on their second line saws. I have a medallion like the one to the right of the eagle. Is there any way of dating this style medallion, or knowing what saw it came off of, or where it was made?

Now I must confess that I hadn’t really thought much about Warranted Superior medallions before now, but summerfi’s question prompted me to do a bit of research. As a result, I’m quietly confident that all of the medallions in the bottom row and the center medallion in the top row are from saws made in the United Kingdom. I’ve never seen a medallion like the image top right which looks like a Knight on horseback. If that is what it is, then it is probably English too. My reasoning for saying the other four medallions are English is simply because they are all based on the Official Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland.

On the left, the shield is supported by the English Lion. On the right it is supported by the Unicorn of Scotland. The unicorn is chained because in medieval times a free unicorn was considered a very dangerous beast that could only be tamed by a virgin. I bet you didn’t know that did you?

This coat of arms bears two mottos:

1) DIEU ET MON DROIT – The English translation of this French phrase is widely accepted to mean ‘God and my right’. This motto was first used by King Richard l (Richard the Lionheart) in 1198 as he prepared to go into battle with three lions on his shield. It was later adopted as the Royal motto of England by Henry VI.

2) The other inscription which is partially obscured on a garter around the shield reads:

HONI SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE – This is the motto of the Most Noble Order of the Garter which dates back to Edward III and is the highest pinnacle of achievement in the English honours system. Legend has it that one day when the Countess of Salisbury was dancing with the King, her garter slipped down to the floor, much to the amusement of the other courtiers. To save her from further embarrassment, the king picked it up and tied it to his own leg exclaiming “Hone Soit Qui Mal Y Pense” which translated into English reads: “Shame on him who thinks ill of it” or “Evil to him who evil thinks.” So now you know why it’s called the Order of the Garter, but I digress.

There is much more one could say about this coat of arms and its history, but what I particularly wanted you to notice is that the Lion on the left and the Unicorn on the right, together with the motto: DIEU ET MON DROIT are found on typical English Warranted Superior medallions. There is also always some form of shield with a crown on the top. Whilst the design varied somewhat as shown in the medallions below, these five elements together with the words ‘Warranted Superior’ remained constant throughout.

By the way, these elements are not just found on saw medallions. They also appear on buildings old and new across the United Kingdom in the Royal Coat of Arms, which is similar to the UK coat of arms, but with an additional lion on top of the crown.

Other old tools made in the UK bore the WS medallion too as seen on the head of this brace.

The elements even appear on the ‘Tails’ side of some £1 coins.

I hope by now I’ve convinced you that the five elements outlined above together with the words Warranted Superior are historically and fundamentally tied to the United Kingdom.

Now that we have established that, it leaves us with a number of interesting questions.

1) Why did some saw makers in the UK use this coat of arms and the words Warranted Superior on their saw medallions and what did it mean to them?

Well simply put, they were proud to say their tools came from the UK and using the coat of arms certainly added prestige. After all, what self-respecting saw maker wouldn’t want to use a saw medallion that sported a unicorn that can only be tamed by a virgin? Seriously though, in the UK it was seen as a mark of the utmost quality. The word ‘Warranted’ is really a guarantee given by the UK saw manufacturers. The word Superior simply means that the saw was made from the best materials available at the time. Saw makers who used the WS medallion were in effect saying that they wholeheartedly stood behind their tools and were prepared to guarantee their excellence.

It also made practical sense to use WS medallions if you think about it. As any saw restorer knows, removing and refitting split nuts on old saws can give rise to many an anxious moment. They are easily broken even when taking the utmost care. As one modern day sawright put it over on the hand tool forum on Woodnet “They are an abomination.” I concur and guess what, they weren’t any better when they were new and artisans of old, who possibly removed them in order to sharpen and work on their saws, surely faced the same levels of anxiety. That being the case, most saw mills and hardware stores sold replacements and when the medallion broke, the fact that a Warranted Superior medallion was common to a lot of manufacturers’ saws made good economic sense to the store owner and a higher chance of finding a replacement locally for the tool owner.

2) Why did other saw manufacturers choose to use their own brand on their medallions?
I don’t know for certain, but I believe I’m right in saying that saws bearing manufacturers’ own brand medallions appeared before saws bearing Warranted Superior medallions. Saw manufacturers such as Spear and Jackson and W. Tyzack, Sons and Turner were two such companies that used their own branding. As any marketing consultant will tell you, when a brand is established and successful, it is in effect a differentiator. It has history and a loyal following. You mess with it at your peril and at the risk of losing brand loyalty to your competition.

There were many more saw manufacturers in the UK who chose to use their own branding on their medallions. Companies like I & H Sorby, Mellhuish, Moulson Brothers, Taylor Brothers, R Groves & Sons, and Skelton Co. to name just a few.

3) Were Warranted Superior medallions only found on saw manufacturer’s second line saws?
It has often been written (mostly by American bloggers and forum posters) that saws carrying a Warranted Superior medallion were second line saws produced by saw manufacturers. Whilst this is apparently true of American saw manufacturers such as Disston, Atkins, Bishop, Jennings, Woodrough & McParlin, and Simonds, it most certainly is not true of British manufacturers for the reasons given in the answer to question 1 above. The quarter-sawn beech used to make the totes was just as good as the beech used in named brands. The steel was the equal of named brands too and so was the workmanship.

Now you don’t have to read too many old tool catalogues and advertisements to realize how fierce the competition was between the tool giants back in the day. It seems they all made increasingly bolder statements proclaiming their magnificence in a perpetual quest to outdo the competition and sway the punters towards their own brand(s) of tools.

I’ve read that US manufacturers such as Disston started using WS medallions on their second line saws in order to compete with other manufacturers on an even playing field. Maybe I’m just an old sceptic, but do you think it is possible that in order to win some market share from the WS saws imported from the United Kingdom, they actually did it in an attempt to brain wash the American public into thinking that any saw bearing a WS medallion was of lesser quality than their first line branded saws. I couldn’t possibly comment, except to say that if true and the boot was on the other foot, English manufacturers would undoubtedly have done the same. When you think about it though, for American saw manufacturers to put WS medallions on second line saws is nonsensical. In effect, they are saying we guarantee that these saws are superior except for our first line saws that we’ve seen fit to put our name to. It doesn’t make sense really does it? Either they are superior or they aren’t.

4) Did UK saw manufacturers possibly make and install the US Eagle WS medallions normally found on saws made in the US and if so why?
Now we know that American saw manufacturers used Warranted Superior medallions too and until today, I’ve always thought the American ones sported an eagle and the English ones bore the coat of arms. However as part of my research, I read a thread on Backsaw.net where they were discussing Warranted Superior medallions and one of the members remarked that the US style Warranted Superior eagle medallion is quite often seen on saws found in North America that were originally made in Sheffield, England. How the US Warranted Superior medallion came to be on English saws is however, open to speculation. Were the saws manufactured in England with the US medallions already fitted for the express purpose of exporting the saws to the US? Were the saws sent out to the US as parts and assembled once they arrived there? Were they fitted to English saws as replacements for broken English WS medallions? Truth is we haven’t got a clue, so I’ll leave you to ponder that one in the bath.

Now I realize that I’ve been rambling on a bit and I’ve suddenly remembered that summerfi (Bob) who prompted this post in the first place, had a question. “Is there any way of dating this style (WS) medallion, or knowing what saw it came off of, or where it was made?”

In my opinion, the short answer is not at the present time. Having said that though, we are better placed today than ever before to put together a database of WS medallions from both sides of the pond. If every woodworker and saw collector uploaded quality images of all their WS medallions together with a record of the saw’s make and model where known, we would be well on the way to being able to identify and perhaps date a saw based on the WS medallion alone. To the best of my knowledge though, no such database exists as yet. Anyone care to start one? No? Me neither. So we are left guessing at the make and age of Bob’s saw and all we really have to go on is that Bob says his WS medallion looks like this one. I’m not sure if he meant that his is the same as this one or similar to it.

Honestly Bob, if you meant the latter this could take some time, but let me kick it off. Is it this one Bob?

If it is, then slap my thigh and call me Sherlock. You’ve got an A. Ashton & Sons saw like the one shown below which is currently waiting patiently in my To Do pile.

Sorry Bob, I’m just messing with you :o)

The truth is my friends that we all have a much better chance of identifying and dating a saw by closely examining the design features of the tote and any markings on the plate. Add to that the overall condition of the saw and the fact that we can ask the experts on Backsaw.net, the hand tool forum of Woodnet.net and the Saws, using collecting, restoring buying forum on Lumberjocks. All things considered, there is a good chance someone, somewhere in the world, will have one like ours and be able to identify it for us.

At the end of the day though, should all our valiant efforts lead to naught, we must man up, accept it, and learn to appreciate our Warranted Superior saws for the intriguing time capsules that they are.

-- Andy -- Old Chinese proverb say: If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it.



22 comments so far

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ScaleShipWright

240 posts in 540 days


#1 posted 11-24-2013 12:01 PM

Andy,

this is very interesting, thank you for sharing such a load of information.

-- God exists... But relax, He's not you!

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Smitty_Cabinetshop

9916 posts in 1274 days


#2 posted 11-24-2013 12:59 PM

I definitely learned something, heck, a bunch of somethings, this morning. Thank you, Andy, for the time and effort you’ve put in to this post. Very informative and quite interesting.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive

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Don W

15030 posts in 1223 days


#3 posted 11-24-2013 01:05 PM

well done Andy. No database guy here, but it sounds like a good idea.

-- Master hand plane hoarder. - http://timetestedtools.com

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need2boat

544 posts in 1348 days


#4 posted 11-24-2013 01:16 PM

Cheers. Andy well researched and thought out!!

Joe

-- Second Chance Saw Works http://www.secondchancesawworks.com Blog: Positive Rake http://www.positiverake.com

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terryR

3112 posts in 964 days


#5 posted 11-24-2013 02:50 PM

Excellent post, as always, Andy! I will from now on keep my WS medallions just as clean as ‘name brands’.

Thanks for digging up all this data, and sharing!

-- tr ...see one, do one, teach one...

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Brad

859 posts in 1395 days


#6 posted 11-24-2013 03:19 PM

Excellent post Andy. Really enjoyed learning the history of the coat of arms…as well as the fact that British WS saws are just as high-quality as named brand ones. I’ve eschewed WS saws here in the US because why would I buy a second-line saw when I have access to so many first-line saws? From now on, I’ll be looking closely at the WS medallions…

-- "People's lives are their own rewards or punishments."

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stefang

13043 posts in 1989 days


#7 posted 11-24-2013 04:04 PM

Great post with a lot of interesting info Andy. I would guess that there was a lot competition between American and English manufacturers at the time. Remember that the Southern states were trading their cotton for English manufactured goods, The main reason for the American civil war. The Northern states where the steel mills and most manufacturing was located wanted higher tariffs as protection against English manufacture goods, which would choke the economy of the South. Of course I am not talking about saws produced so far back, but it wouldn’t surprise me if English manufacturers still had a large part of the Southern market, even up until recent times considering the resentment many Southerners felt for the North in the aftermath of the war.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

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summerfi

1064 posts in 342 days


#8 posted 11-24-2013 04:55 PM

Andy, I love it! I’ve always been a history buff, so this historical element of vintage tools is fascinating to me. Thank you for the time you’ve taken to do this excellent piece of research and documentation. This is relevant to me in more ways than one because my great x 18 grandfather, Sir Walter Hungerford, was a Knight of the Garter. If I’m not mistaken I’m also related to Richard I as well, but then I suppose a lot of people of English descent are.

Based on a thread at backsaw.net, the medallion below is supposedly King George (which one I don’t know) slaying a dragon from horseback. It is, therefore, apparently of British origin too.

I actually own two medallions bearing the British coat of arms. The one below is one I recently bought on ebay (not in my possession yet). It was sold by a treasure hunter who dug it up somewhere in eastern Canada. This is the one that prompted my question about where it may have come from and what saw it may have been on.

The second one is a 1/2” diameter secondary medallion that is on a J. Taylor & Son saw. Note that the two A’s in WARRANTED are missing. Whether this is from wear or a casting defect I don’t know. Unfortunately the primary medallion is missing from this saw, so I don’t know if it was a WS or the typical recumbent lamb found on Taylor saws.

Another interesting factoid I found while reading about this is that apparently there were (at least) two brass casting companies who were licensed (authorized, trade marked? – not sure of the correct term) to make British WS medallions, which they then sold to many of the various saw makers. I suspect this was also the practice with saw handle making, since many of the handles on different makes of vintage British saws look so much alike.

Andy, I think a database on WS medallions is an excellent idea, and I can think of no one better to do it than yourself. Give it some thought. Maybe even expand it to include other data on vintage saws. Whether you do or not, I truly appreciate the thought and effort you put into answering my question. Many thanks, my friend.

-- Bob, Missoula, MT -- "Of all the tools I own, my favorite is a good sharp pocket knife." - My Dad

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ScaleShipWright

240 posts in 540 days


#9 posted 11-24-2013 05:31 PM

I am inclined to think that the guy depicted is Saint George rather than king George.

Edit: Saint George is the patron of England.

-- God exists... But relax, He's not you!

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TobyC

478 posts in 531 days


#10 posted 11-24-2013 05:59 PM

Andy Andy Andy!!!

You missed one very important aspect of the “English” Warranted Superior label screw! The eight crossed arrows are from the Sheffield coat of arms!

-- Cigarettes and squirrels are completely harmless until you put one in your mouth and light it up.

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TobyC

478 posts in 531 days


#11 posted 11-24-2013 06:11 PM

Royal seal.

Sheffield official blazon.

-- Cigarettes and squirrels are completely harmless until you put one in your mouth and light it up.

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TobyC

478 posts in 531 days


#12 posted 11-24-2013 06:16 PM

This label screw

was used on some Ibbotson Brothers saws, but was not exclusively theirs.

-- Cigarettes and squirrels are completely harmless until you put one in your mouth and light it up.

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TobyC

478 posts in 531 days


#13 posted 11-24-2013 06:26 PM

FROM HERE. These guys owned the rights to the sheffield label screws.

More on that in a moment, but I first wanted to outline the two over-
lapping successions of firms which are related to this trade mark.

The first succession goes something like this, as far as I’ve been able
to reconstruct at present:

INGLE & TRICKETT Sheffield 51 Rockingham Street

SMITH & CO., HENRY Sheffield 51 Rockingham Street (“Late Ingle & Trickett”)

SMITH, WILLIAM HENRY Sheffield 51 Rockingham Street

These firms are listed as brass founders throughout, with the first
mention of the making of saw screws in 1833. They were also listed as
german silver founders beginning in 1849.

The second succession of firms, goes something like this, at present:

MOORWOOD & PRIEST Sheffield 1854 – 1856 64 Scotland Street (Edwin Moorwood & Alfred Priest)
PRIEST, ALFRED Sheffield 1857 – 1862 -> 64 Scotland Street [1857] 60 Pea Croft [1862]
PRIEST & CO. Sheffield Pea Croft Works, 60 Pea Croft [1879 – 1893] Pea Croft Brass Works, 60 Solly Street [1901-1905] 188 Brook Street [1911] 56 Eyre Street [1919 – 1925]

These firms were also listed as brass founders throughout their tenure,
and the manufacture of saw screws and german silver was mentioned from
the start.

As to the “Warranted Superior”/coat-of-arms medallion being registered
as a trade mark, the earliest indication I’ve found of that is in 1879,
in association with the William Henry Smith firm. These are links to
the trade mark listing and an advertisement in the 1879 directory:

http://www.planemaker.com/photos/whsmith.jpg

http://www.planemaker.com/photos/whsmith2.jpg

At some point between 1879 and 1901, Priest and Co. seems to have
purchased rights to the trade mark, as Ray has already indicated.
Their 1901 trade mark listing can be found at this link:

http://www.planemaker.com/photos/Priest.jpg

So, it would appear that all such medallions, for quite some time,
would have been manufactured by one of these firms. At this point, I
don’t know how early the W. H. Smith succession of firms registered
it as a trade mark, but they had been making saw screws for over 40
years by 1879, and may have registered it some years earlier.

Hope this has been of some interest.

Don McConnell
Eureka Springs, AR

-- Cigarettes and squirrels are completely harmless until you put one in your mouth and light it up.

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TobyC

478 posts in 531 days


#14 posted 11-24-2013 06:40 PM

From here. That’s Dr. Simon Barley.

The George and Dragon was a regular medallion design, but much less common than the usual W/S type. It was always used by SSBrittain, and an extremely early example is on a back saw by Samuel Hill – about 1825.
There is more than one type of W/S medallion with a coat of arms in it; the commonest by far is a composite, not a true coat of arms as would be recognised as such by the College of Arms in London, the centre being derived from the city of Sheffield’s arms, which has 8 crossed arrows, with a sheaf (River Sheaf – Sheffield – geddit?) of corn on each side, and the lion and unicorn, with Dieu et Mon Droit underneath. If you get a lot of good examples and blow the photos up large, you can see there are a good many tiny variations on this design, indicating, I believe, that there were a lot of different makers of them. I can’t explain how it was that one firm, as mentioned in Don’s explanation, apparently came to be able to trade mark them. Did others get round it by the tiny variations?
Then there are the true royal coats of arms, as illustrated in the original post with the Martin saw. They aren’t very common, and were used mainly by Marsden Brothers (and their later emanations), who held a royal warranty for making skates for Prince Albert (husband of Q.Victoria).
I have an unsubstantiated impression that Sheffield saws exported to the US [or Canada – sorry, Kiwi] were more likely to have multiple medallions, often of different sizes, rarely of different designs – is that the experience of others?
I’ve not been able to date the usual type of W/S medallion prior to about 1860 – have others seen earlier examples?

-- Cigarettes and squirrels are completely harmless until you put one in your mouth and light it up.

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TobyC

478 posts in 531 days


#15 posted 11-24-2013 07:02 PM

Andy said,

“Were the saws manufactured in England with the US medallions already fitted for the express purpose of exporting the saws to the US? Were the saws sent out to the US as parts and assembled once they arrived there? Were they fitted to English saws as replacements for broken English WS medallions?”

Look at the label screws in that link.

They are brand specific, not just generic stuff that someone put in there. They were for the US market.

-- Cigarettes and squirrels are completely harmless until you put one in your mouth and light it up.

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