I was checking out vintage tools on E Bay the other day when I came across this rosewood marking gauge.
It was obviously handmade and had a brass name plate on it:
”Handcrafted by John Walcott, Benbrook Texas”
The tool had six days to go before the final auction so I put it on the watch list.
There was something about this tool that got my attention. It didn’t have fancy brass inlays or parts made from ebony. There were no engravings or elaborate scrollwork. Heck, it wasn’t even an antique.
And yet, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
I already have a nice Crown marking gauge and a few vintage Stanleys. I admit, I hardly ever use them but they’re part of my collection and they look nice nestled between the vintage tools I have displayed on a shelf in my office.
As the days counted down until the auction, I looked at the pictures of the gauge and re-read the description:
Raven’s Way is pleased to offer a hand made rosewood and brass mortising and marking gauge which appears to be 10 – 15 years old. A plate on one side indicates the piece was “Handcrafted by / John Walcott / Benbrook, Texas”. Marked “S/N 0014.”
The piece is rather elaborate with round knurled brass thumb screws with round brass plates; one is to lock the fence and one to lock the mortising gauge, which is hand adjustable.
The round brass extensions on the face plate can be used for flat or circular scribing. The wood on the fence is 1 ½” x 2 ¾”; the height is 2 3/16” x 8”. An excellent working gauge collectible. Starting bid – 30.00
I thought about the effort it took to make this. Did he buy or make the brass knobs and the threaded plates?
Did he make the little finial on the brass slide? How did he make those tiny points and the half round brass rods?
The tiny brass screws were installed with care and sat perfectly in their countersunk holes.
The rosewood slide’s edges were eased as if done by a machinist. The brass end piece had little allen head screws to hold the two marking points.
Simple details, but I noticed.
I really wanted to know more about the maker, John Walcott so I researched his name to see if he was still making them but I only found another gauge listed on a tool auction numbered #0003, starting bid – 65.00.
I imagined what his shop must look like, the tools he must have. Is he just a woodworker, like me in a garage shop making small stuff or does he have a full size shop with several employees? Who is this guy?
The day of the auction finally arrived and I was surprised to see no one has bid on it yet.
I’ve bought a few things on E Bay (buy it now) but this is the first time I’ve been in an auction. I was told to wait until the last minute and bid what I think it’s worth.
Five minutes to go.
I looked at the gauge as I waited. It’s hard to believe someone could make such a piece by hand and also make a profit. So, it seems the “payment” must be in the actual work of making it, the satisfaction and pride you feel when it’s done.
It reminded me of something my grandfather would’ve made.
Maybe that’s the attraction…. I have to have it.
2 minutes, 32 seconds….A bidder – $32.00. Just wait, tick …. tick …
2 minutes, 15 seconds….And ANOTHER BIDDER! 36.00!
MORE BIDDERS!! – $39,43,56, $61.03.
30 seconds,......15 seconds….. Man, my heart is racing!
10, 9,... HOLD. 8, 7…... HOLD! 6, 5 ….....NOW! – 100.00!.... no,..... 68.00!
I never win anything…..what?
Congratulations Mark! You have won this auction! – 62. 03
Damn, That was fun!... Ha!
In Conclusion, I wish I could send a note:
Mr. John Walcott from Benbrook Texas, I am honored to own one of your tools.
Your hard work and attention to detail are very much appreciated. Thank you.
Now if you don’t mind, I’m off to the hospital to have a pace maker installed so I can buy more stuff on E bay!
-- Mark - I prefer the tumult of liberty to the quiet of servitude.