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John Walcott, Where are you?

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Blog entry by reedwood posted 04-06-2013 02:58 PM 2762 reads 1 time favorited 17 comments Add to Favorites Watch

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I was checking out vintage tools on E Bay the other day when I came across this rosewood marking gauge.
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It was obviously handmade and had a brass name plate on it:

Handcrafted by John Walcott, Benbrook Texas”


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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.

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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 …
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2 minutes, 15 seconds….And ANOTHER BIDDER! 36.00!

MORE BIDDERS!! – $39,43,56, $61.03.
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30 seconds,......15 seconds….. Man, my heart is racing!
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10, 9,... HOLD. 8, 7…... HOLD! 6, 5 ….....NOW! – 100.00!.... no,..... 68.00!
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CONFIRM, CONFIRM!!!!
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I never win anything…..what?
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Congratulations Mark! You have won this auction! – 62. 03

Damn, That was fun!... Ha!

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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.

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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.



17 comments so far

View helluvawreck's profile

helluvawreck

16033 posts in 1614 days


#1 posted 04-06-2013 04:29 PM

It is definitely a beautiful tool and well you should be proud of it. Congratulations.

helluvawreck aka Charles
http://woodworkingexpo.wordpress.com

-- If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. Henry David Thoreau

View Ken90712's profile

Ken90712

15304 posts in 1936 days


#2 posted 04-06-2013 04:42 PM

What a tool and great story…. Well done keep us informed if you find more informationout about this tol or craftsman.

-- Ken, "Everyday above ground is a good day!"

View Rick M.'s profile

Rick M.

4488 posts in 1127 days


#3 posted 04-07-2013 01:17 AM

Crazy cheap, nice find.

-- http://thewoodknack.blogspot.com/

View gfadvm's profile

gfadvm

11504 posts in 1437 days


#4 posted 04-07-2013 01:33 AM

A great score on a beautifully crafted tool. I don’t think you could buy the materiels to make that for what you paid!

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View Don "Dances with Wood" Butler's profile

Don "Dances with Wood" Butler

1003 posts in 2143 days


#5 posted 04-07-2013 12:11 PM

I found this.
Maybe it will help you find him?

Julia L Walcott, 87
Known also Julia S Walcott
Lived in Benbrook, TX
Related to John Walcott, 91

-- Will trade wife's yarn for tools.

View JoeinGa's profile

JoeinGa

3672 posts in 754 days


#6 posted 04-07-2013 12:21 PM

I was sliding forward in my seat as I read the end of your Ebay saga :-)
I know just how you feel, having bought many things from Ebay, watching and refreshing the page as the last few minutes click away, waiting for the final outcome.

Nice gage too!

-- Perform A Random Act Of Kindness Today ... Pay It Forward

View mafe's profile (online now)

mafe

9671 posts in 1836 days


#7 posted 04-10-2013 01:44 PM

Beautiful!
Best thoughts,
Mads

-- Mad F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

View reedwood's profile

reedwood

891 posts in 1423 days


#8 posted 04-10-2013 02:45 PM

Thanks everyone for the comments.

For those that asked me – what is it?
It was used along time ago, also known as a scratch gauge, is used to mark out lines for cutting by scribing (scratching) a line parallel to the edge. It is mostly used in joinery and sheetmetal operations.

A mortise gauge, like this one has two pins that can be adjusted relative to each other at the end of the beam. This gauge is used to scribe two lines simultaneously and is most commonly used to layout for mortise and tenon joinery. If nothing else, it’s just a cool looking tool that a lot of Grand fathers had in their toolbox.

Don, I found that name too but I would have to pay a service fee to get more info. Felt like stalking at that point.

It would be neat if somehow he found this message. Hopefully, someone lives nearby or knows him and can let him know. What if that is him? If he’s still with us, he’s 91 yrs old now.

I’m sure he would like to hear someone show a little respect and appreciation for his hard work. I know I would.

-- Mark - I prefer the tumult of liberty to the quiet of servitude.

View Don "Dances with Wood" Butler's profile

Don "Dances with Wood" Butler

1003 posts in 2143 days


#9 posted 04-10-2013 02:47 PM

Considering his age, it may be that he is not now living.
Perhaps that’s why the tool was sold.

D

-- Will trade wife's yarn for tools.

View maplerock's profile

maplerock

432 posts in 547 days


#10 posted 07-27-2013 03:26 AM

I think he may be living. I found a phone number, but perhaps he’s not in Benbrook anymore. Go to:
anywho.com type in John Walcott Texas. You’ll get 2 possibilities. One matches the age description. Good luck!

-- Jerry... making sawdust in the Knobs of Southern Indiana

View johnsgirl's profile

johnsgirl

4 posts in 55 days


#11 posted 10-27-2014 04:07 AM

Wow!! I was thrilled too see this!! John Walcott was my Dad. He passes away earlier this year (2014) @ 92.
He often wondered if any of these would find their way to ebay.
He made these for his tool collector friends and donated several to Midwest Tool Collectors for their yearly auction.
I’m so glad you appreciate the work that he did…he was very proud of it. I have one myself,
Dad loved tools and appreciated everything about them as a user and collector. A self taught man with only a 9th grade formal education. He worked as an electronics engineer for a major company, and was a field engineer troubleshooter in the radar field…think U2, F16, X-15. After retiring after 32 years, he decided he’d like to work with wood, so read everything he could find and decided since the “old guys” made beautiful furniture before the advent of all the fancy electric tools, he’d get a “few” planes and tools to see what it was all about. Major fail….he had a collection of over 150 planes and multitude of other tools when he was forced to give up his passion due to macular degeneration.
I’m thrilled that I could answer a little of the mystery concerning this gauge. It is a remarkable piece, made by a remarkable man…..I so wish I could share this with him…I know he’d be thrilled it found a good home!

View johnsgirl's profile

johnsgirl

4 posts in 55 days


#12 posted 10-27-2014 05:13 AM

I forgot to answer your some of your questions….
Yes, the knobs and misc. pieces and parts were made by Dad. He had an old lathe that was purchased used in the mid 1950’s. He geared it to be used for both metal and wood. It was used primarily for metal work until his passion with wood took hold. And yes, he was a pretty good machinist too, so understood tight tolerances and how to achieve them.
I sold most of his collectibles on eBay over the past 6 years or so…his expertise was a bit of a problem for me. With his sight failing, I’d ask him if he restored a particular plane, or was it original? He’d look it over, turn it over a few times, then reply “well, I’m not sure, but if I did anything to it, I did a pretty good job!” I have to say, I learned a ton about those old tools…in order to list, I had to be educated and understand all the pieces and parts. (I think he left this world feeling he’d accomplished something….he made me learn something!!) ;)

View waho6o9's profile (online now)

waho6o9

5286 posts in 1324 days


#13 posted 10-27-2014 01:43 PM

Fascinating story thank you for sharing.

View Bodine87's profile

Bodine87

8 posts in 88 days


#14 posted 10-27-2014 03:41 PM

Wow, so good to see that you’ve at least found the craftmaker’s family! Awesome tool and such a great story behind it! Even if you don’t use it too often, that’s an awesome piece to have in the shop! Johnsgirl, your dad sounds like a great man and the definition of those great American men that helped build this great nation to what it is today! Thanks for the backstory and may he RIP!

-- Hobbyist Near Augusta, GA

View johnsgirl's profile

johnsgirl

4 posts in 55 days


#15 posted 10-27-2014 03:59 PM

Correction…Dad donated some of these to the SWTC group (not MWTC) when they had their yearly meet and auction.

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