Huge Ken Hawley archive of Sheffield Toolmaking

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Established Member
24 Jul 2007
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Great news!

Back in the mid 1960s, Ken Hawley was collecting all the hand tools and related items that Sheffield firms were giving up on. His huge personal collection is now housed in the gallery bearing his name at the Kelham Island museum. I've visited it several times and am glad to be able to say that I met Ken, just once, before he died.

He was very well aware how much information was at risk of being lost as companies closed and old craftsmen retired. Fortunately for us, he embraced the available tech at the time and made a lot of short cine films capturing a disappearing world of hand tool manufacturing, mostly with his own detailed commentary.

The Hawley Trust had made some of these available on DVD, but that's a dead format and copies have not been around for many years.

However, they have just uploaded over 60 videos to their YouTube channel!

These include treasures such as the last makers of bench and moulding planes at William Marples, auger making at Footprint, saw making, knife forging and much much more.

So go to

and watch them all! There's nothing else like it, unless you have a working time machine.
That should help a few hours slip by ! I look forward to the auger and gimlet forging.

I bought stuff from Ken Hawley's shop in Sheffield as a teenager. My dad loved the "We sell nowt but tools" tag line.
I watched the one on making boxwood rules. it is hard to imagine them being able to source the boxwood in sufficient sized pieces. a piece as thick as your wrist is hard enough to get now at a sensible price, and they had a lump that must have been 9" across on the table
From the Sheffield Knife video at 2:26; “the blade is hardened in a solution of whale oil to make it hard for grinding”. It must have been significantly easier to get petrochemical oils in the 1960s than Whale oil, so I wonder if there was a technical reason it was better, or just that was what had been used for the previous 200 years.
I love kelham island museum and also the surrounding areas. george Barnsleys workshop and all the other shops. not forgetting abbeydale etc. the whole place is like a roll call of toolmaking. btw I saw a superb condition pair of w marples ice skates brand new in the box.£15 at the car boot. I learnt a long time ago that joiners toolmakers a separate trade was spokeshaves and ice skates. weird!
I still find it amazing that the raw material for crucible steel was brought all the way from Sweden. as it was charcoal processed therefore free from impurities. I read a forum post on whether x chisel was regarded as better than y chisel in 1850? what I do know is steel was very heavily graded. so someone like say addis(w and p)would choose the very best steel possible for carving tools. I doubt joiners chisels would use that expensive material. herring brothers also used the finest appropriate grade for making carving tools. a joiners chisel of any sort would not have the hardness or consistency of these higher end tools I reckon.
as the date of manufacture goes back then the differences tend to merge together. until eventually the steel was not cast(crucible) steel but produced using various inferior methods (german steel etc). hence why cast steel became a mark of overall quality.
abbeydale also produced crucible steel in large quantities upto ww2.
Thanks for this Andy and perfectly timed indeed.

Was going to tune and learn how to use my woodies rebate, plough, molding planes, with view to a demo small shelving unit, for the kids, as to why "new isnt always the best".

Might have to save that tuning till Sunday now ;)

Fantastic, Andy.
We can only wonder at the skill of these old craftsmen.
Just watched Albert Bock make a wooden bench plane. It looked like casual hacking with his chisels as he made the throat and mouth, and fitted the handle, no jigs, no measuring, all just by eye. Incredible.
I have a wooden jointer mouldering away in my workshop, together with a smoother that belonged to my dad. I think i’ll get them out, if only to stop the rot.
Yes indeed. That line about going on a week's holiday and then having to harden up his shoulder to push the paring chisel... the break had left it "like a lump of raw liver". :whistle:
Die Sinker - Stan Minskip (1980)

"This material is very tough to cut, high carbon and high chrome........"

3.31 "Oh that's gone for a Burton !" as he snaps his chisel.

Was it a beer or a black suit I wonder.
so I wonder if there was a technical reason it was better, or just that was what had been used for the previous 200 years.

Watching the "sheep shear making".........he mentions "Whale oil has a high flashpoint"...........he also mentions at 6.32 "quenched in whale type oil, used to be oil from the sperm whale's head, now we're environmental friendly ;), and we use Whale type oil".

Don't watch the Auger Making - Footprint Tools (1993)....

You might run out and purchase a delightful set of Cornelius Whitehouse, solid nose augers.....(only if your weak willed that is:whistle:).

Today, my 12" wheelbrace and 1" solid nose auger made it through the 3" seasoned pine at 8 Degree incline beautifully.

Ironically footprint bought the Cornelius brand I believe.