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Every tool has a story

October 9, 2011
By DON WILLIAMS , For The Leader Herald

Adirondack antiquing is a fancy way of saying Adirondack pickin'-searching out those relics from our past that convey our history to a new generation. We made a wise choice recently; we elected to attend Indian Lake's Adirondack Mountains Antique Weekend on Sep. 17. Unsettled weather this year has made it difficult to count on the best day, especially for outdoor events. The "Adirondack Tailgaters" were all over town, the antique dealers were at the school grounds, and the weather cooperated, sunny and just warm enough to be pleasant.

The trip up the Adirondack Trail, Route 30, on a sunny late summer day was underlined by the unusual amount of water overflowing the lake shores and filling the rivers from bank to bank. The new bridge over Lake Algonquin at Wells is a work-of-art, thanks to the DOT and local supporters. Again, we saw the wild turkeys, but not a moose to be found; maybe the moose will be out for the Moose Celebration.

The vendors at the Indian Lake show came from far and wide with rustic art and camp accessories, hunting and fishing antiques, taxidermy, tools, clothing, dishes and collectables of all kinds. The trip was worthwhile. I found a few choice items that I "couldn't live without;" they are good additions to my "museum."

Cutting ice from the Adirondack lakes and ponds, subject of a new book by Caperton Tissot, was a major industry of the Adirondackers. Food was kept cold in ice boxes and cakes of ice were needed on a regular basis. Ice also was shipped out of the Adirondacks for the railroads, hotels and others. I already have a large, heavy, splitting chisel, carrying tongs, and a small ice pick, but I lacked a long-handled ice shaver. I found one at the sale at a fair price, although some thought it was a hay cutter, a similar looking tool. Ice shavers have five points and the hay cutters have three.

For $5, I gambled on a handmade yarn-winder that lacked some of its parts. It was old and gray and when I get a "round tuit" I will restore it. It needs two legs and a part of the winding wheel. The wooden gears are alright and it will go well with my big spinning wheel, flax break, and other smaller cloth-processing tools.

The best pick of the day was a unique wooden vise. It was made with a spring and a leather strap to set it at various thicknesses depending on the project. It may have been used when working on leather harnesses; I hope to find some more information on the piece. I offered the dealer $10 less than he had on it and he kindly gave me $20 off; it was a good deal.

My collection of Adirondack milk bottles is somewhat complete yet I found a good addition from one of the Indian Lake families. Milk was delivered in cases made of wood and heavy wire that held 24 bottles. The case I purchased was labeled "Adirondack Dairy," a perfect addition to the collection.

I added a few other purchases to round out the successful venture on that day; I found a small hammer with a head made of rolled leather. I have yet to find its purpose. I also added a large mallet, I believe it is called a "beetle," and a commercially produced measuring stick with the inches on it to my accumulation of Adirondack tools. The stick is now a companion to a homemade measuring stick that was use by a local carpenter for years, which was kindly passed on to me.

Every tool has a story and, in my estimation, the research and recording of our Adirondack history will never end.



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