The chest was made by a Mr. J. Hilton who was a Connecticut pattern maker. It
was made around 1880. It was passed down to his grandson who traded it for an
automobile in 1920. It spent the next 70 years in an attic and sometime late in
the 1990's was sold to Ken Newell of southern Maryland. Ken passed on in July
of last year and the chest was consigned to Bud Brown's auction.
The chest contains many of the original tools owned and used by Mr. Hilton.
Many tools are fitted into purpose-built partitions, some actually into what
might be called french-fitted recesses. Mr. Hilton's tools were mostly marked
by him. He had two name stamps with "J. Hilton" and in some cases he simply
stamped "JH". For sure, not all the tools are original. I'm relying on my old
tool experience and powers of deduction to read the price and auction labels
remaining on some of the tools. The chest supposed contains nearly 400 tools.
Seems pretty amazing, eh? I've not counted them and I may never do that. There
are enough 'whatsits' in the chest to keep the list busy for a while.
Additionally there are tools missing from some of the fitted areas. Feel free
to offer suggestions as to what is missing. I expect I will be looking to
restock this thing for the rest of my life.
The chest is really exciting and I'm happy to be its new conservator. Folks
that know me know I'm usually aiming for bright and shiny in my tool pursuits,
NIB or contemporary maker's. This is a significant departure from the usual.
Enough blather, grab a beverage. This is pretty long.
Here's the elusive key:
Fancy key and a keyhole that looks like it was made by a woodpecker; no
escutcheon. The lid will not slam shut. It makes a very satisfying pneumatic
whoosh when it closes. Here are a couple sketches of the layout to aid in
following the pictures.
When the lid is opened there is no fancy cabinet work to impress customers.
Just simple, compact, sturdy, dovetailed cabinet work intended to hold a working
set of tools.
This is the latch for the saw till. It is interesting because Mr. Hilton only
used this latch in one place. He used a winged affair in other places. Just
The saw till contains five saws, ebony and rosewood handled try and miter
squares, and a couple 2-foot shrink rules. The saws are not original to the too
chest, the other things are:
The panel that covers the saw till has two hinged sections, no apparent reason,
but opening it further back reveals some marking/carving knives, some rules and
that funny wooden thing that I can't remember its function. The squares all go
in fitted compartments in the front:
Till #1 has mostly machinist tools and is the most elaborately fitted area in
the chest. The two tools sitting in front were in that till but are not
appropriate to it. There are two close-up pictures of the contents. Feel free
to suggest tools for the empty recesses.
This is a ring pull that is used to move the tilt out front section and the
sliding tills. Clever design I've not seen before. It is very sturdy and yet
closes flush to the surface, leaving no projection. There were a few fingers
mashed at the auction as folks tried to close the front without using the ring.
With the front section tipped out, you are looking down on a section that holds
chisels; a set of 12 W. Butcher gouges. What is missing from the right end of
The latch for the lid is different from the one on the saw till. One end of the
wing-thing has been filed off so it fits under the brass plate to hold the lid
closed. It just strikes me as curious since the latch for the saw till seems
more purpose-built for this application.
Looking at the back of the tilted front section, there are 3 drawers and drop
The three drawers contain chisels by Ward.
The drop down panel reveals an empty cubby that was probably designed to hold
one or more levels. There is also a framed opening in the end of the tilting
section that may also be for more levels.
Under, or behind, the tilting section are 11 side beads by Ames of London, and a
set numbered hollows and rounds by Union Factory (numbers 4 through 24). These
are in fine condition, with a couple that do not appear used at all. All nicely
stamped by Mr. Hilton.
Till #2 has 10 drawers in it. The drawer contents including cabinet scrapers, a
set of plow irons, sharpening stones, pinch dogs, several blocks of wax, gimlets
for a brace, wooden pattern pieces, and templates.
The top section of till #2 contains a wooden brace and all the boring/drilling
bits you could imagine. Many are original to the chest in their fitted
sections, many are probably not. In this picture two stacking units are sitting
in front of the till. There are couple handles, one with a jewelers screw
driver, some missing their business ends, a metal tool holder and another
Till #3 has more chisels by Buck and Ward.
Till #4 has spoke shaves (2 with one handle removed), a router with no blade,
chisels, a tool holder with one tool, a tiny brass core box or grooving plane, a
compass and a couple cabinet latches.
Till #5 has ultimatum style marking and mortise gauges, 2 small anvils, small
brass and iron planes, more chisels, 2 small saws, a compass, a Stanley #57
spoke shave (at least part of it), and a circle or leather cutter for a brace,
Under the sliding tills are a plow plane, a router, scraper plane, 2 small
coffin smoothers, and a pile of wooden clamps.
Hope you enjoyed the show. Now to see if AOL will let me send this today.
Woodworkers visit me at http://billwebber.galootcentral.com/