Here’s to the Blood of Patriots

Freedom isn’t a gift. It’s not given. Freedom is earned. Our freedom was bought and paid for by the blood of patriots who believed in something bigger than themselves, an ideal more important than their very lives. Over the years, that same freedom has been defended against tyranny across the globe, tyranny which has, on occasion, attacked American soil and taken American lives. Again and again, men and women died to preserve the way of life you enjoy and so easily take for granted. You can love, you can tolerate, you can pray for peace, but if not for those willing to take a stand, to defend against tyranny wherever it extends its insidious tentacles of corruption, you would know no freedom.

Honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice

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They chose to be faithful. They chose to reject the fashionable skepticism of their time. They chose to believe and answer the call of duty. They had the wild, wild courage of youth. They seized certainty from the heart of an ambivalent age; they stood for something.

And we owe them something, those boys. We owe them first a promise: That just as they did not forget their missing comrades, neither, ever, will we. And there are other promises. We must always remember that peace is a fragile thing that needs constant vigilance. We owe them a promise to look at the world with a steady gaze and, perhaps, a resigned toughness, knowing that we have adversaries in the world and challenges and the only way to meet them and maintain the peace is by staying strong. – Ronald Reagan

Photographing Tools for eBay

Good photos make all the difference

Good photos make all the difference

Good photos and a clear, detailed description make all the difference when you’re buying and selling on eBay. The eBay seller I bought this Stanley Bailey No. 3, Type 14 from provided the photo shown at the top. I have no idea what they were doing to have the photo come out purple, but it sure didn’t make for a very compelling presentation. Looks like some bizarre combination of lighting sources, probably a mix of flash and fluorescent, or perhaps their camera was inadvertently set to some creative “mode.” Additionally, the description was virtually non-existent.  Something like “Old Stanley plane in good condition.” Didn’t really tell me much. Not surprising, the bidding activity was low and I got it for a bargain.

After doing a light restoration on the plane, primarily just cleaning the crud off of it, I took the photo at the bottom using a 12 year old digital camera, cheap tripod, natural daylight, with the plane sitting on my kitchen table. You don’t have to be a professional photographer or have expensive equipment to get good results. You just have to make an effort and think about what you’re doing.

Photography Guidelines

While better equipment can certainly produce superior photographs in the hands of a skilled photographer, even a cell phone or tablet can provide surprisingly good results if you follow a few simple guidelines:

  1. Use Natural Light – Whenever possible, use natural light (daylight) for your light source. Avoid direct sunlight, stay in the shade or better yet, wait for an overcast day. Incandescent and fluorescent lights each produce a very different color balance, resulting in a yellowish cast or bluish cast respectively. While modern cameras usually do a fair job of compensating for this, the photos still look unnatural. If you must use artificial light, stick to either incandescent or fluorescent (don’t mix them) and try to set your camera for that corresponding light. Finally, make sure you turn off any sort of creative effects mode.
  2. Turn off the Flash – Flash photography, especially of stationary objects, is a tricky thing to get right. Flash tends to blast everything in light, flattening details and causing unnatural highlights and shadows. It’s not a good look. Find a place where there is plenty of natural ambient light as described above.
  3. Compose Your Shot – Fill the frame with your subject and think about your platform and background, everything that will be in the photo. Avoid patterned fabrics and anything that might be a distraction. Try to find a spot that is visually appealing, and ideally shows your item in its natural environment. If you’ve ever looked at my auctions, I photograph my tools right on my workbench, because ultimately that’s where they belong. (See photo below) Even then, I remove as much of the clutter as possible so the tool will be the focal point.
  4. Image Size – All modern cameras, even the cameras on phones, produce relatively high resolution images. Make sure that your photos are at least 1600 pixels on one axis (either horizontal or vertical). Square format photos make the most of eBay’s available real estate, but are not always practical for your subject. Again, make sure you fill your frame like I did in the photo below.
  5. Other Equipment – A tripod is nice, but you really only need one if you’re using manual exposure controls with a slow shutter speed (slower than 1/60 sec) , where if the camera were hand held, the photo would be fuzzy from camera shake. A tripod, however, can be advantageous if you need to photograph in low light. You can take very long exposures without camera movement causing a fuzzy photo mess.
  6. Software – This is also optional, but a good photo editor like Photoshop can make a mediocre photo really pop. With a little practice, you can learn to correct color balance and fix minor exposure problems. If nothing else, you will likely need to crop the photo that comes straight from the camera.
275 SB4C Type 10 Post 1

Stanley Bailey No. 4C, Type 10 photographed on my workbench immediately after a few test cuts.

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Merry Christmas from Virginia Toolworks!

May you all be blessed with the warmth of family and friends, and the spirit and peace of Christmas!

Christmas Church

 

Extreme Restoration – Coleman 10 Gauge Shotgun

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Coleman 10 Gauge Shotgun Before Restoration

 

This old Coleman 10 gauge shotgun has been in my family for over 100 years, originally belonging to my great-grandfather. When I was growing up, I remember seeing it in the “meat house” on my grandmother’s farm. The meat house was really nothing more than a shed, a precarious structure that had a dirt floor and a pretty serious lean to one side. Even then, the gun was little more than rust and bleached wood.  In the late 1970s, out of safety concerns, the meat house was emptied and demolished (actually, a couple of us just gave it a good push and it collapsed). The shotgun was one of the many items removed and it found a new home in my parent’s attic. There it stayed for another 30 years until my mom finally sold her house and moved into a senior home. The gun was passed around a little over the last 8 years until finally finding its way back to me earlier this year.

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Coleman Side View

I wasn’t able to find out anything about the Coleman brand, and assume it was one of the many mail order or hardware store branded guns available back around the turn of the 20th century. Many of these were inexpensive imports, usually from Belgium. As you can see in the photos, the gun was in pretty bad shape, with decades of exposure and rust damage. It was also missing both hammers. I’m not a gunsmith, but it was clear that this gun would never shoot again. Still, being a family piece I figured it might be restorable as a wall hanger. With little to lose, I dove in.

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Extremely Worn Lever Mechanism

The first order of business was disassembly. This proved more difficult than I had hoped. I was able to remove the side panels but a couple of key screws were completely frozen, making the rest of the action inaccessible. Believe me, I tried every trick in the book. There was just too much rust and some parts were simply fused together. Someone long ago tried to take the lever lock assembly apart to fix it and really buggered the whole thing up, even bending the lever. The wear on the lever’s locking mechanism was severe, and the lever is so loose it just flops around.

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The Business End with Small Dent on the Left Edge

Cleaning up the barrels was relatively straightforward. I removed the rust using a soft steel wheel brush on a large powered grinder, finishing up with more brushing by hand. You see in the photo below the pitting from years of rust and neglect. I applied a little cold blue to darken the metal to approximate a pretty nice looking aged patina. Although the photo flattens it out, there’s actually a pretty nice luster to the metal. There was one small dent at the very end of one barrel that was easy to hammer out using a wooden dowel and a nylon hammer. I ran a brush and then a rag through both barrels to clean out the loose rust.

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The Barrels After Restoration – You Can See the Pitting from Years of Rust

 

Since I couldn’t separate the stock from the receiver thanks to one extraordinarily frozen bolt, I just had to do the best I could with it all in one piece. I managed to remove the action on both sides, despite one screw with a broken head. The actions were in surprisingly good condition compared to the rest of the gun. I cleaned up the rest of the receiver and trigger guard as much as possible. The damage to the metal was fairly severe so there were limits as to just how much I could do.

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The Stock and Action Before Restoration

The stock had just a few trace spots of the original finish, and suffered from prior water and insect damage as well as some chipping around the receiver. I gave it a good scrubbing with mineral spirits and then applied several coats of Watco oil finish. I used a combination of both walnut and mahogany tints to get the color I wanted. The reddish mahogany adds a little warmth that I like.

With the action cleaned and oiled, I reassembled everything, made a screw to replace the one that was broken. And when I say make, I mean I took a screw of comparable size, shaped and finished it to match the original as close as possible.

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The Stock and Action After Restoration, Awaiting Hammers

 

Since the gun was missing both its hammers, I had to source replacements. This would have been a more critical endeavor if this were a shootable gun, but being a wall hanger, I only needed hammers for cosmetic reasons. I searched for vintage hammers, but finding a matched pair that were the right size was difficult and I didn’t want to spend a lot. I ended up ordering a new pair from Dixie Gunworks. Being new castings, they required a considerable amount of work filing, drilling, sanding and polishing. Given the condition of the rest of the gun, I didn’t go overboard making them look perfect. I debated whether or not to blue them and in the end went ahead. I like the contrast with the rest of the receiver. Attachment to the gun appeared to be friction fit. I have no idea if this was how the originals were attached, but the posts (or whatever you call them) were solid. So friction fit them I did. I filed them for a tight fit and pounded them on using a wooden dowel to protect the finish.

All in all, considering the condition when I started, I think it turned out pretty well. It’s still a rough looking piece, but it looks a darn sight better than when I started, and at least now is presentable enough to hang somewhere.

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Craftsmanship is Often a Simple Proposition

 

Paper Ring

I had a customer one time who wanted to propose, but his girlfriend was ultra-practical and didn’t want him to spend money on a diamond ring. She told him that any ring would do, as it was what it represented that was most important. She told him it could be made of paper for all she cared.

Inspired by the gum wrapper chains we made as kids, this is the ring I made for him, scaled to be the correct finger size for her, and crafted from acid free cotton paper, to keep it from turning yellow and getting brittle over time.

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Professional Services Now Offered by Virginia Toolworks!

VA Toolworks Condensed Logo - LetterheadI am pleased to announce that Virginia Toolworks is now offering professional restoration, identification, and valuation services at very competitive prices!  While the primary focus is, and has always been, on vintage hand tools, I also offer restoration of faded and damaged photographs, as well as cosmetic restoration of firearms.

Restoration

Tools – Adhering to the archival principles of restoration that have always been the foundation of Virginia Toolworks, we now offer archival cleaning and rust removal, and tuning and sharpening (if desired), with starting prices as low as $25.  For more information please see the Services Page.

Photographs – With 35 years of experience as a photography enthusiast, including considerable darkroom exposure (see what I did there?) before transitioning exclusively to digital approximately 16 years ago, I offer digital restoration of old damaged and faded photographs with prices starting at $50.  Examples of my work can be viewed on the Photo Restoration page.

Firearms – As most followers of this blog have seen, I occasionally do restoration work on firearms.  This work is primarily cosmetic – I am not a gunsmith. I offer cleaning of the action, restoration of wood, and light (cold blue) refresh of metal surfaces.  I can also help with missing parts.  However, to verify or ensure safe functionality before firing, you should see a qualified gunsmith for a safety inspection.

Identification

Virginia Toolworks now provides simple assistance identifying tools for a nominal charge of $10 per tool.  For more information please see the Identification Page

Valuations (Appraisals) & Research

Virginia Toolworks now provides written valuations (retail value) and historical research at a rate of $50 per hour with a one hour minimum.  For more information on Valuations, please see the Valuations/Appraisals page.

For more detailed information on these and other services provided by Virginia Toolworks, please see the Services Offered page.

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