My friends over at Farm Collector Magazine have just released their first special issue and it's devoted entirely to antique tools -- especially little known or difficult to recognize antique farm and homestead tools. This new book, Field Guide To Mystery Farm Tools, caught my eye when it first arrived in the office and it turns out to be an ongoing distraction. I've been interested in antique tools for most of my life and I even enjoy working with some antique tools in my own shop and on the farm, but I had no idea there was even any such thing as a cow tail holder (used to hold a recalcitrant cow's tail during hand milking) or a pedal-powered sickle grinder. And though I've wondered how they kept the spokes tight on wooden automobile and truck wheels for most of my life, I had no idea there was a nifty little tool designed and patented in 1923 just for that task.
Field Guide To Mystery Farm Tools is a photographic compilation of more than 150 old-time tools that you just might come across in the local junk shop or at the next farm sale you attend. Where possible, the Farm Collector staff have also sleuthed out the original patent illustrations for the tools and have added some pertinent history to boot. I was kicking around the chicken yard not too long ago and picked up an interesting piece of cast iron with three square-headed bolts threaded into it. I knew it had to be good for something -- sure enough, right there on the book's cover was a photo of a nearly identical piece. After a little digging in the book, I learned that the piece of cast iron was actually a horn weight, once used to cause cattle horns to point downward. Mine was no doubt used by the farmer that kept a small milking herd at my place way back in the 1940s.
The Field Guide To Mystery Farm Tools is positively loaded with photos and information on intriguing tools of our past. At $7.95 retail, it's a bargain for its entertainment value alone -- and you will likely learn some fun history at the same time. You can find your copy of the book at your Local Tractor Supply Co. store or online.
Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper's Farmer magazines. Connect with him on Google+.