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Museum of Early American Tools

4.39  ·  Rating details ·  217 ratings  ·  24 reviews
Illustrates a huge variety of axes, hammers, chisels, etc.--each one perfectly suited to a specific task and carefully made to individual specifications.
Paperback, 105 pages
Published January 12th 1985 by Random House Publishing Group
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Early American tools were very practical but limited in functionality. They were employed for a specific job, and didn't have many applications beyond that task. They were not "smart tools" with laser lights and computer chips that gave feedback on their use and enabled a more effective process. Rarely were they self-contained, able to carry all multiple pieces needed to adapt and change to the job at hand. A hatchet, for instance, was one-size fits all. Perhaps the job called for a more delicat ...more
Dec 03, 2013 rated it liked it
My sister Katie had this book on her shelf for some reason and randomly gave it to me to read this past weekend, kind of as a dare. We were pretty surprised to find that it actually existed on Goodreads.

You know, adze I was reading this book, I was wondering how the author came up with the idea. I mean, he didn’t just hatchet out of thin air. I drill-y like to know how his enthusiasm for early American tools started. Yes, it might seem an odd hobby, but hewer we to question what one man is passi
17Nov2012 Review: I originally read this in the large format hardback & it's definitely better that way, but the small paperback isn't bad. The pictures, all pen sketches by Sloane, still show up well & his comments are quite legible. It's a quick read, but packed with information & shows us some aspects of the Colonial world that most probably never guessed at.

I did have one quibble this time with his writing; he romanticizes the historic worker & puts down the modern one too much. He continual
Sheryl Tribble
Nov 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very short book that gives the reader a lot to think about. Even when the metal tool heads were purchased, for instance, from the local blacksmith and into the industrial era, people made their own handles, meaning there were not merely regional variations, but variations between families living in the same neighborhood. I was also intrigued at how late some developments came about, and how different some common tools looked -- hammers or axes, for instance -- well into the middle of the ninet ...more
May 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
My dad's the carpenter, not me, but I still love Sloane's books. They're history, to be sure, but not about the dead celebrities' personalities and peccadillos, but rather about how relatively ordinary people actually lived.

This one kept me bemused, though. How many of these tools did Pa Ingalls really carry around the prairies in the covered wagon? Sloane talks about 'the Early Americans' as if they were all as settled and prosperous as Almanzo Wilder's family, but surely they weren't....

Jaymes Dunlap
It is entertaining reading through Eric Sloane's written and artistic survey of these tools in clear, accurate, detail (such as diagrams of use, cutaways, or ghost-outline showing how long handles could range between). Reminds me almost how you might tour a museum based on category. It only takes a few hours reading depending on your pace and how well you muse over drawings. Sloane also notes the quality of tools and how every individual imbued variations in crafting (both in tools and the mediu ...more
I can recall thumbing through this book several times in life. It wasn't until I opened a bookshop in a rather rural area and I was unable to keep copies of this book in stock, that I took a real read. This book is a treasure chest of knowledge and superb illustration. Now, as our roots are often bulldozed by homogenization, this type of book is so important. My customers love finding things in their barns and sheds and referring to this to see what it might have done for their farms at one poin ...more
May 08, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a really solid primer on really old tools. It mostly covers antiques from up to 1800 and precursors of 20th century hand tools, whereas I was hoping for a little more information on 20th century hand tools. I think everything in this book is now replaced by power tools. I like the idea though, that all the same stuff was done for hundreds of years with tools made by the user - I'm inspired to dig out some of the hand-me-down hand tools I've had lying around and put them to use. ...more
Alger Smythe-Hopkins
For what it is, it is very good (a little less than 5 stars, more than 4).

Sloane was a remarkably able and detail-oriented illustrator whose passion was colonial America, who lived in an era of rising American expectations, when the origin myth of America stepped in legion with a growing sense of American exceptionalism, when the United States was almost synonymous with technical innovation and genius, when America's past was seen as the reason for its moral and cultural superiority.

Sloane was
Dec 17, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have no woodworking or farming or building experience but I was fascinated by the tools, professions, and history displayed in this small book. The line drawings are amazing and the tools and skills needed to manage one's everyday existence in the 1700-1800's were fascinating. ...more
Jason Medina
Sep 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was very educational and helpful to me, especially since I volunteer at an old farmhouse museum built in 1740. I spend a lot of time in the barn, where many of these tools hang partly because I hung them! Thanks for making this book, Eric.
Geoff Sebesta
I adored this book. The library might not get their copy back.

The wonder of the illustrations was only matched by the utility of the descriptions. Rarely have I learned so much so quickly.
Kim Zinkowski
Dec 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This as a very informative book. Nicely illustrated by the author.
Dustin A. Vore
Jan 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A great book for anyone with an appreciation for the artistry and functionality of early (and often hand-crafted) tools. Full of detailed illustrations.
Koen Crolla
Sloane romanticises the past to such a ridiculous extent that I read most of the opening chapter as sarcastic before realising that didn't make sense. Like every ``tool guy'' who ever lived, he believes that the past (all of it) was a Golden Age for tools, but that recently manufacturers started prioritising profits over quality and craftsmen started caring more about getting the job done quickly than leaving a legacy for future generations and it's become nearly impossible to find tools as good ...more
William Mego
Dec 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Tool lovers, handtool people, Humans, Survivors.
I could not possibly overstate how important this book is. It's just a wee skinny volume, but inside are lovingly drawn illustrations of tools and their use. It's one of the few places where you can find nearly (or indeed completely) forgotten devices which made the modern world possible, and will once again pull us out of the post-oil time into a new world in the future. Sound over the top? Perhaps. Can you find everything here other places? Perhaps, but not in one place that I've ever seen. A ...more
Cotton Field
Nov 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book begins with "Finding a tool in a stone fence or in a dark corner of some decaying barn is receiving a symbol from another world, for it gives you a peculiar and interesting contact with the past." That line sets the tone that Eric Sloane will carry throughout the entire book. He gives far more than the basic meaning of words uses of old tools, but tries to lend a sense of time and practical use of the tools he describes. This is a wonderful little work. ...more
Sep 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A quite enjoyable survey, with exquisite hand drawn illustrations, of the various tools commonly in use a couple hundred years ago. This delightful book explores and details the use of a multitude of hand tools. It is definitely worth reading for anyone who has ever come across an old tool while exploring a decrepit barn or workshop and wondered just how and why it was used.
Aug 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful illustrations, with tidbits of interesting information on every page. This book gives you an appreciation for all the jobs that have since vanished and the craftsmen who made an art of their work.
Dec 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Right up there with a trip to the Mercer Museum in Doylestown, PA.
Jeff Beland
Apr 25, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: tools-weapons
An interesting look into colonial life.
Feb 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Truly a treasure for generations to come.
Abraham Ray
Aug 05, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I registered a book at!
Brett Anderson
Feb 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: craftsmanship
Educational and entertaining historical reference. Sloane does a great job illustrating the tools and work of early America.
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Eric A. Drosnock
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Lewie Dunn
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Eric Sloane (born Everard Jean Hinrichs) was an American landscape painter and author of illustrated works of cultural history and folklore. He is considered a member of the Hudson River School of painting.

Eric Sloane was born in New York City. As a child, he was a neighbor of noted sign painter and type designer Frederick W. Goudy. Sloane studied art and lettering with Goudy. While he attended th

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