Farm Tools of the Trade

Illinois man collects farm tools, antique wrenches, antique jacks and planter plates

Cast iron planter plates

Cast iron planter plates on the back of William Kuntz's trailer make this display impossible to miss. The trailer's open sides show off his collection of wrenches and jacks.

Content Tools

Where do you put a huge collection of farm tools? William Kuntz, Goodfield, Ill., improvised: he built a trailer for his collection of farm tools. 

William's been collecting for 16 years. In that amount of time, the treasures start to pile up.

"I have around 900 antique wrenches, 160 antique jacks and 700 old cast iron planter plates," he said.

The trailer display he's built features doors that swing out to open. Collectible farm tools are mounted on shelves inside, and another collection is displayed on the back end. It's custom-made for his collection.

"I started with an old mobile home running gear," he said. "I used lumber from an old house. The trailer display has doors that open. The display then is inside and out, plus items that are mounted on the trailer."

He finished the trailer display – a winter project – about six years ago.

"I've been showing for 16 years," he said. "After 10 years, I couldn't decide where to keep it all. Either I was going to build a trailer, or sell it all, so I built this trailer."

At the River Valley Antique Association's Old Fashioned Threshing Show held this summer at Chillicothe, Ill., William's trailer display drew a crowd.

"What's this?" asked a man as he peered at a huge, wooden jack. It happened to be William's favorite wood buggy jack. His collection includes everything from heavy metal to lightweight pieces. Another prized piece was light green, with the words "World's Best" stamped on.

A red jack is a unique addition to his collection, he explained.

"It has a thing on top that spins," he said. "It snaps off, and I found out it was an adjustable wrench." That wrench – made in 1891 – was designed for removing bolts from a wheel's axle.

While many people collect items they remember from their childhood days, William's collection is a sort of reverse nostalgia.

"I grew up with an uncle that never had any wrenches," he said. "A wire was a wrench to him. He wouldn't ever use one, and I decided on my own to buy one."

If only it were that simple. Some 900 wrenches later ... well, William's learned a lot; he enjoys sharing that knowledge with visitors at shows. Some of his tools, for instance, are marked with a swastika. Many who see it, he said, assume a connection to Nazi Germany. But these tools have no sinister background: in this case, the symbol was used by a Louisiana tool maker.

"They used the sign as a good luck sign," William said. "The sign was an early Indian sign."

His collection also includes sub-specialties. One entire panel is devoted to Ford pliers. Accenting that collection are a Ford tire pump, emergency kit and oil can.

Planter plates are displayed on the back end of William's trailer. The plates are painted the colors of the rainbow, and come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Many were made for planting corn, such as a John Deere adjustable; others were designed for millet and other grains. FC 

Cindy Ladage is a freelance writer based in Virden, Ill. 

mike urness
6/21/2012 9:48:33 PM

The tools with swastikas that were made in this country were made in Louisiana, Missouri by the Buffum Tool Company.