Accidental Collection of Tool Grinders

Tool grinders nearly take over tool collection

| February 2000

Robert Schwab didn't plan to be a collector of tool grinders. It just happened. 

"I swapped for a grinder to fix the mower I had," he says. "I hadn't realized I was collecting until I had a lot of them. It used to be that at every farm sale there was a tool grinder. Now they're rare. I don't know why that is. I'm interested in buying or trading, but I'm low budget."

Robert has two big barns at his home outside Hagerstown, Md. One contains a workshop where he used to fix and rebuild buggy wheels for local owners. He has an extensive collection of old tools, some handmade, and a variety of equipment related to horses, wagons, and horse-drawn equipment. Tucked away in a protected corner is a 1914 horse-drawn mail wagon originally from Inwood, W.Va. In the adjoining paddock, there's an ancient horse named King.

A native of Erie, Pa., Robert grew up working on a farm and is familiar with rural life. Prior to retirement, he was employed at a Hagerstown truck factory as a heating and refrigeration mechanic.

"I've always liked old stuff," he says. "I have a lot of one-horse stuff. Most stuff is for two horses. I've got a Jones Junior one-horse mower that's 100 years old."

His tool grinder collection includes more than 30 different types of implements used for sharpening tools around the farm. In 1998, he built himself a special wagon with fold-down sides in which to display the tool grinders he has restored. Hitched to a one-ton flatbed truck, it's a rig that is familiar to show-goers in a four-state area.