Accidental Collection of Tool Grinders

Tool grinders nearly take over tool collection

| February 2000

  • A selection of grinders in Robert Schwab's rolling display. Robert exhibits his collection at 10-12 shows each year.
    A selection of grinders in Robert Schwab's rolling display. Robert exhibits his collection at 10-12 shows each year.
  • Pedal power – provided by Robert Schwab – gets this McCormick-Deering chain-driven sickle bar grinder going
    Pedal power – provided by Robert Schwab – gets this McCormick-Deering chain-driven sickle bar grinder going.
  • The oldest grinder in Robert's collection
    The oldest grinder in Robert's collection: This treasure was patented in 1868, and probably dates to the late 1800s. To use it, you'd brace the end of it against your hip and turn the crank to activate the Carborundum tip.
  • A selection of grinders lined up in Robert's barn. None are sickle bar grinders.
    A selection of grinders lined up in Robert's barn. None are sickle bar grinders.
  • Pieces from the collection of Robert Schwab
    Pieces from the collection of Robert Schwab
  • An Ideal Lawn Mower Grinder. Patents on the piece are dated 1908 and 1910.
    An Ideal Lawn Mower Grinder. Patents on the piece are dated 1908 and 1910.

  • A selection of grinders in Robert Schwab's rolling display. Robert exhibits his collection at 10-12 shows each year.
  • Pedal power – provided by Robert Schwab – gets this McCormick-Deering chain-driven sickle bar grinder going
  • The oldest grinder in Robert's collection
  • A selection of grinders lined up in Robert's barn. None are sickle bar grinders.
  • Pieces from the collection of Robert Schwab
  • An Ideal Lawn Mower Grinder. Patents on the piece are dated 1908 and 1910.

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.



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