Just Toolin' Around

| November 2003

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    Sydney Bunnell
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    Dizzying array of tools connected to several wooden panels

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What time is it? It's tool time! That line was used as the opening for the 'Tool Time' segment in the long-running comedy Home Improvement starring Tim Allen. It's also an appropriate catchphrase at the Hodgenville, Ky., home of 85-year-old Sydney Bunnell. Sydney has been collecting antique tools for the last 80 years.

Unlike the now-defunct TV show, which poked fun at men and their passion for tools, Sydney takes his hobby seriously. He owns more than 1,000 tools - and knows most of their uses.

Sydney traces his interest back to his youth in Hart County, in an area now called Bunnell's Crossing Road. 'I've bought and collected these things since I was big enough to hold a tool,' Sydney recalls. 'I've always had a fascination with them. When I was little, I used to ask to visit a blacksmith shop below Hardyville (Ky.).'

Sydney, who is a co-founder of the Lincolnland Antique Gas Engine and Tractor Show, brought a trailer display of his tools to the annual event at the LaRue County Fairgrounds in August. Several wooden panels held countless antique hammers, wrenches, meat grinders and other items that aren't so easily recognizable.

'If I see something and don't know what it is, I buy it,' Sydney says. He then takes the items to antique shows or looks in antique dealer magazines to have them identified. Although Sydney has been a long-time collector, he says he didn't start displaying the tools until he started the club.

'Me and Harold Middleton and Arleigh Fultz started the club in Cave City (Ky.) in 1976 and called it the Mammoth Cave Antique Engine Show,' Bunnell explains. 'In 1979, I put two tool panels together and brought it to the show. And it just kept growing.'