The idea of forming a club for collecting and discussing hand tools was in the minds of a few in the early days of the 1980s and none more so than the manager of Educational Services at Stanley Tools Australia, Bill Moss. In August 1982 Bill sent invitations to people who had indicated some enthusiasm for such an idea to a meeting at the Moncrief Road office of The Stanley Works at 7.30pm October 25th 1982. The sole purpose of the meeting was to identify if there was sufficient interest to form a group or association for the purpose of discussing and exchanging information regarding hand tools, old and new. It was further suggested that each participant bring along a tool from his collection. Stanley provided a listing of all catalogues and publications they held on file, so that these could be used for reference or research.
Thirteen attended the meeting and there were five apologies. Three of these attendees remain members today - Kees Klep, Nigel Lampert and Graeme Plaw:
At this inaugural meeting the broad aim was to promote the preservation of hand tools, and further interest in them. A suitable name was discussed, with opinion divided between Hand Tool Preservation Group and Hand Tool Preservation Association.
Discussion centred around possible exhibitions or displays, and the possibility that the management of the Caine Collection, a large collection of tools held in storage by the National Trust, could be a worthwhile project for the group. The meeting displayed tools and held lively discussions in the same manner as that enjoyed today at our bimonthly meetings. The meeting closed agreeing to meet in February the following year.
The February meeting was followed up by a number of informal contacts. A meeting on the 7th September 1983 which agreed to form the Hand Tool Preservation Association, and agreed to meet every two to three months at members’ homes.
By the 29th November 1983 all was in place and the Hand Tool Preservation Association held its first meeting with six members attending and two apologies. All were asked to apply for membership with a $5.00 joining fee and a $3.00 annual subscription. The first meeting for 1984 was held Tuesday the 21st February 1984.
By April 1984 agreement was reached to hold regular meetings on the fourth Tuesday of the odd months, starting with meetings in May, July, September and November in 1984. Later the meetings were moved to the third Tuesday of the odd months.
The May 1984 meeting was of particular importance as Kees Klep had arranged for a representative of the National Trust to be present to discuss the Thomas Caine Collection and our possible involvement.
In August a visit to the Caine Collection was undertaken. In November 1984 the Caine Collection sub-committee was formed. The club was now fourteen members strong, meeting regularly and growing in numbers. By 1989 there were forty-five members, and meetings were still held at member's private homes.
As the membership of the Association grew it became impossible to meet in members’ homes, and meeting rooms were rented at the Meat Market Craft Centre. After a few meetings there we relocated to the Box Hill Community Arts Centre, where we remain today.
We continue to meet six times a year on the third Tuesday of each odd month. and Kees Klep has been our program manager, arranging topics, speakers and activities for our meetings, since we began.
The first newsletter of the founding association, now known as Hand Tool Preservation Association, was Volume 1, Number 1, published in 1989.
Some articles from Issue No. 1:
The first office bearers were Jock Watson, President, Frank Ham, Secretary, Kees Klep, and Nigel Lampert. Our first newsletter was produced by the Secretary, Frank Ham in 1989. From then on until 1995, it was produced by the Newsletter Committee - Nigel Lampert, editor, with Alan West, Alex McLean, and Doug McIver. Gradually we increased the content and improved the illustrations.
As our membership increased we realised that our publications were the most important and often the only contact we had with more than 60% of our members who were unable to attend meetings. Under the leadership of Watson Cutter we developed The Tool Chest, as our quarterly magazine, and The Sharp Edge as a newsletter with reports of recent activities and details of future events.
The Sharp Edge also included members’ advertisements, and acknowledgements of donations of tools, and of books for our library.
Very early in the history of the Association we began acquiring reference material for the benefit of members – specialist books and tool catalogues. The HTPAA Reference Library now has over 320 books and 350 tool catalogues. Selected books and catalogues are available at our meetings, and may be borrowed by members. A catalogue of library books and catalogues is issued to members periodically.
Kees Klep managed the library until 1996, when Rod Thomas accepted the responsibility. For many years the library was stored at Box Hill Institute
Through our close association with the National Trust, we manage, catalogue, restore, preserve and photograph the tools of the Thomas Caine Tool Collection. The Association is also building and maintaining two other collections – the General Collection for tools of all types from anywhere in the world, and the Australian Collection. Being an Australian Association we believe that we have a special responsibility to ensure that the history of Australian tool making is properly recorded, and supported by a representative collection of tools. Working bees are held monthly to manage these collections. Many of the tools in the HTPAA collections have been received as a result of donations.
Thomas Sydney Caine, who died in 1968, was woodworker and builder who lived in North Melbourne. In his later years he became concerned that the tools which had been such an important part of his life were falling into disuse, and at risk of being forgotten. He responded to this realization by actively seeking and acquiring tools, probably from tradesmen as they retired, and so built up a substantial collection. Finally he decided to leave his collection to the National Trust, “for the benefit of the people of Victoria”. The original members of the Association formed a close relationship with the National Trust which continues today. The HTPAA manages the Caine Collection, and prepares displays of tools from the Collection for the National Trust.
More information on Thomas Caine the man and his collection can be found here.
Since June 1991 the HTPAA has held tool sales each year. Initially they were held annually and Nigel Lampert arranged for the use of the Kensington Primary School Hall. Since March 1996 our sales, now three times each year, are held in the hall at the Glenferrie Primary School in Hawthorn, organised and managed by Rod Thomas. Tool sales have been popular with our members and with publicity especially by the ABC, 3LO (774) and Alan Willingham (Antique architect), the distribution of advertising flyers, and notices on our web site, we have attracted many members of the public. The sales enable members to buy and sell tools.The HTPAA offers a service to members and the public to manage the disposal of unwanted tools. Many of the tools offered at our tool sales are being sold by the HTPAA on behalf of others, often widows left with tools in garages and sheds.
As we entered the 21st century Watson Cutter suggested that we should use the Internet to improve our communication with our Australia-wide and international membership, and with the public. Watson, Doug McIver and Frank Ham met with Ian Stagg to plan the establishment of a website. This was achieved in June 2001 with the use of the Victorian Government domain. George Radion volunteered to be webmaster. In September 2002 we gained our own website domain name – htpaa.org.au.
The website is now very popular, with more than 147000 hits since it opened. It includes information about our activities, and illustrations of some collections of tools, uncommon tools, and whatsits are available. The Table of Contents of all our Tool Chests is available on line, and searchable. An application form for membership may be downloaded.
It is intended to expand the website to allow members to supply illustrations and descriptions of rare or unidentified tools, and to allow members to add their own comments.
George Radion, Rod Thomas and Ian Stagg form the website sub-committee, and they are always pleased to receive or contributions and suggestions to extend and improve our website.
The design of The Tool Chest was enhanced in February 2005. The page size was increased, the text arranged in two columns, better quality paper is used, and the cover is printed in colour. We continue to publish quality original material in our articles, and the larger size and better paper allows for bigger, clearer illustrations. In a further enhancement, the decision was made in 2017 to provide for full colour throughout the Tool Chest, allowing more appealing layout and and more representative images..
With the increase in numbers of members and the increase in activities it was decided to apply for Incorporation. This was granted and the Hand Tool Preservation Association of Australia Inc. was established on 9th September 1992 with Victorian Registration number (A0025953J). On 10th October 2017, HTPAA was granted charity status by the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission.
Because of our close association with the National Trust and our responsibilities caring for the Thomas Tool Caine Collection for the Trust, we regularly display tools at National Trust events. We have held displays at Gulf Station, a pioneer farm property, for more than 20 years and at McCrae Homestead, an original homestead on the Mornington Peninsula.
Illustration 14 – Display at Gulf Station
The HTPAA has also provided displays for the Melbourne Museum, local museums in Lilydale, Nuunawading, Sunbury, and Lost Trades Fair at Kyneton, and at the Wandin Draught Horse & Old Time Festival at Mont De Lancey Historic Homestead at Wandin.
In 2007 we were invited to provide a display for the ABC Collectors show at the Victorian State Library, and we have provided mystery items for several of their television programs.
Twenty years ago the Hand Tool Preservation Association was invited to display antique hand tools at the initial Timber and Working with Wood Show at the Exhibition Building in Carlton.
Since then we have displayed and demonstrated tools at every Melbourne Working with Wood Show. Our exposure at the Show not only enables our members to keep in contact with the timber merchants and wood workers but is also very productive in attracting new members and giving us good wide exposure to the public at large.
In 1996 the Working with Wood Show moved to the Melbourne Exhibition Centre, then to the Melbourne Showgrounds. The name changed more recently to the Timber and Working with Wood Show and was held at Seaworks Maritime Discovery Centre briefly. In 2020 the name of the event changed again to the Timber, Tools & Artisan Show.
From 1998 an all-day conference was instituted and repeated at two yearly intervals. The conferences, organised by Frank Ham, involve speakers of both members and outside experts on tools and related topics. In 2008 the HTPAA held an all-day 25th Anniversary Tool Meeting at the Glenferrie Primary School Hall on Saturday 12th April - the day before our first tool sale of 2008. The conferences not only attracted Victorian members but also members and visitors from interstate. The conference has also resulted in many quality articles for The Tool Chest and they have allowed displays by our members and participation in discussions with expert panelists.
In 2018 the conference was re-named to the HTPAA Tools & Trade Day t better describe the event and the format has developed to have both formal presentations by guest speakers and demonstrations by many of them of their tools and/or trade.
In 2003, the HTPAA was involved in a major project to provide tools for the people of East Timor, who were in a desperate state after they finally won their independence. The project was established by Freemasons Victoria, Knights of the Southern Cross and Rotary International, who appealed to the public to donate unwanted tools. Old tools were collected from across the city and accumulated at an unused warehouse in Bayswater. Over a period of several months HTPAA members worked with many other volunteers to sort and restore an immense quantity of tools. Eventually the usable tools were packed into four large containers and shipped off to East Timor.
The HTPAA has held occasional social activities to which members’ families have been invited. These activities have usually been held as day or weekend trips, in summer. The objective has been to combine “tool” interests with general interests to find enjoyment for everyone. One of the most enjoyable events was a visit and a cruise on the Enterprize, a fine replica of the sailing ship which brought the first settlers to Melbourne in 1834.
Over the twenty-five years since our formation the membership has continued to increase. By 2001 we had two hundred and forty members. By 2020 the total was over three hundred.
To increase the benefits of membership to collectors who cannot attend our meetings or our three Antique & Collectable Hand Tool Markets each year, we have issued (at no cost to members) many publications, especially catalogues, including reprints of Dawn Vice Catalogue, Danks 1913 Catalogue, Trewhella Jacks, two J. Buck Catalogues of Tools and most recently a George Adams 1926 Catalogue of Metal Working Tools. In August 2001 we published a special ninety page Federation Edition of The Tool Chest.
Historical records of tools and trades were written in the 17th and 18th centuries by educated and probably prosperous men such as Moxon and Diderot rather than artisans and tradesmen. However, in the 19th century catalogues were produced to help the sale of factory-made goods.
In the 20th century tool collecting and history societies were formed. The first established (in August 1933) was the Early American Industries Association with 26 founding members present at the initial meeting in Northampton, Massachusetts. In May 1968 the Mid-West Tool Collectors was started with 23 foundation members in attendance.
The initial meeting arranged by Bill Moss at Stanley was in November 1982 with 13 attendees but the name Hand Tool Preservation Association was not decided until later in 1983. At this time the British were forming the Tools and Trades History Society. Thus TATHS is also celebrating their 25th anniversary this year.
In Western Australia the Handtool Preservation Society began in 1984 and New South Wales formed the TTTG - Traditional Tools and Trades Group in November 1991. In New Zealand the Vintage Tool Collectors Club Started in 1987.
The HTPAA has regular contacts with these other Australasian organizations. Some of our members belong to interstate and New Zealand societies and the reverse also occurs. The HPS of WA purchases copies of our Tool Chest on behalf of most of their members and we exchange publications with all Australasian societies as well as TATHS. It is pleasing that we always have interstate and sometimes even N.Z. visitors to our conferences and some of our tool sales.
Interesting periodicals received by members of these associations include:
Early American Industries Association (EAIA) - The Chronicle
Mid-West Tool Collectors Association (M-WTCA) - The Gristmill
Tools and Trades History Society (TATHS) - Newsletter, and Journal
Hand Tool Preservation Society of WA (HTPSWA) - The Benchmark
Traditional Tools Group (TTTG) - News
New Zealand Vintage Tool Collection Club (NZVTCC) - The Collector
The HTPAA has continued to increase its membership numbers and the HTPAA Australian and General Collections have also grown considerably. Thus, we have a need for a permanent home. We need a meeting room for 60 members, adequate storage for our collections, a workshop for restorations, a display area for members and visitors to appreciate the Thomas Caine and the HTPAA collections, and space for our extensive library.
Another problem is that the average age of our members is slowly but surely increasing. This probably reflects the closure of technical schools and the smaller number of apprentices, together with the use of power driven tools rather than hand tools. However, on the brighter side it is pleasing that we regularly have more than 50 members at our general meetings and up to one hundred members at our tool sales.
Based on 'A HISTORY OF THE HAND TOOL PRESERVATION ASSOCIATION'
25 Years of Collecting, Research and Restoration
Frank Ham, Kees Klep, and Graeme Plaw Members of HTPAA