Monday, January 20, 2014

We used to make things in this country. #138 : E. Broad & Sons, St. Stephen, New Brunswick

I found this old 1-inch chisel this week:

Note the lovely, slender tape to the blade.

The town of St. Stephen is off of the Bay of Fundy, on the St. Croix River which constitutes the border between New Brunswick and Maine.  Apparently, the firm of E. Broad & Sons operated for only 12 years between 1883 and 1895.  They produced axes, chisels, hammers, and mining picks.  There were quite a few edge-tool manufacturers using the Broad name around St. John at this period in time, so there was likely a family connection.  (The town of Nackawic, to the north, boasts the world's largest axe:  15 metres tall and 55 tons!)

The factory building on Prince William Street has since been designated a historic site.  The following is from the Historic Places website:
"The Axe Factory was designated as a Local Historic Place for its role in the economy of St. Stephen and for its architecture. 
The Axe Factory is recognized for being one of the leading industries in its time. In circa 1866, the Douglas Axe Manufacturing Company built their factory on Dennis Stream. In 1883, it was purchased by E. Broad & Sons who operated the company until 1895 when a new company was formed under the name of St. Stephen Edge Tool Co. In 1911, Harry Broad formed the Mann Axe & Tool Co. with Charles Heustis as president and manager. With two storeys of the original factory now in use, they acquired the buildings of the Bug Death Chemical Co. A new factory was added and began operation in 1922. The factory was water powered from Dennis Stream and the original Hercules turbine was still in use. In 1930, the factory became a victim of the Great Depression, but managed to continue until 1943 when the business closed.
The Axe Factory is also recognized for its architecture. It is a good example of rural factory design from the late 19th century. It is of wooden crib construction on a rectangular plan with a distinctive roof monitor. The building that exists on the site today is a wing of the original factory."

Given tools under this name were only produced for a very few years, it's sad that some philistine has hammered the socket to the point where it is so badly mushroomed and distorted.  As someone once said, you can't save them all, but it's a shame if you can't save the good ones.  I've conferred with a blacksmith, and am hoping that I might be able to reform the socket so that the tool will remain original, but can also be put back to work.

Update March 18, 2015

In tidying up loose ends in my shop, I finally decided just to saw off the mushroomed socket on that chisel, saw off a good socket from an old no-name chisel I found at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore bin, and weld the two together.  I milled the ends of each section flat, and then decided to drill a hole in each section into which I could insert a steel rod to keep the two pieces in position for welding.  Turns out I had no trouble drilling into the socket from the no-name chisel, but I couldn't even dimple the steel in the old chisel.  In fact, I dulled a centre drill on it.  The mushroomed piece I sawed off showed, in cross-section, how the socket had been formed by wrapping steel spirally around a form and then hammering it together on an anvil when it was hot.  They made good stuff back then.  

Anyway, I was able to set up the two pieces without the benefit of the rod and arc weld them together, and didn't do a half-bad job in spite of my indifferent welding skills.  Then I turned a wooden handle for it and the chisel is back in business.  It only took me a couple of hours to do, but a year to get around to it!

Update, March 2023;  it appears these tools still turn up now and then, Keith sent the following pictures of a 1/2" chisel he has acquired. 

Thanks, Keith!


Anonymous said...

Lately I've found a drawknife marked E. Broad and Sons (nubber 8) in an antique shop, in exellent condition. This article was very helpfull in understanding it's history. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I was just handed down from my new found family My Grandfathers Draw blade marked E Broad & sons 10 It is the only item i have of him so thanks for the history on where it's from Grandpa lived in Sudbury Ont

Anonymous said...

Nice restoration! And thanks for the history, too.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the info. I found an almost identical 1" chisel yesterday in a box of my father's tools; I was looking for a socket chisel to fill in a gap in a set of Buck Bros. chisels. The socket had been mildly abused, but not to the extent of yours, and I was able to grind off the slight mushroom, polish it, and fit a new handle. I could see the wrapped forging in the bottom of the rather blunt socket. It is just slightly heavier than the Buck Bros chisels but remarkably similar in size, form, and finish. Dad, like I, was an inveterate collector so there's no telling where the chisel originated. I've spent the last year sorting through his things, displaying some, swapping some upgrades into my usable tools, etc. We're in the Niagara area of Ontario.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the info. I picked up a 3 inch slick today. Handle and iron in great condition

Anonymous said...

When my father passed a few years back i received the hand tools he had collected over the years. There is an E. Broad and Sons 9" Draw knife in the batch. Are you saying these markings were last used in 1895?

Mister G said...

We believe so, yes. Always looking for more information!

Unknown said...

Just found a draw knife in our barn. Tucked between the studs. Says E Broad & Sons. A bit corroded, but still good enough to hold an edge. Am going to use it tomorrow. 9in. Thrilled with the find.

Mister G said...

Nice! I'd love to have a picture of that for the blog! Could you send one to ?

Keithjross said...

Most interesting! I worked in St. Stephen 1990 - 1995 but never knew of the factory. I found a 1/2” firmer chisel without handle in a collection of vintage tools given to me last week. I’ll send a photo to the email listed above.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great history lesson. I acquired a nice Broad and Son's hewing axe a couple years ago. Unfortunately the previous owner sharpened the flat side so it is now a double bevel. It was otherwise taken care of as its in amazing shape for it's age. Quality tool! Cheers!