I recently bought a bound copy of the Woodworker from 1959 and was intrigued to see that they had run a series of pictures of interesting old tools, inviting readers to write in and identify them.

The August number included this photo; the November issue had letters from seven readers.

sash shave

By far the most informative reply was from a KW Hawley of Sheffield, who gave this answer:

The tool shown is used to work a mould on a circular edge. The particular shape of moulding is to produce the grooves in the sides of handrails. It will be appreciated that these tools were in use before the advent of the spindle moulder (about 1890, I am told). For straight work a moulding plane would be used but for the top of circular-headed windows or in a handrail for a curved staircase where it may be curved in both plan and elevation, one of the ‘Circular Routers’ would be used.

Notice the face of the cutter is rounded and the fence is convex to facilitate this class of work.

I have in my collection of old tools four similar routers, one of which has the same shape of mould as that illustrated. It is made by J. Gleave of Oldham Street, Manchester, sometime between 1853 and 1913. The Sheffield Illustrated List of Tools dated 1910 shows a tool to perform a similar task; it is called an ‘Improved Sash Router’ and it is priced 6/-.


In that one short note, we can see that, long before TATHS was thought of, Ken could come up with a reply, so characteristic of him, which

  • was based on close observation;
  • referred to evidence in written sources;
  • used evidence from an extensive collection of examples; and
  • related the structural features of the tool to the way in which it was used.

I reckon he fully deserved the half guinea that the magazine paid him as a publication fee!


Andy Tuckwell

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