The Tool Restoration Process

Tools pic sm

We had quite a production line going on down at Walter’s Tools HQ, with seven volunteer workdays achieving an incredible amount and the volunteers really taking ownership of the project and teaching each other what they know. We’ve had volunteers from Reading, Yorkshire and Lancashire in addition to the majority who are from closer to home.

Once we’d dug out the tools from Walter’s barn, which was full of various trashes and treasures, we were advised by Greta Bertram, the curator from the Museum of English Rural Life, to give them all a temporary code so each tool can be referenced without confusion during the course of renovation, so each tool was given a temporary code WT XXX.


The tools were then sorted them into crates, according categories of what work was needed to get them usable:

course of action

tools in crates

Thankfully over a hundred of them needed only simple sharpening and de-rusting.


But for those that needed a bit more specialist forge work, we were very grateful to have a blacksmith and tool expert, Shaun Bainbridge, on hand with his mobile forge.

Sean checks tool category

Meanwhile, Walter Lloyd (below, left) reacquainted himself with many of his tools that he had not laid hands on for years, and retrieved their stories from his deep well of knowledge. This was aided by the attendance of George Haugh (below, right) who used to run a hand tool stall in Kendal market and from whom Walter had bought (or begged as the case may be!) many of his tools.

Geordie & Walter rummage

Gaps in Walter’s knowledge were complemented by referencing tool catalogues sent in by helpful folk such as Alistair Simms – the only remaining master cooper in Britain, the excellent Salaman’s Dictionary of Woodworking Tools  and heritage crafts and trades books.

Walter & Paddy w billhooks

coopering catalogue book

The renovated tools were then catalogued in detail, according to attributes advised by Greta, the curator from MERL. Each tool had an entry in the catalogue for

  • name,
  • local/ colloquial name,
  • trade used in,
  • how used,
  • materials,
  • size,
  • maker/ manufacturer,
  • maker’s mark,
  • measurements,
  • provenance,
  • renovation required .

cataloguing close up

The catalogue sheets will remain a lovely relic of this project, including as they do the hand-drawn representations of the tools, made my many different volunteers, along with Walter’s stories, and dirty fingerprints!

catalogue writing

The catalogue has been digitised into a database to make borrowing the tools an easier process, and this has been supplemented by a complete photographic record, thanks to Sarah Thomas and a really effective set up provided by the amazing Dayve Ward, who has also been a dedicated volunteer. The digital Catalogue (see main menu) now includes a photograph of each tool and its identification code. 

me photographingPhotography setup

coopering draw knife cata image

Once the cataloguing and photography was complete, each tool was labelled permanently with the code on the original catalogue sheets, together with the addition of a suffix referring to the tool type.

me w tools & catalogue

The tools were stored in boxes awaiting completion of the labelling, before being mounted on ‘shadow’ display boards, ready  for  transportation to their new home at  Stott Park Bobbin Mill.

catalogues tools in crates

This project could never have been completed without the commitment and energy of wonderful team of volunteers. We were all fortunate to be able to share Walter’s extraordinary knowledge, and to help record it and preserve it for the future. 

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