James Marsh - Pond Works Sheffield

Discussion in 'Forum: Saw Identification and Discussion' started by jossimbyr, Mar 16, 2012.

  1. jossimbyr

    jossimbyr Member

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    Hello, all. Longtime lurker, first-time thread-starter. I took delivery yesterday of a James Marsh backsaw that I purchased on eBay. The saw wasn't in the best of condition, but the medallion design - two beavers standing around - drove me to pay too much. I have had no luck finding any documentation on this maker or the medallion, so I hope that some of our more knowledgeable members can shed a bit of light on this piece. If nothing else, maybe you guys will get a kick out of the medallion, too. :D

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  2. jossimbyr

    jossimbyr Member

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    Sorry about the quality of the pics, as I took them with my cellphone. Also, for anyone interested, I have the full-size handle scans and would be happy to post, email, whatever.
     
  3. fred0325

    fred0325 Most Valued Member

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    Hi,

    Welcome to posting.

    I have actually done the research on this meaning to bid but I spent quite a lot of money that week on saws and this, along with the postage to the UK was a little too much. I think that it was for sale for the third time of asking as well and when it started low, I got my hopes up. It was the beavers (without the double entendre) that did it for me!!

    Anyway the first mention of Marshes and Shepherd (the M and S on the medallion) that I could find was in Gell 1825 when they were listed as knife makers and steel refiners and converters at 3 Porter Street.

    They are still there doing the same thing in Pigots 1828/29 and by Pigots 1841 they were listed as file manufacturers and edge tool makers at Pond Works.

    If it was the same company they had branched out to being Iron and Steel merchants in Birmingham in Slaters Important English Towns 1847, and were still listed at Pond Works in Sheffield but this time as saw manufacturers.

    In 1849 HSMOB has them being succeeded by Marsh Brothers until 1970.

    So, assuming that your saw is a "proper" Marshes and Shepherd and not a brand name carried on by Marsh Brothers, then it should be pre 1849 - but of course you cannot be sure of that.

    Was it this saw that the seller stated that it was 1820?, or am I being confused by some other one that I had my eye on. It could of course be the 1820's, but the crowns on the saw are definitely "Queens Crowns":) and so that puts it after 1837.

    As for James Marsh, I can see no-one in the Online directories to tie up with Marshes and Shepherd, but that doesn't mean that there never was such a person, although HSMOB have (I think) the "Marshes" as John and William Marsh.

    Thats all that I can find.

    But it is a beautifully marked saw

    Fred
     
  4. ray

    ray Administrator Staff Member

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    Hi Jossimbyr,

    Welcome to the forum, and congratulations on a very interesting first post.

    I'd agree with Fred's assessment.

    Marshes and Shepherd were the predecessor to Marsh Brothers, and if, as Fred noted the mark wasn't re-used by the later firm that would date the saw to before 1849..

    I'm intrigued by the beaver medallion, that's great marketting for a saw maker exporting to the US market..

    Marshes and Shepherd were one of Spear and Jacksons biggest customers.
    They did manufacturing themselves as well, but primarily they appear to be Merchants.

    Marshes and Shepherd feature prominently in the early Spear and Jackson accounts, and were exporting significantly larger quantities than Spear and Jackson themselves in 1831.. ( Simon's Thesis to the rescue..)

    They (Marsh Brothers) got badly hit by the Russian revolution, like Kenyon and others who exported large quantities to Russia that they were never paid for.

    Interesting saw, and an interesting company, I'm sure Simon could add much more detail, and correct the things I've got wrong.. :)

    Regards
    Ray
     
  5. jossimbyr

    jossimbyr Member

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    Thank you for the welcome, fred. If that was the third time it was listed, then the second time it was listed was my first time seeing it. I fell in love with the beavers, but just couldn't pull the trigger at $45 plus shipping. Luckily, nobody else could, either. :p I remember telling my wife that I was going to buy the saw if it was relisted. She looked, said it looked just like every other saw I had, then gave me back my phone. "It has BEAVERS!" I retorted. Without hesitation, she dismissed my enthusiasm with "I'm sure it does."

    I tried to dig up some info about the maker, but I'm apparently not as resourceful as you guys. No matter, though. I didn't need research to tell me that it had an awesome medallion. Bids were placed, confidence was high. Several days later, I was happily flaunting my disregard for my wife's lack of passion for tools as I opened the saw package...

    Amazing research. Thank you for sharing your findings.

    That is correct. The seller advertised it as 1820s or so.

    Thank you again for the info. I posted this query on woodnet.com in hopes of getting some good feedback. Don McConnell, of all people, responded with some very nice research. In a nutshell, he believes that James Marsh might be the father of John and William. I have asked if I could repost his findings here, but I will link to them just in case.

    http://www.forums.woodnet.net/ubbthreads/showflat.php?Cat=&Board=handtools&Number=5852198&page=0&view=collapsed&sb=5&o=&fpart=all

    Would it be okay for me to post your findings on that thread? Sometimes, people are partial to one 'home' forum and might not venture to other places, so I'd like to be able to enlighten people there as well.
     
  6. jossimbyr

    jossimbyr Member

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    Thank you, and thanks again for maintaining such an excellent site. I'm well honored to be part of it.

    Hmm, I'd not given the significance of the beavers much thought since they are common in the US. A quick glance at wikipedia tells me that they had been extinct in England since the 1500s, only having been recently reintroduced into the wild. So, I now wonder why they would use two beavers on their medallion. If James Marsh was the father of the two Marsh boys, could those two beavers represent them? I like the (apparent) wordplay of his last name and the name of his 'factory', so the beavers would fit right in to the playfulness.

    Very, very enlightening. What thesis do you speak of?

    Even more interesting findings. It is all much appreciated. As I asked fred, would you mind if I posted your findings on woodnet?
     
  7. fred0325

    fred0325 Most Valued Member

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    Hi,

    I can't complain at coming 2nd to Don McConnell in getting facts complete.

    I missed the 1833 (Whites) directory p.329 for some reason, but Marshes and Shepherd are listed there. And I don't have access online to a directory of 1808 or 1817 (Sheffield) and which is annoying in itself or I would hopefully have found James Marsh.

    So, it looks like Marshes and Shepherd used their (Marshes) father's trade mark or name on this saw.

    I still think that the seller's 1820 ascription of a date was wrong for the reason of "Pond Works" alone, and I also still think that it is post 1837 because the crowns stamped on the blade are Queen's crowns. (I know that I am obsessive about this but until someone proves me wrong, I will stick with the concept). I have a sneaking suspicion that Simon has mentioned that the 3 crowns logo as a feature of saw markings was first used widely in the 3rd quarter of the of the C. 19th. This doesn't mean that they were not used earlier, but it may indicate a date for the saw being a Marsh Brothers rather than a "pure" Marshes and Shepherd.

    Anything that I put on here you can take it as given that it can be transferred or used anywhere else. All I am really bothered about is getting to the bottom of the many and varied mysteries that inhabit the universe of saws, and if my posts help, then that is fine with me.

    Good luck with the renovation of the saw. It is more than I dare attempt.

    Fred
     
  8. ray

    ray Administrator Staff Member

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    669
    Hi Jossimbyr,

    No problem, cross posting on woodnet, I'm a member over there as well, it's a great forum.

    Simon Barley wrote his PhD thesis on "Saw Making in Sheffield 1750:1830" it's an unpublished work, but contains some fascinating insights into the rise of Sheffield as a center of toolmaking, and saws in particular.

    The specific section I was referring to is the Spear and Jacksons accounts some of which have survived, and the following paragraph caught my eye in relation to Marshes and Shepherd

    Quoting a snippet...
    "In contrast Spear & Jackson made 12 sales
    of over £100, the largest to an American merchant for £244; to put this amount in context it should be noted that Marshes and Shepherd, one of the local merchants with whom Spear & Jackson (but not Beardshaw) dealt, were in 1831 exporting to all their 311 customers together a monthly average varying between £1788 and £6964. Spear & Jackson may have been operating on a larger scale than their smaller competitor, but they
    were themselves very small in comparison to the Marshes and Shepherd partnership, which had much more emphasis than they on merchanting, but which was nevertheless also heavily engaged in manufacturing on its own account."


    It would be interesting to compare the handle styles with the early S&J..

    Here is an early (1866-1875) S&J (courtesy of Kiwi) yours is probably a bit earlier.

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    Regards
    Ray
     
  9. jossimbyr

    jossimbyr Member

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    No second place here, Fred, especially considering how much of this stuff is detectivework.

    Again, no biggie. Every effort is appreciated.

    Seems that way, if he's the father. I wonder if they had a couple of quality ranges, with their father's name being used for a distinct line?

    I am in agreement about the saw likely not being earlier than mid-50's. Thankfully, I'm not a person who buys something because of its age, so the seller could have claimed that it was prehistoric and I wouldn't have cared. As for it being a frankensaw of some sort, it's entirely possible. The saw nuts had clearly been tampered with before (the slots were a bit mangled), but all mounting points were original and the handle, if it's a replacement, is almost certainly period-correct.

    Many thanks for that, and the same extends to whatever I post. Like you, I am just fascinated by the possible origins of these beautiful tools and would like to get as much info out in an effort to receive as much info as I can.



    Thank you, good sir. If I portrayed the saw as being in very poor shape, then I have certainly done the saw a disservice. It was actually in very decent shape, although the back is going to be a bit of a head-scratcher.
     
  10. jossimbyr

    jossimbyr Member

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    Thanks, and I agree; that is a pretty good group of guys over there. If you haven't checked it out yet, take a look at the line drawing of the Marsh handle that Dominic just posted. Could be a good addition to this library here.

    I see. Thanks for sharing that bit of detail there. As I understand it, M&S was basically a middleman that also manufactured some of its own goods. Is this correct? Also, am I to understand that S&J supplied M&S with saws, either for sale or for rebranding? The handle that you posted bears quite a similarity to the Marsh handle. Then again, that's not saying much considering how similar many saw handles were.

    Not much difference between the two. As they say, the devil is in the details. :p
     
  11. jossimbyr

    jossimbyr Member

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    Well, guys, she's been cleaned, sharpened and put back together, so I figured I'd post some shots. Whereas I normally do complete teardowns and rebuilds that include stripping the handles and restaining, this saw didn't get much done at all. The blade was pretty clean, so all I did was straighten the plate (via a couple of good whacks on the spine), joint, set and sharpen. Didn't even have to redo the teeth. For the handle, I rubbed it down with brush cleaner (didn't have anything else) to remove paint spots, then applied a light coat of wax. A little Brasso on a rag, along with a light touch, removed just enough crud from the hardware to let the character shine through. After reassembly, I rubbed on a few swipes of canning wax and then tried a few test cuts. The saw is pretty aggressive, but it tracks almost perfectly and leaves a surprisingly nice finish on the wood.

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