Mathieson and Livingston handsaws

Discussion in 'Forum: Saw Identification and Discussion' started by fred0325, Jun 23, 2011.

  1. fred0325

    fred0325 Most Valued Member

    Messages:
    1,084
    Hello all,

    I have seen a few Mathieson backsaws on Ebay in the last few months but no handsaws, probably because no-one rated them enough to keep them as this seems to be their lot compared to the status accorded their more glamorous cousins . And I am still not really seeing a proper one now because, as the eagle eyed amongst you will have noticed, it has a Spear and Jackson modern handle complete with medallion. It does have a half decent stamp left on the blade though.

    Which is a lot more than can be said for the Livingston. The stamp is very corroded and can only just be made out. What I cannot show on the photo are the words "Warranted" to the left of "Glasgow" and "Cast Steel" to the right. This Livingston is R Livingston and Co. and operated from 1869 to 1903.

    The thing is that HSMOB does not have a listing for Mathieson, which is very curious because Mathieson in one guise or another was probably the most prolific toolmaker in Scotland especially of wood planes. (But obviously not of saws). And also, when Mathieson is mentioned it is normally Mathieson and Son, Glasgow or at best Glasgow and Edinburgh.

    Having said that I have found the following

    and here is where it gets interesting....Stewart, McPherson and Mathieson - Edinburgh. According to Goodman in his book British Planemakers from 1700, when Alex Mathieson took over Stewart's Edinburgh business in 1849 his son Thomas went there and was put in charge, and in 1854 they moved to the premises of McPherson taking over that maker also. In 1856 the separate Mathieson - Edinburgh business was reunited with Alex Mathieson and Son and the mark on the tools changed to Mathieson and Son - Glasgow and Edinburgh.

    For those of you who like to drool over quality woodworking tools, it came from this website.

    http://www.petermcbride.com/chest4/

    So I may have a Mathieson (specifically) Edinburgh 1849 to 1856. Or then again, I may not. There is always a fly in the ointment though, and the one in this ointment is a vague memory of a comment by Simon that few of the saws that bear the name of Scottish makers, were actually made by them. I cannot remember if Mathieson was an exception or the rule.

    Still, never mind. The saws are quite impressive being 28" long and the Livingston having just over 7" of blade depth at the heel.

    Fred
     

    Attached Files:

  2. Barleys

    Barleys Most Valued Member

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    Mathieson & Liviingston

    Interesting thoughts from Fred, and informative pics. He doesn't say right out that the M'son one seems to have been rehandled, but certainly the handle doesn't look any older than c1920, whereas the struck mark is surely older, and the amount of wear (narrow point) suggests a few thousand hours of sawing.
    My personal conclusion was that Mathieson didn't make their own saws (busy enough with everything else, maybe), and probably had a factoring arrangement with one or more of the Sheffield makers - maybe even a mutual arrangement, with them making perhaps planes for a Sheffielder. But because M'son were so huge their saws are quite plentiful. They had branches in Dundee and Liverpool, as well as Glasgow and E'burgh - and I wouldn't set complete store on the alleged dates. I have a couple of Mathieson Edinb marks which I have dated at c1880 and c1910 (I might even be nearly right).

    I have one Livingston hand saw, with a mark pretty much the same as Fred's, which I have dated at c1880. It has the words Warranted to the left of the maker's name, but Silver Steel to the right, not cast steel. These words (there is a detailed section in my book about what they might mean) were used by Groves (and one or two others) for many years, and Groves had a Glasgow agency as early as 1856. Connection???? I doubt if Livingston made their own saws (I think that of all the Glasgow "makers" probably only William Cook and Elsworth made their own - which is a very sticking-my-neck-out sort of statement).
    LIVINGSTON & WATSON GLASGOW
    235 Argyle Street 1858-1868
    LIVINGSTON, Robert & Co
    235 (263) (263B) Argyle Street 1869-1902
    263 Argyle Street & Bridge Street, Partick 1890-1893
    35 Great Western Road & 343 Argyle Street 1901-1902
    Saw, plane and edge tool manufacturers, ironmongers and cutlers. Business continued by William Muir.

    PS I've today contacted a publisher to see if they will take on my book, now, thank the Lord, finished (although I've already had to start a file labelled "Updates").
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 2, 2011
  3. Barleys

    Barleys Most Valued Member

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    546
    Mathieson and L

    I mean of course Older, not younger (spot the deliberate mistake...)
     
  4. PeterEvans

    PeterEvans Most Valued Member

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    Simon, am looking forward to the book! Perhaps a website for updates, you might even be able to get notes on there before the book appears. Perhaps Ray could have a section on here?

    Mathieson also sold files marked Mathieson, could have been made by any one of thelegion of Sheffield makers.
     
  5. ray

    ray Administrator Staff Member

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    668
    Hi Simon,

    Fixed... (blue pencil)

    Good to hear the book is getting closer, is it time yet to put my hand up as a purchaser?...

    If you have any promotional material, or, web address for on-line purchases, etc.. please let me know and I'll be happy to put it on the front page of the site.

    Regards
    Ray
     
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2011
  6. Barleys

    Barleys Most Valued Member

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    546
    Mathieson and Livingston saws

    Sincere thanks to all you good members of backsaw.net for information and encouragement.
    Delayed answering Peter and Ray's last offers of help in producing a book for saw nerds through an intensive and salutary couple of weeks correcting the mistakes on the first printed out copy of the 612 pages (roughly 200 pages of how saws were made, where and when they were made, how design and appearance develped over time, saw handle design and fasteners, and types of saws, then 400 pages of saw makers and "makers"). This is not in any way to brag, but to ask for as many opinions as possible from people who I hope might in the end be interested, as to how best to get it out there.
    1. A printed book, produced to the highest standards of printing, paper, illustrations etc and probably costing the wrong side, maybe well the wrong side, of £50.
    2. A printed book self published to somewhat lower standard all round but maybe coming in at £40 at the most.
    3. A CD-ROM of the pdf version of the whole thing, searchable, printable if the buyer wanted to.
    4. Some combination of the above, with maybe a book plus a CD of the makers' list, so that an update could be issued (if I have the energy to keep up the research).

    My own feelings waver between vanity (wanting to see the highest possible standard publication that I would be glad to see retained by libraries) and utility (wanting it to be used by and useful to those most interested in saws and saw manufacture).
    Ideas welcome! Best to you all Simon
     
  7. Joe S

    Joe S Most Valued Member

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    Mathieson and Livingston saws

    Hey Simon et al...

    "Vanity" notwithstanding, if this book is as you say and I would expect from all this research, produce to the highest standards. I for one have paid a lot more for a saw, yet the information in my estimation is worth a hundred fold more. I also love books as it being another one of my many other vices. The combo of saws and a book on saws is nirvana.
    It also depends on the audience you are trying to sell to Simon. No one wants to lose money and we shouldn't expect that from anyone. A number 1 best seller producing numerous printings would be great but the reality is ..... a paperback copy purchase going through an airport probably isn't going to happen. I would assume there are reasonable expectations from you and your support.
    I truly wonder how long the CD format is going to last at the rate technology is changing and if this is going to be outdated fairly quickly.
    I personally will be first in line whatever you opt for, and we thank you.
    Good luck
    Joe S.
     
  8. ray

    ray Administrator Staff Member

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    668
    Hi Joe, Simon,

    I agree with Joe, a high quality reference book is what I would prefer, but that's probably just me. The price is not a factor. The information therein is unique and priceless. Just by the way, Joe, I was in line first...:)

    I'm going to the HTPAA meeting in Melbourne tomorrow night, there is a talk by a pattern maker that I'm keen to attend. I'll be seeing Peter McBride (the owner of the Mathieson Saw pictured earlier), so I'll see if he's able to add further info. I remember seeing that tool chest. Very nice.

    Peter was here a few weeks back and we spent a pleasant day doing bronze casting, I cast a infill lever cap and screw blank, which he then did the hard work finishing.

    Regards
    Ray
     
  9. fred0325

    fred0325 Most Valued Member

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    1,084
    Just to add my two pennyworth to the comments posted re the book.

    I agree, price does not matter where a quality book is concerned. Put me down for two, one for everyday use and one to keep for posterity.

    Having said that, a searchable database would be nice as well and would probably have a much greater uptake amongst the next generation(s) of saw collectors.

    Just a thought. I know nothing at all about e-books except that they exist and they appear to be the up-and-coming thing. How the financial side of it works I also don't have the faintest idea, but if it is feasible it might be a consideration. I assume that putting out updates would be a much simpler process as well.

    Fred
     
  10. kiwi

    kiwi Most Valued Member

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    352
    Dear Simon,

    I probably wouldn't consider buying an expensive book on old British saws, [except from you, who have been most tolerant and helpful in my requests for help in identifying history for my rusty old British saws.]

    Personally, a searchable CD would be the most useful publication for me at this stage of my saw addiction, but that's just my own purely self centred and parsimonious view on saw collecting, completely ignoring any author's justified desire to have a classy product that proudly reflects the amount of work behind the publication.

    It seems to me that this is a very small market; as reflected in the number of members to this website, the number of antique saw related threads on other woodworking websites, and the cheapness of most old saws. You have probably met or corresponded with most of the existing collectors/historians likely to be interested in your book.
    You would also be in competition with the existing HSMOB book which is still available.

    So, recognizing that this is unlikely to be any great money making enterprise, and there may be some difficulty recouping publishing costs, I would suggest that the publishing method be selected to give the most gratification to the Author financing this enterprise.
    If that is a low circulation classy publication, or a lower cost and slightly higher circulation publication, or both in sequence [ i.e. similar concept to hard cover first edition and soft cover second edition], you should feel free to chose whatever suits your fancy, with no guilt attachments

    DISCLAIMER; I have never published a book, and I know nothing about publishing, and all the above should be treated with the same skepticism as any WAG

    Good Luck
    Rob
     
  11. fred0325

    fred0325 Most Valued Member

    Messages:
    1,084
    Hello Kiwi,

    I am one of the last people to spread strife and dissention, and especially on such a civilised site as this one,:) but I must query the following:-

    "You would also be in competition with the existing HSMOB book which is still available."

    Now I will defer to almost everyone who uses this site on knowledge about and usage of, saws - but my direct experience of HSMOB is that it has some inaccuracies and many omissions. This is not to criticise it in any real sense because it was a book of its day and is still helpful. But I am unsure whether it can be compared to a 600 odd page book containing information on saw manufacture and full of work from primary sources, and (hopefully) images.

    Believe me, there is no competition. I paid GBP26 for my HSMOB including postage. (For a softback book of 105 pages). A hardback of 600 pages, even for GBP100 I think is wonderful value. But it is not just about the number of pages or type of cover, it is also the information that it contains.

    Publish whatever you think fit, Simon but in addition to anything else, please publish the quality hardback.

    Fred
     
  12. PeterEvans

    PeterEvans Most Valued Member

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    49
    I think the market may be a bit bigger than we think, especially if the work is marketed well.

    An example - Geoffrey Tweedale's book "Directory of Sheffield Cutlery Makers 1740-2010", 480pp is self-published on Lulu.com - Print-on-Demand (POD). This book has had zero promotion as far as I can tell, even though Tweedale is a published (major publishers) author of many books. I saw it mentioned on a US blog, and purchased a copy from Lulu, printed in Melbourne. I took my copy along to the TTTG committee meeting, and another 5 copies were purchased, helped by the Lulu 20% off special (which for a few more days is now 25% off - bugger). Now the committee includes well informed collectors - no one had heard of the book.

    Promotion is key to the success of the publication I believe.

    Many will have seen, or read about, a new book, by David Rusell, "Antique Woodworking Tools", which is super glossy, heavy, high quality colour pictures, and expensive - 528 pp, 935 illustrations, 575 marks in colour, with an appendix of 269 plane-iron marks. Book Depository occasionally have it in stock (last price A$147), but it goes out of stock before I can order. Some info here - http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2011/jan/05/book-showcases-tools-collection. rrp in UK is £90, although is discounted there to for example £82 incl postage.

    I think the Saw Book does not _need_ to be in colour, nor glossy paper (however nice that would be - and I would love to see it).

    Now my prejudices:
    * I like to read printed material - the screen is ok for lots of stuff, but not books
    * I like to search databases digitally, so much quicker and more efficient than flipping pages
    * The content is more important than the quality presentation; I like quality presentation, and sometimes is very important, eg art books.

    In my library, there are a number of high quality tool books, including:
    Lamond "Manufactured and Patented Spokeshaves", 409pp, 1997, 18 colour pages - this is still available from the author for US$59.50 incl postage (in the US), hard to see how he has made money from this

    Smith "Patented Transitional & Metallic Planes in America", vols I (336pp, 41 colour plates, 1981) and II (396pp, 44 colour plates, 1992), is monumental, and vol II is still in print. I do not know whether he has made any money, and a long pay back period

    However the K D Roberts books, whilst hardback, are not high quality printing - and are valuable references.

    For me, a POD + CD of the database is the best option for one main reason - I will get it quicker! Whichever route Simon takes I will be buying a copy and promoting to the TTTG and online, I am sure Ray will be doing the same.

    Colour is valuable for some matters. An option could be to include high res colour pictures on the CD.

    Just a few thoughts Simon, hopefully useful.

    Regards
     
  13. Barleys

    Barleys Most Valued Member

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    546
    Thanks very much to you who've posted thoughts about the best way to publish a book on British saws and saw makers - that make me have even more thoughts.
    The first thing to say is that this enterprise is certainly not going to make any money (for me: presumably if a main-stream publisher takes it, they will be reckoning so make something). I've spent so many hundreds of hours on it that an hourly rate would come out at a negative figure - but I've loved doing it, and consider myself amply rewarded already.
    My personal wish is to have something that satisfies both main markets - the hard copy that is worth keeping and satisfying to hold in the hand, plus a searchable CD-rom, which incidentally would make an index redundant, thank goodness. I believe I may have a reasonably strong bargaining position with a publisher (I can always say I'll do it myself) [let's hope they don't read this...], and will try to hold out for that, provided the finances look sensible.

    Will keep you posted. Simon
     
  14. Roddyjb

    Roddyjb Member

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    12
    R. Livingston & Co. Glasgow Backsaw & 1887 handsaw

    I know this is an old topic but it is the only reference to these I have found.
    I have a pair of these, I have had for a long time.
    A Backsaw & a Handsaw, both marked Warranted Superior with the Backsaw also marked R. Livingston & Co. Glasgow Warranted Cast Steel
    he Handsaw has a curious double nib formation on the top of the blade down towards the nose & the medalion says Pat. Dec 27, 1887. Can anyone tell me any more about these?
    Thanks
    [​IMG]
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    Last edited: Feb 23, 2014
  15. fred0325

    fred0325 Most Valued Member

    Messages:
    1,084
    Hi,

    I do like the Livingstone. I cannot remember seeing many steel backed ones around, but then again, they do not come up for sale all that often.

    The handsaw has an American "Warranted Superior" medallion and so I will have to leave it to those who know about such things to comment. Having said that, the double nib must be a bit of a giveaway along with that particular cutout at the top of the handle.

    Fred
     
  16. Roddyjb

    Roddyjb Member

    Messages:
    12
    Thanks Fred,
    Well, that just shows what my powers of observation are like! After all the time I've had these two saws, I had never noticed the difference in the medalions, I guess I had always just assumed they were the same & the same make. I'll edit the post to reflect the changes. Now hopefully someone else will recognize the hand saw.
    Regards, Rod
     
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2014
  17. Barleys

    Barleys Most Valued Member

    Messages:
    546
    Mathieson & Livngston handsaws

    The backsaw is from the firm that was preceded by Livingston & Watson for 10 years until RL went solo from 1868, then sold out to William Muir in 1902 - in the directory as saw, plane and edge tool manufacturers, ironmongers and cutlers, although I suspect he factored his saws.
    The Mathieson is a real curiosity! The nib appears on a regular production line of Robert Sorby - I've seen about half a dozen of these nibs, and use it as a clinching argument for the fact that the nib was purely decorative, not functional. So maybe Mathieson's maker was Robert Sorby, as lots of R Sorby saws seem to turn up with one of the most prolific of the present day Scottish tool dealers, and Mathieson didn't ever have a saw making dept. If it was made for the US market it's unusual in having what you might call a totally US medallion, as so many UK makers put their own US-type medallions on export models (example attached, I hope).
    Or, and is this the most likely explanation? this is a marriage - the handle is totally a US pattern, I believe, although that doesn't rule out the US handle being attached by a retailer in the US.
     

    Attached Files:

  18. Roddyjb

    Roddyjb Member

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    Handsaw

    So, the Backsaw could have been made anywhere between 1868 & 1902?
    Are you referring to my handsaw as a Mathieson?
    Just a furhter note, these two saws have been together for many many years, maybe since the late 1800's and I am trying to learn more about them.
    Rod
     
  19. kiwi

    kiwi Most Valued Member

    Messages:
    352
    Hi Rod,

    Your handsaw handle looks like J Holden's US Patent 216091 of June 3 1879.
    http://www.datamp.org/patents/advance.php?pn=216091&id=7363&set=7
    This handle design was used on some saws by Wheeler Madden & Clemson, and shown in their 1895 catalog.
    It was also used by R H Smith in Canada, and was in their catalogue of c1900.
    These time periods fit with Simon's dates for the Livingston backsaw, so the saws could have been together since new.

    Double nibs have been reported to have been found on saws by several manufacturers, including Robt Sorby, R H Smith.
    You would need to be able to identify the etching on the blade of your saw to determine the handsaw maker (although, since the saw has a Warranted Superior medallion it may have been made for a hardware store with a custom store etch, and not the manufacturer's name etch)
     
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2014
  20. pmcgee

    pmcgee Most Valued Member

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    184
    Could we get a close-up of the top half of the handle?
    My first thought when I saw it was whether perhaps the 'Holden patent' circular section might have been added by the user - just because it intersects that beak/hollow behind it.
    So I was interested as to whether it looked original to the saw.

    Here's a couple more styles that Ray posted on WWf in 2012 ...
    (http://www.woodworkforums.com/showthread.php?t=151848)

    [​IMG]

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