Slack Sellars and Graysons

Discussion in 'Forum: Saw Identification and Discussion' started by fred0325, Oct 31, 2011.

  1. fred0325

    fred0325 Most Valued Member

    Hello all,

    Another (I hope) wonderful saw from-------------? You probably guessed, America.

    For all those of you who are as obsessive about searching Ebay as I am, I apologise because you will have seen this before, but perhaps not in the detail shown here.

    HSMOB has Slack Sellars and Grayson (minus the "s" in the title - nit-picking I know) from 1833 to 1856. Now, to massed groans all round and after looking at the crown markings I would put this saw as being made after 20th June 1837 - Queen Victoria's accession).

    And getting to the really interesting bit, have a look at the export medallion (providing that it is "right" - which I hope it is).

    I can trace William Greaves and Sons back to Gell 1825 and forward to Whites 1849 ( and from which I have shown the excerpt below). They are not there in Whites 1856 as such but there is a reference to Eyre, Ward and Co, late Wm. Greaves and Sons. They seem to have made most things except saws, but obviously exported them.

    I particularly like the markings on this saw, they are very crisp for a saw this age and it is reasonably sharp although with a (repairable) bend to the blade.

    Now forgive my ignorance of people from both my own national history and from American history - but does anyone know who the person on the medallion is?


    Please do not try to enlarge the photo of the Directory entry. It does not work properly and is difficul to get rid of. Sorry about that, my technophobia again!

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Oct 31, 2011
  2. Barleys

    Barleys Most Valued Member

    This is another nice example of the medallion maker's art. I have one and have thought - on the basis of pure guesswork - that the figure might represent George Washington and that the date of the saw may be somewhere near 1876, the first centennial of the American revolution. The saw would certainly fit with that date, the three crowns being the typical Sheffield arrangement on handsaws of the period 1870-1900 (approx.).
    William Greaves (TM Gambia) were the descendants of long-time shears-makers (Joseph Wilson bought his first saw shears from Abraham Greaves in 1768), and were, later, edge tool makers chiefly (I think, from memory).
    The word Improved in cursive script is unique on a handsaw as far as I know, but was used identically on some backsaws of Thomas Turner [Q: did TT make the saws for DWG???]
    The terminal s on Grayson sometimes means something, sometimes not (it almost looks a late addition on this saw - much deeper struck than the other letters of the name); when it means something it signifies just what you might think, ie the presence in the partnership of more than one member of that family - were there two or more Graysons at this date? I don't know.
    On Fenton and Marsdens' (or Marsden's) saws the appostrophe seems to be placed according to some whim of the mark or medallion maker - they did after all make egregious mistakes [look at the saw library pics on the Disstonian Institute website for a saw marked "Webster and Johnsong"]
    Slacks became one of the best Sheffield saw makers in the first half of the 20th cent, with their Pax brand moving first to Garlick (when that firm's owner, Derek Taylor, who trained at Slacks, was in charge) and later and currently to Thomas Flinn, the last handsaw makers standing in Sheffield.
  3. ray

    ray Administrator Staff Member

    Hi Simon, Fred,

    Apologies for not being a bit more active of late, work has taken over in recent weeks... maybe they didn't hear I'm retired... :)

    Not a great deal to add, except to confirm Simon's suspicions that the medallion does indeed look like George Washington.

    Here is a American Quarter, with George Washington on the obverse..(I had to make it mirror image to compare directly with Fred's medallion)..


    Sure looks like Washington to me.

  4. fred0325

    fred0325 Most Valued Member

    Thanks Ray,

    And again, excuse my ignorance of historical personages.

    It looks like Simon's idea is a runner and it may be a "Revolution Centennial" saw.

    This adds interest to it and possibly explains why I had to pay so much to get it. ( Substantially more than my "normal" bid of GBP 7-87).:)


    This is a later addition. Sorry I was letting my enthusiasm run away with me. It would be very hard for this to be an 1875 saw with the Slack Sellars and Grayson(s) stamp as, according to HSMOB they ceased to be in 1856. They have been known to be wrong, but I suspect not that wrong. Shame.:(
    Perhaps they just put him on because he sold saws!!
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2011
  5. Barleys

    Barleys Most Valued Member

    Slack Sellars and Grayson

    GW would certainly have helped to sell saws in the US at any date, and the 1876 date is certainly the usual guess - but there are two reasons (three, if I'm being unkind) to think it could be later than 1856.
    1. The style of the mark is a bit later, I reckon
    2. Marks were used for a while - sometimes a few years - after the firm had apparently ceased to be what it was
    3. (HSMOB could be wrong, as their database mainly was the trades directories available on, which was not by any means complete)

    When I'm home and can access my data on SS&G I'll let you know.

    Note added: yes, the design of the medallion harks back to the earliest ones - 1820-1830 or so - just emphasises how difficult it is to date a saw, esp if you let one feature override all the others.
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2011
  6. fred0325

    fred0325 Most Valued Member

    Thanks Simon,

    I would dearly love for it to be a "Revolution Centennial" saw and would be pleased if you could, with reasonable certainty as far as saw dating goes, put it at about this time.

    It was the entry in HSMOB that threw me. As I said, they have been known to be less than accurate on some things, but this is 20 odd years that we are talking about.

    Anyway I will have to wait until you can access your database.

    Have you any date yet for the publication of your book? Before Christmas would be good as it would definitely fall into the Christmas present category.

  7. Barleys

    Barleys Most Valued Member

    Slack Sellars & G

    (at home with database - how I hate to be without it!)

    Firm's dates culled from all available directories:

    Tudor Street 1833
    37 (39) Townhead Street 1837-1859
    37 Townhead Street 1862-1871
    Townhead Street Works, Townhead Street 1876-1879
    39 Townhead Street 1883-1884
    Sheldon Row, Willey Street 1887-1889
    Townhead Works 1895
    Townhead Works, Lancaster Street 1900-1942
    Also Union Wheel, Alma Street 1912
    Adelaide Works, Mowbray Street 1944-1954
    Capital Works, Mowbray Street 1957-1981
    Speed Works, Lancaster Street <1988-1990
    Neepsend Lane 1991-1996
    1841: Slack, William Sellars and Samuel or Isaac Grayson, saw, ledger blade, spiral cutter, and spring bed manufacturers, and dealers in cutlery.
    The addresses at Sheldon Row (John Kenyon) and Mowbray Street (Taylor Brothers) were those of other makers. One of the largest of the Sheffield sawmaking firms, bought out in the 1920s by a conglomerate, Neepsend Steel & Tool Corporation Ltd. Hand and back saw making with their name continued until 1996. Thomas Flinn have continued the Pax name, acquired via their purchase of Garlick".

    So it looks as though (1841) there may well have been two Graysons - but this is the only evidence I have of it so far.

    PS One database I have not used much (partly because I know it contains vast amounts of information that I haven't yet felt ready to incorporate - cowardly, maybe, but my energy is limited!) is the records of claims for compensation following the great Sheffield Flood of 1864, which was incidentally the largest loss of life in any domestic disaster in 19th century Britain. A reservoir burst in the upper valley of one of the Sheffield rivers, delivering millions of gallons of water into the Loxley and then the Don and destroying large amounts of industry - based historically on the rivers as power sources. It's all in an archive maintained by one of Sheffield's two universities - Go to it, you backsawers!

    Slacks did not make any claims because their Townhead works were half a mile up the hill from the Don, but several saw makers (eg Wheatman and Smith) did.

    CORRECTION: I confused William Greaves (details below) with Isaac Greaves, whose was the Gambia TM (details also below). Even though WG was listed with the saw makers only in 1824, the firm's connections make it extremely probable that they had saws factored for them at just about any time in the 19th cent.

    Sheaf Works, Maltravers Street 1824
    The Sheaf Works building was central Sheffield’s first “factoryâ€￾, purpose-built for “…centralising on one spot the various processes through which the iron must pass… until fashioned into razor, pen-knife or other article or useâ€￾; steel was converted and melted at one end, and cutlery came out at the other (Geoff Tweedale). It still stands, a monumental antidote to the trivial modern architecture with which it is now surrounded. Its position took advantage of the newly (1819) completed canal which enabled much greater loads, mainly of bar iron, to be brought into the town via the river Don and the Trent from the coast, and it was perhaps this attractiveness that moved Thomas Turton to buy it only 15 years later. The Greaves name has not been abandoned, however, and is currently used on a line of saws made by Flinn. It is doubtful if any saws were made at the Sheaf Works, which appeared in the list of saw makers only once".

    54 Scotland Street 1814-1828
    Bailey Lane 1833
    Park Works 1841
    Broad Street Lane, Park 1855
    Greaves is one of the commonest surnames in Sheffield, and it is not known whether there was any family relationship between the makers of saws listed here. This firm was making shears of all kinds from the mid 18th century; when first equipping his saw business, Joseph Wilson bought shears for paring his saws to shape from Abraham Greaves (trade mark Gambia) in 1768. In 1841 Greaves was listed as a saw, file, edge tool, shear etc manufacturer, and continued to be listed under headings other than saw making until the late 19th century The mark illustrated here is on a saw which was presumably factored, and may date from the period after the name had been taken over by W.K.&C.Peace; it is unusual in bearing exactly the same words and symbols on an etch (too faded to reproduce) as well as this struck mark."

    In saw making there was also a James, a John and a Nathaniel G, with Henry Greaves being used as a second quality name on saws made for Robert Marples

    Fred: As for the projected book I'm sorry to say that it is snagged up for a good many months in a combination of late comments from friends, author's lack of time and publisher's long long deadlines. My fingers are crossed for 2012.
  8. fred0325

    fred0325 Most Valued Member


    Thank-you for the previous post, and I am struggling my way through all the information, However what I have distilled from it so far is that the William Greaves connection via the medallion could have been at virtually any time in the 19th C. from 1824 on.

    But the Slack Sellars and Graysons stamp (perhaps the blade made under the 1 Grayson regime but sold under the 2 Grayson regime with the extra "S" added later - as you say, it looks like it was struck separately), is at the latest 1859 with a long odds bet being 1841 - ish.

    So, are we back to the saw not being a "Revolution Centennial". It looks like it to me. Again - never mind.

    Sorry about the delays to the book, but the brighter side for me personally is that I can spend the money on saws this year and put my pocket money away for possibly next Christmas. That is an awfully long wait though!

  9. Barleys

    Barleys Most Valued Member

    Slack Sellars & G

    Sometimes I feel embarrassed at slowly I catch on...

    I think this medallion is not native to this saw, for reasons:
    1. The makers don't match up
    2. The handle is split at the medallion, suggesting a non-saw maker's handiwork
    3. There are a lot of saws about with non-matching blades and medallions; many tool collectors alter their possessions, as I'm sure those with planes, hammers and just about any tool could tell us.

    So, if I can go back, I still think the blade is too early in style to be much before 1860 at the very earliest, with my currently preferred explanation [aka best guess] that there had been more than one Grayson at some stage in the company's history, and that they continued using a old mark even after S and S had dropped G - reputation was important, so after 20plus years of the three names, they could well have felt reluctant to get rid of all the old mark punches, which in any case cost money to buy more of, so why not use them to exhaustion.
    As for the medallion, you can't really blame someone for wanting to smarten up his SSG saw with this highly unusual Greaves beauty (for what it's worth, my own Greaves medallion - can't remember how I came by it now - is on a blade-less handle).
    Over to someone else for another "explanation" please!
  10. kiwi

    kiwi Most Valued Member

  11. fred0325

    fred0325 Most Valued Member

    Hi Kiwi,

    Thanks for the reply. It sounds fascinating and I would love to see the saw but unfortunately I have to register to access the photo and the registration form does not like any of the registration names that I want to put in.

    If the website wouldn't mind it too much, any chance of transferring the picture to this site.

    I am completely confused on dates for William Greaves and SSand G (s)

    Simon thinks that the dates of the saw blade and medallion cannot match, and I agree if the saw was to be considered a "centennial saw". But William Greaves is in the trade Directories from 1825 to 1849, and in "Trademarks from 1820 -ish to 1858. And he is not on the saw as a manufacturer but as an exporter.

    Simon has SS and G from 1837 to 1859 and SS only from 1862 onwards, with the possibility of two Graysons around 1841.

    So, as far as I can see, the two could match between 1837 and 1849 at the very least and possibly up to 1856/8.

    Now I take his point about the saw looking to be later, and about the crack through the medallion possibly indicating a bodge. I think that that is persuasive but not sufficient.


    if there is another saw with similar markings and the same medallion, then that would put a very different light on it. Unless it is a million to one chance that they were owned by the same person. Mine comimg from America as well.

    Still confused but with a glimer of light at the end of the tunnel,

  12. kiwi

    kiwi Most Valued Member

    pics, stolen from earlier reference;

    Attached Files:

  13. ray

    ray Administrator Staff Member

    Hi Kiwi,

    Nicely spotted. ( I don't check Sawmill Creek very often these days )..

    Thanks for posting the pictures, (You beat me to it, I had only just now asked the original poster if it was ok to re-post the pictures here)

    Here is my half-baked theory, Slack Sellers Grayson was obviously the maker.

    So why the mismatched medallion..

    Well, I think the clue is written on the medallion itself, it says..
    "Exported solely by W Greaves and Sons"

    This would seem to indicate that W Greaves and Sons were just the exporter.

    They may have even just purchased saws from SSG and added the medallions themselves. (might even explain the split handle, resulting from a poor fitting of the medallion)

    As for date, I'm still not discounting the 1876 centennial theory.... seems to fit nicely with the George Washington theme.


    PS. Just an additional thought, the Sheffield saw makers were a canny lot, and I wouldn't put it past them to see an opportunity to cash in on the wave of patriotic sentiment that must have been present in the centennial year of 1876... Ironically ignoring the fact that it was a war fought against the British...

    A bit like the wave of royal wedding products that come flooding out of Hong Kong and China whenever there is a royal wedding?
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2012
  14. fred0325

    fred0325 Most Valued Member

    Thanks Kiwi and Ray,

    A lovely saw and I am glad to have seen it.

    Sorry Simon, but the only way that 2 saws badged like this and appearing after all this time must mean that the medallion is contemporaneous with the handle/blade.

    The only exception that I can think of is if a lot of these medallions were turned out and many were bought by owners to enhance saws. But then why the "Greaves Export" tag why not just Washington's head only, and there should be many more around.

    I am still stuck as to dates. My saw definitely looks 1860/1880+ by the handle alone and the three crowns may support this. The backsaw has "Improved" on it and which I associate (for what it's worth) with 1850/1860+ saws.

    An 1860 date is just possible with the published dates and if SS and G did use their old stamps after becomimg SS only, then this may push it a little further forward. (But then you have the problem of the extra "S" on Grayson looking as though it is a separate mark. They would not have continued doing this, surely beyond the demise of one or both of the Graysons. Think of the cost!!). This usage of the extra "S" would then indicate a date pushed back to the 1840's:confused:

    It may all become crystal clear one day.

  15. kiwi

    kiwi Most Valued Member


    Regarding your WAG on dating the look of your saw to 1870/80, I don't see why this couldn't be a possibility considering;

    Simon's listing has "Slack Sellars &Grayson" as 1837-59, but with "Slack Sellars & Co" continuing at the same address until 1871.
    Seems possible to me that the SS&G label was one of the trademarks used throughout, (and possibly even later by SS&Co's successors)

    "W Greaves & Sons" trademark was sold to Thomas Turton & Sons, who included edge tools in their products and remained in business well into the 1900s
    Seems possible to me that TT&S used the WG&S name to export saws in the 1870/80 time period, and that they got SS&G saws from SS&Co (or maybe purchased a load of NOS SS&G saws) and had them produced with the WG&S medallion for export

    note: lists GREAVES, W & SONS razors as being produced by
    Sheaf Works, Sheffield
    ca. 1845 - at least 1919
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2012
  16. fred0325

    fred0325 Most Valued Member

    Hi kiwi,

    Thanks for the previous post.

    Don't get me wrong, I would love this to be a "revolution centennial" and I take your point about SS and Co. using SS and G stamps.

    I have just looked at the pictures again, and I don't know whether I agree with Simon's notion that the "s" in Graysons is a separate stamp. If it is then I think that this would knock completely on the head the notion of a prolonged usage for 17 further years.

    If the last "s" is part of the original stamp, it is possible. Although I don't see why a newly "badged" company with such a similar name would want to consider using an old name, unless of course this particular name had a good reputation in America. (Complete WAG).

    Are there avowedly British "Graysons" and which are similar in style out there to try a comparison with.

    Actually I really came on to say that I joined Sawmill Creek just to look at the pictures of the other saw, and one thing that does stand out, and which cannot be seen easily on the ones posted here (they do not enlarge, or if they do I cannot do it), is that below "Improved" are the words "German Steel" stamped in a different style and very close the the bottom of the back.

    This reminds me of the style of marking saws in the 1820's/30's. But it does not match the rest of the mark and so I don't know if it gets us any further. I suspect that it is a red herring, but possibly an interesting one to follow.

    What is really needed is more information on "Graysons" and if they were the immediate precursor company (mark) to SSand Co., or if the final "s" had been dropped by the time Grayson(s)? ceased.

    It may narrow the possibilities down.

  17. ChristianT

    ChristianT New Member

    Hey guys. I just registered. I am the one that posted on Sawmill Creek about the other Slack Sellars and Grayson's saw. I was searching around and found a W. Greaves "coin" (identical to the saw medallions) that was listed on a coin auction site a while back.

    136.1 grains. 25.5 mm. Somewhat toned brass surfaces with traces of lustre. A uniface
    piece, with traces of crude reeding on the edge which seems to have been applied after the
    fact. According to Rulau, this piece is possibly unique, and is described as having
    originally been the end of a saw blade bolt, now severed. Consistent with this theory is
    the fact that the obverse is more patinated than the reverse which is cleaner, more
    lustrous, and generally fresher. Assuming this analysis is correct, then also correct is
    the Rulau's assertion that this in fact is not technically a token issue. An interesting
    and apparently rather rare Washington piece, probably made in the Civil War period. ​

    Have you seen this before? If not, I'm not sure how much it helps other than confirming this is pretty rare. It would be interesting to see how they knew the medallion came off a saw, but it seems as if their civil war dating is off quite a bit.

  18. fred0325

    fred0325 Most Valued Member

    Hi Christian,

    Well, what can I say. I am for once lost for words - nearly.

    Fascinating twist to this tale, and they are right. It did come off a saw. And perhaps they knew that it did because they took it off one.

    If the notion of "Revolution Centennial" is right and the age of my saw is right, then this is too late for an ACW (American Civil War) specimen. (But I think that Simon did concede that my saw, at a pinch may be 1860 or later). They unfortunately did not supply any evidence as to why it may be ACW in date except the assertion of the seller, and he may be a bit biased as, from my experience the ascription of ACW to anything bumps its price up.

    But, going by the dates for SS and G and Greaves, it does come within the trime-frames. Bit of wishful thinking here but it is possible.

    Prices here are normally persona non grata, but if this in isolation reaslised the estimate, then you can drop the "non" in this instance.

    So, "Revolution Centennial" versus "American Civil War" - it doen't really get much better. But I will believe it when I see it (or rather when either is proven beyond reasonable doubt).

  19. ChristianT

    ChristianT New Member

    I found some more neat stuff:

    1. A mention of the medallion in the "American Journal of Numismatics" published in 1873. Unfortunately it doesn't give a date. The journal comes up in a Google search for "Exported Solely by W. Greaves" (you have to quote the phrase to get the result).

    2. A search for "Rare George Washington Saw" (again, phrase quoted) turns up an auction listing for a W. Greaves and Sons saw. They call it a c. 1790 type. They don't have a picture of the medallion, but I'm assuming it's the same one.

    3. A Greaves and Sons straight razor with a handle and sheath that has a very similar George Washington profile on it. That razor is estimated at 1832 (100 years after his birth). Search for "george washington commemorative straight razor".

    4. A Fredk. Reynolds, Sheffield razor, with similar washington engravings to the Greaves and Sons that is estimated around 1840.

    5. A straight razor forum that talks about a W. Greaves razor marked "The Washington Razor". One comment was that it was a common tactic for Sheffield razor makers to include american memorabilia on their razors to help with marketing to the US (e.g. eagle, washington, US ships and buildings, etc...)

    6. A knife that has "Manufactured by R. Bunting & Sons Sheffield" and "W. Greaves and Sons" markings and comment that Greaves probably exported the knife.
  20. fred0325

    fred0325 Most Valued Member

    I think that this is going to be the only topic on here with more posts than readers.

    I found the link to the Journal of Numismatics and the reference on the google search page, but could not find the reference to Greaves in the journal itself. Never mind.

    Ignore the next bit in italics, it is not really worth reading, but I did the research and so I thought that I would put it in.

    The only other name that I looked for because I thought that it may help was Bunting as it is not a hard name to search for. That is not a lot of help either as it does not really narrow down the dates.

    The first reference (in the online Directories) that I can find (not necessarily that exists) is Baines 1822 Page 308 where R Bunting is listed as a pen and pocket knife manufacturer. R Bunting only as a company goes up to Slaters 1847 Page 13 where he is listed at 10 regent Street.

    In Whites 1852 (page 76) is at the same place but is now R Bunting and Son.

    He stays this way until Whites 1862 (page64) when there is a Bunting - Henry of R Bunting and Sons and so I am assuming that Henry is a son. This is at 78 Milton Street.

    references then get a bit sparse as there are no directories between 1862 and 1879, where there is no reference to him.

    So all this means is that the reference to Bunting cannot be before 1852 and later than 1879. But as this covers most of the timescale that is of real interest, it is of no real use.

    There is an intersting comment in your post re 1832 being Washington's centenary and about putting iconic American images on products to help with the marketing. I think that Ray made this point quite early on. Even i think that the centenary is a little early for my saw

    The image below is from one of your links or a related link from MJDTools (an auction held towards the end of last year), and this saw is titled a "rare George Washington saw". So I assume that the medallion on it is the same as our. But this is a saw and a half!!!

    Anyway I don't know if we are much further forward, but it has ceratinly filled in an otherwise quiet evening.


    Attached Files: