A bucking saw constructed in the mid-1800s for use in a logging operation in southern Washington sits collecting dust in a small, run-down antique shop. Neglected after years of service extracting finished lumber from massive pacific northwest trees, it lies ignored. That is, until Spanish teacher Clinton Davis gets his expert hands on the saw. It quickly transforms into a period-accurate, fully functional, fully restored marvel of craftsmanship.
Davis has spent much of his free time outside of work meticulously crafting and restoring logging tools to their original state of perfection. For Davis, tools provide a window to a different place and time.
“I collect [tools] from all around the world, from Russia, Norway, Sweden, Austria, The Netherlands. My interest is kind of ethnography- the study of culture,” Davis said.
An important element of tool collection is restoration. Davis has poured thousands of hours of skill development and craftsmanship into his tool hobby. He cleans, reshapes, and brings tools back to their original state.
Davis uses tools to provide a look into societal development. “If you look at the development of tools, it teaches you a lot about the changes in society,” he said.
Tools are also a geographically informative resource for Davis. “For example the double bit axe was only used on the huge trees found in Puget Sound and around here. Those were not something that were ever developed in Europe or Asia because the trees that they had didn’t require it,” he said.
Pacific Northwest specific tools are also beneficial for other tool collectors. “When I find those, I restore them and I trade with somebody from overseas from their collection, so I’m in contact with a lot of other like minds,” Davis said.
The immense amount of skill required to not only restore these tools but to put them to use is not innate. Davis learned a great deal growing up in the small logging town of Reedsport, 20 miles south of Florence.
“My grandfather was a millwright and a blacksmith, and so I grew up with all sorts of things that you would associate with that,” he said. Familiarity with tools fueled this hobby.
“A lot of it is self-development. You know, and we’re the pioneers. When you think about homesteaders and when people ended the Oregon Trail, that’s how things were made, by hand. It is a great day to be a pioneer,” Davis said.
Davis has also turned his hobby in somewhat of a business. “Everyone’s been really nice on Craigslist when I’ve done it. [The tools] sell almost immediately,” he said.
For Davis, this hobby is a “revival of lost skills” and provides an outlook into different places and times. “It’s not a common thing…this gives me something to do, it gets me outside,” Davis noted.
Again, the example of the antiquated bucking saw provided a glance into early westward expansion and industrialism. Davis pulled the story out of the saw with nothing but tools, time, and expertise.