|Ken Hawley MBE, probably the most important figure in modern tool history passed away on August 15th, 2014. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Ken and his work, Ken ran a hardware store in Sheffield starting in the 1940's. To have a little interest in the store window he put a few old tools on display. Over the years people, retired craftsman, widows, etc, would stop by and offer their no longer used tools to Ken. He became a collector. Then, and this is what is so important he started collecting, not so just the tools that were made in Sheffield, but the tools that were used to make the tools. As the tool making industry of Sheffield began to collapse Ken collected whole workshops of tools and records. Without him all of this history would have gone to the dumpster. Pattern books, catalogs, patterns, mother planes. Everything. As he got older Ken's collection was assembled into a trust, and now is part of the Kelham Island Museum. |
Ken was also an enthusiastic evangelist for tools. If you had a question he was prepared to dig and find you the answer. I only met him once. On a trip to England in 2000 he made time in his busy schedule to sit with me and show me some of the collection. He answered my pretty simple questions without smiling at my ignorance. When I asked about file making, he took me down to the shop where he had a file-making setup and showed me how easy it was to actually cut a file by actually cutting a file. Then, when I mentioned that my specific interest was in English steel or infill planes he apologized saying that in Sheffield there just wasn't much. However, from deep in the collection he handed me a shoebox of what he had. It took a few minutes but I realized what he handed to me was a set of patterns, templates, and jigs from the workshop of Arthur Price, the last of the traditional infill plane makers. It was really something.
Ken's collection of tools and equipment has been fortunately preserved and will educate and illuminate toolmakes for generations to come. This is one enormous and important legacy. But we not only lost a really wonderful person we lost a lifetime of all the knowledge he collected and was so generous in sharing.
Our condolences go out to his friends and family. He will be missed worldwide.
N.B. The picture of Ken is from the Hawley Collection web site.