Tools for Working Wood

 Joel's Blog at Tools for Working Wood

Olson Bros. Mach. Tool & Saw Co. Inc.  

02/04/2008 The saw blade makers come home to roost

A customer recently walked into our store and showed Jocko a package of Olson fret saw blades. Jocko got all excited and called everyone over to look at the package of blades. Nothing unusual in that. The kicker was that the guy said that he had bought those blades from Mr. Olson himself, before he retired and sold the company in the late '70's or early '80's, and the factory was located right here. By "here" he meant literally here, as in 32 33rd street Brooklyn NY. Our building!!!!! Wow, what a small world!!

We carry Olsen fret saw blades and we all thought this was really cool. The blades are interesting too. This was an Olson invention - the last three teeth on the saw blade go the other way so that when you are on the upstroke with the backwards teeth, the blade cuts from the bottom and prevents tearout. These blades are pretty hefty, and when Mr. Olsen sold out, he told our customer, who was a puzzle maker, to buy a lot of blades. He did - 25 gross of blades. The package he showed us was the second to last package of blades left.

I don't know much about Olson brothers, other than that that Chuck Olson is still at Olson and that the company is now part of Blackstone Industries in Connecticut. So I gave Chuck a call for the straight dope.
Olson Bros. was founded by Chuck Olson's grandfather, Albert Olson, in 1918. Albert was originally a coal miner from Lance, PA and Chuck didn't know exactly why he ended up in Brooklyn making saw blades. Brooklyn was a pretty happening town in 1918, so it does make a little sense that a young man trying to start a company would easily find himself in Brooklyn. From 1918 to about 1960, the company was in the Maltz building on Flatbush Avenue (now part of Long Island University's Brooklyn campus)and then moved here to 32 33rd Street (on the fourth floor in the front; we're on the back part of the fifth floor). Our neighborhood is on the outskirts of Sunset Park, which, at that time had a large Swedish and Scandinavian population and was sometimes known as "Finn Town." The Olson family was Swedish, so that was presumably a draw to the neighborhood, though they didn't live in the area. Early on, Albert's other brothers joined the company, but the company was later run by Stanley Olson, Albert's son and Chuck's father. Chuck started helping out his dad in 1957 at age 12.

Bush Terminal Market was build as a warehouse complex for the docks, but with the invention of the pallet in the mid 1920's, multiple story warehouses made a lot less sense, and of course trucking became more important than railroads. So by the 1960's there was a lot of manufacturing going on in the complex, including a large cardboard box factory on the first and second floor of this building.

Things change. Sunset Park is now mostly Chinese, Mexican and Columbian. We have our own Chinatown and some of the best Chinese and South American restaurants in New York City. Olson Brothers sold to Blackstone Industries in 1976 and Stanley Olson retired. Chuck Olson moved to Connecticut with Blackstone and is still there running the show. The box factory is still downstairs and there is a cabinet shop on the fourth floor where Olson used to be.
Tags:Historical Subjects
Comments: 2
That is too cool Joel, not just for the fact that the blades have your address on them, but the fact that your store resides in a building that was in fact a toolmaker in the past.

I hope he left the pack of blades with you.

Great trivia!
05/03/2008Scott Olson 
It's great to see my family's history online! I didn't know my dad worked there when he was 12, but I am sure glad for child labor laws by the time I was born! I have the original sign for the Olson Bros. Machine Tool and Saw, hanging in my house and somewhere I think I have a pack of those blades too. Enjoy the building, I've never been there!
Comments are closed.
The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the blog's author and guests and in no way reflect the views of Tools for Working Wood.
 Joel's Blog
 Ben's Blog
 Work Magazine
Recent Blogs:
Repair Tip-11/25/2015
A Visit to the Long Island Museum of American Art, History, and Carriages-11/11/2015
Begin at the Beginning-10/28/2015
Here Lies Duncan Phyfe-10/21/2015
July Fourth Weekend and Objects That Connect. -10/07/2015
On the Diversity of Saws-09/30/2015
Woodcarving At Coney Island-09/09/2015
The Philadephia Museum of Art and Festool Fall News-09/02/2015
New Saturday Hours-08/19/2015
A Look at Violin-Maker's Planes-07/08/2015
Linoleum Block Printing-06/17/2015
Blasts from the Past - Reimagined - and Made For the Future-05/15/2015
Festool Package News and Some Long-Term Things You Should Be Aware Of-04/29/2015
Sleep Like an Egyptian-04/08/2015
Game Changer: Should You Buy the Festool Conturo Edge-Bander?-03/11/2015
Guest Blog: Many Sincere Thanks-02/25/2015
Festool Vacuums and the Changing Jobsite-02/18/2015
News (some good some sad)-02/04/2015
Pay For Play-01/21/2015
Diamond Sharpening - Part 2 - Grits and Scratches-01/14/2015
Older Entries...
Some Interesting Woodworking Blogs
Adam Cherubini
Tom Fidgen
Full Chisel Blog
Hock Tools - The Sharpening Blog
Norse Woodsmith
Jeff Peachy (book conservation)
Pegs and 'Tails
The Produce Savant
Konrad Sauer
Another Chris Schwarz Blog
Robin Wood Woodcraft
Rude Mechanicals Press(Megan Fitzpatrick) - Hand Tool News
The Woodshop Bug
Chris Schwarz
Some Woodworking Forums
Family Woodworking
Saw Mill Creek
Wood Central
Woodwork Forums (Australia)
UK Workshop