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Harpoon, hatchets among antique tools displayed at Garfield Farm

George Hutches, 6, from Batavia, looks at an antique horse bit at the Antique Tool Show and Sale at Garfield Farm Museum in Campton Hills.
George Hutches, 6, from Batavia, looks at an antique horse bit at the Antique Tool Show and Sale at Garfield Farm Museum in Campton Hills.

CAMPTON HILLS – Even after 15 years of collecting tools, Dennie Cole considers himself a beginner.

That's why the Bridgeview resident attends Garfield Farm Museum's Antique Tool Show, which attracts who he calls the professors or the professional tool collectors.

"I learn stuff from them," Cole said Sunday, standing behind tables displaying his collection.

For 20 years, the show has aimed to bring together the enthusiasm and knowledge of the Early American Industries Association and the Mid-West Tool Collectors Association to educate the public in the tools, methods and technologies used as the Industrial Revolution and Industrial Age developed.

It is the only show in the Midwest that both associations participate in and that is also open to the public, according to the Garfield Farm Museum.

As the sun made some tools hot to touch, attendees browsed such items as hatchets, chisels, gunny sacks, saws, locks, mallets, shovels, knives, toolboxes and even a harpoon circa 1850 that was made from the wreckage of an Arctic ship.

Cole said collecting antique tools appeals to him just as collecting Rembrandt paintings appeals to others.

"We use them once in a while, too," he said.

Buzz Whowell of Downers Grove is one collector trying to downsize his collection. A sign at his table – which he also used last year – read, "My kids say, 'Don't you dare die till you get rid of all those tools.'"

He appeared to have some success at Garfield Farm. By mid-morning, he pulled a wad of cash from his pocket.

"All today," he said but noted he has many more tools at home.

Whowell, who turned 81 Sunday, said his collection began years ago when he acquired tools from his 93-year-old neighbor after her death. The tools had belonged to her father, who was born in 1870 and likely began his tool collection in the 1880s, Whowell said.

Whowell has traced the history of his tools. He not only knows when they were made but how they were used.

"When I find a tool, I try to learn as much about it as I can," he said.

While Whowell could tell visitors how tools were used, Christopher Yonker of Palos Heights was showing visitors tools in action as he worked to build a four-legged stool.

Yonker, a member of the Mid-West Tool Collectors Association, said it is fun to show the craftsmanship involved in making objects. Plus, he said, it gives him a chance to demonstrate the tools he makes and sells with his wife, Mary.

Their business, CME Handworks Inc., specializes in producing reproductions of antique and classic hand tools with modern features of their own design.

Two boys watched as Yonker worked on the stool. After wedging a piece of wood into another, he said it will never come out again once the legs are added.

"That will last 100 years," Mary Yonker told the boys.

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