HUMBOLDT – LeRoy Witzel has been collecting hand tools and antique machines for almost 25 years.
Humboldt’s man estimates he has between 5,000 and 6,000 different, unusual, farm-related tools.
It all started when he inherited a family toolbox full of tools from the 1930s.
“I just started exploring and learning more about them and the next thing you knew I started collecting them,” Said Witzel.
Currently, Witzel is focusing on agricultural implements used by the older generations of corn farmers and ranchers. Many of his pieces are foot machines, which are his favorite collectibles.
“After I retired from farming it was a great hobby for me to spend my time working with them and I guess I enjoyed seeing and preserving some of that old stuff that’s gone,” Said Witzel.
It was his love of old tools that led him to the Mid-West Tool Collectors Association, which recently held its annual regional meeting at the Humboldt County Fairgrounds on Sunday.
Dozens of tool users, enthusiasts and collectors from as far away as Montana and Massachusetts, came for the three-day event, according to event organizer Rusty Farrington of Rockwell City. Days one and two were auction days, where various rare old tools were auctioned off, while day three was the reunion and schedule.
During the auction there were several tools from the 1700s, both European and American, Farrington said.
During the meeting, members organized a “Whatzit” presentation, where other members bring in unusual and obscure tools that they don’t know how to use, and collectively the group tries to figure it out. Sometimes an answer is found for something like an old juicer or a hotplate for an old wood stove. But sometimes only guesses can be made, such as a tool that looks a bit like a mark of cattle, but isn’t, can be a concrete stamp used to stamp a logo or design on a newly laid sidewalk.
George Wanamaker, Macomb, Illinois, gave a presentation on unusual measurement tools and measures. Items he showed and talked about included a butter ruler used between 1920 and 1950, a baby scale used in early doctor’s offices, a sand kitchen timer, a measure used by lobster fishermen, and more.