Irwin Bit Set & Tambour Drill Bit Box

Value (2006) | $800 Retail$900 Retail

This is an item that belonged to my father, and when they moved in to his father's home, my grandfather, they found this in the attic on an old workbench that was installed, built right into the attic. Apparently where they did their work. And as the story came down to me, it belonged to what would be my great-great-grandfather, who was a cabinetmaker.

Well, it's quite an interesting object. It's a tambour cylinder, and it really belies what's inside. So let's open it up. Let's unhitch the clasps here and unfurl it. And lo and behold, it's a complete bit set. These bits are what they call Irwin bits. There were a few designs in the late 19th century. Irwin and Russell Jennings were the two companies that kind of won these battles, because all the other designs somewhat fell by the wayside. But the result of these bits was that a whole industry of center bits that had been made before that, using wooden braces, disappeared, just in no time. Because this design... there's a lead screw that pulls the bit into the work. It's like a wood screw. And that design changed the industry, and every craftsman wanted this type of bit. So they were important for that reason. And they're actually still made today. The quality of the new ones is nothing like these. This set of bits, in this kind of condition, is something every craftsman would want to have. The exciting story here, though, really, is what they're in. This case, the tambour carrying case, is just very, very scarce. I've seen two or three maybe in 25 years. And I have to say that this one is the best by far that I've seen. Wonderful. The label is gorgeous. The wood is beautiful. The finish on the wood is beautiful. The velvet lining is perfect. Clearly, you've kept these dry.

Tried to.

High-carbon steel that is used in tools just rusts so easily. It's a fantastic set of Irwin bits. This tambour design was introduced around 1891. And again, I don't think every set of bits came in this box. This was a high-cost optional box. I would sell these bits for about $175 in this condition. It's a whole different story on this, though, and I think I would probably be able to sell them for around $800 or $900, you know, retail price in our shop.

Oh, my... I never imagined that. I'm just so amazed that having it in the case would increase the price so much.

Appraisal Details

The Best Things
Herndon, VA
Appraised value (2006)
$800 Retail$900 Retail
Mobile, AL (July 08, 2006)
19th Century
Drill Bit

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