This appeal to all TATHS members is directed at your pockets, and we hope, also to your sense of history.

A saw – perhaps it should be called The Saw to End All Saws – is for sale. Here’s what it looks like.

It’s a 12 inch back saw (gilded brass), and of course that extraordinary ivory handle. It was made in 1858 as a wedding present for Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter and her husband to be; in 1888 he went on to become the Prussian Kaiser Friedrich Wilhelm. The makers, Taylor Brothers, of Sheffield, presumably believed that he – or conceivably she – would follow in a very long tradition of European aristocrats who liked to do a bit of hand work as a change from mere ruling – Louis XIV of France was apparently a demon for locksmithing – and highly ornamented hand tools survive from the 17th century onwards that once belonged to Archdukes and the like. Taylors’ bill for the engraving and etching is still in the City Archives: 14 shillings and sixpence, or about £65 in today’s money.

By some route or other this saw found its way into the famous collection of tools and other objects and artefacts put together by the Swiss architect and collector Luigi Nessi (there is a wonderfully illustrated book about his collection, best looked at by an internet search) and after Nessi’s death in 2012 his collection was dispersed, with the saw arriving for sale at a Vienna dealer in scientific and artistic objects.

On hearing about this sale, the Ken Hawley Collection Trust decided that it simply could not let this fabulous tool go anywhere but to permanent display in the Hawley Gallery, and is taking steps to raise the money to buy it. At this stage we can’t say how much is being asked, as negotiations continue, but you can be sure that it’s an awful lot more than the Trust has in its bank account. We are therefore asking TATHS members whether they could pledge money to help us buy the saw: it was made a mere 200 yards away from where we hope it will find a permanent place. To bring home a unique tool to the city of its manufacture will help to establish the Hawley Collection as amongst the greatest collection of tools in the world, and a museum where the public will always be able to examine the tools which made the name of Sheffield so famous for quality.

If you feel you can pledge even a small sum, we hope that by raising money – before we go to the major grant-giving bodies – we will be able to prove that our drive to secure this saw has the serious and committed backing of saw collectors all over the world. Your email to the KHCT Chair will be kept securely on file, and when the time comes to put together our bid for funds we will come back to you to see if you still feel able to contribute. Once it is on display, the names of the contributors, if they wish, will be listed in the museum.

If you want more information first, please contact Simon Barley (


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