Working Antique Plane Collection Donation
Sometimes your breath us just taken away by generosity. In late November 2014 Tim Mickelson brought, literally, a van load of wonderful (some pristine) moulding and bench planes to the School. We are delighted to be the stewards of this magnificent collection. These tools will be at the heart of our future preservation carpentry program. You'll be able to see these magnificent tools by the end of March when we've built cabinets to hold them.
The tool's journey from New Hampshire to Port Townsend is a wonderful story and we're grateful for Tim's telling of it:
Wendall E. Badger's
D.P. Sanborn Plane Collection
By Tim Mickelson
Wendall E Badger (b. 1926 - 1995) was born November 27, 1926 in West Fairlee, Vermont. He attended school in West Fairlee and then Thetford Academy , Vermont’s oldest secondary school, during his high school years. His father was a cooper and Wendall took woodworking classes while at Thetford Academy. After graduating from high school, Wendall joined the Navy and served in the Seabees until 1948.
Following his service in the Navy , Wendall went to work as a carpenter working on the construction of the Wilder Dam located on the Connecticut River just south of Hanover, New Hampshire. Following the completion of the dam in 1950, Wendall accepted employment as a carpenter at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.
In 1959, the Dartmouth Rowing Club brought a Pocock Rowing shell into the college gymnasium, which had the heat the boathouse did not, in order to strip and refinish it. Wendall stepped forward to refurbish this boat and from that moment on, for the next 26 years, Wendall was the Dartmouth boatman/rigger.
In 1995, Peter Gardner, the coach during Wendall’s years as Dartmouth Rowing rigger, wrote the following tribute to him following Wendall’s death in Nov 1995:
“As Badge’s (Wendall’s nickname among the rowing community) ability to work on shells and oars increased, so did his knowledge of rowing and his friendships with coaches and oarsmen. Before long he served in a special role, working with the coaches to develop a good attitude and espirit de corps among the oarsmen, giving them a friendly ear and sage advice and always repairing, improving and updating the equipment.
Within a few years he was recognized and admired throughout the rowing community. He was the rigger during the first US Rowing mini-camp in 1964. Several years later he was appointed as rigger for the US Team at the 1970 World Rowing Championships and in 1971 as the rigger for the Pan American Games Rowing Team. He followed this work by being selected as the rigger for the 1976 Olympics and the 1984 World Lightweight Championships. Wendall also assisted in six US National Team camps that were held at the Dartmouth College facilities and traveled with the Dartmouth rowers when they competed at the Henley Royal Regatta in England. When he retired in 1985 he was probably the most widely know rigger in the country.
During his long career, Badge and his wife Elsine, became friends with many generations of oarsmen and oarswomen from Dartmouth and US National Team competitors throughout the country. Having no children of their own, they “ adopted” numerous young people over the years.
This is where I enter the history of the Sanborn plane collection. My wife, Beth, and I were two of Wendall and Elsine’s adopted children. I first met and developed a friendship with Wendall when I was selected to the 1972 and 1973 Rowing Teams and trained at the Dartmouth College facilities. Following my service in the US Army, I entered the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College, which was about thirty yards up the hill from the Dartmouth Boathouse. In my spare time, I would walk down to the boathouse to help Wendall and to learn how to rig and repair wooden boats, most of which were made by Pocock of Seattle, Washington.
In addition to his repair shop at the boathouse, which now had heat, Wendall also had a complete woodworking shop at a converted woolen mill in White River Junction, Vermont where he made furniture. He also manufactured sculling oars for rowers. It was here that I started to learn about woodworking and also developed a deep long lasting relationship with Wendall. It was also during this time that I used to accompany Wendall to yard and flea market sales on weekends when he was adding to his antique tool collection. At some yard sales the old wooden planes were sold by the bushel basket. In the late 1970’s, Wendall decided to focus on planes manufactured by D.P. Sanborn of Littleton, New Hampshire. Following his health related retirement in 1985, Wendall continued to focus on adding to his collection of Sanborn planes and displayed his planes at a Sanborn family reunion. He also worked with the New Hampshire Historical Society to help them put together a special exhibition of New Hampshire manufactured tools.
As Wendall’s health deteriorated in the early 1990’s, he asked me to purchase the collection so that it would stay together and not be sold piecemeal after his wife’s passing. Following Wendall’s death in 1995, as I moved, I brought the planes with me to Wisconsin in 1996 and then on to Woodinville , Washington in 1998.
In the fall of 2008 I visited the Wooden Boat Show and spoke to Tim Lawson about the collection I owned. Now seven years later, the plane collection, along with additional planes and tools and Wendall’s book collection and documentation, has a permanent home at the Port Townsend School of Woodworking. I always felt that the school would be the perfect spot for the collection and after a discussion with Jim Tolpin at this year’s (2014) Wooden Boat Show, I was convinced that I had found the perfect home for the Wendall E Badger Plane Collection.