Profits From Americana: Restoring and Reproducing Farm and Household Equipment

Henry L. Farr explains how to create a home business restoring and reproducing Americana designs of antique tools and equipment and craft projects for profits.

| July/August 1975

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    Another small yoke is rasped into shape without sawing.
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    Betty Farr decorates a wooden salt cellar.
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    A completed fork is displayed by Mr. Farr's grandson Rodney, an assistant in the family woodworking business.

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This article began at a Treasures and Trash barn in upstate New York, where I noticed a tourist poking at an old butter churn. "Say, this thing isn't worth lugging out to the car," he grumbled to his wife. "Why don't they make good copies of tools like they do with antiques? I'd pay for something really attractive."

The tourist's comments set me to thinking as I drove home. "Many early Americana farm and home implements, known to antique collectors as 'primitives', are masterpieces of design as well as colorful period pieces," I mused. "Although such articles are often reproduced commercially for mass sale, good handmade copies are much less common. But I don't believe it would be that hard to turn out a limited number of yesteryear's tools by hand. Why, I'll bet I could do it myself!"

And that's how our family comes to be making such decorative items as six–inch–tall salt and pepper sets, miniature rakes, and ox yokes of all sizes (some of which bring up to S100). Interest in Americana is running high as the Bicentennial approaches, and it seems that my idea was well timed. Perhaps some of the procedures we follow may help other craftsmen to profit from this revived appreciation for our nation's past.

My first step toward the founding of my new business was a trip to the Farmers' Museum in Cooperstown, New York, where I studied the old-time artifacts on the walls and in the display groups (and shot a roll and a half of film). I then called at the bookstore for a copy of Frontier Living by Edwin Tunis,  and a list of outstanding craftsmen in upper New York State.

I'd also suggest an investment in some further useful references:

[1] A facsimile copy of an early Sears or Montgomery Ward catalog, we use the 1895 Ward and the 1925 Sears.

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