The Painted Panther


American folks artwork meets the world’s most collectible hand

by Ralph Brendler
from the
June 2004 issue


It’s straightforward to know why folks artists love to color on saws
– a noticed blade is a big and flat space that’s straightforward to color,
but the general form is immediately recognizable as one thing
“previous.”  Utilizing an previous noticed as an alternative of a canvas creates an
implicit hyperlink with the previous.

As a rule, instrument collectors (particularly collectors of previous saws)
will not be too keen on noticed painters. The portray all however ruins
the collectible worth and usefulness of the instrument, and in most
circumstances the standard of the artwork is fairly abysmal. Nonetheless, this
isn’t at all times the case.

At a latest assembly of my native instrument collector’s group,
a member introduced a painted noticed to share that he had just lately
bought at a neighborhood flea market. It undoubtedly was not a
run-of-the-mill instance, and it brought about fairly a stir among the many

The very first thing I observed was the general high quality of the artwork.
Whereas it’s actually not a museum piece, it’s a massive step up
from what you usually see. There was good stability of the topic,
wonderful use of coloration (the sky has some notably good
brushwork), and the considerably skewed perspective that’s
symptomatic of American naïve artwork. Somebody on the assembly
identified that this work would undoubtedly earn you an “A” at
the local people school.

After my fast artwork appraisal, I examined the noticed itself. It
appeared to be in wonderful form, with the attribute “nib”
that marked it as 19th century manufacturing. The deal with was in
outstanding situation, with out the chips, cracks or rodent
harm one usually sees on a noticed of this classic.
However the actual shock was the form of the deal with. It didn’t
register with me instantly, however I all of a sudden discovered myself doing
a double take … there was a panther head carved on the deal with!
This was no extraordinary previous noticed – it was one of many true “holy
grails” of noticed gathering: the Woodrough and McParlin “Panther”

On Jan. 13, 1880, James R. Woodrough of Cincinnati was issued
U.S. Design Patent 11,603 titled merely “Design for
Noticed-Handles.” The specification is sort of brief, masking, “A
design for handsaw-handles, consisting of the extraordinary type of
deal with, its entrance finish being supplied with a decorative head
projecting from stated entrance finish over the blade of the noticed ….”

This noticed was featured in a 1991 Smithsonian journal article,
which said that solely six of those instruments have been identified to exist.
Since then extra examples have turned up, however it’s estimated
that there are lower than 30 of those left. What’s much more
attention-grabbing is that that is solely the second instance that I’m
conscious of that has wheat carving on the deal with, making it even
extra uncommon.

The mixture of rarity and strange design means these saws
are in nice demand from collectors, and can command a excessive
value. Even tough examples can promote for $500 or extra, and nicer
ones will deliver $four,000 to $5,000, in accordance with Pete Taran, who
runs, a
website dedicated to previous saws.

An skilled in instrument restoration may undoubtedly strip the paint
and polish, and restore the noticed to collector situation. If
this was achieved, this noticed would doubtless be the nicest identified
instance of this extremely uncommon instrument, and will probably
problem the document public sale value for saws. This makes it
apparent that the noticed must be refinished – or does it? The
proprietor of the noticed put it greatest:
“To me, as a collector, the noticed helps have fun a remembered
time when fantastic hand instruments and craftsmanship have been an necessary
a part of on a regular basis lives. The noticed painter celebrates the identical
bygone period via illustration utilizing an merchandise from the previous.
Each of us, the collector and the folks artist, try to
carry ahead to tomorrow one thing from our previous. If I have been to
clear the noticed, all I’d have when I’m achieved is, effectively, simply
one other panther noticed. Clearly the sum is larger than the components,
so I intend to depart the noticed as is.”

After desirous about it for some time, I’ve to say that I agree
with him. In spite of everything, what’s extra attention-grabbing – proudly owning considered one of 30
identified panther saws, or proudly owning the one identified painted panther
noticed? PWM

A longtime collector and researcher of vintage instruments, Ralph
is an avid hand instrument woodworker. He oversees the OldTools
mailing record on-line, and is an space director for the Mid-West
Instrument Collectors Affiliation.

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