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Liberty Tool: It’s a sculture and it’s for sale

05/08/2014

 

The road through Liberty features the Liberty Tool Company on the left. The abandon gas station on the right is for Liberty Tool overflow.

The road through Liberty features the Liberty Tool Company on the right. The abandon Mobil gas station on the left is for Liberty Tool overflow.


Liberty Tool 
isn’t just an antique hardware store –  it’s  a work of art, says owner Skip Brack.

And now his masterpiece is up for sale.

Brack has spent more than 40 years selling antique tools from a former hotel

Antique hardware store or sculpture? You decide.

Antique hardware store or sculpture? You decide.

building  in a sleepy hill town called Liberty, Maine. While the business operates like a typical hardware store, with a register up front and price tags on everything, the sheer volume of  used  tools, tiny jars of nuts and bolts, obsolete power equipment, old furniture, art work and endless shelves of  typical antique store ephemera pushes the operation into another realm.

In a video  interview with the Bangor Daily News, Brack called his store an “interactive sculpture.”

“So people go into my sculpture and instead of just experiencing the tools, they take the tools and they make something some other place,” he said. “So that’s sort of an extended view of contemporary art.”

Pretty deep thinking for a guy wearing dungarees and yellow ruler suspenders.

I visited Liberty Tool last month, before I learned the place was “for sale” and considered “sculpture.” I went Liberty Tool because needed a hand saw and sand paper.

Of course, the place is amazing.

The hand saw I purchased at Liberty Tool for $4.

The hand saw I purchased at Liberty Tool for $4.

Here’s how it must work: Sometime back in the 1970s, Brack  secretly purchased the property rights to the basement and garage workshop of every grandpa in New England.

As the old guys die off, Brack claims every tool, gadget and thing-a-ma-jig piled in, on or around their oily, sawdust strewn work bench. The stuff is loaded into a van and hauled back to tiny Liberty, Maine, population 927.

All this merchandise, most of it antique and obsolete, gets sorted, cleaned and jammed into a creaky, old, three-story building at the center of town.  Every shelf, storage bin and square inch of floor space is piled high with hardware, cabinets and shelves. There’s so  much of it, the store spills across the street into an abandon Mobil gas station.

And this is where it all becomes a work of art.

Liberty is a 90 minute drive from Bangor, so I didn’t make the 7:30 a.m. opening rush where hardcore tool fans, working carpenters and artists pick over the fresh stock. Instead the place buzzed with tourists, antique gawkers and customers like me who were really looking for hardware.

Did Liberty Tool have what I needed?

Yup. Rare and collectible hand saws hung from the first floor ceiling and a bin the size of a meat locker was stacked with early 20th Century rip saws. On the second floor, I found a collection old-fashioned wood slat barrels jammed with rusty hand saws. $4 apiece.

The sand paper was a little harder to find. I was directed to a back room where I rooted around underneath shelving and tables stacked with grinders, metal brushes and sea of assorted hand tools and gadgets. In a box on the floor I found my sandpaper.

It was “medium” grit sandpaper made by 3M. It even had the vintage 3M logo on the back. $2 for four sheets.

Antique sandpaper. Now that’s a work of art.

Vintage 3M sand paper.

Vintage 3M sand paper.

 

 

 

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3 Comments
  1. John Freed permalink

    This is a great find and what rural Maine is all about.

  2. John permalink

    any records in there?

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