The Etsy Blog

There’s No Place Like Here: Liberty Tool

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(Music by Industries of the Blind)

Located in the middle of the state of Maine, Liberty is not far from the capital, Augusta. The town is small (the most recent estimate is a population of 932) but charming. My parents bought a house there when I was seven years old, and I’ve visited in the summer for a week or two ever since. There are a grand total of two shops open on a daily basis: a store that sells T-shirts and the Liberty Tool Company.

As a child I couldn’t appreciate the unique nature of a place like Liberty Tool, which was started by H.G. “Skip” Brack in 1976 as an addition to his other stores operating under the Jonesport Wood Company umbrella. With its ageless tools, trinkets, and other bric-a-brac, what kid really can? I thought it was boring. I wanted to spend the summer hanging with my friends at the beach, devouring fast food, and eating candy. I put little stock in the quality of things and more so in the quantity. But, as I’ve grown older and more mature, I’ve found it necessary to ornament my life with items of real worth and value. The importance of this has become especially clear to me in the last decade or so, as the continued erosion of those things I once held dear — books and music records immediately come to mind — turns the world I inhabit digital. And that’s why Liberty Tool carved out such a special place in my life.

When I came home from another trip to Maine this summer it dawned on me that Etsy would be a perfect platform, and that Andrew Watson — who directed this video — would be a perfect fit for capturing the essence of Liberty Tool Company. So I spoke with Andrew, a tool enthusiast if there ever was one, and before I could finish my thought, he committed to the project.

The store carries everything from teddy bears, containers of random “stuff”— screws and whatever else can fit into the mason-sized jars — to old tennis rackets, books, and records. But it is the first floor, dedicated to tools that span the length of the industrial revolution, that is the main attraction. “We’ve got tools that date from the earliest days of the revolution to just yesterday,” Brack told us.

Brack’s main focus is to help support a sustainable local economy. By salvaging up to 1 ½ tons of tools each week from around New England and reselling at affordable prices, he’s able to do just that. “I price things intuitively, but I do it so people can afford it. People around here aren’t rich, and I’m conscious of that.”

One of those locals, Joshua Leavitt, is an area woodworker who frequents the tool shop, especially on Saturdays when Brack arrives with newly acquired tools. We hung out with Josh at his woodworking shop, chatted about Skip, and observed Josh at work. “He’s got so much cool stuff, it’s fun to look through the place,” Josh told us. A lot of other people feel that way, too. Brack estimates some 20,000 customers have been through the place since he first opened its doors.

Brack, who has a museum adjacent to the shop dedicated to the history of tools, claims to be the definitive resource for how tools are made in the United States. And like all men of obsessive dedication and knowledge, he takes his objects none too leniently: “Tools are a function of death, taxes, and bankruptcy,” he told us.

Whatever the case may be, the unique nature of the shop isn’t lost on many. Leavitt was effusive in his praise. “He’s great, I’m just really lucky to have a resource like the tool shop near me.” Andrew and I, while envious, also agree.

Zach Pontz is a freelance journalist and writer, amateur doodler, and from time-to-time devoutly inert. You can check out his musings on his blog Motions/\Immobile.

  • TwinkleStarCrafts

    TwinkleStarCrafts says:

    How much do I love it that instead of using fancy marketing packaging to re-sell the hardware, he uses old condiments jars? Reduce, reuse, recycle. Wonderful.

    2 years ago

  • RossLab

    RossLab says:

    What a charming shop! When you shop for tools in such place instead of a big mall, DIY can't get any better.

    2 years ago

  • thepressgang

    thepressgang says:

    I collect old tool and am a member of the british "tools and trade history society" so it looks like heaven to me.

    2 years ago

  • VintageEyeFashion

    VintageEyeFashion says:

    There are few sounds I find more fundamentally satisfying than that of a hand planer sliding across a piece of wood. Wonderful post. Thank you.

    2 years ago

  • mamif

    mamif says:

    looks like I'll be planning a road trip soon!

    2 years ago

  • funktionslust

    funktionslust says:

    I grew up in my dad's workshop...this story feels like home

    2 years ago

  • MissHildebrandt

    MissHildebrandt says:

    We have one right up the road from us, far into the country of central NY. Dons!

    2 years ago

  • myvintagecrush

    myvintagecrush says:

    Zach, seriously.. did you write this for my husband? He has a pretty awesome vintage tool collection going and will be so jealous we live clear across the country ;) Loved this!

    2 years ago

  • volkerwandering

    volkerwandering says:

    Beautiful Story, Great Cause, Awesome Job! Thanks!

    2 years ago

  • lovelygifts

    lovelygifts says:

    That is so cool!

    2 years ago

  • crownring

    crownring says:

    I appreciate shops like this. There are so few of them!

    2 years ago

  • hopefullworld

    hopefullworld says:

    Thanks for the story--I'm planning a trip to check it out.

    2 years ago

  • GearzPast

    GearzPast says:

    I grew up across the street and a couple of houses down from Liberty Tool. My sisters and I liked to peruse the stuff in the attic (there are multiple floors) when we were kids. I bought some books there that are well over 100 years old, including a delightful little copy of Macbeth. I have many childhood memories there, and when I am in Maine, i always visit Liberty - a beautiful little village.

    2 years ago

  • AlisaDesign

    AlisaDesign says:

    Interesting! ;)

    2 years ago

  • dollybirdboutique

    dollybirdboutique says:

    like my dads garage x

    2 years ago

  • TheNightjar

    TheNightjar says:

    Love that photo of the saws, old tools are really sculptures in disguise

    2 years ago

  • spellwell

    spellwell says:

    Great story, great people, great music and great suspenders!

    2 years ago

  • snegoratchka

    snegoratchka says:

    haviing moved down south, Liberty Tool is one of the places i miss the most.

    2 years ago

  • VoleedeMoineaux

    VoleedeMoineaux says:

    Thats a lot of tools!

    2 years ago

  • Parachute425

    Parachute425 says:

    Every town should have a Liberty Tool. Wonderful story. Thanks. Will be sharing this one.

    2 years ago

  • rmoralespottery

    rmoralespottery says:

    Great exposure for Liberty Tools. Makes a lot of sense to do what he does. Thank you for sharing this great story and resource.

    2 years ago

  • sewlola

    sewlola says:

    I enjoyed watching the video and reading the post. Thanks for capturing it so beautifully. I look forward to visit one day.

    2 years ago

  • anotherghostquilts

    anotherghostquilts says:

    Love it. I live not too far from here and will have to pay a visit!

    2 years ago

  • dsigns

    dsigns says:

    We love old tools, looks like a road trip before we have too much more snow!

    2 years ago

  • Apseed

    Apseed says:

    It's so inspiring to see people really love their work/job. It awakens the enthusiasm and desire to create.

    2 years ago

  • blainedesign

    blainedesign says:

    We used to have a wonderful store here called Good Used Tools, that unfortunately went away. I think this is the most wonderful kind of business -- useful, soulful, frugal, historic, practical, and romantic. Love it!!

    2 years ago

  • lovebat

    lovebat says:

    I grew up not far from Liberty Tool, and it is a wonderful place to spend an afternoon. It's exciting to see the store featured here on Etsy.

    2 years ago

  • PhantomAlpha

    PhantomAlpha says:

    I know that place, at least, I know its name. My parents old friends live in Camden, Maine, we travel there once in a while, and while I have never been there, I heard it is a FABULOUS place to do business, and a toolmongers dream come true. They might even have rare tools, and I adore tools that are rare and unusual. They don't make them like they used to, and while that wistful thought does not apply in a wistful manner to, say, computers, it certainly does to hand tools. Some of the best tools and weapons on planet Earth were made by forgers and blacksmiths such as Masamune in 1200 AD, and their damascus swords in particular, cannot be equalled nor replicated efficiently, as far as I know, to this day. Well, peace everyone.

    2 years ago

  • janeeroberti

    janeeroberti says:

    Nothing like a well made old quality tool. These things are around a long time because they were made well to make things well. Totally respect that.

    2 years ago

  • knitfitt

    knitfitt says:

    Next time I am in Maine I am definitely visiting.

    2 years ago

  • lanietaylor

    lanietaylor says:

    You are doing amazing things for Liberty tourism :-). Great post!

    2 years ago

  • LostRoadVintage

    LostRoadVintage says:

    Wow, what a place! Just awesome!

    2 years ago

  • CHenry

    CHenry says:

    OMG, this is the best !!!!!!!!!! I Love Tools ! LOL

    2 years ago

  • baltica

    baltica says:

    I really appreciate Skip's big picture perspective. & I could spend endless hours in his shop! There's a store in Seattle's University District, called Hardwick's that has a similar vibe. Tons & tons of tools, random other household items, and some vintage goods. By the way, love the overalls!

    2 years ago

  • ericawalker

    ericawalker says:

    I loved everything about this, thank you. We're already planning a visit on our next trip to Maine.

    2 years ago

  • moondogfarm

    moondogfarm says:

    awesome! i live in Maine, and Skip also has a store on MDI (the Tool Barn). It is just like liberty tool, and you never know what kind of treasure you'll find there.

    2 years ago

  • HoneyThistle

    HoneyThistle says:

    I love the motto of reusing what is old and abandoned - we all need a Skip in our neighbourhoods.

    2 years ago

  • mwest0425

    mwest0425 says:

    Well I must go here! Love I am in love.

    2 years ago

  • robertcoffin

    robertcoffin says:

    My dad would be 88 years old this year, and his workshop, which was his favorite place to be, was filled with all these gems. Glad to see someone keeping this art of workmanship alive!

    2 years ago

  • BrightWallVintage

    BrightWallVintage says:

    This piece was so beautifully shot! I'm going to share it with my in-laws, who, being a big family of DIY-craftsmen, will no doubt appreciate Skip's message.

    2 years ago

  • 2TrickPony

    2TrickPony says:

    hmm. In an otherwise wonderful vignette of a diy dreamland, the phrase "just a mechanic or a machinist" smacked me on the head like a rusty hammer; In an age where fewer and fewer people know how to even turn a screw, why does our society belittle their contribution.

    2 years ago

  • MapleShadeKids

    MapleShadeKids says:

    Wonderful, inspiring and heartwarming piece. I believe that places like Liberty Tool is not only the "past" but the "future". Thanks so much for sharing.

    2 years ago

  • fbstudiovt

    fbstudiovt says:

    YES!! I'd heard about this place, and have always wanted to see it. Thanks to this video (and the fact that my husband and I are both wood workers who use hand tools) we've decided to diverge from our usual route from VT to Montreal and back, and take a weekend in Maine. Thanks for the inspiration, etsy, and for kicking our butts out of our travel rut!

    2 years ago

  • LittleWrenPottery

    LittleWrenPottery says:

    Beautiful film! I love that its such a treasure trove of tools in there, a hidden little gem.

    2 years ago

  • jamescade

    jamescade says:

    Love Liberty, I go there all the time with my son and daughter-in-law. My favorite hammer that I use all the time came from liberty and cost only $2.50. Great place to visit and get your hands dirty.

    2 years ago

  • mbriana

    mbriana says:

    Andrew and Zach , you guys did a nice shoot of the tool. co. come back and do a series , film the museum, Skip's new Tools Teach room, and more of the local flavor . Liberty Tool is a great resource for craftsmen and craft ladies.

    2 years ago

  • HouseThatCrowBuilt

    HouseThatCrowBuilt says:

    I love finding old tools to use in my jewelry making. A lot of the tools I use were found at flea markets and yard sales. I would love to browse through Liberty Tool if I were anywhere near it!

    2 years ago

  • tangerined

    tangerined says:

    I *love* this. Liberty tool is only about 30 minutes from where I'm staying, it's one of my favorite field trips! Be warned though, you might end up spending 4+ hours looking at tools! The "t-shirt shop" isn't just any random store, either. It's Liberty Graphics, which also focuses on sustainability by having an extensive organic cotton line and nature-based artwork.

    2 years ago

  • BearBrandt

    BearBrandt says:

    I think, I think I am in love.

    2 years ago

  • nolinoli

    nolinoli says:

    nice

    2 years ago

  • thisthatotherthings

    thisthatotherthings says:

    These are places that I search out when I go thrifting through out the small towns of America. I think it's time I drove up into Maine to see what treasures await. Thank You for the eye opening read.

    2 years ago

  • WeeBindery

    WeeBindery says:

    A wonderful story! In our disposable society, it is so refreshing to "meet" someone who really cares about recycling/refurbishing something which can then be passed on to the next person.

    2 years ago

  • HoneysuckleKiss

    HoneysuckleKiss says:

    Fantastic watch! I strongly believe this is the direction more of us need to follow and pieces like this not only reaffirm but encourage. Thank you so much for sharing and I wish a long continued success to Liberty!

    2 years ago

  • DavesManCave

    DavesManCave says:

    Liberty is a place I could spend hours in! Just hold a vintage tool, and wonder what projects it worked on. And whose hands used it. What a gift Liberty tool is giving!

    2 years ago

  • minimarce

    minimarce says:

    This history is around the world, like in my Mexico. Now so much people prefer the chinese stuff-tools, but other prefer to do something with their hands, to feel the material and have a tool in their hands and I love it. Reduce, reuse, recycle. Think positive and learn about others! Great post.

    2 years ago

  • DarwinsDress

    DarwinsDress says:

    Great piece! Thank you SKip for believing and aiding in a sustainable future

    2 years ago

  • ionesAttic

    ionesAttic says:

    beautiful film. administration...please police these discussions for spammers ie: halkapop01

    2 years ago

  • SierraNets

    SierraNets says:

    I wrote this to Zach on FB. I don't know him from Adam, but this was a wonderfully inspiring film. "Hi Zach. I was impelled to write to you after seeing your movie, Liberty Tool, on Etsy. That film inspired me! What a beatiful piece of instant Americana you managed to capture! the places, the sounds, the moments captured were simply perfect. I believe Skip is spot on with his asessment of artists like myself. I started building custom wood fly fishing nets a few years ago after being laid off the second time in as many years. Thank you again for the inspiration to strive on."

    2 years ago

  • ENAfinedesigns

    ENAfinedesigns says:

    This man is filled with wisdom. As my father said to me, never throw out old tools.

    2 years ago

  • GardenAngels

    GardenAngels says:

    I love Liberty Tool !!! I discovered it this fall on my way to Deer Isle. Awesome and great to be on etsy !!

    2 years ago

  • LilyInFlux

    LilyInFlux says:

    I just stumbled upon this video today on another site and was excited to see my friend Skip! I lived in Bar Harbor ME, (where Skip has another amazing Tool Barn) and I used to buy assemblage supplies from Skip. I loved picking through the boxes and bins to find the treasures and oddities I would use in my artwork. This video is beautiful and important + gave me goosebumps the whole way through. Thank you for featuring such an amazing person and place!

    2 years ago

  • MissingHeirloom

    MissingHeirloom says:

    I recently purchased a tack hammer at a local family owned hardware store that I just love. The unfortunate part - was that it was made in China. I wanted an American made tack hammer. I was even willing to pay more if I found one. So I looked around on Etsy and found one from GrandpaJoesShed. He gave me free shipping and even reduced the price by 2 bucks. I LOVE my American made vintage tack hammer!

    2 years ago

  • rubypress

    rubypress says:

    Loved this! Thank you!

    2 years ago

  • LeesBeesNJ

    LeesBeesNJ says:

    This was terrific - thanks for sharing it! One of my favorite things is my grandfather's tool box. I still use his tools.

    2 years ago

  • DaoineSidhe

    DaoineSidhe says:

    I love what Liberty Tool is doing; it makes me want to open something very simular where Iam at....It would be easy...we have so much unused farm equitment around this place, someone should put it back into use. Thank you for the share.

    2 years ago

  • grandmae1

    grandmae1 says:

    called my brotherinlaw in vermont before I was half thru !!! pass it along,people! :)

    2 years ago

  • petitepash

    petitepash says:

    What a sweet, sweet man and his shop! I would love to visit his shop if I could. Stores like his are ones that I've always been fascinated with.

    2 years ago

  • VirginTimberLumber

    VirginTimberLumber says:

    We might be calling up there for some hand tools soon! What a beautiful shop, we're envious down here in the mountain state. Nice video!

    2 years ago

  • kckwoodworking

    kckwoodworking says:

    Shops like this made this country great. Its good to see old things never die. And new things after awhile become old.To start its journey over again...

    2 years ago

  • SaltboxPottery

    SaltboxPottery says:

    What a great video! This was my dad's favorite store and one of mine, as well!

    2 years ago

  • rusticroots

    rusticroots says:

    thanks i love old hand tools and use them for my rustic furniture building.

    2 years ago

  • mightywoodsmen

    mightywoodsmen says:

    What a beautiful shop theres nothing like old tools

    2 years ago

  • IrisTse

    IRISC from IrisTse says:

    Appreciate his idea so much, Please continue to that! =D love so much

    2 years ago

  • GlamourGalStuff

    Helen Henriksen from GlamourGalStuff says:

    I work for H.G. Brack at one of his other stores Captain Tinkham's Emporium. Been with him and his Company for almost 2 years. Liberty Tool like his other 2 stores (Captain Tinkham's and Hulls Cove Barn) are such fun! You NEVER know what will show up at any of these places. Skip (H.G. Brack) as we call him, is a TRUE AMERICAN PICKER! Before Picking was cool, Skip was doing it! If you EVER want to have some good clean (and sometimes dirty ...lol..)fun, come check out our stores! You maybe surprised at what you find! And if digging isn't your thing, Skip also has a BEAUTIFUL Museum (in Liberty) and a Sculpture Garden in Hulls Cove for your enjoyment.

    1 year ago