Shop Etsy

There’s No Place Like Here: Liberty Tool

Nov 8, 2011

by ZPontz

MP4 | YouTubeVimeo | Blip.tv | Subscribe in iTunes

(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.

Vintage Ball Pein Hammer / Antique Tool
Vintage Ball Pein Hammer / Antique Tool
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Antique Shoe Cobbler Hammer, Beautifully Rusted Head and Worn Wooden Handle
Antique Shoe Cobbler Hammer, Beautifully Rusted Head and Worn Wooden Handle
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2 vintage MICROMETERS - Starrett and J. T. Slocomb brands - 0 to 1 inch and 1 to 2 inch sizes
2 vintage MICROMETERS - Starrett and J. T. Slocomb brands - 0 to 1 inch and 1 to 2 inch sizes
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74 comments

  • TwinkleStarCrafts

    TwinkleStarCrafts said 5 years ago

    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.

  • RossLab

    RossLab said 5 years ago

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

  • thepressgang

    thepressgang said 5 years ago

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

  • VintageEyeFashion

    VintageEyeFashion said 5 years ago

    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.

  • mamif

    mamif said 5 years ago

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

  • funktionslust

    funktionslust said 5 years ago

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

  • MissHildebrandt

    MissHildebrandt said 5 years ago

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

  • myvintagecrush

    myvintagecrush said 5 years ago

    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!

  • volkerwandering

    volkerwandering said 5 years ago

    Beautiful Story, Great Cause, Awesome Job! Thanks!

  • lovelygifts

    lovelygifts said 5 years ago

    That is so cool!

  • crownring

    crownring said 5 years ago

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

  • hopefullworld

    hopefullworld said 5 years ago

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

  • GearzPast

    GearzPast said 5 years ago

    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.

  • AlisaDesign

    AlisaDesign said 5 years ago

    Interesting! ;)

  • dollybirdboutique

    dollybirdboutique said 5 years ago

    like my dads garage x

  • TheNightjar

    TheNightjar said 5 years ago

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

  • spellwell

    spellwell said 5 years ago

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

  • snegoratchka

    snegoratchka said 5 years ago

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

  • VoleedeMoineaux

    VoleedeMoineaux said 5 years ago

    Thats a lot of tools!

  • Parachute425

    Parachute425 said 5 years ago

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

  • rmoralespottery

    rmoralespottery said 5 years ago

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

  • sewlola

    sewlola said 5 years ago

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

  • anotherghostquilts

    anotherghostquilts said 5 years ago

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

  • dsigns

    dsigns said 5 years ago

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

  • Apseed

    Apseed said 5 years ago

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

  • blainedesign

    blainedesign said 5 years ago

    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!!

  • lovebat

    lovebat said 5 years ago

    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.

  • PhantomAlpha

    PhantomAlpha said 5 years ago

    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.

  • janeeroberti

    janeeroberti said 5 years ago

    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.

  • knitfitt

    knitfitt said 5 years ago

    Next time I am in Maine I am definitely visiting.

  • lanietaylor

    lanietaylor said 5 years ago

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

  • LostRoadVintage

    LostRoadVintage said 5 years ago

    Wow, what a place! Just awesome!

  • CHenry

    CHenry said 5 years ago

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

  • baltica

    baltica said 5 years ago

    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!

  • ericawalker

    ericawalker said 5 years ago

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

  • moondogfarm

    moondogfarm said 5 years ago

    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.

  • HoneyThistle

    HoneyThistle said 5 years ago

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

  • mwest0425

    mwest0425 said 5 years ago

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

  • robertcoffin

    robertcoffin said 5 years ago

    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!

  • BrightWallVintage

    BrightWallVintage said 5 years ago

    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.

  • 2TrickPony

    2TrickPony said 5 years ago

    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.

  • MapleShadeKids

    MapleShadeKids said 5 years ago

    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.

  • fbstudiovt

    fbstudiovt said 5 years ago

    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!

  • LittleWrenPottery

    LittleWrenPottery said 5 years ago

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

  • jamescade

    jamescade said 5 years ago

    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.

  • mbriana

    mbriana said 5 years ago

    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.

  • HouseThatCrowBuilt

    HouseThatCrowBuilt said 5 years ago

    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!

  • tangerined

    tangerined said 5 years ago

    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.

  • BearBrandt

    BearBrandt said 5 years ago

    I think, I think I am in love.

  • nolinoli

    nolinoli said 5 years ago

    nice

  • thisthatotherthings

    thisthatotherthings said 5 years ago

    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.

  • WeeBindery

    WeeBindery said 5 years ago

    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.

  • HoneysuckleKiss

    HoneysuckleKiss said 5 years ago

    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!

  • DavesManCave

    DavesManCave said 5 years ago

    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!

  • minimarce

    minimarce said 5 years ago

    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.

  • DarwinsDress

    DarwinsDress said 5 years ago

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

  • ionesAttic

    ionesAttic said 5 years ago

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

  • SierraNets

    SierraNets said 5 years ago

    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."

  • ENAfinedesigns

    ENAfinedesigns said 5 years ago

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

  • GardenAngels

    GardenAngels said 5 years ago

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

  • LilyInFlux

    LilyInFlux said 5 years ago

    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!

  • MissingHeirloom

    MissingHeirloom said 5 years ago

    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!

  • rubypress

    rubypress said 5 years ago

    Loved this! Thank you!

  • LeesBeesNJ

    LeesBeesNJ said 5 years ago

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

  • DaoineSidhe

    DaoineSidhe said 5 years ago

    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.

  • grandmae1

    grandmae1 said 5 years ago

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

  • petitepash

    petitepash said 5 years ago

    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.

  • VirginTimberLumber

    VirginTimberLumber said 5 years ago

    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!

  • kckwoodworking

    kckwoodworking said 5 years ago

    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...

  • SaltboxPottery

    SaltboxPottery said 5 years ago

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

  • rusticroots

    rusticroots said 5 years ago

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

  • mightywoodsmen

    mightywoodsmen said 5 years ago

    What a beautiful shop theres nothing like old tools

  • IrisTse

    IRISC from IrisTse said 4 years ago

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

  • GlamourGalStuff

    Helen Henriksen from GlamourGalStuff said 4 years ago

    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.

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