- Associated Press - Saturday, August 19, 2017

WAKEFIELD, Neb. (AP) - Russell Marshall isn’t sure his collection is worth all that much, but he said he has no plans to get rid of it.

His collection? More than 3,000 antique wrenches.

They come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, each manufactured to fit a specific part on a specific machine.

All of the wrenches are located in the basement of the Graves Library Museum. And they’re only part of a larger collection Marshall has at home.

Marshall said his oldest wrenches probably date to 1864. Back then, there was no standard for machine parts, so each one needed a tool to fit it. Companies began to standardize equipment in the 1920s, and Marshall said they probably stopped making so many different wrenches in the ‘30s.

And now all of these wrenches have been left for collectors to find and research.

“Research is half the fun,” Marshall told the Norfolk Daily News .

To do so, Marshall said, he mostly relies on parts lists. Marshall said he looks through them for mentions of wrenches and tries to match the part numbers to the wrench he has. Sometimes - perhaps 15 to 20 percent of the time - the lists will have pictures to help.

“If they don’t have part numbers, boy is it tough,” he said.

He also uses the internet for research, though Google Books doesn’t always have what he needs. When that happens, the larger wrench-collecting community may be able to help.

The Missouri Valley Wrench Club was founded in 1981 and meets twice a year in York to show, sell and swap wrenches. Marshall said people come from across the country for the meetings.

Marshall’s great uncle was a founding member of the club, and he and Marshall’s grandfather were the people who introduced Marshall to the hobby.

Pete Rathbone, a wrench collector in Idaho with a similarly large collection, has also been helpful.

Marshall said Rathbone got him interested in collecting farm wrenches, and the books Rathbone has written about antique wrenches have been good for research, too.

For those he can’t identify, Marshall has a few cases for “orphans” and he holds out hope that he’ll eventually find a part list for them. Marshall said he is in the process of alphabetizing the others, as well as attaching information on the wrench and the company it came from.

He also has a whole case just for Nebraska wrenches.

He explained that most wrench manufacturing was done in Eastern states like Ohio. “Any wrench from Nebraska is kind of special because we don’t have a lot of different ones,” Marshall said.

But Marshall keeps the most special wrenches at home.

One of those is from the experimental, short-term John Deere Dain tractor. Because of its rarity, he keeps it in a safe.

He said everyone’s protective of rare wrenches. They don’t let people take pictures or get a good enough look to figure out the dimensions. The risk comes from those who make reproductions of these original wrenches and try to pass them off as genuine at meets.

The reproductions can be spotted, he said, because cast iron shrinks a little when it comes off a mold. So the copies are a little bit smaller than the originals.

He said buying collections is how he’s gotten most of his numbers. And now the meets usually have wrenches already in his collection, so Marshall said it’s been two or three years since he added many new wrenches.

“All the fun’s in finding it,” Marshall said.

But he isn’t done looking yet.


Information from: Norfolk Daily News, https://www.norfolkdailynews.com

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