Friday, 21 August 2009

History of our Earmarking Pliers

Earlier today we received our reconditioned sheep earmarking pliers in the mail from Hummelstad Earmarkers based at South Grafton. We decided to have this work done in readiness for lamb-marking – especially as the spring in the handle of the pliers was broken.

I rang Hummelstad Earmarkers to find out their account details so that I could pay the account and spoke to Tom; who happened to be the person who had done the work on the pliers. What follows is some of the information he passed on, which I thought was worth recording for future reference.

The process of reconditioning pliers entails:

  • Removing the centre pin from the two sections
  • Heating the metal to a temperature which removes the previous tempering (hardening)
  • Re-building and aligning the metal in the cutting section to a precision level where the pliers will cut paper (in the shape of the pliers)
  • Inserting (in our case) a new spring in the handle
  • Re-heating and tempering (hardening) the cutting section
  • Grinding and polishing the pliers

In reconditioning our pliers Tom noticed two specific aspects that caught his attention. Firstly, the initials ERH were stamped neatly and discretely near the inside of the hinge of the pliers. The initials were his great-grandfather’s, Eivan (pronounced Ivan) Raganvaldt Hummelstad. It was his practice to place his initials on all pliers he made, being very proud of his craftsmanship. Eivan emigrated to Australia from the Oslo region in Norway in approximately 1860 and in time established the Hummelstad Earmarkers business, which has remained in the family ever since. There is a region in Sweden known as Hummelstad, which may have been where the family first came from. Eivan died in approximately 1920, thus our pliers have to be at least 80 years old. Secondly, the pliers had “J P Cusack” prominently stamped on one of the handles. J P Cusack was the purchaser of the pliers at the time of manufacture. Mr Cusack was a farm produce merchant; a big man of Irish background who was a bully by nature. Eivan tolerated JP Cusack’s behaviour as he saw it as just a part of being in business.

What we don’t know is when, where and how my father originally came to own the pliers and thus where they may have been in the intervening period from the time J P Cusack first bought them from Eivan Hummelstad. Tom suggested that the volume of earmarking pliers sold to JP Cusack was such that they may have been owned by him for many years prior to purchase by the first person who started using them.

Hummelstad Earmarkers is currently owned and run by three brothers. In addition to making and servicing earmarking pliers they also manufacture brands: hot, freeze and oil based.

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