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Tool Collector Shares His Bounty

Harry Audley has more antique tools than he can count. He estimates that between the barn at the historic Bradley-Hubbell House in Easton and the basement of his Fairfield home, there are thousands. Even more impressive -- he knows how to use every one.

"I think it shows you what your heritage had to go through and what kind of life they had," said Audley, a former fire chief in Westport fire and fire marshal in Darien (41 years combined).

He started his collection when he was 12 and his grandfather gave him his old tools. They date mostly to the late 1800s and early 1900s, and range from sophisticated seeders and hay knives to two-man saws and pieces for turning flax into fabric.

These days, Audley says, he's the only Connecticut resident growing flax. He uses seeds from a farm museum in Lancaster, Pa. In the old days, local farmers had to grow four acres of flax if they wanted to make linen clothing, he said.

Passing on the knowledge of these farm implements is important to Audley. "My aim is to teach the children, which I love to do," he said. He has done history camps and demonstrations for local school children on field trips. He says they sometimes recognize him when they come back to visit Bradley-Hubbell. Each year after Halloween, Audley gathers 600 ears of corn from a local corn maze so young visitors to Bradley-Hubbell House can scrape the kernels off using a tool from his collection.

His next demonstration will be Aug 8 at the Easton Historical Society antique car show and Bradley-Hubbell house tour. The event runs from noon to 3 p.m.

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