Sturt Hand Tool Bequest
Words: Dale Dryen with additional research by Robyn Dryen
Sturt School For Wood has recently received an exciting bequest of hand tools with a historical connection to well regarded 20th century Sydney cabinetmakers, J Ratner & Co.
Part of the estate of David Ratner, the bequest comprises over 300 items. The tools are mainly carving chisels which belonged to Maurice Klein, a woodcarver working in Sydney in the first half of the 1900s. As well as the chisels there are spokeshaves, a cabinetmaker’s chest and a wooden bench plane which belonged to the Ratner family.
Above: Master woodcarver Maurice Klein at work.
Maurice Klein arrived in Australia from England at the turn of the 20th century and died in Sydney in 1955. He is said to have carved the lectern in St Andrew’s cathedral, Sydney. The chisels are the tools of a master relief carver.
Maurice’s daughter Rose married Saul Ratner in 1926. Saul and his brother Harry worked in the family’s furniture factory, begun by their father Joseph Ratner. Joseph, who had been born in Belarus, moved to England and then came to Australia in 1904 via South Africa. He established his business J. Ratner & Co Pty Ltd in about 1911 in Newtown, Sydney.
According to information from the NSW State Library, the firm did highly refined work for churches, synagogues and banks. Grace Bros was one of their major clients for a range of quality furniture. Production stopped in 1980 after the factory closed and the site was sold.
The tools were handed down to David Ratner (Saul’s son and Maurice’s grandson). The chisels were in a box lined with newspapers dated 1955 the year Maurice died.
Above: A cabinet made by J Ratner & Co Pty Ltd.
Sturt also received some historical books on carving and cabinetmaking from David Ratner’s estate. Some of the tools and books will soon be displayed at Sturt Gallery. Our thanks go to the Ratner family for their generous donation.
See www.sturt.nsw.edu.au for more information.