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Was The Somerton Man an Artisan ?


  1. A worker in a skilled trade, especially one that involves making things by hand.
    “street markets where local artisans display handwoven textiles, painted ceramics, and leather goods”


The following excerpts have been taken from Arts & Crafts Stencilling, written by W.G.Sutherland.

Stencilling is a handy and entirely practicable means by which the decorator may apply his own ornamental detail. It is not merely a cheap substitute for hand-painting, or a short cut, but a craft itself.

Tools and Equipment

Cutting Equipment.

The tools used in stencilling and stencil cutting are few and simple. To take the cutting equipment first, one requires a good sheet of plate glass about two feet square, or larger, a stencil knife, and an oilstone.

As to the knife itself   .. Almost any good blade of a shape readily capable of being sharpened to a point will serve as a stencil knife, and I have seen an excellent tool ground down from an ordinary table knife.

Almost any good blade of a shape readily capable of being sharpened to a point will serve as a stencil knife.

The knife must be kept always sharpened to a fine point, for the moment its keenness is lost, there is a loss of freedom in the cutting.

  • One razor strop was found in the suitcase of the deceased.

Sheathed knife with blade covered with metal foil to protect wrapping.


Stencil Paper.

Many craftsmen cut their stencil plates from Willesdon paper, which is tough and waterproof and cuts quite well.

  • One piece of light board was found in the suitcase of the deceased.


Brushes and sundries.

The tools needed in applying stencils are also few and simple.

Stencil brushes or “tools” are so familiar in appearance, even to the veriest apprentice, as not to require description of any length. They are round, set generally in metal, and those generally used by decorators are made of hoghair. The hairs are of an even length, so as to present a flat surface of bristle ends.

Third down



Stencil pins will also be required. These are small but strong pins set in wooden heads big enough to grasp in finger and thumb, and their use is to pin the plate in position.

  • Three safety pins were found in the suitcase of the deceased.

Note: The tools used in stencilling and stencil cutting are few and simple.



The man who has done a lot of cutting can design with a lead pencil, charcoal* or brush  ..

Three of the six pencils found in the suitcase of the deceased.


And a stencil of a pair of stencilling scissors

*The black powder analyst Cowan was unable to identify may have been charcoal.

Note: the metal square (as pictured) was used to protect the sheathing from being cut by the knife blade.

Thanks to Boris for the heads up.

Header pic is of a stencil small enough to fit into a large envelope

15 Comments Post a comment
  1. пожалуйста #

    That does look coherent. Nice work, Pete.

    Leane was here before us. He made a seemingly automatic leap from stencilling to Merchant Navy. As I understand it, that’s one source of Keanes that’s drawn a blank, even on the SS Clyde?

    Are there any other trades and industries where this skill might be needed?

    April 6, 2020
    • Travelling craftsman, shopfronts, awnings, interiors, stage backgrounds, interior decorator … something a little better than paint. Part of a company of ballet dancers. Ballerina stenciller, for sale at the door. ..
      and there was no Keane on the cycle, there was a Tom Reade …. his photo is on NAA, doesn’t look anything like our man.

      April 6, 2020
  2. Byron Deveson #

    OK. I am now a believer in the stencilling aspect. Decorating stage sets also comes to mind as a possible use. A set props man would lead a peripatetic life and that might explain why he wasn’t identified and wasn’t missed.

    April 7, 2020
    • You’ve got as many hats as I do …

      April 7, 2020
      • One more thing. The metal foil wasn’t used to protect the blade, it was wrapped around the blade to stop it from cutting through the sheath.

        April 7, 2020
  3. Byron Deveson #

    I am reminded that one of Jessie’s brothers (Thomas Lawson Harkness?) and I think her father were both involved in amateur theatre in Mentone, Victoria.

    April 7, 2020
  4. пожалуйста #

    A friend of the family? Is Mentone a big place?

    April 9, 2020
    • Maybe baby … if they were using stencils to make phoney plates back in the day you’ve hit the jackpot.

      April 10, 2020
  5. dude47 #

    Ive been consistent on this from day one. The Thomson twin scam requires a set of legit papers and a number plate that matches them. Keane drives home to Melbourne in stolen Hilman with legit papers and the licence plate to match.

    April 10, 2020
  6. Silhouettes, Dusty, funny that. … I wonder if there’s one hanging off a wall in Kate’s place.

    April 12, 2020
  7. misca #

    dude47 – Without question – you’ve been consistent. And most definitely, your thinking could fit the bill. Good to still have some common sense discussion around all this.

    October 1, 2020
    • It ain’t over until someone can fit the slip and the book it was torn from into the picture.

      October 1, 2020

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