Sunday, June 21, 2015

Working With The Tools of my Fathers

I visited my uncle and aunt this weekend, and came away with treasure, along with the pleasure of seeing them again.  I'm the only one of my generation, as far as I can tell, with an interest in old tools.  Perhaps the others are wiser than me, or perhaps they just have different hobbies.

My uncle has been slowly sorting through things from my grandfather's basement, and sent me home with a collection of tools that were used -- or at least owned -- by my grandfather.  In looking through them after getting home, I realized how much has come down to me, both from my grandfather and from my father.

Almost all of my planes are now inherited.  There's a 24" Siegley jointer, which was my father's, along with a pair of block planes he bought over the years.  All three have some quirks, particularly the Siegley, but all three work well.  There's also a pair of Stanley smoothing planes (a #3 and a #4), a pair of rabbet planes (a wooden one with an angled iron, and a Stanley #78), and an oddity I'm not quite sure how to identify.  (That would be the one between the smoothing planes and block planes.)

The handsaw behind the jointer belonged to my grandfather, and one of my best carpentry saws, a Craftsman crosscut saw, came from my father.

A few tool boxes now in my possession were my grandfather's, along with a tool chest I'm itching to start restoring.

So what difference does it make?  Is there really a difference in using old family tools?  In one way, no.  Those Stanley planes don't work any better than anyone else's, or than one I bought on eBay.  In another way, though, they do make a difference.  One of the things that's lacking in the modern world is continuity, and a visible link between the past and the future.  Each time I pick up that #3 and start smoothing a board, I remember my grandfather, and think about who might come after me.

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