Our species is characterized by tool use, and I just feel more human when I’ve got the right tools and a place to use them. Living in an urban apartment in Austria, and then a rental house outside of London, I was always short of some vital tool, and whenever something broke, I had to take a trip to the hardware store to buy a screw or part. I was chronically short of pieces of wood to beat on, or to use for a joint brace on some deteriorating Ikea furniture.
Soon after we were able to move into the cabin, I setup a work area in the basement with tools and fasteners for patching, prep, and putzing. The workbench was built by my Grampa Heiser for my 5th birthday, and he designed it so the table height could be raised as I got taller. I used it through high school, and later re-milled the oak top and repainted the base, in its original machine shop green, for Kirk.
Elizabeth found a $1.50 rechargeable jig saw, the stoo,l and the retro red toolbox at garage sales. She also got a great deal on a pair of vintage Luxo L-1 lamps, one of which I clamped to the workbench. I’ve got a favorite subset of tools to carry around in the red tray, along with a well-worn Ryobi rechargeable drill, inherited from Elizabeth’s dad.
I admit to being a screwdriver junkie. Craftsman are always cheaper by the 2 or 3 dozen, so I splurged and bought a large set, with their reassuring red & blue slotted screw, and clear-handled Phillips. Black & clear handled Torx turn out to be necessary for chainsaw repairs. The only non-Craftsman are a #2 square drive that I needed to fasten the cover on the junction box for the septic leach field, and a large Yankee of unknown provenance. I’m gonna try to get along without the Reed Prince that Sears used to toss into the set (red and white handle?). The Marples chisels, which I once spent several hours lapping (but got bored before I fully flattened the backs), have seen a surprising amount of action on picture frames, wobbly furniture, and door frames.
Summer humidity meant that several pine-framed doors needed the edges planed down so they would shut. A few years ago, I found a small treasure trove of planes and spoke shaves that had belonged to my Grampa Grender, including this old Stanley wooden base smoothing plane. In storage since my grandfather’s death in 1971, the tools are all scary sharp. Both of my grandfathers were artists with the whetstone, and even though it wears slightly every time I use it, creating two-foot long, paper thin shavings from the edges of our Amish doors is a transcendent connection to my grandfather .
Grampa Heiser’s 1964 workbench had a small pegboard that arrived with a uselessly small pipe wrench, a small claw hammer with a handle that I eventually broke, a slotted screwdriver with a purple wooden grip, and a hacksaw—my first tools. Grampa Grender took me to Uncle Bills (an early and short-lived discount store chain in northern Ohio) to buy a small and long lost wood saw with interchangeable blades. I don’t know where all of my hand tools went, I don’t know where all the stuff pictured above came from, but a half century later, that useless little pipe wrench is still hanging on the pegboard behind Grampa Heiser’s workbench. Grampa Grender carved a new handle for the tack hammer, and after 45 years, the cherry has darkened nicely.