Monday, July 1, 2013

The Tools Of My Trade - Honoring My Family History

Hi.  My name is Jean, and I'm addicted to my tools.
A few of my favorites. 
My first set of vintage letter stamps, a variety of texturing tools,
well worn wooden holders, and my all time favorite hammer.

I come by it honestly.  My Dad was a maintenance foreman at J&L Steel in Pittsburgh, and my Grandpap had a collection of ragtag tools that defies the imagination.  Both of them loved their tools, and I'd give anything to spend even an hour with them today in their individual work spaces.

My Dad's workbench in the basement of our house on Highgrove Road was organized to a fault.  Each tool had it's place in pegboard on the walls, and each drawer...especially the tiny plastic ones...were painstakingly organized with the contents clearly labeled on the front.  (Dad was a wiz with his label maker!)  He loved his tools, and he cared for them in a way that allowed them to last for a lifetime.

On the other hand, my Grandpap's basement shop resembled an avalanche overflowing from the top of his workbench to the corners of the room.  I'm sure that he had his own system; but it was lost on the rest of us.  The new tools that my Dad proudly presented to him as holiday gifts were often hidden away and "saved for good".  Instead he worked with a mishmash of salvaged, repaired, and repurposed cast offs, and he seemed to enjoy the challenge of keeping them going.

Today I treasure both approaches to tools and workshop organization.  I love the beauty of a brand new well designed tool, and I also adore the imperfection and history of a well used yard sale find.  I strive for a at least a bit of my Dad's order; but Grandpap's tendency toward repurposing and collecting continues to rear its head.  I'd like to think that my methods honor them both, and I hope that they're proud of my hybrid ways.  Their influence in my daily life continues, both in the workshop and out, and I'm grateful for all that they've taught me.

My favorite hammer is the one that my Dad
used  each day of his life, and now the same is true of me.
I love the feel of it in my hand, and the way that
every mark on it tells a story. 
Perfection is overrated. 

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