Tools for Possibilities: issue no. 15

Superior benefits of wood

Reverence for Wood, $9 Eric Sloane, 1965, 112 pages

Wood was the plastic of the previous era. Better than plastic today it could be found for free, and re-grew itself. This thin beautiful book is a quick orientation to the merits and features of wood. It begins with trees and ends in tools and materials. Should you appreciate the old-timey ways of working with wood, and how these skills shaped early America, as author and artist Eric Sloane does, his sketches will suggest many ways to use and reconsider wood today. – KK

  • Charcoal during the 1800’s was used for many things other than making iron. People cleaned their teeth with it. Although the first results may look ghastly, there is actually nothing more beneficial for teeth than charcoal powder. Swallow some of it? Also good; there is nothing better for upset stomach. It even sweetens the breath. If you want to purify water or remove an offensive odor from anything, use charcoal. Sailors used to throw burnt muffins into their water supply when it became stale or smelly; meat packers used to pack their meats in charcoal. Ice was stored in charcoal, gunpowder was made with it; printer’s ink, black paint, medicines even highways were made form it. In 1865 someone dreamed up this idea, thinking that since charcoal is the longest lasting of materials, a road made of it would be very durable. Timber was piled along the middle of the road and burned right here; then the charred material was raked out and tamped down.

Unusual hand tools

Garrett Wade,

This is my favorite source for hard to find tools. Garrett Wade has been around since 1975 as a mail order company selling fancy woodworking tools, but in recent years they offer a marvelous selection of hand and speciality tools of all types. They still have the best selection for wood planes and the classic woodworking stuff, but it’s their stock of cool and unusual pliers and saws and drill bits and fantastically weird clamps that make it worth a visit. The modern version of the Yankee screwdriver is a Garrett Wade bestseller. In general their prices are on the high side compared to say discounters like Harbor Freight, but quality is usually up a notch as well (and their prices seem better on the web). They produce a paper catalog, which some folks like. Often a great idea begins with the possibilities suggested by the existence of a tool. – KK

Woodsman’s Pal With Leather Handle

Standard US Army issue since 1941. Weighs less than 1-½ lbs. If you only work one-handed, this will feel like an extension of your arm.

Very Special Pliers

A modeler’s sail rigger tool so unusual, it is really useful for everyone.

Imagine having to reach into a very tight space in order to grab something small. Ordinary grippers will be useless, but this unusual tool has its hinge placed way down at the end of a 3” long bent arm. The small mouth opens up 1/4” and will grab whatever you need to retrieve. You’ll soon find yourself reaching for it in a variety of situations, and will be mighty glad you have it. Made in India.


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