Thursday, December 16, 2010
Blast from the Past: Wire Trick
In between the regular entries in the Encyclopedia, there are pages dedicated to simple tips and tricks. Some of these "Clever Ideas" are pure gold, and we are starting to see them come back around today during our collective re-awakening to hand tool use. For example on the page shown below at the 9 O'clock position we see that adding a leather strip to the inside of a vise makes a better working surface. This trick is repeated even today by the most revered workbench gurus of our generation.
There are a couple other tips on the page that wouldn't be out of place in one of the magazines on today's newsstand. A modified sawhorse used as a table saw outfeed? Check. Add scrap to a shelf to let you easily paint each side? Check.
Then you get to the last trick on the page, in the bottom right corner. How to straighten bent wire with an ingenious little jig. I can imagine my grandfather bent over his bench, pulling a 2 foot section of wire through a few nails. Many folks would agree that the generations alive in the 1930's adapted these habits out of necessity during the Great Depression. I wonder though - when did this thriftiness leave us as a nation? Was it purely generational, like flipping a switch? Or did it slowly fade away until more and more shop supplies were purchased as needed from the shelves of the big box stores? I wonder if you mapped it out on a timeline if you would find that in 1983 it was already fine to throw away wire, and we were in the last days of hanging on to bent framing nails.
Today it seems silly to keep those jars full of leftover screws, hinges, razor blades, brad nails, picture hooks, doorknobs, light switch plates, bent springs, washers, non-programmable thermostats, kitchen cabinet handles, rubber feet, and of course wire. I don't have a whole bench full of the stuff like my grandfather did, but there is that one jar. You know the one. It's in the back corner of the top cabinet over your bench. The one that sometimes saves the day with a long forgotten bit of scrap, just the right size and shape. As if it's been waiting like some little bit of magic for you to remember. When that happens, I can't help but think out loud "Thanks, Gramp."
What is the weirdest thing you can't throw away? Are you a hoarder or a minimalist in your shop?