It was the tears…

The morning broke low and cool, not with some majestic gaudy display across a wide empty horizon, but slowly with a thousand meek rays reaching tentatively through the maze of tree trunks and bushes. I made my way down the narrow tree lined trail enjoying the crunch of crisp gravel under boot, and the warm glowing ache of my right arm as my tool tote grew heavier with each step. A nervous wood thrush bolted swiftly up from my pile of timbers to alight in the large sugar maple tree above, fluffing and warming himself in the early morning breeze.

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With a a sigh I lay my tote upon a fat timber of oak and began to lay out the days tools with reverent care upon the timbers, in easy reach, and in good order. A smirk crossed my lips as I gazed across my small contingent of useful tools. A few chisels, a smoothing plane, rip and crosscut saw, auger bits, spirit level, snap line, mallet, framing square…yes they were all here, with these simple tools you can build a house…

Once the moment passed I unsheathed old Bertha with somewhat of a flourish, as some ancient knight might his beloved sword, and sank her shining teeth deep into the wood of a joist. With each stroke she sang and sank ever deeper into the wood, following my gentle guiding as a sturdy draft horse would. I thought of all the years she must have suffered such loneliness and depression, closed away in a dusty old barn. For there is a soul in these old tools, though most dismiss the notion.

They were forged in the foundries of old, great factories worked by solid tireless men, akin to the smithies of the dwarves! They were tools crafted expertly of need, to build houses, to carve and cleave and rive out of wood all that is good and just. Yes, and they were used, expertly by expert men of the trades, until such men faded away like a summer rain gone too soon… Then then sat, hoarded by some, forgotten by others, lost in time as it were, until the misery of the job undone, the longing for the masters calloused touch, the deep sadness of the absence of need drove them to cry. It is these steely tears which cause old tools to rust, to fade away into the night, to crumble into themselves and lose that brilliant shine and stately countenance which they long held…how terribly sad a fate to be at once a Tool unused for its purpose!

Being one who loves lost things, and such the romantic at heart, I find true joy and endless satisfaction in bringing these aging ladies back to their former glory. With but a bit of oil and a rub of the stone, a quick pass of the file, these sad flowers shunned to the night grace us again with their beauty fully in the day! Not with the obscene noise, or repulsive vibration common to lesser tools born of modernity, but harmony of form and function carried true from a bygone age!

 

 

 

 

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51 Responses to It was the tears…

  1. Simply…Another excellent post…

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  2. bangflop says:

    And thus endeth the lesson.
    It is quite satisfying to wrest an implement from the clutches of an inapposite existence. We’ll done, Sir…..
    s/f

    Like

  3. Tom Angle says:

    I also love old tools. The way an old iron or chisel takes an edge and the shine of dark iron. I like to hold them and think what they built and the person that made them in a different time that is lost now. I understand how you feel about the old tools. Especially hand saws. There are so many saws and so little money in my pockets.

    Like

    • mrchickadee says:

      Old saws are especially elegant, I have a thing for Disston No 7s, my wife had to stop me…

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      • Tom Angle says:

        The 7’s are nice. I picked up a couple at a flee marker a while back. One of them has become my favorite. Disston made a very fine saw. Even into the 80’s.

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      • Tom Angle says:

        Forgot to mention that my wife and I are visiting family in Ohio. There is an amishman that started a old handtools shop where I grew up. I cannot wait to visit it. I do think my wife will intervene in my plans to fill up my garage with old handtools.

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  4. cdanjo says:

    That was a great morning commute! I especially liked the “smirk”.

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  5. Sir – a stirring post indeed!

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  6. Adrienne Wimbush says:

    Lovely Josh! I adore the idea of the tears – so fitting! Bringing them back into use is such a joy.

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  7. Curtis Liska says:

    You are a true renaissance man. Good words spoken well.

    Like

  8. msjoy1234 says:

    yes, and your tools are very happy!

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  9. msjoy1234 says:

    love your writing on It Was the Tears. Really brought the tools to life!

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  10. So beautiful, Josh! I love your exquisitely expressed thoughts, and your dear appreciation for things most are so willing to forget.

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    • mrchickadee says:

      Thank you Olivia! You helped push me into the realm of creative writing rather than just good old “how to” blogging, I don’t think Ill be able to go back! 😉

      Like

  11. I am as impressed with your vivid writing as I am your work!

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  12. Piddlewick says:

    Oh too true! My husband (Pumpjack to my Piddlewick of Pumpjack&Piddlewick) uses old tools for all his work (including in our vineyard! though not yet able to have a horse (or a donkey) to help wit the plowing.). We find them discarded or given away and he restores them to use another day. Bravo to you!

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  13. Tom says:

    who made your chisels? When buying a used chisel, do you look for specific companies? unmarked? smithed? drop forged (I don’t really know what drop-forged means). Is there a list of quality chisel makers?

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    • mrchickadee says:

      My chisels are all over the place…they came from some factory in the mid to late 1800s. I prefer hand forged laminated chisels the older the better. Drop forged means the chisel was heated to critical, then dropped into a die and smashed to shaped by a large trip hammer most likely. So a drop forged or a “cast” chisel or hammer or whatever is one piece of a certain steel, normally high carbon tool steel. It needs to be properly heat treated to be harder at the cutting end and softer at the striking or impact end to work well. Older chisels and most edge tools were laminated so only the cutting edge was high carbon tool steel, the rest was low carbon steel or wrought iron, which cannot be hardened and will always be soft. Most old chisels and plane blades have a visible line where the two metals were joined. Thats my favorite style. Names of good ones would be witherby, green lee, old stanleys, buck, white, swan and many more I don’t know or remember.

      Like

  14. gabedwiggins says:

    I enjoy seeing the sumitsubo, how long have you been using it? Gotta love that nice dark line.

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  15. Mark Eagleston says:

    I just happened across some of your YouTube videos and I am very impressed with the amount of discipline needed for you and your wife to undertake such an amazing project as your workshop, and all with hand tools…very impressive! One truly has to have the mindset of having joy not just in completing the “job” but in the doing. Thank you for sharing your gifts.

    Like

  16. scott ingledue says:

    I will begin with that I just somehow happened upon your YouTube video, not even sure what I was looking for. After the first vid I was captured. I had to watch them all and then read every blog entry as well. Your story should be a lesson taught to this new generation. Your service to our country, the will to go back to a life free of modern convenience and the love of your fellow man to try and share your victories and failures lead me to only one thing to say. You Sir are “a Man among Men”. It goes without saying that your wife is your foundation. I will continue with both your YouTube and blog. Wishing all the blessing He can supply. Scott

    Like

  17. Alan says:

    What is the little kerf starter on the backside of the Disston #7 called?

    Like

  18. FCS says:

    Dear Josh,

    Difficult to say how much I enjoyed all of your you-tube vlogs about the construction of your workshop as well as all preparations of your cabin.
    Question: How is all the professional videoing done? Is it your misses who records all stages so professionally? My incere compliments also with her participation!
    Please continue your carpentry and your lirics.

    Thanks so much,
    Ferdinand, Almere, The Netherlands..

    Like

  19. wakametamago says:

    Looks like we are using the same sumitsubo ?

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  20. Barb says:

    Where can I get some trousers like yours?

    Like

  21. I only wish I could write as well as you. Try as I might, I have yet to find a anything worth writing that beautifully about. Hopes are that will all change when I retire next year and begin the next chapter of my life on my journey to freedom and bliss as you have elegantly demonstrated for all is possible. Thank you from the bottom of my soul for the privilege to read your thoughts and follow your adventure.
    ~ Darrell

    Like

  22. Gary D says:

    So well written! I can tell that it was from the heart. You not only have a knack for construction with these beloved old instruments of a bygone era; but, with words as well. Thank you for your inspiration. I am about embark on my own journey of crafting a frame home as well, after collecting and bringing back to life many of the implements that you have used in your artistry. I only hope that my efforts lead to a portion of the beauty that you’ve created.

    Like

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