|I spent most of the past week helping my parents pack and trying to sort out my stuff that has been at their house. It brings back memories. And that's what my mind has been on all week. |
My first job out of college was working at the Industrial Construction division at Black & Decker in Hampstead, Md. They put me to work designing power tools - something that it became readily apparent I wasn't very good at but I learned a tremendous amount in the year and a half I worked there. I learned from my colleagues, I learned by watching. I still quote from my experiences there to the folks here at TFWW. It was an amazing time for me.
Every lunchtime we used to walk most of the length factory to the company cafeteria and back, passing the company store. We used to pop by the store at least once or twice a week where we could buy various seconds of tools, the odd souvenir and things like this very limited edition train car in the picture. In my time there I assembled fairly good collection of C. 1980 power tools from the company store and at the time they were the best tools you could get - I will probably write about them in the future. But while I have great nostalgia for my time there, power tool technology has gotten a lot better over the years. And while I feel that, especially when it comes to traditional tools, the older designs if well done can't be beat, seeing how modern technology can push the design of a fret saw or a coping saw is really interesting and keeps me from constantly looking backwards.
This is a really exciting time to be an iron monger. In the past 10 or 15 years we have seen a revolution in the design and availability of well made and well working hand and power tools. The hand tools in both traditional and new designs work better than ever, and power tools are easier to use, more functional and safer than ever before. This is happening just as the need for these tools is peaking. The end product, furniture, has been left behind. Furniture itself as a possession is less important than it was. For all the advances in tools building a Newport highboy, or a Ruhlman bureau is still really hard to do and takes skill and practice more than just fancy tools. Skill is skill and that won't change, but I hope we are on the verge of something new, and in a few weeks I hope to be reporting on what I think is the most interesting development in hobbyist furniture design in decades.