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Handy Tools…Skilled Carpenters

Those of us who like carpentry spend a lot of our spare time doing carpentry chores around the home, especially around Christmas time. There are bar stools to repair, closets to upgrade, and many little things to retouch with paint or varnish. It is fun doing these little things without having to pay or not being able to get the job done because cabinet makers are overloaded with jobs or there are not any available.

As we go about doing the little chores, one cannot help but reminisce how tough and difficult it was done in yester years. To drive in a few screws, you had to pre punch a hole with a nail, and then use the hand screwdriver to force those suckers in. How easy it is today with a cordless power drill! You simply place the screw in position and press on with the drill. In less than a minute you have hung a door.

And then there was the cutting of doors and stairs with a hand saw. To cut a door it took over an hour. To cut a stair case with some ten to fifteen steps it took about half a day. Today with a power saw you can cut a door in five minutes and an entire stair case in twenty minutes. What a delight with modern tools in this industrialized age.

I have a small electric plane which makes me feel guilty whenever I use it. I mean, that thing eats wood like I would eat marshmallows or Jello; it is like cutting cheese. I remember when my dad taught me to use the hand plane to smoothen a table or chair during Christmas. It took a long time to really plane it smooth and even. It required time, patience, and art. With the electric plane I cut even what I do not want to cut – the electric cord – and I do have to be very careful with my hands and legs.

I admire the carved banisters and posts that the guys fabricated in days gone by. I mean they looked so professional and even machine-made. There was an entire verandah at the Blake Building which was destroyed to make way for Alliance Bank. I understand those were done by skilled carpenters form San Pedro and it took weeks, perhaps months, to get that piece of art completed. Today with a lathe, you can fabricate that entire job in a day or two.

I find a lot of joy using my hammer. I have one that has built three houses, and I have promised myself never to buy an electric or air compressed hammer. It will take away my joy of carpentry. I remember when my dad taught me to use the hand saw. We used to have to rip lumber that was twelve inches wide into strips that were two inches wide for the construction of lobster traps. Now that was a job, but we did it without complaining. One summer my dad had fifty pieces of lumber ten feet long. We ripped them all to give us 250 strips for the lobster traps and they produced one hundred and fifty lobster traps. That was when I learned to follow a line with a hand saw, for my dad was no easy teacher.

And on top of all the hard work with the hand tools, for Christmas our parents used to give us some miniature hammers and saws as our Santa Claus gifts. With those a child could get his first few lessons in carpentry, or at least develop a liking for the art. You give a child a hammer and a saw today, and he will go to the internet to report you to some agency for child abuse. Anyway, from The Columnist of Twenty Five Years Ago, a merry Christmas to all and a prosperous New Year.

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