Archive for May, 2014

I can handle it

Monday, May 5th, 2014

A good friend of mine from Willowbank, Mike, is becoming quite the maker these days.  Considering he was an ‘office guy’ in his past life, the stuff he’s producing is really quite good (but don’t tell him I said so, it’ll go to his head).

Along with his friend and creative partner, Julie, he’s been building a lot of things using old reclaimed lumber and such – much of it in the ‘industrial’ or ‘vintage’ style.

In any case, we’ve decided to collaborate whenever it seems appropriate to incorporate metal into their projects.  And have just finished a first small project together.


Mike had made this tray from old reclaimed floor boards, which was quite a beautiful piece on its own.  But they felt it needed handles. I agreed, and came up with some.  Not a very big or complicated project for either of us, but I think we’re onto something.  Hand forged steel and old wood just look right together.  I hope we have the opportunity to do more of this.

Besides, getting together to work on a project is as good a reason as any for a beer call with a good friend!


Sunday, May 4th, 2014

This may or may not already exist.  To be perfectly honest, I haven’t done a whole lot of research into it:

~ The Society for the Protection of Old Tools ~

So here’s how it happened. I’m spring cleaning my workshop (my late father-in-law’s garage, aka Aladdin’s Cave). And as mentioned before, this building is crammed full of ‘stuff’. You name it, he had it.  Strange, obscure tools and things that I still don’t know what they are or where they came from.

In any case, a few of the items I found were old, rusty and just very neglected.  I very nearly threw some of these old tools away. And then I had a bit of an epiphany. I’m a blacksmith. Blacksmith’s are tool makers.  If I can make a tool from scratch, surely I can fix most tools that cross my path. And so that’s what I set out to do.

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The pliers pictured above, were completely encased in a crusty, rusty casing and fused solid. I thought they were beyond hope; but I was determined.  It *must* be easier to fix these, than to make new ones.  And so with the application of some heat, oil, and some good old ‘brute force and ignorance’ – I got the jaws to move.  And after about 30 minutes of working on them, I had a perfectly serviceable tool. Perhaps not the prettiest tool – as it’s showing some deep battle scars. But the jaws work perfectly, the teeth on the jaws were restored with a file, and even the wire cutters are sharp and working (with one nick just a little too deep to file out).

I was thrilled by the results – and inspired to continue…

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Next came a carpenters square. Followed by another pair of pliers, tin snips and another square. All started rusty and virtually useless, and are now some of the nicest tools in my shop.


The more I think about this, the more it makes sense to me.  I strongly believe that this little side project is very relevant to blacksmithing. We are the tool makers. Who better to care for old tools, and restore them to working condition?

It also occurred to me that, as a tool maker, I don’t make things with the intention of them becoming ‘wall hangers’. No tool is made to be a decoration. I cringe when I walk into a restaurant and see a beautiful old tool – with extra holes drilled through it – hanging on a wall as decoration. Tools are meant to do work.

The tools I restore, are not meant to be collected as ‘antiques’ or interesting decorations. I’m bringing these objects back into full working order, so that they can continue to do the jobs they are designed and built for.

Of course, really old or rare tools do deserve some extra respect. Nothing wrong with semi-retirement for them, so long as they’re kept in working order and are used on occasion. They don’t have to be your ‘daily driver’.

Yes, I’m now a man on a mission. I want to find more old, abused tools; rescue them; and return them to service as useful, working objects.  Semi-retired tools – just like you’d find in any grandpa’s garage or workshop.

… So is it yard sale season yet?