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Legacy of Tools

Moments like today I feel a deep gratitude for my tools and their history.

There are times when I can’t believe I’m working at my mentor, Leonard Wilson’s jewelry bench. Using his old torch and pliers used by his hands. The holidays always bring back memories of working in his store in Bristol, having a holiday drink which usually resulted in many broken sawblades. Lesson learned, Barb doesn’t have a drink until all the sawing is done. Ah, to be in my twenties again.

Disston file that belonged to Jack’s Dad or grandfather.
Filing the sprue ends with a rough Disston file.

While cleaning up castings this morning, I needed a rough file to start and noticed it was a Disston file. Made right in the neighborhood here at Disston Saw Works in Tacony, this was one of Jack’s dad’s or granddad’s tools. I’m grateful to be in the house Jack’s dad purchased brand new in Fall 1941. Jack wasn’t one for fine tools, he was more a duct tape and epoxy clay kind of guy, but his father and grandfather’s tools were here in the house, along with wooden home made tool boxes made in the 1930s. I hold this file in my hand and feel it’s history. It’s still a very good file.

I had a little incident casting last night. I allowed too much metal for the button and the nose of my crucible fused to the button metal. I had to break the nose off the crucible to get the flask free. Not the first time it happened and certainly not the end of the world.

Nose of crucible broken and stuck in metal of casting button.
Mortar hammer breaking up the piece of crucible that stuck in the silver button of a casting.

I cut the castings off and in order to free the crucible nose out of the silver, I would have to break it up. I pulled out a hammer made for breaking mortar. It belonged to my grandfather who was a brick pointer. I have many childhood memories of his work, his truck with the old English lettering he did himself, helping my dad build new steps at our house in D Street. Grampop supported a family with 11 children by brick pointing. I remember especially his emphasis on keeping your tools clean and cleaning them promptly. Eventually my dad inherited those tools and he used them to point his entire house. They’ve been sitting unused in my dad’s workshop since he passed away and knowing their history, I figured I’ll take them. Some of them I can use once in a while like this morning. I may be able to purpose some others into jewelry tools.

Or maybe I’ll just learn how to point bricks.