Saturday, 18 February 2012

Time to sharpen your tools

The subject of how to sharpen your wood work tools is well documented but this blog entry has nothing at to do with how to do them, rather the time to do them?

Post second WW2 and I suspect prior to it as well, the sensible Joiner in search of work would always arrive with his tool box and tools sharp and ready to start work right away.

  All these need sharpening, that includes the scribe pin on the marking gauge. Use the best tools you can find, that  oil stone, the one in the picture is made by Norton,it has coarse and a smooth side, quality shows in many ways, often in the jobs end result.

The start of my own five year apprenticship as a Joiner at Tysons of Dryden Street, Liverpool, in January 1963, saw me meet some nice old timers who not only trained me very well  but also told me some horror stories about post war employment.

It was not unknown to start a job in the morning and find your shown the door at the end of the day, there were many more looking for your job it seems. Wasting time was just not acceptable, many joiners or carpenters would have a spare plane blade in their tool box ready to fit, as if the boss was to see you wasting his time sharpening your tools, you were told to go.

This block plane is stamped
 J. Mullholand, it was made in Belfast, Northern Ireland, I would say its about 110 years old now. A masterpiece in engineering, it works as well today as it ever did.

The right hand blade is off the long wooden jack plane (first picture) it was made in Scotland and a bi-metal plane, the tip has a forged hardened tip, what a great tool to work with. About 80 years old?

Eventually all jobs tend to come to an end, you knew your worth if the forman came to you at 4.30 pm and said, Mate, time to sharpen your tools, the jobs finished.

That half an hour grace between the close of the shop at 5pm,  was the time you had to clean out your tool box, sharpen the tools and be ready to search for another job the next day. In effect the boss was saying thanks for a job well done, by allowing you the time to sharpen up while he was still paying, I think it happened to me once!

How hard was it then?


Note, there is a large difference in the tool box used by an English Joiner/Carpenter over those used in some other countries, South Africa being a perfect example.

In England the tool box can be carried by one person, often on the mans shoulder, while in South Africa, the tool box is in fact a very large chest with a lifting lid and requires at least two to carry it.

Time to sharpen your tools, in this case I have applied a double meaning, it really high lights the then and now changes in employment attitude. I departed the Uk due to the bad weather and trade unions, I did the right thing, the unions too in this case?


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