The Way Things Were.

My Apprenticeship Continues

Tools...

The first day in the new shop was the day I was allowed to build myself a bench. It had to be a copy of the 2 existing ones and was 12’ x 3’ x 3’ supported by three leg frames with 2" x 6" rails and 6" x 6" legs all mortise and tenon construction. The top was 2 pcs. 2" x 12" separated with a 1" x 12" to form a shallow well in the centre. Rebates on the bottom edges of the 2" x 12" held the 1" x 12" in place and allowed for movement. 2" x 10" cheeks, the full length both sides, were dadoed around the legs and screwed, glued and plugged to the edges of the top boards. 2" x 6" bottom rails were again dadoed around the leg frames but on the inside of the legs, to provide a support for shelves and tool storage. Finally, a new Record vise was fitted and I was all set! I was the proud recipient of some good tools when my uncle was killed at work. He had started as an air frame rigger between the wars and most of his kit was supplied by the R.A.F. He worked on the wood and canvas bi-planes that were the mainstay of Britain’s air force up until WW2. After demob he worked for the local municipality as a carpenter. The tools I received included a wood smoother (2 3/8” blade), a Marples M5 jack plane, several chisels (2 pig stickers) and a mallet made from a boxwood croquet hammer. A Disston crosscut and a Spear & Jackson dovetail saw were the jewels! Also, there was a marking gauge and a 9” Marples rosewood square and other small tools, screwdrivers etc. All had been thoroughly scrutinized and approved at the start of my employment with the sage advice that “good tradesmen owned good tools and knew how to use and look after them”. This gem has always stayed with me and I always asked to see a prospective employee’s tool box and tools as a deciding factor in their future employment when I became my own boss later on. I got a weekly tool allowance, and it was allowed to accumulate until there was enough cash to pay for planes and other tools that met my financial status.
There used to be a tool store at Clapham that bought tool boxes from carpenter/joiner’s widows for a set price of £5 ($20) and would then part out the tools and offer them at a very large profit to apprentices and craftsmen. It meant that someone beginning a trade could afford good quality tools at less than new prices. Sometimes a real gem like a Norris smoothing plane or shoulder plane could be snapped up by a craftsman looking to improve his kit. The gems always got snapped up long before I got there on a Saturday morning accompanied by one of my mentors to make sure I spent my allowance wisely. The close proximity of Hamptons at Vauxhall meant there were always lots of buyers with more disposable income than me. Continued....