The Last of Grampa's Tools

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Blog entry by JustJoe posted 09-15-2013 01:10 AM 1591 reads 0 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I’m named after my grandfather. He was a carpenter and he died of cancer in 1989. Before he passed away he divvied up his tools. The fancy stuff like the combo planes went to the union hall. He sold a few of the power tools but gave all the router stuff to my godmother because she was making stuff at the time. I got the big toolchest with the planes, saws, braces, bits, chisels etc. I also got the old tool-tote with more saws, levels, hammers etc. He also gave each of his three daughters – my mom, my godmother Gail, and another aunt – some small tools as mementos. The one aunt had a son and she’s probably passed those tools on to him. The other stuff has slowly made its way to me as my mom and Gail were able to part with them.

The tools mom and Gail gave me include everyhing from chalk-line with chalk, folding rulers and zig-zags, to sanding blocks from my mother, as well as a big box of leather-working tools (along with a half-finished bowling bag) and some router stuff from my godmother. Every time I got a piece back I put it in the box or the tote where it belonged. About 8 years ago when my godmother was living with my parents she overheard me talking to my dad during a visit about Stanley #1 and #2 being so hard to find. She asked just what those were and when we explained she disappeared into the basement and brought up this #2:

This last visit I finally picked up the last two pieces. This box used to be full of nails, mostly finish nails. It also had a couple of small drill bits in holes on the handle. I remember there being a couple more of the removable boxes, not just the two that remain. I suspect it got wet sometime while Gail had it but it’s still intact. It’s the kind of thing that is worthless when you find it at a garage sale but priceless when you know where it came from.

This is probably the original workmate. Grampa used to pack the big toolbox and tote that I have, his long levels (The 6’ one has a case he built to protect it) and this sawbench into his van to go to jobsites. The two top pieces open by cranking the handle on the side, which is actually a big metalworking C-Clamp in a few runners. I don’t know how he got the threading to work but it is very smooth. The handle of the crank looks like a cutoff chisel end with a hole drilled in it and the ends turned smooth. I have two small miter-boxes and a Disston saw in my workshop that go witth this bench. He would open it up just wide enough and set the box in so the bottom was flush with the top boards, and then tighten it up and have a precision miter-station on site. You can still see some of the 45 degree saw marks on the top boards.

I remember him having this when I was very young and we visited him in California. The trim has probably been replaced, and the chisel-handle crank he made looks like it’s from the seventies so that is probably also an upgrade me made. It’s quite worn but still very solid and the moving parts move smoothly. One peculiarity is that I never saw a lathe at his house, and he wouldn’t have used one on the job. But that piece of plastic looks like the ends were turned smooth and in his toolbox when I got it one of the drawers held a small MT1 dead center.

This same visit where I got the last of his tools I rehung a hall mirror with wooden back/frame that he made when my mom and aunts were young, so the things he made are still around too.

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8 comments so far

View Handtooler's profile


1553 posts in 2126 days

#1 posted 09-15-2013 02:29 AM

You are so fortunate to have those keepsakes especially in working order.

-- Russell Pitner Hixson, TN 37343

View MrFid's profile


874 posts in 1898 days

#2 posted 09-15-2013 03:21 AM

Great story. My grandpa left a few tools when he passed away 17 years ago. When I got into woodworking I laid claim to them, since they were just sitting in the basement. Got a nice saw 5tpi filed rip that I use for resawing after cleanup. It’s got an etch on it that I was able to flush out a bit. Nothing like a No 2, though. I also have a tote that he used which like yours you’d never buy at a yardsale, but I hold on to it for sentimental reasons. Thanks for posting!

-- Bailey F - Eastern Mass.

View johnstoneb's profile


2910 posts in 2167 days

#3 posted 09-15-2013 12:09 PM

Thanks Joe for sharing. Knowing the history of a tool always makes it more special and gives you a tie to the original owner.

-- Bruce, Boise, ID

View Bluepine38's profile


3379 posts in 3079 days

#4 posted 09-15-2013 03:59 PM

Great story, and wonderful having those tools. You never mentioned whether you use those tools or not, just
wondering. Thank you for sharing.

-- As ever, Gus-the 79 yr young apprentice carpenter

View SamuelP's profile


793 posts in 2640 days

#5 posted 09-15-2013 06:34 PM

So nice that these treasures found their new home.

-- -Sam - FL- "A man who carries a cat by the tail learns somthing he can in no other way" -Mark Twain

View helluvawreck's profile


31030 posts in 2861 days

#6 posted 09-15-2013 06:42 PM

You are really fortunate to have a collection of heirloom tools like that.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2684 days

#7 posted 09-15-2013 09:59 PM

Joe, Those tools are right where they belong. You will have a lot of fond memories of your grampa every time you use one of them.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View mafe's profile


11725 posts in 3083 days

#8 posted 09-16-2013 12:43 AM

How lucky you are to have a family story like that.
Best thoughts,

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

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