Chris Schwarz's Blog

‘Dancing Master’ Calipers

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I have a hammer that looks like a squirrel. And I wish I had one that looked like a goat (alas, those are pretty rare and expensive). A little bit of whimsy in your tools is a good thing – it makes the connection that that natural world and the built world are connected.

(The handsaw was said to have been inspired by the sawfish. I personally suspect hammers were inspired by rocks.)

One of the most famous anthropomorphic tools are calipers that were made to look like human legs. Popular during the Victorian era, I’ve seen calipers that were wearing stockings and some that were anatomically correct (dude, that is gonna get caught in the lathe).

Now Brendan Bernhardt Gaffney, a Maine furniture maker and toolmaker, has brought these calipers back into production (they are G-rated) with a delightful small stainless steel pair that are 3-1/2” long – capable of measuring about 6”. They work as inside calipers (toe-to-toe) and outside (heel-to-heel). I haven’t found a use for the calves yet.

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They hold their setting through friction, which can be adjusted with a ball-peen hammer to tighten them, or some Prince-style stage splits to loosen.

You can order them here for $50. Beautifully made. Fun. Useful.

— Christopher Schwarz

4 thoughts on “‘Dancing Master’ Calipers

  1. Redbat

    Thanks for the review, I have several antique one’s that I use from time to time, but are homemade in the 1800’s from old saw blades. These look much better and more useful. Also at $50.00 they are not as expensive as the antique one’s. One question however is what is a Prince-style stage splits? I have never heard of the trem, and can’t find any reference in my collection of tool books.

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