“Ye Cabinet-makers! Brave workers in wood,
As you work for the ladies, your work must be good
And Joiners and Carpenters, far off and near,
Stick close to your trades, and you’ve nothing to fear.”
– from “Mechanics’ Song” by Absalom Aimwell
I’m fascinated by Roman handplanes. Ever since I stumbled on the form while reading W.L. Goodman’s “The History of Woodworking Tools” I’ve wondered a lot about the tools and their unusual grips. A couple years ago I even built a Roman-style plane (check the links here and here).
So when the December 2008 issue of The Chronicle showed up on my doorstep yesterday I was immediately sucked into an article about 15 of these planes, most of them discovered quite recently. The article, by Derek A. Long, shows that Roman planes were more diverse than we thought. He shows planes with wooden soles instead of the traditional metal. Plus, tools with different grips and shapes. And there are lots of photos to puzzle over.
As a result, I wasn’t much help with the kids’ homework last night.
There was lots in that issue that encouraged bad parenting. There’s an interesting article about the mechanics’ societies in early America and the cool certificates they issued their members (membership could be quite expensive , a week’s wage). These certificates were embellished with symbols of the trades, including a beehive for industriousness, Archimedes for the combination of the intellectual and the practical, and plumb squares to represent (at times) the balance between commerce and the service to the community.
These societies could even have their own songs (quoted above).
You can subscribe to The Chronicle by joining the Early American Industries Association (called the EAIA for short) for just $35 a year. If you are interested in traditional tools, the EAIA and the Mid-West Tool Collectors Association are the two best organizations to join. Their publications are excellent. And the research they support helps illuminate the past.
Now if you’ll excuse me I need to start composing a Woodworking Magazine song. Anyone know a word that rhymes with “magazine?”
– Christopher Schwarz
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