In Tools

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My grandfather made this foot-powered jigsaw during World War II. The Depression had taught him to be very frugal, so he built the saw from orange and grapefruit crates, which were made from hardwood. (You can see the words “California Fruit Exchange” on the fixed arm, which steadies the blade.) Grandfather was a toolmaker in Detroit. He clearly knew how to build a functional machine. The pedal mechanism has gone missing, but it was connected to a pulley, made from solid wood, located on the other side of the saw.

My grandfather built two of these jigsaws–one for him, and one for his brother. They would cut out pictures from magazines, glue the pictures onto pieces of wood, and go up into the attic to saw puzzles into the wee hours. The puzzles were not for their own enjoyment, though–they were sent through the USO to the troops fighting in Europe. The puzzle makers also wrote generic letters to the soldiers describing the weather, news, sports and life’s events in general, and packaged the letter and puzzle in an old cigar box. Many of the young men overseas never got mail from home and they were often bored. The puzzle and letter were, in a small way, something that my Grandfather hoped might relieve the drudgeries of war. I proudly display this tool in my shop! –Martin Hauer


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