41 Things from 1839
I’m packing up all the tools I’ll need in North Carolina for the coming week, and I was a bit shocked this morning as I went through my checklist.
One of the “Woodwright’s Shop” television programs Roy Underhill and I are shooting this weekend will deal with the typical toolkit of a joiner circa 1839. I compiled my list based on an old book, “The Joiner & Cabinet Maker,” which detailed the fictional life of a young apprentice.
During the book, the apprentice builds three projects , a packing box, a dovetailed schoolbox and a full-scale chest of drawers. Last year I built all three of these projects using only hand tools (the school box was featured in the Autumn 2009 issue of Woodworking Magazine).
Today I made up a list of the 41 tools mentioned in the construction of the three projects in the book. This includes everything from pencils to chalk and plow planes to bowsaws. What was surprising was how few tools there were. I fit them all easily on my 20″-wide x 6′-long workbench. To be sure, there would be several tools that I would have liked to have had in that toolkit, such as a sliding bevel square, but they are all tools of convenience instead of necessity.
Here’s the list (and yes, I know that some people think a dozen chisels are not one item. I do. Just ask my wife. If I have 100 cans of tomato soup I’ll go through the express lane at the grocery store and say: It’s one item. So there).
Striking knife (a joiner’s marker)
Piece of iron or steel for clenching/straightening nails
Broad chisel, dullish (for scraping glue)
Chisels (a dozen, 1/16″ up to 1″; then two or three wider than that)
Frame saw (bowsaw)
– Christopher Schwarz
Want More on Early Tools and Technology?
– Visit Gary Roberts’s excellent Toolemera.com. No, I’m not sure how to pronounce it, either. It combines “tool” with “ephemera.” In any case, Gary’s site is chock full of catalogs and early books that you can download or order.
– Jeff Gorman’s web site is back up! Neanderthals rejoice. www.amgron.clara.net. There is lots of good stuff there on traditional technique from a British perspective.
– The Evenfall Woodworks Library is another free repository of great old books. Stop in when you have some bandwidth you want to suck up with some great downloads.