First Tools

As I assemble a tool kit for Li’l T I find myself reminiscing about my own first ventures into Tooldom.  Thanks to the guidance of my own Dad when it came to buying real tools I followed the path of Quality.  In 1969 that meant Sears/Craftsman (Woodcraft, Constantine, and other catalog merchants came into my orbit much later).  My first few tools, screwdriver and pliers, were bought at the new Sears in North Palm Beach, Florida with my lawnmowing money.  When I finally got steady income working illegally in a scaffolding yard at 15, then legally at a bakery at 16, the purchases became more substantial.  Wrenches.  Ratchets and sockets.  Screwdriver sets.  Channel Locks.  A tool box.

Now more than 50 years later I still have all those tools and use them regularly.  After all, this was when Craftsman was still, well, Craftsman.

My very first tool was the black folding tri-blade Boy Scout knife, now that I think of it probably bought not in Florida but at the Sears in my hometown of Owatonna, Minnesota, around 1965.  It still resides in the top drawer of the end table next to my recliner.  It was probably 3 or 4 dollars, maybe only $2, still a lot of money to a kid making 25-cents per lawn to mow.  I just can’t remember exactly, but it would have been during my very brief tenure in the Scouts (I just couldn’t take the structure and hierarchy.  It’s amusing to think of iconoclastic me trying to enlist in the US Navy in 1973.  That would not have been a happy outcome as I do not respond well to arbitrary orders.)  I’m pretty sure I blogged about that knife some time ago.

My first honest to goodness woodworking tools were these two, a Craftsman (Stanley) block plane that is still a favorite, and this dovetail saw that has cut an untold number of joints in the past five decades.  It was a “Craftsman” probably made by Disston, although it is devoid of marks.  I do remember that each tool was $13, a number I recall because it was the number of Wilt Chamberlain.

As I compile to tool kit for L’il T and his new sibling (early March 2024) it will be real tools, sharp and ready to go.  His/their Dad and I will teach them the right way to use them, just as my Dad taught me.  (Li’l T’s other Grandpa was a high school shop teacher so the heritage runs deep)  And if Elderbarndottir and her new husband are blessed with children, they will be getting real tools from Grandpa too.