Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Old Shop Made Bevel Gauge
"I'm not a collector - I'm a user."
I find myself saying that often - and more frequently - as my, well, collection, of tools has grown. And it is true - mostly. Of course, I could accomplish most of my woodworking projects with a much smaller set of tools, but that doesn't mean I'm a collector. But there are some tools in my shop that I don't use (or rarely use), that I didn't need when I bought them - and it's these tools that push me over the line into the domain of the collector.
Here's an example. Skimming through the usual boxes of dull files, broken screwdrivers, and paint scrapers that somehow qualify the store to fly an "Antiques" flag, I found this old bevel gauge. It was obvious from first glance that it was in a whole other class from the junk that mostly obscured it from view. This was a shop made tool - made by the person who used it, and made well. A craftsman's tool.
I'm not sure of the wood - I was thinking it was walnut, but now I think it could be mahogany. I'm not very good at identifying wood as I work mostly in pine, Douglas fir, and Alaskan spruce and birch. The gauge is one piece, with the blades sawn and planed down from the fence. This alone tells me volumes about its creator. Much more than a simple nailed on fence, this design took skill and a desire for quality to create.
With the fence on the edge of a board, four angles are available for marking. From left to right: 90°, 60°, 30°, and 45°.
The gauge is well made, but not ostentatious. The fence has a small amount of decoration, consisting of a thumbnail moulded edge and a bevel at each end, both of which serve practical purposes as well as begin aesthetically pleasing. The thumbnail eases the edges of the fence where your palm meets them, while the end bevels reduce the chance of chipping. I also like the idea of the hang hole. To today's sensibilities it seems wrong, damaging. But to the maker/user of this tool, it was just the practical thing to do.
So, although I didn't need it (my sliding bevel gauges work just fine), and despite a fairly major crack in one blade, I just couldn't leave it mixed in with the machine made junk in the box. I fished it out, bought it and now it sits in the shop. I occasionally pick it up, wipe on a little linseed oil left over from some project, and admire the sensibility and craftsmanship that went into this little tool. And rarely, very rarely, I'll gently use it on some project - but not too often, because it's really not one of my user tools - its part of my collection.
There, I've said it.
"Hi, my name is Dan - and I collect old tools. Sometimes."