A Couple of My Favorites of Dad's Tools

Tools from my Childhood

One of the fun things about the "812 - The Home!" is the flood of unwritten memories that carry me away while writing the posts.  Of all my memories of baseball, football, long, long wonderful summers, monster models in my bedroom, none are so dear as time spent with my family.  I certainly didn't realize then just how precious some of the most seemingly meaningless things and moments would be some 40-plus years later.  1974 - mom and me riding our bikes on an hours-long ride through the not-tiny hills surrounding my hometown, all the while mom pregnant with my kid sister.  If I remember correctly, dad wasn't humored.  Speaking of dad, I wanted to write about some of his tools that left an imprint on me in the course of his near complete rebuilding of 812.  Here are a few.

Craftsman 10" Radial Arm Saw

One of the most fascinating to me back in the day was the radial arm saw.  There's a couple things here that are embedded in the back of my mind, but they're a little uncertain.  First, I could swear I remember something about mom got this for dad one Christmas, but I don't think they remember it that way.  Then again, I was just a dumb kid so who knows.  This wasn't dad's but have a look:


Funny thing is, I don't remember a specific project where dad used this tool, but I know I was always intrigued.  It was the only tool I knew of back then that was so scary you had to have a key to start it.  Dad "hid" it from us kids in a little fishing worm container tucked into the joists.  I knew where the key was, but I was terrified to insert it, let alone fire that thing up!  Little secret: as a young kid I was scared of e v e r y t h i n g!  Here's a quick read about these incredible and incredibly dangerous tools:

The radial arm is the invention of Raymond Elmer DeWalt, who founded his eponymous company in Leola, Pennsylvania, in 1924 and patented what would be sold as the Wonder-Worker radial-arm saw in 1925.  Then, as now, the motor and attached sawblade were mounted on a carriage that rode back and forth on a heavy beam over a fixed table. The beam pivots to make angled cuts while the head rotates to allow bevel cuts, giving the saw the capability of making compound miters.  Additionally, the blade can be swung 90° to allow the operator to rip stock lengthwise. Even relatively small radial-arm saws may have a crosscut capacity of 24 in., and unlike a tablesaw they can be pushed up against a wall to save room in a small shop.

Radial arm saws were widely promoted as a "one machine does it all" from the '60s through the '80's. People didn't take the time to set them up properly, and read the instructions carefully. As a result there were mishaps and injuries, due in some part to ineffective blade guards. The RAS recall by Emerson includes a really great blade guide which should all but totally eliminate injuries.

Because the blade rotates clockwise and up from the table, it tends to lift the work upwards, especially during the ripping operation. To counteract this effect, the nose of the blade guard should just "kiss" the top of the workpiece, holding it down. This simple procedure is often neglected and results in kickbacks or worse.

Craftsman Router

Dad loved Craftsman tools back in the day.  As a matter of fact, if you cruise around these scribblings, you might notice that when I first started out here at 173 Craftsman was kinda my go-to tools too.  Funny the things we get from our dads!  Anyway, I'm not sure this is the exact model, but it's the one I see in my mind's eye.  I do remember being intrigued with it having its own case - weird what gets your attention when you're a kid.


The biggest project I remember dad doing with his router was the walls of the front porch to the apartment (812 was a side-by-side duplex).  


We (dad really) set up a router station, not to be confused with a router table, and dad routed lap joints on the edges.  I think this was a solution for not having enough shingles to cover the area after putting in the front room.

Ship Lap Siding is a type of Drop Lap siding with a tight "flush joint" profile. It is similar to tongue and groove but with a single over lap - usually 1/2" in depth but can be more or less depending on the width of the board 6", 8", 10" or the shiplap profile selected. Shiplap is known for its ability to form a tight seal while allowing the wood siding to "breathe" with changes in season and humidity.

The other project I remember is when dad made signs for all us kids with our names routed in.  He used a letter template, which I think I saw still out in his workshop just a few years ago!  I remember he used his propane torch to burn the wood in areas, then stained and poly'ed the signs.  They had a kind of western look to them, which suited me just fine because I was still in my cowboy stage.  And to be clear, NOT  The Cowboys 🟊  stage - nope!


Black and Decker Workmate

Here's dad working on the back porch, which when he was done was the back room at 812.  dad had a Black & Decker Workmate even back then. I remember him raving about it when he got it, so when I bought 173, that was one of the first tools I bought. And last year I bought a second one. I don't think you can have enough Workmates! (That's not an ad by the way!).


Beyond the back porch I don't remember a specific project where dad used the workmate, but at the same time I don't remember one when he wasn't.  The workmate was ubiquitous around 812.  

The Black & Decker Workmate workbench was created in England in the 1960's by independent inventor Ron Hickman. Eventually Black & Decker acquired the rights to manufacture it, and in 1974 brought it to the United States. In spite of the high price of $89.99 (equivalent to $498 in 2020!) it got great reviews and do-it-yourselfers flocked to buy it. - Here's a thorough History of the Workmate

And here's the newer of my two, from when I was working on the runners on the old snow sled my neighbor was going to chuck:

Some other fun posts here on House 173
The Houses of My Life - December 2011
The Untold Story of Remodeling with a Beagle - August 2020
Taming the West Wind - February 2020
The Trouble Spot - May 2018
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You might also like 173's movie blog - The Gray Fedora


Stanley SteelMaster Hammer

What can you say about a man's hammer?  It's with the hammer man transforms wood into a home for his family.  The most abused tool in a man's toolbox, yet hand him another and his swing is off and instantly knows something is amiss.  Dad probably has a bunch of hammers these days, but when I was a kid there were only two - some old wooden handled hammer and his Stanley SteelMaster.  Guess which one "isn't a toy" and which one I could use!  I think dad's hammer sticks in my mind because of its unique look:


One of the reasons that Stanley tools in general are so popular is because of the memories that they resurrect. How sweet were the days when we looked forward to visiting grandpa's house in hopes that we could simply play around in the wood-shed while he hammered away on whatever. - some guy on Ebay

Well, maybe it isn't as unique as I recall, but it is the only one like it I've ever seen in the wild.  If I ever see one again, it's quite possible I'll accuse the low-down dirty skunk holding it of stealing it from dad.  As far as I know dad is the only man to have owned one of the most popular hammers ever sold!

Neat History of the SteelMaster

Stanley introduced the 100 Plus 16 oz claw hammer in 1928 and was reputed by Stanley to be the last word in hammers – The Aristocrat.   


The demise of The Aristocrat was probably in part, brought about by the success of the True Temper Rocket announced in 1954. Within two years Stanley responded with the new Stanley SteelMaster – a Rocket look alike, and so its fate was sealed as the SteelMaster then became their most expensive hammer and top gun.

Prologue of Sorts

So that's just a few of the many of dad's tools that left an impression on me, there'll likely be more posts about others, but these came to mind straight off!  I leave you now with a shot of my hammer rack:


Stay safe out there!

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