What is the Oldest Thing You Made That You Still Use?

Bottom half of a sheet metal tool box I made in shop class.

A few days ago I wondered, what is the oldest thing I made that I still use? After digging through a lot of stuff, I think it is this sheet metal tool box that I made in high school shop class in 1981.

At that time, it was one of the standard projects in metal shop. I still use the skills I learned when I made this: how to layout and bend thin metal, how to follow a two dimensional pattern to make a three dimensional object, how to join sheet metal, and the value and economy of using off the shelf parts in conjunction with handmade ones. I didn’t have enough time to paint it, so it remains with the layout blue exposed.

I still use the toolbox for storage, even though the spot-welded, piano-hinged lid failed a long time ago and is lost. The bottom part of the box is currently holds over 15 pounds of scraps, and is totally solid.

It is comforting to have had this tool box for the past 38 years, and still use it, even though it is damaged. Like an old friend, it is easier to overlook its faults. It is satisfying knowing this toolbox will outlast me — like most of the tools I make and use, and the books I work on —  a persistent reminder we are not so important.

 

An Old Brush

Just an old brush, which looks pretty similar to the string bound paste brushes that bookbinders and conservators use.  How many of us would even give it a second thought– passing over it at a flea market, or when cleaning out our own stash toss it?  But this brush can be located and dated to the Mason House, Guilford, Virginia from about 1730.  And according to Gaynor and Hagedorn, it is the only known surviving pre-1800 American brush.

This book contains a great defense of the value of tools, how they help us understand human culture, and the importance of preserving their original condition. And it contains lots of beautifully photographed tool porn.

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Gaynor, James M. And Nancy L Hagedorn. Tools: Working Wood in Eighteenth-Century America. Colonial Williamsburg, Williamsburg, Virginia, 1993. p. 111.