Many of our keepsakes are hand tools which my father inherited from his own father. Grandpa Keele was a fine woodworker, expert at building anything from cabinets to whole houses. Having helped him build two houses, Dad too had learned to be a careful and competent carpenter, although his day job was as an aerospace executive. Thanks to him, we had a garage which perfectly matched the new house, a mahogany-paneled “rec room” and a variety of built-ins which made our lives more comfortable. (One of the only times I saw my mother mad at him was when Dad left her holding a board and went to have a cigarette. Jon, a non-smoker, always claims that is where he is going when I am the one holding a board.)
Of the hand tools, my favourite has always been the Yankee drill which was spring-loaded and could rotate in either direction; whenever I went to the basement to visit with Dad while he worked on a project, I played with it endlessly. Honestly, I have absolutely no aptitude for woodworking but even though the old tools hang beside the workbench and look at me reproachfully, neither Jon nor I have ever been able to say good-bye to them. Beloved hands have valued and used them.
Though I wouldn’t last long as a survivalist (Jon would, fine woodworking being only one his myriad skills), I still feel some comfort in the presence of all of these hand tools - saws, measures, chisels, screwdrivers, planes, whetstones et al. It’s always been at the back of my mind to display them but as far as wall space in a small house goes, art tends to trump utility. Nonetheless, their spare elegance, a beauty born of married form and function, has won the family tools a permanent place in our hearts and in our home.
**As if to remind us of their value, the hand tools occasionally report for duty just when we need them. In a moment of perfect confluency, Jon is buzzing me from the attic to bring him Grandpa’s keyhole saw.