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The Patternmaker's Tale

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Alf

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In another thread, not far from here, I mentioned in passing a tale of chisels and a patternmaker, and Roger (silly fellow) expressed an interest in hearing all the lurid details. So you know who to blame, okay? :wink: Stop me if you've heard this one before... <Extreme gloat warning - those of a jealous nature should look away now>

About 18 months ago, on a chilly January Thursday, I was perusing the newly printed pages of the local paper with particular reference to the Building and DIY section of the classified ads. The exact words are lost in the mists of time, but the gist was "Patternmakers tools. Jointer plane and others, paring chisels". I'd been looking for paring chisels, even trying the rather disappointing Henry Taylor ones as no old ones were to be found, so I made an appointment to go and see them there and then. First good sign; I'd beaten the local dealers to it. :D

Mr Thomas, for he it was, turned out to be a gentleman of declining health, having to sell up most of his tools for the imminent move to sheltered accommodation. He'd worked for Bristol Aero Engines in their patternmaking shop, before moving more towards the engineering side until eventually ending up flying a desk. This was the second good sign, 'cos my dad, who was with me, used to work for Rolls Royce Aero Engines and they got on like a maison en flambe. Anyway, after exhibiting some surprise at my youth and gender, he showed us into his workshop and indicated the pile of tools on the bench.

Now the workshop was a small single car garage, but it had a table saw, drill press, two benches, a large Snap On tool chest and tools hanging from every inch of wall and ceiling space. My kind of place. I headed for the tools. Not bad at all; Stanley UK #4 and #7, US #78, couple of oil stones (one in a nice mahogany box), some rules - including a patternmaker's shrinkage rule of course, a Stanley #12 try square, gauges, sliding bevel - ebony stock, but the chisels and gouges! Oh boy. Paring chisels in sizes 1/4", 1/2", 3/4", 1" and 1.5", and paring gouges in even greater range. Plus carving tools by Addis and Herring Bros., assorted chisels, ditto gouges and homemade scrapers for some of the more unusual jobs he'd had to do 40 years before, all the latter with beautiful handles in exotic woods. I was in heaven. Then came the third lucky break.

On a ledge just behind the bench I spotted a tiny wooden plane; maybe 2.5" long, with a blade arrangement like a tiny bench plane, but with a round sole. I remarked on it favourably and asked if he'd made it, and what a lovely job. Instantly he thawed like an ice lolly in a heatwave. "Have it" he cried. I demurred, but he was having none of it. "I made this too" he explained, a chariot plane appearing from nowhere and being added to the pile. Then an uncompleted copy of a router plane was thrown in ("You can finish it, doesn't need much"). A marking gauge he'd also made from aluminium and steel rod was also produced, but a search failed to find the gramophone needles to go with it. Then a rusty brace caught his eye. "D'you use these?" I confessed my archaic practices, and onto the pile it went. "Got some bits for that somewhere..." and he headed for the drawers. In no time my hands were full of rusty, but cleanable, auger bits, centre bits, spoon and shell bits, countersinks, you name it. Once he was in the drawers there was no stopping him. A Stanley #53 adjustable mouth spokeshave appeared, and then <gasp> a Preston with stuffed loop handles ("Blade's almost gone, but you might like to have it. No good to me"). More odd scrapers and turning tools later, and finally he handed me a monstrous mallet that his father had made and signed on the shaft. I was speechless.

When it came to the reckoning up, I held my breath. The original figure in the ad had been incredibly low, but with all this extra stuff...? But he wouldn't take a penny more; apparently he was just glad someone was going to use them. I think he felt the loss of his tools more than the loss of his health really; he'd held on to them all that time despite moving on to more mechanical and engineering matters, and to see them go to someone who at least understood a bit about them seemed to help. I think I'd feel the same way. (Dinna fret yoursel', read on, I will reveal the amount at the end :wink: )

Hauling the booty back home, I took a few badly lit pics:




And set to to clean them all. To my surprise I found one of the paring chisels and one of the gouges had a scantily clad young lady drawn on them, in a variety of poses, and with some obviously later additions of underwear. I wrote to Mr Thomas to thank him, and mentioned these young ladies. A few days later he rang me up and explained they were "Jane", from the Daily Mirror cartoon strip. Rather embarrassed, he explained he'd stuck cut outs from the paper on the handles, scratched through the outlines with an awl and then used the grease and dirt from his fingers to "ink" them in. "It seemed like a good idea when I was 18" he confessed. I'll bet. :lol: Poor fellow never expected to be selling them on to a female, did he? :wink: He also invited me back as there were a couple of other things I might find useful. Nothing spectacular; just biscuits, dowels, and the little tin of gramophone needles to go with the gauge. Excellent. :D

I sold on the #78, #4 and my previous #7, which covered the cost, but I still have all the rest and use them. And that's how I got my paring chisels for free.

What? Sorry? How much? Oh yes. £60 8)

Hey, be thankful I didn't gloat about it at the time. :lol:

Cheers, Alf
 

Philly

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Alf,
And you wonder why you have no friends....... 8)
Who needs friends when you have a lovely big pile of decent tools though?
Good going (I would say keep up the good work, but i'd rather you leave some pickings for me!! :lol: )
regards,
Philly :D
 
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Anonymous

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That was a great story, ALF. Especially so since you got to meet the man behind the tools. Most of my tools have been acquired after the original owner has passed and I can only relate to the person by the types of tools and condition. I like to think they would have been pleased, as your fellow was, to know their tools and their work are appreciated by someone else.
 

Alf

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Philly":6d9vubdl said:
Alf,
And you wonder why you have no friends....... 8)
Not really, no. :lol: As Tony rightly says, the gloat to end all gloats. I'll not see the like again in my rusthunting career. So young, and yet already the gloat of a lifetime been and gone. :cry: You should feel sorry for me really. (Fat chance! :lol: ) It's not for nothing that I kept it under my hat at the time. :oops:

Roger, I've met a couple of interesting craftsmen selling on their tools, and as you say, it's nice to get the story behind them. On the other hand it was so obvious in this case that he was going to miss them, it gave me a bit of a lump in the throat. I think I prefer the likes of Mr Archer who was just selling his "spares". Now he was interesting; his father worked for Greenslades of Bristol, the planemakers, while he'd trained as a setter out for a joinery before becoming an architect. Apparently it was the practice at Greenslades to leave the rough plane blanks in the rafters for 10 years :shock: before using them, and preparing the back of a new paring chisel seems to have taken nearly as long. As the dreadful day approached when a new one would be needed, the back of the replacement would be worked upon for a short time every day for some months, until it was polished and flat along the whole length. Now there's a paring chisel worth getting your hands on! :lol:

Cheers, Alf
 
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Anonymous

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Great post.

Perhaps you should consider yourself just the lucky "Custodian" of this fine collection :)


Nick
 

DaveL

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Nice one Alf 8)

Well the other nice thing is that Alf does sell on to us. :) Only when there is not space to get more into the workshop. :wink:
I am pleased about this as it gets stuff out in the hands of more wood workers, :D not just into c*l*ct**ns :twisted:
 

Chris Knight

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We all get to meet our patternmaker in the end - a few deserving souls end up in tool heaven - a bit like the Norris factory I suppose. Others end up in the other place which is definitely like Focus/Do it All. Purgatory is of course B&Q.

Plainly Alf is one of the saved!
 

Alf

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Must be all this converting of the heathen Normites I go in for. :wink:

Talking of which, how come I didn't find this site until today? I'm still slowly working my way through all the nourishing goodness. :D Good news for anyone going to the Southwest Wood Fair judging by the events page; Mike Hancock of Classic Hand Tools is going.

Cheers, Alf
 
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Anonymous

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Uh... :oops: er... "pattern": I understand; "maker" ... as well. Could anybody explain to me who is a "patternmaker" ? Mmmm, must be completely different from a "cabinetmaker", I presume...

Thanks in advance
Alberto
 

ike

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Hi Alberto,

A patternmaker makes the wooden shapes that are used to make the hollow cavities for sand casting metal parts. The 'pattern' is made oversize from the desired finished casting to allow for the shrinkage that you get as the metal cools in the sand mould. A pattern (depending on how complex the shape), is built up with a number of parts glued and screwed together into a single block.

regards

Ike
 
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Anonymous

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grazie Ike ! Quite a specialistic woodworker: surely gouges and chisels have no secrets for them !

Thanks again
Alberto
 
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