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The woodworker’s tools

“The carpenter dresses his plank, the tongue of his foreplane whistles its wild, ascending lisp...”

— Walt Whitman

If idle hands are the devil’s tools, Paul Young need not worry about becoming his apprentice.

Young, an Eagle Point resident, has put his hands and mind to work in many creative forums during and following his career as a quality engineer in the aerospace industry. He’s a welder, does metal machining and builds old cars for fun.

“Right now in my workshop I have a 1959 Nash Metropolitan convertible. It belongs to a friend of mine. I’m putting the wiring harness in for him.”

Today, we focus on Young’s love of woodworking, a heritage he always returns to.

We met at the Eagle Point library, where his woodworking tools are displayed through March 4. He patiently explained their history and various uses. Each piece is pristine, obviously respected and cared for, and each is labeled as to type, maker and year.

“I do keep them razor sharp,” Paul said. “I don’t really consider them a collection. These are called, ‘users.’ They’re all usable tools. Every one of these tools is used for woodworking.”

He pointed to a small eggbeater hand drill and said it was his first tool. He brought it with him when he emigrated from England in 1980.

Young has become well acquainted with these implements of the trade, having worked with them as a boy in the northeast corner of England during the ‘50s. His father was a 12th-generation coal miner.

“He loved working with his hands, and I inherited that love from him,” Paul said.

“In terms of woodworking, I really started when I was about 6 years old. My dad taught me about woodworking. The only power tool he owned was a little Black and Decker drill with a cord. Everything else was hand tools, and we did a lot of work together. We built furniture together. When we needed complicated joints, like dovetailed joints, we made them by hand using saws and chisels. All of our sanding was done by hand.”

Though some tools displayed are from the 1800s, not all of Paul’s tools are old. He discovered that Dazey’s Hubbard’s hardware offers a nice selection of Robert Larson hand tools.

I learned that planes are the “heart and soul of woodworking,” Paul said, and he knows a lot about how to put them to good use. Did you know that Sears’ Craftsman brand tools were previously Fulton? He had a small Fulton block plane on display. He showed me a monster jointing plane. I think I want to be a jointing plane.

“It rides on the high spots, and misses the low spots, so it gradually takes away those high spots to get down to even. Then you switch to a smoothing plane.”

He wouldn’t mind adding a Stanley No. 1 to the group. They’re numbered according to size, with one being the smallest.

His 48-inch carpenter’s level is made of mahogany and brass. Procured from a house painter, it bore evidence of the trade and was covered from one end to the other with paint. Paul enjoyed restoring it to its original glory.

Paul and his wife, Barbara, active members in the Eagle Point community, will return to their homeland in England soon, after having lived in the U.S. for 42 years. Our loss is County Durham’s gain. They each have family there and want to be close.

I nearly asked if I could stow away on the container they are planning to ship back to house their goods, including at least two of their vehicles — Barbara’s first car, a 1970 Mini Cooper, and Paul’s hot rod 1956 Ford pick-up.

“Ideally, we’d like to find a small village that has a little pub, a little café, a post office and a bungalow — a one-level home.”

Sounds like heaven to me.

As fine-woodworker Aime Ontario Fraser once said, “Amid the speed and chaos of the modern world, woodworking gives us a place where we can slow down, pay attention and take the time to do things right.”

Peggy Dover is a freelance writer/author. Reach her at pcdover@hotmail.com.