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bill nye_3
bill nye_3 Member Posts: 307
The thing about working for a 65 year old Company is that you have old customers. Old customers with old houses and old stuff in the basement. I can be in 5 or 6 basements in one day so I see a lot of stuff.

You can tell a great deal about a man by the stuff in the basement. These old timers always had tools and work benches and you can tell that they used them. They probably made stuff and fixed stuff and painted and maintained stuff.

The poor old guy almost always dies first and the widow rarely goes down in the basement. The tools hang there and gather dust or rust then maybe get carried off one by one. Then the widow passes on and some relative or neighbor will either cherish or discard this talented workman's life long collection of tools.

In today's basement you might see a pool table or unused exercise equipment and empty cardboard boxes , oh, and plastic kids toys. Laundry , lots of laundry. You never see laundry undone in an old persons house.

In today's world no one needs handsaws or planes or table saws. Every old timer had a table saw. Nothing is made from wood , it is plastic, or it came from China. We don't paint , everything is vinyl. Nothing gets fixed, just throw it out and get a new one.

I was in two basements today that must have belonged to talented deadmen. One must have built stairs and the other must have been a carpenter or builder.I really love old tools and wish I spent time talking to these old guys before they left with all that talent and knowledge. I am really feeling bad about the direction we are going, most of the kids today would not even know what these tools were for . The stair builder guy also had 3 or 4 of the gasoline fueled plumbers torches. Could you imagine soldering all day long with one of those? God bless them, I miss them.


  • Al Letellier_21
    Al Letellier_21 Member Posts: 402

    Amazing that you posted this today, Bill. I was thinking the same thing the other day. I am getting to be one of the Future Dead Men as I have put away thet tools. I have seen what you see everyday and cant' help but wonder how much information they could have left behind. My wife and I have lost all four of our parents in the last 1 1/2 years and we are cleaning out the houses....man oh man the old tools and the " what the hell is this" items that those old timers built when they needed something...they didn't have a hardware store or "big Box" on every corner.....if they needed it they built it.

    Write a book, Bill. I'm trying to. Lots of stuff rattleing around in our heads that needs to be left behind. Thanks for sharing.

  • Paul Fredricks_3
    Paul Fredricks_3 Member Posts: 1,557

    Great observations Bill. One of them was my Dad. I think of him when I come across one of the old tools.

    Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, things change. For good or bad, change is always there.
  • Mark Eatherton
    Mark Eatherton Member Posts: 5,853
    We are ALL going to e Dead Men some day....

    And thanks to the Holohans, we have the ability to share our ideas, and tools, if you will, in this forum.

    Not a day goes by that I don't wish I cold ask my parents a question... I wish I had asked more questions when they were alive, but I didn't have the questions then that I have now.

    THanks for sharing Bill.

    It's not so much a case of "You got what you paid for", as it is a matter of "You DIDN'T get what you DIDN'T pay for, and you're NOT going to get what you thought you were in the way of comfort". Borrowed from Heatboy.
  • Charlie from wmass
    Charlie from wmass Member Posts: 4,314
    This is why we buy good tools

    The 300 power threader is the same one Da used since it was new. As are the 48" to 14" wrenches I use. The smaller wrenches are new ones I added. They are all iron I will not use aluminum wrenches. I know the benefits but I am not interested. Iron feels better to me. I have found estate sales as my favorite place to visit in the summer months. The old timers also knew how to sharpen those hand saws so they actually cut easy and straight.  
    Cost is what you spend , value is what you get.

    cell # 413-841-6726
  • SteamRoller
    SteamRoller Member Posts: 12
    Shop, at home

    Some of us are trying to go in the opposite direction.  I aspire to be like my grandfather, an amazing man who was a carpenter, wood carver, lumberman, ship welder, and lots more during his time.  His shop occupied all of the basement in my grandparents' house, except for the laundry room.

    When I was very young he started teaching me how to use hand tools, then the drill press, bench grinder, sanding, router, small metal lathe, and finally table saw.  I spent many, many hours "down cellar", with him and eventually working on my own things.  When he died in 1986, all of the big tools were given to friends of his (my dad isn't handy, and at nineteen I had nowhere to put the stuff), but I have some hand tools and small things.

    My wife and I just bought our first house, and the basement isn't suitable for finishing, partly due to the steam main that's only about six feet off the floor around the space.  The previous homeowner's workbench (built out of a bureau and some scrap things) is in one corner, but there's a much better place for a bigger bench once we sort out more of the boxes. 

    My wife likes working with tools too -- working with just her dad, she did major kitchen and bathroom renovations in her old condo, and they've been rebuilding the basement stairs here -- so all kinds of tools and projects are in the near future.

    And yes, I like old tools a lot.  Safety is better on new power tools, but old hand tools are often very good, and can often be "brought back from the dead" with only a little work and patience.
  • Jean-David Beyer
    Jean-David Beyer Member Posts: 2,666
    Restoration of my Quaker Meeting House.

    I belong to the Quakers in Shrewsbury, New Jersey. We have a very old (by today's standards) meeting house. Here are some pictures and floor plans. It was built in 1816, to replace a previous one that burned down. It was originally heated by three pot bellied stoves (that could not possibly have done a good job). Right now we have two Rheem gas burning furnaces with forced hot air that barely keep up with the needs, due to large amounts of leaks.


    It is actively used, and we  are trying to restore it. We have an historical restoration contractor who is not dead. Neither is his father. Both deserve the title of honorary dead men, however. At one point he had to fix part of a wall where powder post beetles had damaged a beam supporting the building. He had to jack up that part of the building. He did not use a motorized hydraulic jack, but some about as old as our building. It was a square thing with a little platform on top. There was a very heavy (several inches in diameter) screw that joined the base to the top. He stuck a metal rod in the screw and turned it to raise the top.

    Most of his tools are as old as the buildings he works on. I suppose he could afford new tools, but he does not seem to think they would be appropriate to repairing old buildings. Here  is a write-up of an historical restoration he did to another church.


     I do not know if you cannot see his shop well enough to get an idea.

    Historical restoration is not easy. We wanted to tighten up the building and needed to fix the windows. The wood had deteriorated to the point we could not put glaziers points in it; they would fall right out. I asked if we could put in thermopane type windows in, but that violates the regulations for historic buildings, so he injected epoxy into the existing wood. He also hand-made wood storm windows. It is quite an adventure, limited by the money supply. So it goes slowly, but it goes forward.
  • TonyS
    TonyS Member Posts: 849
    Bill, you forgot

    to mention all the young adults that now live in the parents basement after finding out degrees in Art history, psychology,or... get this, my favorite...Art therapy are worthless!

    I think it will be over in a couple of years though, tough times ahead but I think it will weed out the chaff and bring a better society. I melt all that dead men lead into bullets and slugs.
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,473
    old is good

    My cellar is a time capsule that starts in the 20's and goes up through the 80's. i have some of my uncles old handtools that he used with amazing skill, and i have my grandfathers machinist tools. A lot of the machinist tools were made by him for specific tasks. You almost never have to replace an old hand tool because you can't buy anything as good and they don't break.

    I have a 1959 Craftsman radial arm saw that is cast iron, no white metal or plastic. The motor isn't nearly as powerful as recent models but when you turn it off it spins for minutes because of the balancing and the quality of the bearings. Same thing goes for a 40 year old drill press i have, the chuck on it is worth several hundred dollars alone. i don't think I could get a replacement at any cost.

    I also have a very equipped electronics bench with instrumentation by HP and Tektronix that i still use a lot. i recently retired a 1962 545A scope that must have had 50 tubes in it. I was sorry to see that go because it used to keep that corner of the cellar warm!

    The shame is most of this will end up in the dump when i go because people just don't do this kind of stuff any more.

    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 16,491

    My degree is in Sociology, and I got it at 36 years old. It's served me well - taught me how to think better, and to understand others better. It taught me empathy.

    This site where  you like to post is a direct result of that education, as are all the books and articles that I've written over the years. Oh, and the seminars.

    Never lived in my parent's basement. Never had to.
    Retired and loving it.
  • TonyS
    TonyS Member Posts: 849
    Different times Dan

    I didnt mean to infer that we dont need physiologist, or writers or even art history majors. But one Dan Holohan per 20000 trademen seems to work out well, imagine if it was the other way around.

    I have a three year college student working with me now, English Major, he wanted to be an author and if that didnt work, the old fallback.. a school teacher.  Unfortunately that didnt work out like it did in the old days, add to that he is strapped with school debt.

    I hope for the best but plan for the worst.
  • Jean-David Beyer
    Jean-David Beyer Member Posts: 2,666
    i recently retired a 1962 545A scope

    I have a 535A that has less tubes in it, because it does not have that big distributed vertical amplifier in it. It has gotten only one repair: a pentode in the delaying sweep pickoff shorted screen to suppressor grid and burned out a small coil. I replaced the pentode, and found out the coil was wire held in place by wax; the burned out wire was at the very outer edge, so I unwound a turn and it has worked an additional 20 years. The fan has just seized up, so I must replace it, and Tektronix has no more, so I will have to improvise.
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 16,491
    Fair enough,

    and let's not forget all the tradesmen who go into and out of business because they don't have the business education, or people skills, or marking abilities to build a true business. I think that education in a broad range of subjects matters, and I see no purpose in making fun of people who chose to go one way that didn't immediately work out for them. I'd rather help people than criticize them. 
    Retired and loving it.
  • Mike Kusiak_2
    Mike Kusiak_2 Member Posts: 604
    edited March 2011
    Tek 545A

    The tube Tektronix scopes were amazingly well built. A true work of art.

    Have a few of them myself, and they do work great as space heaters. These days prefer using the 454A early solid state portables. 40 years old, incredibly well built and still work perfectly. These scopes are a pleasure to use and have a "feel" to them that the new digital stuff can't match.

    I have been working in the electronics field for more than 35 years, and have accumulated a basement full of vintage test equipment. As you say, I hope someday it will not all wind up in a dumpster.

    There are some younger people that appreciate classic HP and Tek equipment, but I have a feeling the supply far exceeds the future demand.

    Did your old 545A  find a new home or did you scrap it? That chassis is full of 6DJ8 tubes which are now worth quite a bit to the audiophiles on Ebay.


  • Jean-David Beyer
    Jean-David Beyer Member Posts: 2,666
    The tube Tektronix scopes were amazingly well built. A true work of art.

    A work of art: Truely What happens when art is not appreciated happened with the Tektronix 545. Hickock instruments (I forget their exact name) made a counterfeit 545. They did put their own name on it, but it was a complete copy. Tektronix ultimately sued them for patent violations.

    I had the misfortune to have to use the Hickock one for a few weeks. Inside it looked like the real thing, pretty much, but sloppy. The damned thing did not work worth a #@#$%. It would not synch, the delaying sweep was flakey, the vertical amplifier suffered from ringing. The art was missing.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 22,941
    Going back JCB's meeting house...

    I do know what you mean!  Since restoring my place is what I do, now that I'm retired from a day job.  It does take time, and it takes loving care and thought -- but the results are so satisfactory.  I have to love the epoxy -- I use Abatron, in two flavours -- for restoring old wood like your window sashes.  First place, it works.  Second place, you don't have to fashion new mullions or beams or whatever.  Third place, you couldn't get the wood to do it right even if you wanted to.  It's not just tools which have dropped in quality -- even the wood has.  Discouraging.

    And I have drawers full of "what the heck is that" -- which bits and oddments usually turn out to be critically needed at some point in the game. 
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Brad White
    Brad White Member Posts: 2,398
    Does this thread ever ring true to me...

    My dad, Ernie, at 85 is as active today as I ever remember him. Can make anything, especially out of wood and does nothing half-@$$ed. I spent hour after hour watching him in his shop, making cabinets, clocks (he is known for his clocks), display cases, whatever anyone needed. His tools he bought in the 1950's and even then, some were used and old. What a great way to grow up.

    I started buying him some "nicer tools" -what do you get the man who has everything?. So I get the nice Lie-Nielsen planes, various tools which he just loves, wishing he had them years ago, they are a joy to use. (Not having them did not seem to be a challenge, I can say!). 

    But the old tools, I learned on those. Irreplaceable. Power tools sure (Dad went wild it seemed when he bought a thickness planer). But the hand tools, not just relics but extensions of his hands, looped through his tremendous heart.
    "If you do not know the answer, say, "I do not know the answer", and you will be correct!"

    -Ernie White, my Dad
  • Jean-David Beyer
    Jean-David Beyer Member Posts: 2,666
    Going back JCB's meeting house

    I do not own the place. I am just a member there. Also on Building and Grounds committee, so they think I am a heating expert, which I am not. I may know more than anyone else there, but does not prove all that much. I found I was smarter than some of the contractors we employed for the heating systems. When I started looking at the heating, they did no annual maintenance. Gas did not require maintenance. Ha! Well, the flames burned yellow and smoky under one of the heat exchanger tubes in old Comfortmaker furnaces. Turns out the heat exchangers tended to get plugged up with soot. We went through three contractors before we found one who knew what he was doing. Unfortunately, that one grew too large to manage, and became no good.

    Some of our building is made with 10,000 year old wood, mined from under water in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. The beams can be 10"x10" and quite long. You cannot get them that big anymore, even if you were willing to pay the price. Mostly the big stuff is fastened with wood pegs. There are some nails, obviously hand made. There is brick filling the space between the beams in the walls; these were probably left over from the previous building that burned down around 1800.

    As far as "what is that" is concerned, our contractor has lots of that, but he is also a history mavin, so he generally knows what "that" is. When we had to replace panes in the windows he rebuilt, he even knew where to get historical window panes that were obviously hand blown. Had to match the others. Make neat patterns on the wall when the sun shines through them just right. He also has a neat milling machine, so he can make pieces of molding to match what is already there, such as our soffits, which were the first thing he replaced (leaks destroying the insides of the building).
  • Mike Kusiak_2
    Mike Kusiak_2 Member Posts: 604
    Future generations

    A lot of us here grew up being exposed to tools and mechanical equipment from an early age, and am certain it had some effect regarding our future professions. My concern is that today most kids are not able to have these experiences. Our kids are living in a virtual world today, isolated from craftsmanship and creating physical objects with their hands.

    When I was in junior high school it was required to take industrial arts "shop" classes regardless of whether you were taking an academic college prep curriculum or planning on going into a trade. At least all kids were exposed to the realities of how things worked and were made. Nowadays, the shop courses have been replaced by computer courses, but the students are not taught even how to open the computer case. Something is missing!

    My background is in engineering, and having supervised many young engineers have found that the most promising and successful of them had one thing in common. That was early exposure to building things with their hands and problem solving. Without this insight it is much more difficult to successfully create a design that is practical and able to be easily manufactured.

    I hope that the education community will take such things into consideration, otherwise we may never again be able to compete successfully manufacturing in a global market.
  • Jean-David Beyer
    Jean-David Beyer Member Posts: 2,666
    I hope that the education community will take such things into consideration,

    They might like to, but they will not get the chance. They must teach to the tests the students must take, and these tests are designed by politicians who were never educated themselves, except in law schools. Nothing against law schools, but the ones that could get jobs did not have to become politicians.

    My grandfather confirmed much of what you said, however. He said if he had not worked in his father's factory, he would never have become the person he was.

    My great grandfather:


    My grandfather (this is a small booklet):

  • Brad White
    Brad White Member Posts: 2,398

    very cool. I take it you never met him, that he died well before your time?
    "If you do not know the answer, say, "I do not know the answer", and you will be correct!"

    -Ernie White, my Dad
  • TonyS
    TonyS Member Posts: 849
    Not making fun

    Did more than most.

    I gave him a job and maybe a future.
  • Sal Santamaura
    Sal Santamaura Member Posts: 526
    Quite true Mike.

    Ten years ago, when cleaning out my late mother's house, I found she still had the balsa-and-ball-peened-sheet-stock fish we made in that Lincoln shop class.  So this thread goes round and round back on itself...
  • Mike Kusiak_2
    Mike Kusiak_2 Member Posts: 604
    Well maybe there is some hope?

    My older daughter just entered high school last fall and was able to take a course called "Introduction to Engineering". At least she is now getting the opportunity to gain some background in engineering drawing and CAD.

    It is part of a program called "Project Lead the Way" which was created in cooperation with Rochester Institute of Technology, to teach high school students the basics of engineering. Hopefully, next year the program will also be offering a course in digital electronics.
  • Jean-David Beyer
    Jean-David Beyer Member Posts: 2,666
    I met my grandfather, but

    not my great grandfather. I wish I could have.
  • Jean-David Beyer
    Jean-David Beyer Member Posts: 2,666

    A friend of mine graduated from there, perhaps 45 years ago. She majored in art. They had a very good photography department back then. Richard Zakia was one of the teachers back then.

  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,473

    I've seen 6" muffin fans used for them. New ones are pricey so try to pick up something at a surplus house.

    I was a calibration tech early in my career and the Tektronix scopes were built like battle ships. The tubes lasted for a decade even when they were operated 40 hrs a week. I've read articles that describe the design process and it really waas state of the art.

    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,473
    Still have it

    I still have the carcass, saved it for the tubes and the transformer.

    if you need any parts just let me know.

    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
  • MikeyB
    MikeyB Member Posts: 696

    Well said Brad, my Dad turns 75 in November, a Carpenter by Trade, builds Grandfather Clocks, Roll Top Desks, a true Cabinet maker, a true Craftsman, still planes by hand and continues to install Crown Moulding by hand as well, and yes he still pushes the cordless screw gun away to reach for the Yankee Screwdriver. I brought him his first Pneumatic brad/trim guns, electric planer,etc, but they are located in my house, Its a pleasure to work along side of him when I get the chance, my friends cant believe the energy he has, and how they cant keep up w/him even when they reach for the electric/pneumatic tools, when I offer him a tool other than his hand tolls he laughs and says "those are for kids". He still has many of the hand tools he made while attending New York Trade school,  I look forward to working along side of him whenever i get the chance.
  • Tim McElwain
    Tim McElwain Member Posts: 4,608
    Thanks Bill, it caused me to pause

    and remember:

    My Dad was a mechanical engineer. He loved to tinker and had all these magic tools lying around. He was killed by a drunk driver when I was nine. My Mom gave most of his stuff to relatives after he was gone. I however latched onto a simple black handled screwdriver he used to hand me to keep me occupied when he was working. It is not much but I still have it and every time I use it I remember him.

    I have been blessed over the years to sit or stand by the side of many old now "dead-men" who were patient and cared enough to teach me something. I give thanks everyday for them. One of them who new Gil Carlson was my instructor and mentor at the gas company Bill Morgan. He met Gil I believe at a "Little Red School House" session many years ago. He was staying over and had dinner that night with some of the Bell and Gosset folks, Bill also smoked like a fiend as did Gil I guess from reading Dans books about Gil. He often would talk in class and illustrate different piping schemes. That is were I first heard about "Pumping Away" and then later from Dans books.

    Thanks for the memories, may we all leave something behind to preserve what others have taught us.
  • jonny88
    jonny88 Member Posts: 1,139
    funny you say that charlie

    i just finished a lead wiping class taught by an old timer.he said he would not touch an aluminium wrench or for that matter a pair of channel locks.you have to have a lot of respect for them caulking joints all day and turning steel 4fters.plumbing is definitly a different trade today.you dont even have to solder anymore,progress they say.
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