The exactness of workmanship
Sometimes, most of the time now, I feel a peace about the work I do as never before. Is it my age, my ability, my confidence levels? As a younger man I seemed to lack this quality. I was rarely contented and the work itself seemed unfulfilling. Workmen I shared my days with too seemed discontented, always striving for money in a brown manilla wage packet that arrived around 3pm each Friday. That was in the days of real money. Less than two decades earlier these men were either in the war or somewhere not far from it. Bomb disposal squads were frequent visitors to bombed regions to diffuse something kids had found somewhere.
In those days men wore a sort of uniform to work. Ours was called a bib-and-brace ‘overall’ made from navy blue cotton with a long pocket down one leg in which we kept our three-foot folding rulers. We didn’t go metric until 1970′s. No one was embarrassed about ‘being’ working men, it was what you were. I was glad for the training.
I recall buying my first Stanley plane for a week’s apprentice wage of £3.50. The orange cardboard box with waxed brown paper wrapping the plane was to me like Christmas wrapping paper and as I peeled back the inner layer I was watched by my mentoring overseer smiling at the other end of the bench I was working on. I suppose my unwrapping my plane reminded him of the day he’d done the same.
As I placed the plane to the wood and moved it forward the redwood pine beneath tore and the wrenched shaving spoke well of my dis-ease. George watched me and waited for my naive questions yet to come. Shortly, he took the plane and said, “‘Ere, let me ‘elp you.” He dismantled my #4, examined frog and sole and with his searching eyes showed me the problems. I filed and fettled and soon reassembled the plane under his kind and guiding eye. We sharpened the iron on a two-sided carborundum stone steeped in oil and kept protected in its wooden case on the bench top. I recall the setting up of the plane so vividly