Monday, March 25, 2013

The Thing

An exchange on one of the woodworking fora over the weekend reminded me that I don't think I've ever shared a particularly useful, but oh-so-ugly, homemade tool that lurks here at The Towers.

I call it the Thing.

As in "Where's the Thing?", "Oh, the Thing will do that", "Good grief, I really should make a nicer version of this Thing". It's not so much a tool for woodworking per se, although it's been used on a fair few handles in its time. But there are very few pre-owned tools in the w'shop that haven't been on the business end of The Thing at some point.

Yes, this is the glamour shot. Envious, aren't you? Even with that little bit of damage to the custom-made handle, the Thing exudes toolish loveliness.

No? Well, no. It is pretty darn hideous.

It came about quite by chance, many years ago. Early in my learning curve of cutting up old saw blades, I ended up with a new plate for a Sorby 18in panel saw, a number of scrapers, some scratchstock blades (in potenia) - and a 5in length of really vicious splinter-like saw plate. Somehow the usefulness inherent in this utterly fortuitously created piece of steel grabbed me immediately, and I kept it.

Within 20 seconds, I gave it a handle from electrical tape. Go on, wonder why...

One end is pointy and can get into all sorts of little areas of tools that need cleaning out. Screw head hopelessly gummed up with the detritus of the centuries? The pointy end of the Thing will clear out the slot in a moment. So much gunk in your knurled chuck you'd think it was smooth? The Thing can, with applied patience, do a cracking job. And so forth; you can probably easily imagine the sort of things it helps with. For a while I used to use an awl for those kinds of jobs, but why spoil the awl with such work? And anyway, often the shaft of an awl widens too quickly to fit in the necessary hole. The edge of this end also works pretty well for scraping widish areas.

The other end provides the scraper element. You can push with the end, or pull with the hook. Many a paint spot on a tool has been popped off with this, and you know how old tools were always apparently owned by Jackson Pollock when it comes to paint splatter. The point of the hook also comes in handy, especially when you want a very controlled movement to avoid creating damage on the surrounding surface. Just treated like a carving knife really.

Of course, after many years of service, those viciously sharp edges are getting rounded and not quite so effective anymore. On the other hand, a less aggressive edge/point can be equally useful to have. So rather than refresh the edges with a file (which does rather strike me as faintly ridiculous) I may have to actually see if I can deliberately make myself a new one.

What are the odds that it'll be harder to do it on purpose...?


  1. Probably about as high as the odds you'll put a better handle on the old one...

  2. Al, there's a tool to die for! Forget all your posh chisels, planes and handsaws...this has gota be the 2013 'must have' hand tool, complete with it's uber-up-market peeling 'leccy tape handle. Does Rob Lee know you have this wonder of the toolsmith's art? If not, why not?

  3. I have a pile of old HSS hacksaw blades that I do the same thing with. Just snap them and they make awesome little scrapers. Quick to grind to a point for some precision work like cleaning finger nails after some rust busting :-)

    My current marking knife is made from one - though I did give in to aesthetics by making a bamboo handle for it.


  4. The hooked end on this reground hacksaw blade looks like a home made tool that was presented to model engineers as a skrawker 30 years ago - a home made tool. Great for cutting hard sheet brass and nickel silver. One or two scoring marks made with it against a straight edge and the sheet would snap cleanly. It would probably work for making scraper blades from old saws too!


Owing to vast quantities of spam this blog is getting, I'm afraid only registered users can post. All comments are moderated before publication, so there may be some delay. My apologies.