Letter Re: Observations on Hand-Powered Tools

I’m 60-ish. My old man had a lot of projects using “recycled” lumber and nails, and you know who did the nail recycling. As an electrical engineer and general artificer, I would pass along some thoughts if I may.

I was involved in a demonstration at a Navy base in the 1980s where a bicycle was coupled to an alternator and sealed beam lamps were attached for a load. One would pedal the bicycle up to speed, and the MC would switch on a lamp. Then two. Then the third. Very few could maintain output for two lamps, and only a couple could maintain all three; they looked like SEAL types. The lamps used were 35-watt sealed beam headlights. 70 watts is a day’s work for even a healthy young man.

Not only do I have several braces, various sizes, with the appropriate “ship augers”, but also some “egg-beater” geared drills. I would tackle a hole in steel or aluminum with my teeth before trying it with a brace. Of course, in a desperate situation, you do what you gotta do.

The geared drill is for drilling metal. I have one that actually has two speeds. The crank slides in a slot, to engage different gear ratios. It and another, are what is known as “breast drills”. Instead of a handle at the top, there is a curved plate of some 8 square inches. In use, the operator presses down with his chest to provide pressure while cranking. With a properly sharpened drill, it will cut 1/4″ mild steel fairly quickly.

What is more important is that you know how to sharpen a drill by hand, and by eye. I still do on small and very large drills that won’t fit my “Drill Doctor”, which only goes down to 1/16th inch. There are about 35 sizes that are smaller than that. And, of course, a Drill Doctor only goes up to 1/2″. I also sharpen by hand my paddle and spade bits, Forstner, carbide impact drills, and so on…

Cold chisel work is essential to metal working. It is easier than power tools in some applications. Also, learn filing technique and how to protect a good file, and how to restore a dull one.

Now, the most important part: Know-How!

For general construction, I recommend the Navy SeaBee BU-3&2 manual, post WW-2 era. It is declassified and reprinted by Dover Publications. I keep 2 copies. One well worn for day to day usage and another nearly new for when WTSHTF. Actual Dover title is “Basic Construction Techniques for Houses and Small Buildings”, ISBN 048 620 2429

Also, the electrical equivalent, Navy EM-3&2 Manual. That is the definitive text on how to work with electrical equipment. Also from Dover, also two copies. Dover title “Basic Electricity”, ISBN 048 620 9733

For using hand metal working tools, the best I have seen is from the Henry Ford Trade School in the 30’s. I have an original, it is reprinted by Lindsay Publications. Look them up or go to www.hudsontelcom.com and find the link on the “stuff I like” page. Just look for the model engines.

Matter of fact, you might find some of my other stuff interesting. I have a number of projects where I have had to devise unconventional solutions to problems. Gets one to thinking, you know…

I still occasionally find Audel’s Books on eBay. They cover just about every thing and do it by hand. Just be sure to get older versions. I don’t trust much of anything printed after about 1964. Most of my Audel’s books date from the 40’s or earlier.

BTW, you don’t need all those measuring tools. A 3-4-5 triangle will give you a square, and almost all measurements are relative to something else. A string or stick and pencil will work just fine. Look up the “storey board” as used by the old time carpenters. I use a plumb bob, string, dividers, and a 3-4-5 when I want to play primitive. The square and the plumb will give you level. Anything else is a convenience.

And, probably just like your Pop, don’t even think of touching one of my saws. – Bill H.