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A Carpenter's Tool Box

I was a carpenter and architectural woodworker in Northern California for 12 years before sidestepping into a related writing, photography, and editing career in 1988. I’ve also been swinging a hammer between keystrokes lately to help make ends meet. After all, when media work gets scarce, there’s always a fence to mend, a wall that needs a window, a door that doesn’t “click.”


It never fails that, as I perform my rituals to prepare for carpentry, such as sharpening plane irons and lubing gears, I see tools as something more than merely form following function. If only for a moment, I see art, animated by timeless design, world geography, and memories—every bit as riveting as the architecture and furnishings it helps to create. I envision, at the very least, photos of these and other tools populating dwellings, coffee shops, and boardrooms, not to mention The Museum of Modern Art. Here’s a glimpse of some of my photogenic favorites.

The oldest scientific artifact inside the Caltech Archives in Pasadena, California, is an Egyptian plumb bob that’s estimated to be 2,500 to 3,500 years old. It’s made of an igneous rock called diorite with a bronze ring attached. My contemporary Stanley 16-ounce plumb bob is solid brass with a replaceable hardened-steel tip. Basically a pointed weight on a string that uses gravity to establish or confirm true vertical, its high density and sleek figure help it summarily dismiss the wind.

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