Saturday, December 30, 2017

Mr. HilgenWho?

Editors note:  Only a few tangential references to oxen are in this post.  You've been warned.

Mr. Hilgendorf usually marked his tools with his name. The cheap
Japanese saw on the right is mine, but it does work well.
I've been spending a fair bit of time this week with a man I never met, but I still think I know pretty well.

I needed a place to hang my drawknives to get them out of an open tote.  It's not that they want to slice you open, but they are more than willing to if you reach for them, or anything near them.  The hope is that a few pegs on a toolboard next to my tool cabinet will protect the knives and, more importantly, my hide.

This was a quick, little project, sandwiched between other, "real" projects, such as an end table, and a cabinet for oxen supplies (more on that at another time).  But, it gets me in the shop and it's there that I spend time with Mr. Hilgendorf.
Behind the octagonally- handled hammer
is a 5 ounce and a 6 ounce hammer, one with
the hardware store price still on it: $1.69! 

Three summers ago, I spotted an ad on Craigslist for "Tool Cabinet and some hand tools," and when I called, I was told that they were selling their dad's tool cabinet.  His surname was Hilgendorf.

When I arrived to look at it, I found it was a homemade plywood cabinet, pretty nondescript on the outside, but carefully arranged on the inside with hangers for dozens of hand tools and (oh, the joy!) it was still half full of meticulously maintained vintage tools.  When I asked how much they wanted, the couple said it was his dad's (they were in their 70's) and they wanted someone to use the tools, so . . . $65!

Mr. Hilgendorf bought good tools, and
maintained them carefully.
 Even years later, I love going down to the shop to open the cabinet and I marvel at the clever arrangement of the tools Mr. Hilgendorf created.  I've added tools and holders of my own over the years, but more than one spot has remained a mystery to me.  What tool would best fit in this open spot?  How small was his eggbeater drill, that my small one is too big for the holder?  Stuff like that.

But this week, one of his mysteries was solved.

I was hanging up a drawknife on my new rack and it hit me.  I took the knife over to the tool cabinet and it slipped perfectly into the holder Mr. Hilgendorf built into the door, as if it had been waiting for it. He'd even made a blade guard to protect HIS hide.
My drawknife, "back at home" in the
rack that's been waiting for it. (top

How does this relate to oxen?  We don't all have old-timers to lead us through the process of training and working cattle, but we do have access to their old tools, yokes, barns and other "material culture."   We just need to spend enough time examining the old tool marks, wear patterns, and other clues.  Eventually, the Mr. Hilgendorf's of another age start sharing their secrets.  Keep listening.

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful story. I love old tools. They bring back memories of my grandfather's workshop and watching him carve and build things.