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“Tool Tales” is a new addition to our Tuesday lineup. We’ve been running “Toolsday” reviews for almost two years, now, and in the future, we’re going to continue to bring you new product reviews in this space. But we also want to humanize the subject and have a bit more fun with it. Tools are a lot more than just a commodity—they’re a fundamental part of our cultural, and very often individual, identities.

1977ChevroletImpalaCapriceEstate2

The first car I remember my parents owning was a 1977 Chevrolet station wagon—blue, with fake wood paneling on the sides. A few months after buying the car, something within the passenger-side rear compartment wall, near the spare tire stowage, began to rattle. Soon, the noise irritated my father enough that he disassembled the interior paneling to find and silence it.

The Rattling Awl

Which is where he discovered this tool, a hand awl, presumably lost or abandoned there by an upholstery installer on the assembly line. Dad, who has never been a big fan of organized labor, at least once advocated the latter theory, that the awl was abandoned in the car, on purpose, by a worker exploiting union regs to the effect that he or she could not be required to work unless provided with the correct tool. Being considerably more liberal, I am prepared to give that long-ago UAW member the benefit of the doubt and believe it was left there by accident.

Rattling Awl Detail

Dad put the awl in the top drawer of his toolbox and it’s lived there ever since, though the car it came in is now thirty years gone. It’s heavy, solid, and quite well made, with a turned aluminum handle and replaceable pommel- and tip-fittings. I use it fairly often, and every time I wonder about the worker who walled it up, so many years ago, and about how the world has turned since then.

Do you have an antique, heirloom, handmade, or other special tool with an interesting story? If so, we’d love to share it in this space. Please let us know, below, or e-mail to [email protected] Thanks for reading!

Sean Michael Ragan

I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and makezine.com. My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c’t – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.


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