Sunday, January 23, 2011


A friend posed this question on facebook recently: What advice would you give your 14 year-old self?

I'd tell myself: Pay more attention in History, Geometry, and Chemistry. But, yeah, you're right about Home Economics. It is just a bunch of malarkey which you'll eschew later....big time.

The only reasons I passed high school Chemistry with Mr. L, the instructor, were because my older brother aced every test (including the first one which tested your current knowledge of the subject) and was therefore well-adored by Mr. L; and he knew my mom, who was a substitute teacher.

Oh, and if you were female and gave Mr. L a hug every time you saw him, you'd pass.

Bring it on, big guy.

But, had I paid more attention in class, I would already understand properties of metal. Instead, I'm studying up on it like crazy so I can use it to gussy up my shop-made tools.

First on my list is to make a level. I bought four at the Brown Dealer Show and Auction yesterday—three for inspiration and one to tear apart.

And I bought five Swiss-made gravers. I was so desperate to try them on brass when I got home, I used the doorknob to my workshop.

The levels include: Stanley Rule & Level Co., 1896, cherry, 30"; E. Preston & Sons, (no date, but probably c. 1900), rosewood 24"; Davis & Cook, 1886, mahogany, 24"; and one we shall refer to as "donor."

By the looks of these, at least some levels secured vials in place with plaster, and better ones included adjustment screws. I'll learn more once I receive Don Rosebrooks' book about American-made levels.

I ordered a sheet of brass from McMaster-Carr. According to their site, the brass listed as Alloy 353 is a good choice for engraving.

In my research, I found that brass is an alloy of copper and zinc. "Alloy" refers to a metal consisting of two or more materials, one of which must be a metal.

But then, you probably paid attention in class and already knew that.