Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Granddaddy's Bench


Photo courtesy Flickr user Boston Public Library
I never met the physician who designed the work bench that sat under a long window in the shop section of a rustic beach house, but I feel as if I know a few significant things about him. There was no electricity on the property. Routine maintenance had to be managed with hand tools. The bench sported slots between the work top and window sill that were filled with graduated sets of screwdrivers, chisels, drill bits, and files. The display was orderly, elegant, and workmanlike. Ranks of drawers supported the bench, and a grinding wheel was set to one side. The man’s daughter remarked that at one time, every gentleman of a certain age carried a razor-sharp pocket knife.

I visited the property over a span of twenty years and was saddened to watch the bench, whose designer had died six years before I first observed it, deteriorate with untutored, irresponsible use. The last time I saw it, the worktop was dirty and littered with junk. Tool sets were incomplete, and edges were dull. That bench, costing almost nothing to construct, had sufficed to enable a crew to build a small masterpiece from the hand of a major local architect. Good thinking, quality sharpening equipment, good wood, and the physical and cognitive wherewithal of the work crew were the keys to the mint.

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