When I was around 10 years old, my dad’s parents sold their house –their first, which my grandfather had built. In their new home they had, as long as I can remember, a lamp made of tools. I used to think, “Uuff! How awful! That’s ugly.”
Over time, and many visits, I kept looking at the lamp, staring at it. I eventually realized I was studying it, the tools on it, thinking about how they were once used.
Most of these were woodworking tools: a block plane, drill bit, calipers, clamp, draw knife –these I understood. I knew why they would have been meaningful to my grandfather; he was a carpenter, and a cabinetmaker by trade. There was also a kerosene lantern, converted to electric with a small, flickering bulb. In hindsight, it might have reminded him of his early childhood, and probably of his days with the Civilian Conservation Corps.
One tool stood out as strange: a wooden handle with a thin iron shaft and a tapered block of copper.
Only about 9 years ago did I really begin to understand, and to connect. That’s the time I started to learn tinsmithing, historic sheet metal work. The tool in question was a soldering copper, used by sheet metal workers to solder, or join, pieces of sheet metal together.
My grandfather died in 2007. I’m fortunate to have a few of his woodworking pieces, some of his tools, and this lamp. Once it was quite unattractive to me. Now, the lamp is a poignant reminder to me, and in hindsight, it became for me a doorway to a continuing legacy.