My Friend the Hammer: Repairing a Hart Framer

| 11/17/2009 10:48:23 AM

This summer, my favorite hammer suffered a broken wooden handle, an inevitability that I preferred to let someone else endure. So I gave it to my young neighbor, Kaleb, not yet a journeyman carpenter, who gave it back a week later in two pieces. When new, this hammer appeared on the cover and inside pages of my first book, photographed in full color by the incomparable Portland photographer, Rich Iwasaki; and to be candid without being clear, it would have snapped something deep inside my spirit to feel the ash handle break (just under the head, by the way) in my hand.

Broken hammer

On one hand, although I am no longer young, strong and immortal, I am now wise enough, through experience, to pull nails only with tools made of steel or fiberglass. On the other hand, it was actually my fault for not giving him a cat’s paw with the hammer.

It’s a Hart framing hammer, now in need of repair. Part of a hammer collection of over three hundred (back in the day) now whittled to a mere 25 hammers. Some I will give away, some I will sell, and a few will go in my coffin organizer so I can take them with me into the afterlife.

My love of hammers in general goes back to toddlerhood, when one Christmas I received a toy with six wooden pegs and a perfectly balanced toy hammer. For three years of my childhood, I happily banged those six pegs flush, turned the wooden frame upside-down, and drove them back again. (Later, I discovered that Norm Abram also owned a similar toy.) I practiced this endless hammering with the same diligence that modern kids apply to video games.

As a carpenter and a writer, somehow I began collecting tools by the hundreds. Each plane that came my way, especially the oldies, seemed to be as unique as human beings. I became an amateur galoot, which is the proper word for the pathology of falling in love with the ineffable aura of tools, specifically antiques.

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