CC Toolbox: My Favorite Tools

And the hands that hold them.

I was going to do a post on toolboxes (that’s mine above), but then I got into looking inside them and seeing some of my favorite tools. From there I got thinking about the hands that have used these tools over the years so decided to combine all three:

Let’s start with my Father in Law:


He has two tool chests, but the older toolbox here is a Snap-On dating from the early 1970’s. It’s full of professional quality tools that are heavily worn from 30 years of constant use. His hands are also worn from those 30 years but he still has some powerful mitts on him, all his fingers are thicker than my thumb.


This is Pa’s 1958 Chevy work truck, note the same door lettering as the toolbox.  Carl worked up to running his own brake and suspension shop, but left that in the late 80’s.  Since then he has been selling cars (mostly Ford) which has been a great benefit to family members looking for a quick and fair deal on a vehicle.


The torque wrench is my personal favorite, it’s a fine tooth ratchet Snap-On probably dating to the late 70’s. I borrowed it regularly until I got my own last year (which is not nearly as good I might add).  Whenever I need something specialized like an offset wrench he can find it, with lots of opening and slamming of drawers:  “Slam, slam slam… There it is, no wait that’s the old worn out one…  Slam, slam… OK there you go”

It’s a wonderful family resource, and another fine reason to have married Mrs DougD.


This is my Grandfather’s saw.  I’ve substituted my Dad’s hand, since my Grandfather has been gone for over 30 years.  He was born in 1906 in the small town of Hazerswoude-Dorp in the Netherlands.  Leaving school after Grade 6 he became a carpenter and millwright, as in wind-millwright.

In early 1950’s Holland things weren’t getting much better after the war.  Some of his wife’s cousins had emigrated to Canada, and although their life was hard too it seemed that progress was being made.  So in his 40’s he also emigrated, enduring an uncomfortable voyage on the SS Volendam.

He arrived in Ontario with a family of 8 to feed, and only a few dollars in his pocket.


My Grandfather was never completely at ease in the new country;  he worked for a Dutch homebuilder and spoke Dutch at home.  But with the proceeds of his work, with these hand tools and homemade toolboxes he was able to raise his family and even build his own house.  The house still stands, although the 1946 Oldsmobile is long gone.


Every Saturday he would go to the basement, and using a fine file and this tooth bender he would sharpen his saws for the coming week.


We have several of his old saws, and they all have a big curve at the butt end where years of filing have removed depth from the blade.

Grandfather’s toolboxes are a treasure trove of old stuff, like folding wooden rulers and a solid brass plumb bob.  I’m glad he kept them when he retired and moved into an apartment.


Here’s my hand with one of my favorite tools.  It’s a Starrett 1″ micrometer, an Ebay find from California.  That’s why it’s one of my favorites, it’s a real made in the USA tool with a leather pouch rather than a new Chinese one with an uninteresting plastic case.  It works and zeroes just fine, it’s obviously been well used and I do wonder where it has been in it’s career.


The pouch has FMC stamped on it, which makes me wonder if it came from the tool crib at a former gold mine.

I’m a pretty skinny guy and not built for heavy labour, so unlike my Grandfather and Father in Law I have never made my living with my hands.  I was encouraged to become an Engineer instead of a Mechanic and that’s worked out pretty well, but I’ve spent many a happy hour using my tools.  In the words of my wise mother “It’s cheaper than therapy”.  


I love everything about good tools.  The design and craftsmanship that went into them, their function and the possibility of building or fixing something myself.  I love the connection I feel when I wrap my hand around the wooden handle once held by my grandfather, and when I watch my son measure the thickness of a bass guitar string with the micrometer.

Like cars, every tool has a story and it’s the stories and connections that make them interesting as well as useful.