Saturday, January 10

tools and other tools

during my lovely, long winter break, I asked my dad if his magical shop of tools and wood scraps could possibly facilitate the reverse engineering and re-creation of one or two of these eighty-dollar wooden crochet hooks.

he said "eighty whole dollars!? for what?" and we trekked out to the shop to find out what we could do. 

dad's lathe is pretty old and creaking, but it works beautifully. I watched him trim down and carve the first prototype out of a prism of quarter-sawn oak. 

then it was my turn, with a prism of lovely, creamy-looking maple. 

that one didn't turn out as nicely. the handle was alright, if a little rough, but as we experimented with the actual hook, things got weird. you'll excuse me if I didn't take any photos of that unfortunate failure, I hope.

after that, dad and I were on a roll. he pulled out a length of black walnut, next. black walnut from the tree that once grew out front at the house where I spent my childhood. black walnut from that tree in my once-upon-a-time hometown. black walnut that my dad himself cut down and sliced to pieces. 

the sawdust of black walnut has spice in its smell. it's a dark wood, and spinning on the lathe it blurs to a chocolatey chocolate brown. it was my favourite to work with. maybe that's cuz it's so beautiful and maybe that's cuz the wood is soaked in so much nostalgia. or both. 
this is how I carved the handle, using a few of dad's chisels to dig each groove and smooth all the curves. then the sandpaper, with the lathe settings on way-faster. then the hack saw, to crop out the lathe-bitten edges.
the little bulbs near the end are not perfectly spherical or smooth. there is some skewing to them. I think it adds character. 
I whittled most of the hook myself, after dad drilled the center out. he helped with a few other bits too. I am quite proud of our joint efforts. both my expertise on the shape of crochet hooks and his expertise with the wielding of whittling knives were needed here. and I couldn't have done this without all his fancy tools. he possibly could've done well enough without my insisting on testing the thickness of each hook against the cheap aluminum hook we used as model, or on bringing my yarn out to the shop so I could make sure the curve of each beak would function properly--but we worked together. one type of craft meeting another type of craft. one set of hobbyists tools' giving birth to another.

while I worked, trying to finish the black walnut hook before I had to get on a plane back to Indiana, this twitter conversation came to mind. knitting needles are pointier and stabbier than crochet hooks, but the principle stands. "domesticity is funny like that," Liz Abinante says. making yarn into scarves or hats is just as much a hobby as making trees into figurines or walking sticks. 

also funny (and fascinating) is the network of tools and tools-to-be that circle around all these hobbies. a whittling knife is a tool for carving wood into a crochet hook, which is a tool for turning yarn into a hat, which is a tool for keeping one's head warmer when it gets freezing and blustery outside. 
some of these tools all need each other to exist. things and their many supporting characters have a way of crowding together, accumulating.

I wonder now if you could say any of this slightly the other way around. a block of wood is a tool for keeping your whittling knives in use, and a knitted scarf is a tool for keeping your hands busy with knitting needles while you watch films. it's less usual to say things that way... but I don't think it's less true.

and if we continue, my neck and head are tools for wearing scarves and hats. my brain is a tool for reading patterns and imagining yarn as afghan or block of marble as impressive sculpture.

whichever way it is that these tools and tool-like objects work, I now own many more crochet hooks than I actually need. maybe I should give one or two away.

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