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Table of Contents

Early American Hand Tools

Hand Tools of the Industrial Revolution

Tools Teach Publication

Hand Tools in History Series

The Archaeology of Tools

Online Stores

Links to Other Sources

Phenomenology of Tools

Tools Teach: An Iconography of American Hand Tools

Hard copy table of contents

Identification of Hand Tools and their Use

Part I: Simple Machines and their Metallurgy
          Simple Machines: An Overview

The Ferrous Metallurgy of Early American Trades

The Direct Process of Iron-making
The Indirect Process of Iron-making
The Puzzle of Natural Steel

Part II: The Toolkits of Early American Trades
Part III: Hand Tools of the Industrial Revolution
Part IV: Learning the World through the Study of Tools
Part V: A Guide to the Hand Tools in History Publication Series



The mission of this seventh volume in the Davistown Museum’s Hand Tools in History publication series is to explore the iconography – imagery – of the hand tools that characterize the evolution of early American trades into an Industrial Revolution with an increasing diversity of tool forms. The focus of this Tools Teach publication is to provide a guide to the hand tools and trades that played a key role in American history for interested students and artisans, rather than for advanced collectors or experts.

This volume begins with an overview of hand tools as simple machines and continues with a description of the ferrous metallurgy of early American trades (Part I). Part II focuses on a depiction of the toolkits of early American trades, beginning with the tools of the forge-master, multitasking blacksmith, and related metalworkers. It continues with a sampling of the discarded tools of obsolete trades, the now forgotten implements of the cooper, farrier, wheelwright, sail-maker, cobbler, and others. Part III of Tools Teach explores the iconography of representative hand tools of an industrial age that built machines that made some hand tools obsolete. Our exploration includes illustrations of the increasing variety of machine-made hand tools used to build, operate, or repair the tsunami of complex machinery that characterized the Industrial Revolution and the American factory system it engendered. Illustrations of some of the most interesting machine-made tools as well as tools as sculpture objects conclude our exploration of the iconography of American hand tools.

Our review of the American factory system of mass production of tools with interchangeable parts includes an overview of the most important prime movers of the Industrial Revolution. Most important among these complex machines are the steam engine, railroad engine, automobile, and the vast diversity of power tools, such as lathes, milling machines, drill presses, screw cutting lathes, planers, shapers, etc. It was this series of technological innovations that led to the development of a global consumer society, which now includes rapid air transport and the florescence of a post-industrial society based on electronic equipment with no moving parts (radio, television, computers, cell phones, iPads, and the internet.) An ironic component of the evolution of a global consumer society driven by electronic technologies is the continuing reliance on many forms of simple machines, i.e. hand tools, to facilitate the ongoing operation of the infrastructure of modern society. Machinists, mechanics, electricians, plumbers, woodworkers, agricultural workers, and many other hand tool-wielding workers, craftspersons, and artisans are a key component of the viability of an increasingly complex industrial society where the continued use of hand tools, including expertise in their employment, is a vital component of economic and social stability. A familiarity with the hand tools of early trades and the history of technology provides an important basis for finesse in the use of hand tools. This knowledge provides an essential foundation for participation in the innovative cyber-technology-based economies of the future.

Even more invisible than the indispensible skills of the poly-technicians of the infrastructure of the age of electronic technology is the continued relevance of hand tools for the myriad community of artists – sculptors, metalsmiths, woodworkers, printmakers – who provide alternative ambiances to the deadening boredom and psychic numbness of the electronic media of mass consumer society, the myriad benefits of electronic technologies notwithstanding.

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Tools of the Woodworker by Trade



Other early American trades

Agricultural Tools
Fishing Tools: Mackerel plow, eel spear, whaling spears
Domestic Tools

Part III: Hand Tools of the Industrial Revolution