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Hammer Time: Nailing the Memories

by | Jun 18, 2021 | Tools | 0 comments

The hammer stone is thought to be man’s first recorded tool, and for most of us, a hammer is the first tool we own. As I headed off to college and my first apartment, I was given a Rubbermaid toolbox with a brand-new claw hammer and a variety pack of screwdrivers. I was officially on my own and in charge of simple repairs.

I still have that hammer. Flecked with paint and rust, it hangs between my father’s hefty Estwing and my grandfather’s hickory-handled Stanley Hercules. The Estwing, a single piece of forged steel with a grip wrapped in leather, is as beautiful as it is functional.

Striking a nail with it feels effortless. A swing of the balanced head transforms weight into power. The nimble, 7 oz. Hercules is my choice for precise, delicate jobs, such as tapping in a tiny nail poking out of an antique desk or hanging a picture frame. I can conjure up a hazy memory of my Grandpa Isono using it to make us a compost sifter with his gnarled, clever hands.

My father used his hammer to make my most cherished Christmas gift. For the month of December 1974, my sister and I were forbidden from entering the garage.

Every evening after work, he would descend the stairs, and from behind the closed door, we heard the muffled pounding of a hammer and screeches of a saw cleaving wood. Our father was always more at home with a book than a tool, more philosophical than physical. What in the world could he be making?

On Christmas morning, we woke to find a two-story Cape Cod dollhouse in front of the tree. It was painted white with green shutters. The front door had routed panels and a brass doorknob.

That was my first house. I made miniature furniture. I quilted a tiny comforter out of fabric I dyed with onion skins and marigolds. Now, over 50 years later, I’m making using his hammer to make furniture for my full-size house.

This year marks the 20th Father’s Day without him. I no longer need to shop for a gift, but feel I am holding his large hand when I grasp that stacked leather handle. I find strength in his gift to me.