Perhaps in no branch of our manufactures has England become more famous than in that of those prime necessaries of the workman—his tools. According to an old-fashioned saying—we were almost saying saw—”Tools are half the battle.” It might be said three-fourths.
And from the earliest days, when one in boyhood frequented workshops and watched with insatiable curiosity the carpenter turning off those beautiful silky-looking curls, the shavings, it used to be with pride that the men compared their planes, saws, and chisels—talked of their merits; how this or that was a capital bit of stuff; and almost invariably one saw stamped in on the blades of these tools the word “Moseley,” or “Moseley and Simpson.”
Now it was a coarse-toothed, broad-bladed saw called a “rip,” or “halfrip;” then one with smaller teeth—a cross-cut; or a small, oblong, thin-bladed fellow, made stiff with a brass back, and used for cutting tenons or dove-tailing.
The grand treat was to see the great tool chest of the place, a huge, rough, lead-coloured, sea-chest-looking affair, that when opened was a very Aladdin’s cave of wonders. For it was like an oyster, rough outside, but full of beauties within; polished inlaid wood drawers opened to show bright, peculiarly formed gouges, chisels, and cutting implements for centre-bits, such as would cut holes with wonderful celerity through the thickest piece of wood.
Lower down were planes—not our ordinary friends the jack, trying, and smoothing planes, but refined gentlemen—grooved, curved and contrived in wood and steel, so as to cut the ornamental sash-work or mouldings which ornament the joinery of our houses in door, window, skirting board or panelling.
On all these was stamped the magic word “Moseley”; for this is an old firm, established — and evidently on the firmest basis, that of the excellence of its steel—in 1730, since which date its cutlery, lathes, mechanical and gardening tools have become famous all over the world.
A visitor to the establishment is absolutely bewildered by the extent of the ingenious appliances for doing everything, from the roughest bit of carpentry, as boring a hole and knocking in a nail, to the perfect mechanism of the Archimedean centre-bit, which in its simplicity is a little wonder.
Passing with longing eyes the manly and also the exquisitely filled youths’ tool chests, which one is bound to declare would be the best present that could be given to any ingenious lad, one pauses by the splendid little collection of carving tools, and wonders that ladies do not more frequently practise this artistic work, wood carving, than which it is hardly possible to imagine a more satisfactory pursuit.
For wood carving is, after all, as exquisite an art as that of carving stone or marble, under the name of sculpture, and the beautiful pieces of fruit, game, and flowers that can be produced without soiling the hands should send ladies by the score to Messrs. Moseley and Simpson, of King-street, Covent-garden, for the necessary really ornamental implements.
There are those, however, who might fear the wood carving would prove too difficult; to them, then, let us recommend that other charming pursuit, fretwork cutting. A glance in front at the silk of their piano will give them some idea of the beauties of this pursuit, one which, however, it need not be imagined is confined to pianoforte fronts; for the objects that can be cut are legion in number—card racks, brackets, card cases, album covers, picture frames, slide boxes, canterburys, book stands; and if the two, fretwork and carving, were combined, it would require a catalogue to enumerate the beautiful objects that could be executed, from the lowly card case or cigar box to the grand fruit and flower garnished oaken sideboard.
In these days, when there is such an outcry for presents for ladies, why are these plans not more tried? They can be followed for pleasure, better still for profit. Young ladies who would gladly add to the family purse, can learn to do so with ease; or, if they do not wish to add to the common exchequer, their earnings would be capitally bestowed in charity.
But, it may be asked, how are these beautiful fretworks cut? First, as Mrs. Glasse would say, get your wood, trace upon it, or, if you be artistic, draw your pattern, and then sit down with it to your fretwork machine, which is almost exactly like a sewing machine on its table, as ornamental for a room, and worked in the same way, by a treadle, only instead of a needle darting up and down, it is a tiny steel saw, which cuts the thin wood as you please.
One might go on discoursing about the beauties of the lathes, and how great an adjunct such a machine is to a country house, where any gentleman of an ingenious turn of mind may combine the useful and the ornamental, and turn anything he pleases, from a coffee-pot handle to a set of chessmen. He could then discourse learnedly on back gear, collars, mandrels, and chucks; for explanations of which terms we can freely say see catalogues, copies of which we should advise young and old of both sexes to apply for to the firm.
Eneas Sweetland Dallas (Editor)
Once a Week – February 24, 1877