Thursday, 7 February 2013

Boy's toys



A little while ago I was browsing through a three volume set of DIY manuals dating from the nineteen thirties - quite revealing in a social sense. It was all about keeping your chisels sharp, dovetail joints and enough projects to refurbish a gutted house.

The projects included a mock Tudor dining table complete with pegged joints and carved detail – described as well within the capabilities of the average handyman.

I seem to remember a time when the domestic male aspired to a really good set of tools and shed or garage in which to use them. Power tools were not quite the thing for a real craftsman, although a lathe was more than acceptable. 

Things seem to have changed though – toys are replacing tools. Cheap furniture, cars which are no longer so easy to work on, other distractions - who needs tools? 

DIY hasn’t died out of course. B&Q seems to be buoyant enough and the range of inexpensive tools is far wider than ever it was in the thirties when our grandfathers were busy knocking up all those mock Tudor dining tables in the shed at the end of the garden.

Have toys replaced tools though? I’m not sure – many men wouldn’t have had time to make anything in those thirties DIY manuals, especially round here when a fair number of them spent their days down't pit.

Even so, I think I catch a hint of a trend here. Not a major one perhaps, but a trend all the same. A trend where rolled up sleeves and the whiff of pipe tobacco has been replaced by something not quite so masculine – in a safely traditional sense.

7 comments:

Roger said...

Perhaps DIY arose out of the emancipation of the servant classes - starting with George Pooter.

Moving on, we now have access to more information and computing power than Einstein etc could have dreamed of. Yet the world has not advanced proportionately - most computer chips mangle nothing more interesting than tweets, porn or bank statements. The Iphone and its like have become the new toys.

Some young relatives seem utterly un-handy and not a bit interested, can't even mend a bike. Very handy at strategy and shoot-up games though, one is especially good at commanding virtual armies and extorting (virtual) taxes and tributes. If very many are like him our outlook may not be so good - or a great many servants may be needed..

Angus Dei said...

Or more likely from the lack of cash to pay a "professional", but now we have numerous numbers od "tradesmen" from the Eastern bits of what is left of Europe to do our bidding.

That said I still have all my old dad's tools-nicely sharpened chisels, hand saws, imperial spanners and hand drills, although I do enjoy the use of cordless drills, jigsaws and screwdrivers.

I don't think that it is the lack of wanting to, more the excess of cheap available labour.

Demetrius said...

One of the regrets is that there was never time to do something in this field. It may be that the way modern life is there are few working people who are able to.

Woodsy42 said...

DIY used to mean getting a bit of tree and making something from it. Nowadays it tends to mean buying a self assembly cupboard.
To be fair it's much easier and cheaper to have a factory make the bits, but the sheer level of practical incompetence I see around me is depressing.
People bizarrly seem to be proud of the fact that they can't understand how to put half a dozen parts together to assemble a simple IKEA unit.

A K Haart said...

Roger - I've noticed that about young people too. They don't have the tools and wouldn't know how to use them anyway.

Angus - but I think there is still some satisfaction in doing these jobs.

Demetrius - I did a fair bit through necessity, but I had more time too.

Woodsy - yes - there is a lack of practical competence and I sometimes wonder if it has more serious implications.

microdave said...

I've got a brace exactly like the one in your picture. There's probably some wood bits hiding in the shed to go with it.

"Nowadays it tends to mean buying a self assembly cupboard"

When the 30 year old ex-kitchen cupboard in my garage fell to bits (as a result of water leaking through the roof), I had a look round the DIY places for a replacement. Couldn't find anything suitable, so I measured the old one, had some new panels cut from Contiboard, and rebuilt it. I confess to using chipboard screws, PVA glue, and a pair of cordless drills - who says DIY skills are no longer around?

A K Haart said...

microdave - the skills are still around but how many younger people would have repaired that cupboard?