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 A trend where rolled up sleeves and the whiff of pipe tobacco has been replaced by something not quite so masculine – in a safely traditional sense.