Have you ever picked up a tool at the flea market and wondered exactly what it is and how you’d use it? The Field Guide to Tools serves that need exactly, matching photos of tools with their names, descriptions, and uses.
The Guide is a reference book, including information about 136 commonly used tools. Each tool receives a page or two of explanation including a general description of the tool, its “habitat” (e.g. the place where you’re likely to find it), its uses, its operating principle, and basic instructions on how to use it.
For example, the Guide has the following to say about the seam roller:
General Description: A small, wooden roller mounted in a metal bracket on the end of a short wooden handle. The roller is about the size of your big toe. Its working face is not flat, but slightly crowned, which allows the operator to concentrate the rolling pressure by simply tilting the roller handle.
Habitat: Home decorator’s toolbox or wallpaper trough. Sold by hardware stores, home centers, and paint and wallpaper stores. The crowned face distinguishes it from the veneer roller, which has a flat face but is otherwise identical.
Primary Uses: Pressing the seams of freshly pasted wallpaper tight onto the wall. Regulating wallpaper seams.
Secondary Uses: Pressing freshly glued plastic laminate onto a counter-top. Pushing the last bit of toothpaste out of the tube. Flattening a glued seam of fabric while sewing.
Operating Principle: A roller can be used to exert and distribute pressure without adding any sideways sliding force. A crowned roller can focus that pressure onto a narrow band.
A page worth of instructions follow to describe how to use the seam roller for common applications. Photos are grouped together in the center of the Guide with numbers that tie back to specific entries. Tools are also indexed in the back of the book so if you know the name of the tool but not the function or appearance you can reference that way.
While the Guide doesn’t provide a lot of background on the history of tools or cover the variety of unusual tools we saw in Herbert Comte’s Tools: Making Things Around the World, the Guide is a much smaller and more practical reference and does include most every tool you’re likely to see in a well-equipped home shop environment. And because the Guide’s explanations are written in such simple and straighforward terms, it would make a great gift for a first-time homeowner, a child heading off to college, or young newlyweds.
Street pricing starts around $10.
John Kelsey. Field Guide to Tools: How to Identify and Use Virtually Every Tool at the Hardware Store. Philadephia, PA: Quirk Books, 2004 (Softcover) ISBN: 1931686793
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