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As you may have noticed, I did some museum hopping last week.  Thankfully I got a chance to cruise through the National Air and Space museum with a Toolmonger’s eye and caught a glimpse of this display of a German aircraft factory, circa 1918.  The tools you see on the table are actually from the original factory.

What made me take note was that the warplanes they put in the air from this factory were made with these pretty rudimentary instruments by largely unskilled workers.  The plaque that went with the scene said that Germany was forced to take drastic measures to maintain production of their warplanes to meet the growing number of enemy Allied planes over the skies of Europe.

Since skilled labor was getting shot at on the front lines, unskilled workers — many of them women and children — whose ranks were bolstered by sailors from the German High Seas Fleet (many of whom were skilled machinists) had to crank out aircraft as best they could.

I just tried to imagine crawling into a cockpit knowing that the plane I trusted my life to was built with those basic tools by the neighbors’ ten-year-old and his mother’s friend from down the street from where I used to live before the war.  My hat’s off to both the pilots and the builders.

National Air & Space Muesum [Offical Site]


3 Responses to It’s Just Cool: Aircraft Construction Tools Circa 1918

  1. Fred says:

    That reminds me. The Experimental Aircraaft Association has their annual Airventure gathering this week. Lots of toolish stuff, homebuilt aircraft, and restored clssic aircraft to see if you can make your way to Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

  2. Tim Underwood says:

    If your interest lies in the direction of the historic aspects of tools here’s a place to see.http://www.culturalaffairs.org/shsi/sites/edel_blacksmith/background_history.htm

    The Matthew Edel Blacksmith Shop closed in 1940 after 60 years in operation and was kept intact through the scrap drives in WWII. The shop and grounds were donated to the Iowa Historic Society and maintained as a museum.
    Fascinating place.

  3. I got to tour the Paul E. Garber Preservation, Restoration, and Storage Facility back in 2000, there was like a year’s waiting list to get in and they have since closed it to the public:

    The restoration facility had some very cool projects that I assume are on display now.

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