Monday, June 28, 2010

Stanley carpenter’s rule

[Click for a larger view.]

Of all the items in the Museum of Supplies, this one might be the oldest. It’s a carpenter’s rule that belonged to my grandfather. As I remember it, the young people were allowed to take something from the basement when my grandparents sold their house. This item was my choice, probably because I had never seen anything like it.

It’s a Stanley double-folding carpenter’s rule, unfolding to twenty-four inches, made of boxwood and brass. The ruler is marked in eighths of an inch on the outside surfaces, sixteenths on the inside. Note that the inches are numbered from right to left. That convention of American ruler-making apparently disappeared in the 1940s. How did it get started? One collector suggests that it was a matter of “simple perversity,” as British manufacturers marked from left to right. One tiny alignment pin, just visible to the right of the 17, helps keep the halves together when folded. Descriptions of these rulers mention up to three pins. This ruler was made with only one. It is a tribute to the manufacturer’s art that after seventy or eighty or ninety years, the halves of the ruler hold together as if magnetized.

Reading about rulers got me looking closely enough to realize that the manufacturer’s name is legible, barely, to the right of the 10. And there’s a model number to the right of the 9: № 32½, I think. That number was indeed a Stanley model number. I like thinking about a world in which model numbers involved fractions, the world in which my grandfather used this ruler.

[“Stanley” and “№ 32½.”]

[This post is the eighth in an occasional series, “From the Museum of Supplies.” The museum is imaginary. The supplies are real. Supplies is my word, and has become my family’s word, for all manner of stationery items. Photographs by Michael Leddy.]

Also from the Museum of Supplies
Dennison's Gummed Labels No. 27
Fineline erasers
Illinois Central Railroad Pencil
A Mad Men sort of man, sort of
Mongol No. 2 3/8
Real Thin Leads
Rite-Rite Long Leads

comments: 4

Elaine said...

I can't stand for there not to be a Comment!
I bought one of these for our son when he was in his teens; it was just too wonderful.
He also has a hammer that his grand-dad used. It is always good to be equipped, eh?

I use my tailor's tape pretty often; there ARE things one can't improve on.

Michael Leddy said...

Thanks, Elaine. Much respect to these tools!

Berit said...

Oh, I love it--Gadget, Stationery, and Tool all in one!

Even before I began studying art and design I loved these "supplies" as you've dubbed them. Perhaps that's why I started on that path in the first place. I've got all sorts of Supplies in my house, though nothing with the antique charm of this item. Thanks for sharing.

Michael Leddy said...

For me, my dad’s art supplies were a big influence. He draws for pleasure. I remember from kidhood being fascinated by his supplies — Pelikan 120, pencils, shield eraser, even a compass with a nib-like leg to dip in ink.