GLENN HAEGE, SPECIAL TO THE DETROIT NEWS | PUBLISHED 5:57 P.M. ET JUNE 16, 2016
For Father’s Day 2016, dads who like to work around the house can expect a new power tool to help them with their to-do list. But what could dad expect back on Father’s Day 1916? After all, Father’s Day was first celebrated only eight years earlier in 1908.
When looking back at the types of hand tools around the homestead in 1916, we see some familiar and not so familiar ones. Back in 1916, many of the tools used by fathers revolved around farming, cutting lumber and building homes, barns and furniture.
For farming and gardening, tools like the garden hoe, grass shears, pruning knife, sickle and the wheelbarrow were found around most homes. Fast forward to today where the power tiller, weed whacker and hedge trimmer has taken the place of these manual garden tools. And while the wheelbarrow is still a staple in many homes today, the old version made from metal with wooden handles and a metal spoke wheel has been replaced by hard plastic or aluminum with hard rubber tires that make it easier to use – and it won’t rust.
While today’s handyman father may be doing some home maintenance or renovations, in 1916 chances are the father was actually building the home or making furniture from scratch. While chopping down a tree today is done with a gas-powered chain saw, in 1916 the tools of choice would have been a two man hand saw or a crosscut saw.
Woodworking was an important skill for a father to have in 1916 to build furniture for the home. And that meant having the proper tools, such as a wood plane, wood file, block clamps, a folding wood measuring tool, wood chisels, hand saws, a keyhole saw, crank drills and Yankee push drills. Today, the typical woodworker often has a wood shop powered by electricity that includes a drill press, router, lathe, table saw, planer and belt sander.
Painting is one of today’s most popular home improvement projects, but the way we paint today is drastically different than in 1916. Back then, the father who painted may have used a wood ladder similar to today’s versions, but his brush was made of horse hair and didn’t offer the variety of sizes or specialty options you have today. And today, the gift for the father who likes to paint may be an electric power painter.
As for the paint itself, many home’s exteriors in 1916 were painted with whitewash, which was an inexpensive mixture of chalk, lime and water. On the interior, there were plenty of colors to choose from back then, but the 40 different shades of paint available in the Montgomery Ward catalog of that era pales in comparison to the thousands of colors available today, not to mention that variety of paint finishes for both the interior and exterior of the home.
Amazingly, many popular tools of that era are virtually unchanged today. For example, while power screw drivers certainly make today’s tasks easier, plain old screwdrivers are just as popular in today’s toolboxes as they were 100 years ago. That also applies to pipe wrenches, adjustable wrenches, putty knives, axes, levels and hammers—all items found around today’s homes that haven’t changed much from the early 1900s.
So if you are fortunate to celebrate this Father’s Day with a grandfather or great-grandfather, ask him to tell you about the types of tools he used back in his day. While it won’t be tales from 100 years ago, you will still get a good history lesson on the evolution of home improvement tools. It really never gets old. Learn all you can.
For more home improvement advice, call “The Handyman Show with Glenn Haege” on WJR-AM (760) at (866) ASK GLENN, (866) 275-4536 between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday. The HANDYMAN SHOW can also be heard on more than 135 radio stations nationwide.