On Making Them Like They Used To


Ever since discovering Mister Jalopy's blog Hoopty Rides a couple of years back, I've been low-grade obsessed with vintage tools and vintage toolboxes. There's something about the combination of lost quality, survival, and embedded history that makes an intact box of tools a veritable mirror of at least one man's soul--or less loftily, of his life and his projects.

Von Dutch was apparently a racist a##hole drunk, so I just admire his hand-lettered, gold Snap-On tool chest as an object. An object that was too expensive to be my first vintage toolbox purchase when it came up for auction in 2006 or so.


But a remarkable thread full of vintage tool chests and tool boxes has developed on the message board at JalopyJournal.com [no relation]. Many of the boxes were bought at garage sales. A user named Nealinca got the cabinet above from the estate of a high school shop teacher.


Many more, though, are inherited from fathers and grandfathers--especially grandfathers. A man rarely gives away his tools as long as there's a chance he might need them. To commemorate his late grandfather's 80th birthday, Imp59 had his awesome artillery shell-shaped toolbox pinstriped--later on in the thread, someone identifies it as a 1947 Nuggets socket case from Blackhawk.

And every few pagedowns, there's a shot of a shiny metal toolbox, stripped clean of stickers, paint, chips, and grime, every sign of its previous history. It's tempting to say it's sad, but then someone'll point out their daddy didn't give'em anything but alcoholism, and you realize that wistful embrace of the past can be a luxury, or certainly an indulgence, that is not to everyone's taste.

Hand Lettering [hooptyrides]
The H.A.M.B. "Vintage" Tool Box Club [jalopyjournal.com]

Since 2001 here at greg.org, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting greg.org that time.

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greg [at] greg [dot ] org

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first published: May 11, 2009.

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