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The geeks shall inherit the earth

Down in this blessed district of Jollye Olde, we’ve been grievously short of rain lately. (No, really…this is either the sunniest and second driest, or the driest and second sunniest, corner of Britain. I never remember which). But we’re making up for it now. Three days of wild, mad rain. Stuck inside for now, so here’s a picture from happier times — i.e. two weeks ago.

One of my favorite parts of the local country shows are the collectors who gather along the edges. I suspect they neither pay to be there nor are paid to be there, but they turn up in funky little tents and trailers to camp out for a few days, commune with their fellow geeks and show off their passion.

Like the guy with dozens of ancient wrenches (spanners to you Limeys) from all over the world, neatly tacked to pegboards. Or the one with the fifty or so antique gas cans (petrol cans to you Brits).

Or this guy with all the billhooks (billhooks to you persons of Anglo Saxon ancestry). Billhooks are a sort of general purpose woodworking tool, still very much in use by thatchers, farmers, coppicers, hurdle makers, charcoal burners, hedgelayers and, under some conditions, soldiers.

Though you can’t read the labels, the designs reflect various professions but also — more interesting to me — different regions. So a Yorkshire billhook is different from a Folkstone billhook. Yorkshire is a big district, but Folkstone is just a small town. That its billhook should be different from Tenderden’s — another small town not far away from it — is, I guess, what makes these things interesting to collect.

But the charm of this one? He was showing off a billhook collection, yes, but this ain’t it. This is a display case full of tiny, lovingly handmade models off various billhook designs.

You can draw a straight line from this brain to the brain that built the difference engine.


Comment from David Gillies
Time: September 25, 2012, 9:59 pm

That’s a load of old billhooks.

Comment from Scubafreak
Time: September 25, 2012, 10:33 pm

Mmmm, CUTTING implements…

Better make sure that Megan Fox doesn’t get ahold of those…

Comment from Gromulin
Time: September 25, 2012, 11:13 pm

You call that a billhook? THIS is a billhook – http://www.woodsmanspal.net/ or somthing kinda like it. I think. After seeing them advertised in the back of Popular Mechanics for like the last 30 years, I finally bought one. I keep it by the bed. It’s pretty useless for anything else.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: September 25, 2012, 11:29 pm

That is a very nice billhook, Grom.

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: September 25, 2012, 11:49 pm

What I found fascinating was that these were just one manufacturer’s samples .

You want the style developed by the blacksmith of Little Sodlington? That’ll be three and sixpence, please, sir.

God, I love capitalism.

Comment from Nina
Time: September 26, 2012, 2:51 am

This post made me smile. I have no idea why, as it has absolutely no chickens in it, but it made me grin anyway. Maybe because I’ve been to Yorkshire? 🙂

Comment from Mike C.
Time: September 26, 2012, 8:20 am

Peolpe collect EVERYTHING! I defy anybody to name a durable man-made object that some group, somwhere, doesn’t collect. Or a lot of non-man-made objects, for that matter. Rocks, anybody?

Comment from Anonymous
Time: September 26, 2012, 3:56 pm

I adore collections like this. And for some reason, this post made me think of writer James Church, and his protagonist “Inspector O.” O is a North Korean police inspector, whose avocation is wood working, a skill he learned from his grandfather. On those rare occasions when Inspector O is allowed out of North Korea, he buys sandpaper, because sandpaper is impossible to find in N.K. Imagine if all you longed for was sandpaper.

Church’s books are bleak and compelling, and at times hard to read. But all the little one-man-shop craftsmen in the world can identify with a man who loves wood (or iron, or stone, or paper, et cetera).

I forgot to sign in, again. It’s Deborah, in the Texas hill country (and feeling lonely since Ric is gone).

Comment from Redd
Time: September 26, 2012, 5:09 pm

Am I the only one who looks at that photo and thinks: Serial Killer!

Comment from Christopher Taylor
Time: September 26, 2012, 6:30 pm

They make pretty good weapons, too. Infantry would use these on knights, pulling them down and hacking.

Comment from Deborah
Time: September 26, 2012, 8:40 pm

Singer Andy Williams has died. Did anyone have him in the Dead Pool?

Comment from Nina
Time: September 27, 2012, 12:56 am

Not me!

Comment from Bill the Butcher
Time: September 27, 2012, 12:01 pm

This Englishy notion of minor variations on something seemingly as “basic” as a billhook reminds me (for some reason) of a story from some detective anthology (Ellery Queen?) many years ago, called something like “The Greatest of All Webley Collectors.” The Kaiser’s intelligence service sends an agent to find out the REAL reason why the British are making Webley service revolvers of the same model that seem quirkily different from each other. Naturally the Huns don’t realize that the real reason is because…the English did it just to be quirky.

Comment from Sigivald
Time: September 27, 2012, 8:35 pm

Redd asked: Am I the only one who looks at that photo and thinks: Serial Killer!

I answered: Yes.

They’re pretty lousy murder weapons, frankly, compared to a kitchen knife.

And most of us have at least one of those, notionally razor sharp; many of us have half a dozen.

Dealer samples of brush-clearing tools do not mark the mind of a serial killer, not so much, no.

Comment from Redd
Time: September 27, 2012, 8:50 pm

Well, you would be WRONG!

Dexter is always going to road side stands and flea markets looking for new weapons he can use to inflict pain and death. And they are prized weapons in the Zombie Apocalypse, too.

Comment from Bob BURGESS
Time: September 5, 2013, 8:13 pm

Is this the set made by Barry Painter of Bognor Regis, seen at the GDSF???

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