Hand Tool Preservation
Association of Australia Inc

Antique & Collectable Hand Tool Market

The next Antique & Collectable Hand Tool Market will be held on Sunday 27th October 2024 9am to 12:30pm.

St. Anthony's Parish Hall
164 Neerim Rd, Corner Neerim & Grange Rds, Caulfield East, VIC 3145 (Melway Ref. 68 F4).
Ample street parking or public transport: Frankston train, 600m from Glenhuntly Station
or # 67 tram from University, 310m walk from Glenhuntly Rd.

Sellers are HTPAA members only and members of the public are welcome.
Entry is $5 per person.

COVID-19 rules as applicable at the time will apply.


What Is A Hand Tool? (Part 3)


This article by Watson Cutter from "The Tool Chest" of August 1993 (Volume 5, No. 3) is a further follow up to the "What Is A Hand Tool?" articles by Doug Mclver and Ken Turner in earlier issues of "The Tool Chest".

Doug McIver started the quest for a definition and Ken Turner pushed it further, but I'm not sure whether either is quite right. Perhaps you will allow me to add to the debate and hopefully others will take up the quest.

Man always has had <) "built in" set of tools: his arms and legs, fingers and finger nails, and his eyes and teeth, but these can all too easily became damaged. He thus gradually increased his efficiency in performing work through supplementing the various mechanical advantages of his body structure by devising ways and means of saving wear and tear. These are the original "hand tools" we seek to define. Much later man found that he could further increase the mechanical advantage by incorporating various combinations of wheels, screws, pulleys and similar devices. Once he had achieved this, machines had been invented.

In searching for a definition for a "hand tool", it is essential that one understa1nds the fundamental difference between a "tool" and a "machine" even though modern usage tends to blur the distinction: for example, machine tool, electric drill, pneumatic hammer and so on. A "tool'' was originally any contrivance held and worked by hand to perform or facilitate mechanical operations (that is, obtaining mechanical advantage), and included items such as hammers, saws and chisels. On the other hand a "machine" is a device or apparatus which transmits or modifies force or motion, usually consisting of interrelated parts with separate functions which are used in the performance of some kind of work. Examples of such machines are bicycles, sewing machines, spinning wheels and lathes. Machines can be hand or foot operated (thus using leverage supplied by the arms or legs), or power operated by water, air, steam or electricity. A hand tool, however, is a contrivance that is primarily positioned between a person's hand (or sometimes foot) and the work to be performed without any additional intervening provision of force or motion.

In the above concept of a hand tool, foot operated lathes would be excluded although the actual chisel used for turning would be included. Excluded also would be the "great wheel" used for driving a lathe as there is a separation between those providing the power through which motion is achieved and the person working on the item to be turned. The following would also be excluded:

  • Pole lathes
  • Bicycles
  • Rope-making spinners
  • Spinning wheels
  • Foot or power-operated grindstones and bandsaws
  • Mortise and tenon machines (hand operated)
  • Sewing machines (hand or foot operated.

The attribute of portability is important but in the above examples smallness and thus portability does not make them hand tools. Doug McIver's definition (Tool Chest Vol 4, No. 6, December, 1992) is preferred to that of Ken Turner's as stated in the more recent edition. This definition thus becomes:

A hand tool is any portable device which increases the user's capacity to do work without drawing energy from any external force.

There are, of course, borderline devices such as bow lathes, geared drills, pump drills and the like, all of which incorporate a force or motion provider such as belts, flywheels or gears, but on balance they probably fall within the definition of a hand tool as energy is only drawn from the user before being converted. Nevertheless, it is an interesting philosophical point as to whether these devices are really hand-operated machines however simple or crude they maybe.

In agreement with Ken Turner, this article does not suggest that the HTPAA Inc. forgets about the contribution made to our society by simple machines. The preservation of such early machines is just as important. Our Association may consider it a worthy objective, however, to concentrate on the true hand tools because these were progenitors of the early machines which, were it not for these tools, would never have existed.

Finally, have you noticed that when the term "tool" is used figuratively it generally has a contemptuous meaning whilst we use the terms "instrument" or "machine" differently. For example, "a tool of unscrupulous men" as against "the machine that drives the world" or "an instrument of providence". Why should this be so? Is it because of the ascendancy of the sophisticated over the primitive?

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What Is A Hand Tool? (Part 4)
What Is A Hand Tool? (Part 2)


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Saturday, 22 June 2024

Next Antique & Collectable Hand Tool Market

The next Antique & Collectable Hand Tool Market is on Sunday 27th October 2024 9.00 am to 12.30 pm at St. Anthony's Parish Hall, 164 Neerim Rd, Corner Neerim & Grange Rds, Caulfield East, Melway Ref. 68 F4. For more information see the Tool Market page.