Any child who spent time in my father’s workshop in the garage — and most of the neighborhood kids and cousins did — was given basic instruction in the use of hand tools. In my father’s world view, a person needed to know how to wield a hammer and saw, how to position an object in a vice and how to accomplish these things without injury.
The longer we spent in the shop, the more technical our lessons. In these, my father was severe about only two things: safety and cleanup. For the rest, we were encouraged to follow our whims as we worked on our birds and fire trucks and boats. He was watchful and didn’t interfere but was available for problem solving, and that often meant a short lesson in some new tool.
By the time I was 10, I was comfortable, if not skilled, with a chisel and mallet and had a half-dozen unfinished projects stashed in the box under the work bench. But I had no real passion for woodcarving and with adolescence my carving was forgotten.
More than 15 years went by before I picked up a chisel again. In that time I had immersed myself in the world of fiber, first weaving, then moving off-loom and eventually crocheting exclusively. My work and my materials got larger and commercial crochet hooks became pretty useless.
So I visited my father in his workshop and told him I wanted to make some larger hooks. He was more than simply happy to help. One of his persistent fears was that he would die and no one would care for his tools. He saw my return to the shop as both reassuring and hopeful.
He showed me dozens of pieces of wood — dowels and boards and branches — and I eventually chose two: a piece of hickory trim and a larger chunk of wood he had harvested from a roadside pile of lemon trees cleared for a housing development.
I wasn’t living at home, so the project took quite a few visits, but his lessons all came back to me. I sketched the outlines of the hooks onto the wood, first with pencil, then with crayon. Then I made careful saw cuts where the big chunks had to come out and used the chisel and mallet to shape the hooks. After that it was rasps and files and laboriously ascending grades of sandpaper until the two hooks achieved the silky gloss of real woodcarvings.
As it turned out, the smaller hook was a fine addition to my tool chest, but the large one, beautiful as it was to handle, could do little that I couldn’t accomplish more easily with my hands alone. Still, of all the things I did during my father’s life, I think this was the one that made him happiest.
. . . . .
crochet hooks by j.i. kleinberg
size K hook for comparison
A photograph of these hooks appears in the book Crochet (Little, Brown and Co.) by Mary Tibbals Ventre.