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Tag Archives: slide rule

bulletin board…

bulletin board
The bulletin board gene runs true in our family. My father had bulletin boards next to his desk and in his workshop — places where treasures would accrue and sketches reside as he puzzled out the mechanics of his vision. In my mother’s studio, an entire knotty-pine wall was covered with fiberboard that held newspaper and magazine clippings, drawings, small paintings and various natural objects she would bring home — a bird’s nest, unusual seed pods, a string of dried seaweed.

My own bulletin board, actually a pair of large side-by-side panels, is a chaotic layering of photos (primarily friends, animals and other people’s grandchildren), maps, things made and received, intriguing charts (the alphabet in sign language, A Periodic Table of Visualization Methods), poetry, calendars, name badges and my father’s slide rule. It’s visual compost; it’s a window I turn to as readily as the one across the room. It’s a collage, a time line, a changing prospect, and each viewing recalls moments, ideas and wonders. It’s Home.

slide rule…

slide rule

My father’s slide rule hangs on the bulletin board, a relic. It’s a handsome tool, wood and metal, the ivory scales, made perhaps of some very new plastic material, darkened with time and touch, the tiny black score lines neat and varied along its length. Made in U.S.A., it says, Keuffel & Esser Co. N.Y. Pat. June 5, ’00, Dec. 22, ’08. More than a hundred years ago. 65713 is etched onto the edge of the instrument and on the end of the slide, which also has 4095-3 on its opposite side.

At each end, an L-shaped metal plate with three screws holds the outer bars in steady parallel so the slide can move between them easily, smoothly, but without slipping. Embracing the three rules, a sliding hairline is embedded in a rectangle of glass with rounded corners and a metal bezel that anchors it to the slide, again with small screws. This sliding piece is two-sided, though the rule has fewer measures on the reverse.

On the rule, my father has scratched his initials – L R K – slender Deco letters that hug the circumference of a circle etched on its surface. At each end of the slide, he has scratched notes: on one scale D- and D-+1, on the other M+ and M+-1. His code, his reminder, something that a calculator or computer would know and do automatically today.

Once, for a while, I knew how to use this tool; now its calculus is as obscure and mysterious as an abacus. It is a capsule of time and memory that I cannot look at without seeing my father, his broad hands busy with tools, his kind eyes and warm hugs the way he showed the world that he was more than a man who understood how to measure.