Mundaring Libraries capture stories of tools

Shire of Mundaring Libraries ran a story capture activity at the Mundaring What a Tool Open Day. With many memories of tools stirred up by the Open Day displays, visitors were able to share their stories and have them captured by the Mundaring Libraries team.

Wandering around the exhibition seeing people with many differing interests working with tools in a number of ways, brought home to me ‘we all have an element of creativity’.

I hear many people say “I don’t have a creative bone in my body”, but I beg to differ. When using tools I see people expressing their artistic talents. Whether it be creating a piece of art, a functional gadget or even creating an opportunity for someone else. We all have some creativity within us!
— Karen
When I was an apprentice at the British Aircraft Corp. in the U.K. I was involved in making the windscreens for the Concorde Aeroplane. One fun job we had was to fire frozen chickens at the glass to make sure they were ‘bird proof’.
— Peter
I am old enough to remember when I was a child in England before the war. Every town and every village had its own blacksmith. Your milk was delivered by a horse-drawn milk float and the coal was delivered. They used to have a manhole outside the house and drop the coal into the cellar. Horses were used by so many commercial people. In those days shop keepers very often were family businesses. People had cars then but people also often had their own horse. My uncle always had his own horse.
— Claire (b.1924)
I used to be the chair of the Vincent Men’s shed. I was voted in by all the men. Women are allowed in our shed which made it possible to have at least a dozen women.
— Lee
The idea was floated of having a billy cart festival, it elaborated into everything that takes you back in time. It takes me back to your childhood. We called them soap boxes then. I grew up in the North of England. The carts were made with wooden boxes, with rope steering and pram wheels. Brakes were a bit of wood if you were lucky.
— John
One of my first memories of tools is a ‘dryblower.’ My father was a prospector working north of Kalgoorlie. He’d dig up the soil, put it on top of the dry blower, which is basically a series of sieves. Standing out in the hot dry desert, he’d shake the dryblower by hand until on top he was left with the detritus and hopefully there would be gold on the bottom. I guess a ‘panning off’ dish was another tool. This you used where there was water available to wash and swirl the water around removing rocks and soil until right at the end a tiny trail of gold dust (sometimes).
We were in Kathmandu one day wandering around like tourists and across the road there were several people squatting near a trickle of water, ignored by all the other tourists. But my husband and I realised exactly what they were doing, ‘panning off’.
— Gwyn
My grandmother, who was in her fifties when she arrived in Australia from war-torn Europe, was a dentist. She and her sister were both dentists. She brought some of her dental equipment. She had a treadle drill. It looked like a spinning wheel. She had to pump evenly with one foot. We lived on a farm in Wandering. We had no fluoride in the water. Our teeth were bad and she started drilling our teeth from about the age of seven. There was no anaesthetic. She used clove oil. She had amalgam and liquid mercury. I remember watching the mercury rolling in droplets, playing with the liquid balls. She had so many instruments. My introduction to tools and instruments was to these ones that I feared. I later donated them to the Perth Dental Hospital.
— Heli
I had a sheep that used to butt people. One guy thought the sheep was attacking him and took to it with a shovel. I don’t think he hurt the sheep, he was trying to keep it from attacking him. This sheep was our lawnmower. One of the women at the rehabilitation centre used a knitting machine to knit me a sweater from its wool. It came right down to my knees. The only problem was that she never preshrunk it. When it came out of the wash it was big enough for a newborn baby. I sheared the sheep myself with the hand shears. It gave off a lot of wool over its lifetime. We called it ‘Lambsy’. While I was living there it attached itself to me. It watched me go into the shower and when I came out it didn’t recognise me. It got frantic and raced all around the property looking for me.
— Michael
I remember my dad’s hydrometer for making home brew in a big plastic tub. It was my job as a 10-12 year-old to brew the beer. It was a tube used put in the brew to measure the level of fermentation. My dad drew a different line on it when we came to Australia from England for the level it had to sink to because of the temperatures here.
— Pez
There was a cauldron thing, like a copper but they used to put the chickens in to pluck them. I don’t know what it was meant for. It was a beautiful piece of iron as big as an armchair. I found it again in the back paddock about 2 weeks ago.
— Kate
I always liked making things with my hands I started using my dad’s power tools at 14. They are still in my shed at home. I still use the ‘buzzer’ today. I made about 20 metres of benches for Vincent men’s shed. I have been in the Hand Tool Preservation society of WA for about twenty years. I made a pottery bowl which won a prize at the royal show when I was about 12. In high school I made a straight edge. The last few months I have been enclosing a veranda to make a room for book bindin., I manufactured the jarrah weatherboards myself because I couldn’t buy the stuff. I recently repaired two pairs of secateurs with bits of P.C. At sixteen I made a system of transmitting soundwaves over light waves. That was in 1956. I am still mucking around with electronics. I rode a motorbike to England in 1970, made hundreds of items of equipment, special tools, things you couldn’t buy. I also made air quality sampling equipment for industrial use. I made instruments to sample air quality for fluoride contamination for the Swan Valley Fluoride Study. I don’t have a degree myself but I worked with a lot of chemists, engineers and artists. I have been lucky in that I haven’t been away to a war, had good health. When I was a kid I went to Tom Collins House, met Mary Durak and many other writers.

About twenty years ago I was involved in research into getting rubber off tyres to recycle it. There is about a tyre, per person, per year discarded in Australia. It is a real shame. Rubber is a fantastic, durable substance.
— Bob Crowe (77)

Photograph by Josh Wells