The bow or push drill is one of the oldest tools in the world. It’s simple to manufacture and simple to use. Some wood, rope or twine and some sort of bit. It doesn’t take that long to manufacture and can be used to do anything from drilling a hole to starting a fire. I have seen them in use on the continent, North Africa, Turkey, the Crimea and in America. I have no doubt they have been in use wherever clever men have needed a hole drilled.
I have heard it said that the bow drill was in use before the Christ. Of that I have no doubt, it is a tool that I would consider useful. It has been eclipsed to a large degree by modern augers and braces. There are even large belt driven drills now. But for a poor man or one who must keep his load to a minimum the bow drill is a priceless invention. How old is this one? I have no idea and it is something that fails to bother me for it works well regardless of its age.
I was first introduced to true cold in the Crimea, it was an experience I never wish to repeat. We were unprepared and coming from north Africa I don’t really think any of us were prepared for what we encountered that winter. Our clothing was not ready and we certainly were not. As a result many a soldier perished due to the cold. Even though I have been in colder places I have not felt so painfully cold since.
The winter of 1861 was a particularly brutal one and my company was at Ft Abercrombie in the Dakota territory. The temperature would drop to sixty degrees below freezing. But the men were different, they were better prepared than I had been in the Crimea. We were each issued a good army blanket, great coat as well as decent quality clothing. There was a brisk trade in additional blankets from the locals and the Colonel issued each man a buffalo robe. That buffalo robe was a true life saver; without them I have no doubt men would have suffered from frost bite or worse.
The quality of the barracks was such that there was a very real fear of fire. As a result an order was passed that all fires were to be extinguished at tattoo. But there was an understanding of how cold it was so a candle was permitted in each barracks room. Most would not think that would provide much heat but when a couple of bricks or stones were placed under an upturned tin bucket it was a damned site better than nothing. We would also take fist sized rocks and place them near the fire, when heated to red hot and dropped into a bucket with another turned upside down above it you will get about an hour of heat out of each rock. Those heated rocks would also provide enough heat to keep a man from going insane when on sentry duty. A couple of those hot rocks in a leather bag secreted about a man made all the difference. That at least two men slept in each bunk helped as well.
My Mrs. Mina was a site to see and amused many a man at her sight. She would not leave our room without almost every garment she owned on her person. At night she would curl under all of the blankets we owned and a buffalo robe. I suspect she cursed my very existence for bringing her to such a place as the Dakota Territory in winter.
On the march back to St Paul in the Spring of 62 we pushed through snow banks that were thirty feet deep and we left the Dakota Territory sans tent-age. Our only shelter was that which we built every night. Wigwams of all sizes and shapes sprang up about each nights camp. Dakota fire holes and American stoves heated them well enough and we would leave each morn refreshed enough to make another days march. We survived and we survived well enough that no man was struck down by the cold.
There have been other harsh winters since the war. I make certain there is an ample wood store set aside for my home and business every winter. There are two good pot bellied stoves and a pair of fire places in my place. I do not skimp in feeding them in the winter. I admit I wish never again to be so cold that I hurt. Rheumatism has begun to pain me due to all of the years I spent sleeping on the ground but that can be lessened with a warm rock and a brandy.
A man can survive the harshest things nature can give him if he thinks and plans for it. Nature is an unforgiving soul but she can be bested if one is careful and thoughtful. I admit though that it is far better to best nature from inside of a good shelter and beside a good fire.
A carpenters square is a useful tool; I have a good blacksmith made square and I use it often. There are times though when a smaller square is needed for marking lines and the brass and steel of a good English made square from Sheffield is difficult to better. This one is just the right size to fit easily in my tool chest and is sometimes handier than that larger carpenters square. It has the added advantage of looking nice and I have to admit I have spent some time polishing that brass a time or two and it shines up nicely.
This is one of those tools that fell unannounced into my tool box. It looked lonely where it was and I felt it cruel to deny such a beauty the presence of friends. A tool like this, though usually of lesser quality, is in every tool chest across the country. If one is not then it should be. If you want square corners, consistent lines and even edges such a tool is a necessity. The square is one of those things needed if a man spends a bit of time planning his project; a well thought out plan is essential to quality workmanship. Even I, a complete amateur, spend some time planning my projects.