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I spent Saturday just chilling out – which means looking at some old tools that have been waiting to claim my attention. Although I look at every piece when I first acquire it, my purpose in looking then is simple: what is it, what condition is it in, do I want it, what will I pay for it… The kind of looking that I did today is different.

After adding a tool to my inventory, eventually I get around to spending some time with it. I’m trying to learn all about it, which requires looking carefully and deeply, critically assessing it, noting the features that differentiate it (my friend @bitstockdigs Mr. James Price calls them ‘diagnostic attributes’). Then it goes one of two ways: if I already know exactly what it is, I will enjoy handling it, consider if it needs or merits restoration, and make a decision if it deserves a place in my permanent collection; if I don’t know exactly what it is, I will research it based on its ‘diagnostic attributes’ using my library of books and catalogs, my favorite reference sources on the web, and my network of like-minded friends – 95 times out of a 100, this will yield a positive identification, and then the process is as above.

This metric zig-zag rule is one of the things I ‘looked’ at today. Made from thin boxwood segments, it has round steel-pinned brass pivots and brass fold-over end caps. The first ten cms on the outside of each end is marked in mm, half-cms and cms, the remainder is marked in cm and five cm increments. Both sides are marked ‘METRE’, and on one end the letters “M.F.C.” appear in an oval. It is printed rather than incised, and the typography looks very European, probably French. It wasn’t terribly expensive when it was made – some time around 1885-1905 – but given the fragile pivots and thin wood, few have survived in any kind of good shape. This one is excellent, so it’s relatively rare – and I will keep it. The only remaining mystery is who made it – I have never come across, and can’t find any reference to, “M.F.C.”

 

metric zig-zag rule