Cool Tools

Bob Finch learned to appreciate tools growing up in his father's Wyoming workshop, where some craftsmanship apparently rubbed off: Finch worked his way through college as a carpenter.

Now retired, the Lakewood engineer has renewed his passion for implements as a member of the Rocky Mountain Tool Collectors, and he will hammer home a few points at a workshop, July 7, on the grounds of the rustic Hiwan Homestead, which Jock Spence built in Evergreen.

Among other things, Finch will discuss the variations in tools brought to Colorado from different regions. Think all hammers are alike? Finch will nail that idea. "I can look at five hammers from the 1800s and pretty much tell what country they came from," he says. The Dutch, who fashioned the most stylish tools, used square heads and nearly straight claws on their hammers. The English models, which Finch brands as "terrible," had metal straps on the sides to hold the heads -- but not hold them well. Planes aren't plain, and for those who ask about axes, Finch will brandish his French coupe marc, used for chopping squashed grape debris from the bottom of wine presses.

Finch and other members of the group will also try to identify any old gizmos that visitors might bring; Finch himself has a couple of items in his personal collection that thus far have baffled the experts. And while some tools from the Hiwan collection will be on display, rarities such as a fleen -- a nasty, bladed "medical" device for letting blood -- or the old-fashioned "dynamite warmer" (a candle-holder nicknamed a "widow-maker" from the days when the unstable explosive had to be heated before a blast) probably won't be displayed. But if you show up with such a thingamabob, Finch will be happy to see how it measures up.