Many years ago it was customary for apprentice carpenters to learn their trade by making some of the tools that they needed. Nowdays it is far far cheaper and better to use mass produced tools … but, in my mind there is something rewarding about making the tools you use from scratch. Not rewarding enough that I’d do it routinely, but from time to time I come across a situation where there is a very specialised tool I need that is either unavailable, ludicrously expensive for the use I’ll give it, or simply that I don;t have but need right then and there.
We hit one of those situations today, whilst putting down a laminate floor in our utility room. Each board needs a fair amount of force to connect the short sides. When you are at the last board, next to a wall, it’s rather hard to put that force in. Historically we’ve used a suction lifter and judicious application of a hammer … but today that wasn’t enough. You can buy a cramp to do the job (e.g. here). but I didn’t have one when we found we needed it, so I decided to fabricate the tool I needed :-
There is a small section of laminate floor at the front, set so that it fits cleanly across the plank edge, and backed up by a very rigid lump of wood, to which it is screwed at 20mm intervals (to keep it rigid). This fits exactly across the exposed end of the floor, without damaging any of the tounging. It is kept a 90 degrees by a 250mm long chunk of wood that has another piece of the backing timer below it. And, at the end there is a large chunk of timber to act as a hammer strike plate. The forces are pretty large (the hammer needs a lot of effort), so the whole thing is put together with some pretty meaty screws.
The end result may not look pretty, but the precision is actually fairly high, and it worked an absolute treat. And, it gave me a good feeling to know that I had been able to make the exact tool I wanted, in less than 10 minutes, and for no cost. I admit that there’s a piece of me that would like to try and start with really raw materials and see how much of modern life I coud make.