View Full Version : A small world.

John Stevenson
12-20-2003, 07:06 AM
As some of you know I collect old engineering books, it's a bit of a hobby of mine.
Anyway about a month ago I heard of a elderly guy down south of London who's living in a warden aided old folks complex.
It seems that this guy wanted to part with a large part of his book collection but was having problems with people trying to pick thru to get the good copies.

I made contact and agreed to buy the whole collection sight unseen and went down last Thursday to collect. This guys name is Tommy Bartlett and he's a very fit 97 years old.
Imagine my suprise when he showed me a stack of ME's, MEW's and HSM's all with articles published by him, the last HSM article not being long ago - a simple jig to silver solder small part together.

This following on from the recent article threads about HSM was rather ironic.
Here's this guy 97 years old, sitting in a small 3 room flat with no workshop, no digital camera, no internet access but can still come up with articles for publication, rather humbling isn't it ?

Anyway I had a good couple of hours talking to him about his old workshop, motorcycles and various bits before I had to make my way back.
I now have a big stack of books to sort thru over Christmas to decide what stays and what would be better off with new owners.

John S.

12-20-2003, 08:19 AM
Just wow!!
What a Xmas Gift!!

12-20-2003, 10:08 AM
Sounds like a small price for such a great experience and a new friend(?). There is nothing that I like more than to sit with fellows who have forgotten more than I have learned and chat about setups, stories, machines and pretty girls. Good show! rr

[This message has been edited by rockrat (edited 12-20-2003).]

12-20-2003, 11:23 AM
That is one of those experiences you won't forget soon (barring altzheimers). Part out the books? I don't think so. Not unless someone can give a compelling reason why they need such and such book in order to save the life of their children. Books and I, 'till death do us part.

[This message has been edited by Evan (edited 12-20-2003).]

Michael Az
12-20-2003, 11:52 AM
Thats great. Maybe a new friendship? I bet it would mean a lot to him.

Forrest Addy
12-20-2003, 12:29 PM
John and his book score from his new friend brings up a good point I like to push when the opportunity strikes. I hope John doesn't mind if I hijack his thread for a good cause.

It's tragic that old guys whose interests are still keen are denied shop access because of infirmity or immobility.

20 years ago when my grandma was still alive one of the men visiting the old folks home posted a message looking for some woodworking tools so the old guys could make brid houses or something. I donated a couple of coping saws and made up a wide miterbox for square cuts up to 10" wide, another guy found a bench and a vise, and so on.

I didn't have much to do with the new shop but it later came to my attention that the shop was set up and running in an unused room next to the boiler and the kitchens - a room hated by the residents and uninhabitable. It was hot and noisy there but good enough for aged woodworkers. In time some real nice bird houses, jewelry boxes, fretwork clocks, and doll houses made sequentential appearances in the lobby.

One time when I went to look in there was an overflow crowd and a couple of wheel chairs were blocking the door bottling up the crowd inside. Someone had donated a lathe and it was being set up. It was just a cheapo Craftsman lathe from the '50's but its advent stirred a lot of excitement. In time bowls, Christmas ornaments, and other turned work appeared.

So what happened to this lively interest? Naturally there was a spark plug who ran it. His dad was among the interested and when the dad died the spark plug quit coming around and interest faded. I and some of the visitors made a few stabs at helping but that was before I was into woodworking. So after a few years the Old Fart's Workshop (their name for it) petered out.

I got the impression that the home's management only tolerated the shop because it did make a big mess and there loomed liability if someone nicked a finger. I recall going into see grandma and found her in the crafts class. I saw a couple of the old woodworkers there rassling with glue and macaroni and colored rice to make a design on a paper plate. They looked like they'd rather be shot than doing Camp Fire Girl crafts but it was better than sitting idle. Tragic.

OTH Chuck Titus from down the street had the run of my machine shop. As he aged the projects he took on got smaller and simpler but he kept at it to the end. I put in a tall stool for him so he could work on the machine tools without needing his walker.

Eugene from down the street and I used to haul Chuck and his wheelchair off to industrial shows and lumber yards. We'd just turn him loose. Sooner or later there'd be a circle of people around him feeding him coffee and ice cream cones and listening to his stories. Or someone would wheel him off to something interesting. Low maintenence guy, Chuck. When it was time to leave we had to drag him away.

Chuck's last project was a modification for a fly rod reel - the kind that spools off the end and has a bail that flips back so you can cast. I still have some parts and his sketches in a box. Chuck's sketches used to be masterpieces. They looked almost like patent office drawings. His last sketshes were still readable but he got pretty shakey and his writing was almost illegible.

There's an old guy named Alvin who's building a house just up the road. He's 82 and still ready for anything including concrete work and framing a house to spin out his years in. he's a WW II vet. I bet he has some stories. Maybe I could get them on tape for the living history people.

Old guys like Alvin and John's new friend usually welcome a little socialization from younger men and getting out to places of mutual interest - places they ordinarily couldn't go. Many have knowledge to pass on. I suggest they be cultivated. You won't be doing them a favor by spending time with them; it's the other way around.

John Stevenson
12-20-2003, 12:36 PM
Evan, some of the books I will be parting out as they don't interest me and to just take up shelf space, never to get read is a shame when someone out there will appreciate these a lot more than I do.
Anongst this collection are quite a few on electrical engineering and steam loco's.
I don't have an interest in these subjects enought to hang onto the books.
There are also about 30 volumes of ME that I already have.

There are some gems, amongst these was a small flyer from the Tom Senior milling machine company accrediting the design of the optional vertical head to this same Tommy Bartlett and later on a certificate from a ME show awarding a highly commended to Tommy for the same head.

A copy of the Machinery Shop Reciepts, first edition and first printing. A copy of Model Locomotive Valve gears signed by Martin Evans.
Lots more to sort thru.

John S.

12-20-2003, 11:23 PM

If you want to part with some of the MEW's I am missing issues #1 through #33 and a few others I would love to complete my set. Email your asking price once you get them sorted.

John Stevenson
12-21-2003, 04:43 AM
No MEW's they are all ME's

John S.

12-21-2003, 02:39 PM
it is a small world, but i still wouldn't want to paint it.

very good points made about "old-timer's"...

take care all and have a great xmas!


Ragarsed Raglan
12-22-2003, 02:45 PM
Nice find John!

And to think the OAP Complex would have probably consigned them to the local council incinerator, if Tommy hadn't been so dogged in making sure they ALL went to someone who, if not appreciating every book, would at least find an outlet for those books which someone else coverts. Lucky he found you!

Forrest: Your last sentence says it all, that is a great line! I detect a trace of JFK there, sort of "Think not what you can do for your Oldie, but what your Oldie can do for you!"


12-22-2003, 06:49 PM
Bout a year ago I lost a dear friend to cancer. Jack was a retired patternmaker that I pestered ever chance I got for 16yrs or so. With him went a world of knowledge. I swear he could do anything. One of his projects was restoring a 1903 Cadallac to new condition. I once asked him why he never ran me off and he replied "Cause you ask good questions and youre pretty good help". He was a wonderful guy and I'm much the better for having known him.

12-23-2003, 01:07 PM
I've said it several times but it bears repeating: "when an old man dies its as though a fine library burned down- you can't read those books no more, ever". You PC types put "any person" or what ever in place of man, you won't get the message anyway.

12-23-2003, 02:14 PM
Hey, thank you one and all. You have made me feel good about reaching 81.

To Neal, thank you for this website that has provided me with such a pleasurable means of communicating with new friends and which has opened so many doors of new knowledge.

To all of you I offer this, may the machinist gods bless you all with good health, happiness and prosperity in the coming year and forever after.

Merry Christmas and a Joyous New Year!

Oscar Ortiz

12-24-2003, 03:40 AM

I could not have said it better myself - and to you my brother those ferlings are echoed twofold - and a merry Smithmas to you as well http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//biggrin.gif