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The Dick Nicholls Collection: Yarns From A Town Called Alex

Popularity 3Viewed 6704 times 2013-12-16 06:48 |Personal category:StoryTeller|System category:Life| Dick, Nichols, Collection, Tools, Antiques


Dick Nicholls in tool heaven

     One day Ernie Hunt, my woodworker friend suggested I go and meet a person in town. Knowing I am writing a book on Alex, he said it would likely be of some interest to write about this man and his collection of tools which is legendary among people in the know. I was given a name, a number and an address. I called, made an appointment and went over. I took my little daughter along just to keep her entertained, not sure if she would enjoy spending an hour or so looking at old tools and old folk. We were greeted by a friendly lady and then a smiling man with a twinkle in his eye said hello and took us around to show his garage. My daughter had a great time. She was engrossed in everything she saw and totally at ease with our friendly guide who treated her with such kindness and respect. I was just blown away by what I saw.

     Move over Tim Allen, the real tool man is Dick Nicholls. He has a garage and a tool shed to the side and behind it, hidden from the street outside. Both are chock-full of a great variety of stuff.   Dick will usually show you something and ask, “What do you think this is? What do you think this was used for?” It’s a bit like what you see in those TV shows featuring old antiques and treasures that people bring up for evaluation.

     Many of us will be left scratching our heads, what does this thing do? How does it work?

The older you are, the better your chances of answering some of it right – you may have seen it used or used it yourself. Of course, if you are too old and have lost your memory, then forget it! But many things used by humans and long since gone out of use or out of fashion will be found in good condition, well maintained, ready to be used or to demonstrate. 

Dick Nicholls is a true collector of tools and other stuff.  He does not simply collect them, he gets them to perfect working order, uses them as well. There is a perceptible affection he has for each item, a story behind it and an appreciation of its value. One could spend hours, weeks and months in his shed just trying out or looking at each thing just once. Even more fun is listening to him explain things and tell their stories. From machine tool bits to little bottles, scoops, to all things metal, wood, glass. You can start to appreciate the mechanical genius of man long before the plastics, synthetics and electronics came along. It is fascinating to see what all tools humans have made, to make life easier and what at different times were considered good to own. It is a relatively brief representation of the distinguishing marks of our human civilization itself. No other animal can make this many tools.

     At some point in time, people started to throw away old stuff, not repair or fix them. Or there were newer, fancier tools or gadgets and old tools and gadgets were no longer needed. Dick is one of the rare ones who collects those and understands their use and gives them a welcome new home. This is tool heaven where the good tools go after their time. Dick also reclaims the souls of some of the less fortunate tools and keeps them there.

     Just cataloguing each item and its use will give us a brief but rich insight into our history- sounds like a great idea for a few school projects!!

     Dick himself is a descendant of English immigrants. He has worked at farms mostly around this area. He does great woodwork at home and told me about the clever design of a ‘Lazy Susan’, something I started to work on but, being a ‘Lazy Kannan,’ it is taking me a long time. For those that don’t know - a “Lazy Susan” is a turntable kind of thing set in the middle of a dining table to put different dishes of a meal on.  People can serve different dishes by themselves by simply spinning it.

(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)




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Reply Report huaren2323 2013-12-19 02:58
KIyer, I often wanted to do woodworking as a hobby. Good article that prompts me to get this started during the holidays.
Reply Report KIyer 2013-12-19 20:17
Woodworking is a very rewarding hobby. i love it. cant find much time for it these days, but have managed it in the past. I have written about that too in my previous blogs. Get started with a little bit of timber and some basic tools. Check out your local woodworkers guild or group. They are all usually eager to share and will know a lot. it is great fun!

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