To those of us who are interested in fine furniture, the name of Parnham will come as no surprise. Merely to mention the name evokes heady thoughts of that last couple of decades of the 20th century, when The School for Craftsmanship in Wood, later known as Parnham College – or just Parnham – began to turn out craftsmen of extraordinary talent, many of whom have gone on to form the solid groundwork of contemporary workshops and teaching schools found throughout the UK.
Parnham, at Beaminster in Dorset, was started in 1977 under the guidance and auspices of John Makepeace, assisted by Robert Ingham who became the Principal until he resigned in 1997 to pursue another direction in his career. It was Robert, as Principal, who instigated the ‘Teaching and Making’ programme at Parnham and to this end, he recommended to all the students the purchase of a core kit of high quality hand tools, which were largely supplied by us here at Axminster.
There’s been a recent rekindling in the idea of resurrecting this core kit of high quality hand tools, which an accredited ‘bona fide’ student would be able to purchase at the beginning with the intention of adding to it as time and finances permitted, so that by the end of the course, he or she would have a very comprehensive hand tool kit with which would, in part, form a sound basis for a future workshop.
As part of the development of this concept, I’ve been doing some initial research by asking many leading and very well known teaching workshops and colleges to supply me with a list of what they would regard as a basic, core kit of high quality hand tools. All who I’ve communicated with have been enthusiastic and have willingly supplied me with their recommendations, but as may be expected, there have been different and diverse views on what could be included as part of the core tool kit. It’s my intention to compare all the recommendations in detail and to distil the ‘common denominators’ so that we at Axminster could eventually offer a top quality, core hand tool kit.
From briefly looking at the lists sent into me over the last few days, I’ve already begun to see a loose pattern of ideas, briefly summarised as ‘Marking Tools’ and ‘Cutting Tools’, with many of them indicating that a No.5½ heavy jack plane would be a suitable for inclusion.
I would be very interested if you, as a reader of the Blog, would be kind enough to let me know, via the comments box, your recommendations for a core kit of high quality hand tools. I should mention that at this stage it’s not crucial if we don’t stock the particular item(s) that you refer to, but certainly the recommendation for a No.5½ heavy jack would be an excellent place to start.