A hundred and four years before Marie Kondo was born, William Morris wrote:
If you want a golden rule that will fit everybody, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.
Which I think is a better rule of thumb than does something ‘spark joy'. Toilet paper doesn't spark joy, but I wouldn't be without it.
They say that money can’t buy happiness, and that’s largely true. But some things never fail to provide a deep sense of satisfaction to me, and I thought I’d share them with you. I’ve linked to where I got mine from, just for your convenience- none of the links are affiliate. And, just because I like them, doesn’t mean you will.
Let’s start with Tombow Mono 100 2B pencils. I mean really, if you haven’t tried them, you don’t know what a pencil can be. They are consistent, tough (I’ve never had a broken lead with them), write or sketch beautifully smoothly. Yes, they are ten times the price of cheap pencils, but they are 100 times better, so a bargain, really. I do use a 2H for some woodworking applications, but I almost always have a 2B somewhere on my person. These paragons of pencilhood I usually sharpen with Möbius and Ruppert brass pencil sharpeners. As with any blade I use, I’ve sharpened mine to improve their performance. Yes, I really do take the blade out and touch them up on the same waterstones I sharpen my chisels with. The brass body makes them more stable than cheaper sharpeners, and while they are good right out of the box, they are excellent with a little extra polish, and you get a beautiful point from them. You may recall I reviewed the book How to Sharpen Pencils and was only half-convinced that it’s meant to be humorous.
My Veritas apron plane so-called because it fits in an apron pocket, and my Starrett combination squares (I especially love the little one). I got these from Lee Valley Tools in Toronto, on a shopping spree with Christian Cameron (who is a pretty good craftsman himself). They appear eye-wateringly expensive, especially the squares, until you realise that they have a useful lifespan measured in generations. I spontaneously shot a video of them (and I never spontaneously video anything!).
My Indiana Jones jacket. My wife bought me this for Christmas, and it’s awesome on every level. Not only is it a really high quality leather jacket, it’s also made to the exact same pattern by the same company that made the jackets for all the Indiana Jones movies. I imprinted on Dr. Jones as a kid, and yes, I do wear proper hats, and am handy with a bullwhip (which you can see behind the jacket on the back of my study door). The hat, by the way, is not a Herbert Johnson Poet at some £300+ as Harrison Ford wore in the movies. It’s a much more reasonably-priced Akubra Adventurer, bought at The Hattery in Katoomba in the Blue Mountains outside Sydney, encouraged by my friend Paul Wagner. The bullwhips (a six-footer and an eight footer) were custom made for me some years ago by the excellent Alex Jacob of Cobra Whips.
What else brings a sense of gleeful satisfaction? Why, sending off a new book to layout. Yes, from the chrysalis of the Fiore Translation Project series of blog posts has emerged From Medieval Manuscript to Modern Practice: The Longsword Techniques of Fiore dei Liberi. It’s a bit late because I re-wrote a big chunk of the introduction, adding more historical background, lots of book recommendations, and thoughts on how to approach the manuscripts.
The current back-cover blurb reads like so:
Once upon a time there was an Italian sword master called Fiore, and he wrote a really good book. Guy has read his book, translated it, commented on it, and videoed all the cool longsword stuff. Awesome, huh? You should definitely buy it.
Not bad for a first draft, wouldn’t you agree? But perhaps it needs a tweak here and there.
I celebrated this milestone by going to classichandtools.com who happen to be based in Ipswich! Literally a few miles away from my house! Which I discovered last week when browsing their site, and noticed their phone number area code. I picked up one or two entirely essential items. Which also, dare I say it, spark joy, and which I might write up when I’ve had them in use for long enough to fully appreciate their qualities.
Oh all right then. Here's a pair of Simon James holdfasts I got yesterday holding an awkward bit of Pilates equipment-in-embryo tight to the bench.
So, what do you find both beautiful and useful?