Saturday the 21st was supposed to be the end of the world. I’ve been through three of these predicted world-endings now. My favorite was the one in the eighth grade (I think it was a Nostradamus prediction. It had an exact time attached to it.) when my Journalism class came to a crashing halt so that the whole class, teacher included, could count down exuberantly. Given my experience with past end-of-the-world failures, our general disinterest in Biblical-code folderol, and the predictor in question’s track record of predicting the Rapture, we decided to forge ahead with our plans to spend as much time and as little money as possible wading through other people’s cast-offs. In other words, we spent most of Saturday at a rummage sale and the swap meet.
At the (surprisingly tiny) rummage sale at a local grange I scored a Fuller brand carpet sweeper in perfect working order for the astounding price of fifty cents. (I’m probably leaving the sticker on there until the world really ends.) When I was a kid, the Fuller Brush man, an honest-to-goodness door-to-door salesman, came around a few times a year. He sharpened scissors (which, I assume, he had sold to their owners on previous visits), and sold scissors and, naturally, brushes. The morning of the presumptive Last Day I was actually sweeping the hallway carpet with a broom because it was littered with softwood shavings that I was tracking in from the meat peep pen and which seem to be Kryptonite to our anemic vacuum cleaner. The Fuller carpet sweeper, while so narrow I think it was intended for RV or marine use, has no problem with these little shavings. It also grabs a lot of the stuff the vacuum lets lie, like the glitter-sized metal shavings that Matt sheds all over the house, slivers from the firewood pile, and the tiny bits of gravel that spontaneously generate in front of the couch and in the middle of the kitchen. Sadly, I still haven’t found anything that will grab stray threads besides my own fingernails. But I can still hear the radio and my cell phone ringer when this thing is in operation.
At the swap meet, Matt struck blacksmithing gold: a straight peen hammer. He’s been looking everywhere for one of these and in all the years I’ve known him the closest he had come was a $20.00 cross peen a few years ago from the stall next door to the one where he found the straight peen for just $5.00. The way Matt explained the peens to me is that most hammers have two striking faces: the flat one and the other one. (On your standard household claw hammer you strike with the flat face and pull nails with the claw.) On a peen hammer you strike with either side, but the two sides serve different purposes. The ball side of a ball peen hammer was designed to mushroom the stem end of rivets. A cross peen hammer has a flat face and a wedge-shaped face that is perpendicular to the handle. Matt says that cross peens are used in blacksmithing to strike a piece of hot metal in such a way that it widens. With a straight peen the wedge-shaped peen is arranged parallel to the handle and its purpose is to lengthen the metal it strikes. Maybe I should have had Matt explain that directly . . .