Archaeological Tools of the Golden Age

Discussion in 'The Golden Era' started by Mojave Jack, Aug 15, 2008.

  1. Mojave Jack

    Mojave Jack One Too Many

    Messages:
    1,785
    Location:
    Yucca Valley, California
    OK, here's an obscure request for information. I'm putting together an archaeological toolkit circa 1927-1935 for a hands on demonstration I am preparing. Since I'll actually be using this stuff, I need tools that still look the same as they did in the Golden Age. I have the big stuff, like my transit, tripod, and stadia rod, and the more specialized equipment, like chaining pins, steel tape, plumb bob, etc.

    The main problem is, there aren't a lot of references for, say, paint brushes from 1930! I know a lot of tools haven't changed, like picks, but were mattocks common in the 20s and 30s? I imagine so, but can't find any definitive reference. Some things are easy, like galvanized buckets and trowels, but others are not as simple to find. Here's some of the tools I need:

    - whisk broom (are Fuller brushes still the same as they were?)
    - various small brushes, like paint brushes (round and flat)
    - dental picks
    - pick/mattock
    - dust pans
    - line levels
    - toothbrushes
    - clipboards (have they changed? I wouldn't think so, but I have no idea!)
    - pencils and pencil sharpener
    - grease pencils
    - sketch pads and portfolios

    A lot of this stuff is just the minutiae that no one gives a lot of thought. Nonetheless, to be accurate I'll need this sort of stuff in my kit.

    Most helpful would be the names of brands that still make these tools the same way since the period.

    This is just a start, mind you! I'll add things to this list as I think of them! Thanks everyone!
     
  2. Miss Neecerie

    Miss Neecerie I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    6,616
    Location:
    The land of Sinatra, Hoboken
    Oddly enough, I saw a 1930's textbook on Surveying and thought of you!

    Alas, they wanted more for it then I had with me...but I can go back and fetch it later if you want.
     
  3. Mojave Jack

    Mojave Jack One Too Many

    Messages:
    1,785
    Location:
    Yucca Valley, California
    Ooh, intriguing!

    Are you around this evening? We also have to talk about seeing the Terra Cotta Warriors! I'll give you a jingle.
     
  4. Miss Neecerie

    Miss Neecerie I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    6,616
    Location:
    The land of Sinatra, Hoboken
    Yea..i should be around...

    want me to go back and fetch the book...? its just at the Pasadena Antique Mall at the real mall. (god that sounds confusing)

    If I am remembering right it was like 10 bucks or so....I was just on a mission for -other- things that day...
     
  5. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    You can likely find a lot of this gear thru WW2 reenactment vendors.

    This outfit offers vintage style toothbrushes: http://www.alliedworkshops.com/Vintagetoothbrushes.shtml.shtml

    Pencils -- Dixon Ticonderogas still look pretty much as they did in 1930, although they no longer cost a nickel each.

    Basic masonite clipboards haven't changed -- you can still get them at any office supply store. Just be sure to peel off the UPC sticker on the back.

    A pressed tin dustpan may be a very difficult item to find as a repro. You might be better off using an original, available from eBay or your local flea market.

    Ask your dentist for old dental picks. They havent' changed at all from vintage styles, and dentists throw away used ones regularly.

    Vintage tools like picks and shovels can be found easily on the secondhand market, especially in rural areas. Around here we have two big stores that sell nothing but used, old tools -- look around in your own local hinterlands, and you'll likely find them.

    The best source you'll find for period images for comparison is as close as your local library. Just ask for the old National Geographics, and you'll be all set.
     
  6. Mojave Jack

    Mojave Jack One Too Many

    Messages:
    1,785
    Location:
    Yucca Valley, California
    Mme. N, I'd love it if you could pick that up for me! I can PayPal you, if that's easiest. That's all the more reason to get together for the Terra Cotta Warriors. Don't let Daniel Jones talk you out of it in the meantime; he's a surveyor and would probably find it fascinating, as well. Mine, Daniel, Mine!!

    Lizzie, great suggestions, thanks! The clipboard was one of those things that I figured was probably pretty much identical, but I wasn't sure if the masonite was a more modern cost-saving measure or something. I think a lot of times that sort of thing would go completely unnoticed by the crowd anyway, but I am just anal enough to worry about it! lol Those toothbrushes are great, too. Just the sort of thing I was looking for! I'll have to go back through the old Nat'l Geos. I have the CD set that covers issue 1 up through about 1996. It's a great reference, though the reader is a bit clunky. The trouble is a lot of times that the pictures don't have enough detail.

    Were grease pencils the same in the Golden Age? I'm used to the type of grease pencil that is paper-wrapped, and you just pull the string to take off a little more paper to expose more of the wax (like below). I've seen wood-clinched grease pencils, too, though, but I don't know which came when. Grease pencils were used a lot for marking artifact tags, the artifacts themselves, photographs, and so on, so I'd like to have some of them on hand, too.

    [​IMG]
     
  7. Miss Neecerie

    Miss Neecerie I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    6,616
    Location:
    The land of Sinatra, Hoboken
    I will zoom past there on the way home...and text you if i was wrong and it was more....hehehe
     
  8. The Wolf

    The Wolf Call Me a Cab

    Messages:
    2,153
    Location:
    Santa Rosa, Calif
    This all sounds very cool. Like what Johnny Littlejohn would have when he was adventuring with Doc Savage.
    I would love to see a picture of the whole kit when done.

    Sincrely,
    The Wolf
     
  9. MPicciotto

    MPicciotto Practically Family

    Messages:
    771
    Location:
    Eastern Shore, MD
    You might go to a hardware store and look for a "chip brush". They are ultra cheap paintbrushes with wooden handles, metal and natural fiber bristles. They are also less then a dollar a piece.

    Another thought. I've used a rock tumbler with crushed walnut shell animal bedding to polish up a brass plum bob that I have. Worked pretty well and was not at all labour intensive.

    Matt
     
  10. Mojave Jack

    Mojave Jack One Too Many

    Messages:
    1,785
    Location:
    Yucca Valley, California
    Thanks for the positive feedback, Wolf. I'll start posting some photos. I'm hoping the presentation will be popular enough to repeat on a regular basis, possibly as a form of interactive tourism.

    Your rock tumber idea may be just what I need to clean up the hardware from my transit storage box. They're pretty rusted, but I don't want to change them out and make more holes in my box.

    I thought paintbrushes have changed very little, but wasn't too sure. I'll grab a few of those. I am also on the hunt for some round handles brushes, usually used for cleaning around shops, sort of like this:

    [​IMG]

    Though that particular one is $32! I think I can find one a bit cheaper!

    and some whisk brooms, like this:

    [​IMG]

    Here's another question: does anyone know what sorts of folding utility tables were available in the Golden Age? I need some portable work space, and of course it has to fold up or otherwise disassemble to fit in the bed of my truck. I was thinking about making a fairly standard table, and just making the legs bolt on. That means loose parts, though.

    Alternatively, were folding saw horses common in the Golden Age? I've thought about just making a relatively simple top, and resting it across sawhorses. Again, though, they'd have to fold to fit in my truck. The ones I use at homehave folding legs, and the cross piece is clamped into the bracket when you open the legs. They fold nicely and are pretty sturdy, but I have no idea when they were invented.

    [​IMG]

    I suppose I could put together something that could be bolted together for assembly/disassembly.
     
  11. BellyTank

    BellyTank I'll Lock Up

    Trestles-

    Trestles- not saw horses.


    B
    T
     
  12. JupitersDarling

    JupitersDarling One of the Regulars

    Messages:
    221
    Location:
    South Carolina
    This sounds awesome. I'd love to see photos when you're all kitted up!

    This summer while working on a site in Texas, several of the toolkits had line levels that must have been at least 40 years old. They were still in much better shape than some of the plastic modern ones!

    I just found a couple on ebay. try looking up 'aluminum line level', or especially 'Stanley line level'. IIRC, The ones (Stanley brand) I saw while at field school had a hexagonal cylinder, but the round ones may be the older model- there's even a BIN one listed as marked with a 1935 patent, so that type might be what you're looking for.

    EDIT: I just saw an octagonal one patented in 1921 (non stanley- look up "octagon line level" on ebay)... so round may not necessarily be older!
     
  13. Warbaby

    Warbaby One Too Many

    Messages:
    1,549
    Location:
    The Wilds of Vancouver Island
    Were grease pencils the same in the Golden Age? I'm used to the type of grease pencil that is paper-wrapped, and you just pull the string to take off a little more paper to expose more of the wax (like below). I've seen wood-clinched grease pencils, too, though, but I don't know which came when. Grease pencils were used a lot for marking artifact tags, the artifacts themselves, photographs, and so on, so I'd like to have some of them on hand, too.

    [​IMG][/QUOTE]

    I have a couple of paper-wrapped grease pencils that were my grandfather's that date back to the 1930s - they're identical to the modern ones.

    Of course, no self-respecting golden age archaeologist would be without his trusty K&E pocket compass:

    [​IMG]
     
  14. Minerva

    Minerva Familiar Face

    Messages:
    74
    Location:
    Downers Grove, IL USA
    I just was cleaning out some late-forties grease pencil stubs from my father's things. Perfectly identical to modern.

    If you need a folding table, find some British WWII reenactors and ask where they get their camp gear. The ones around here have lovely wooden folding camp tables and chairs that they said were period repros.

    A lot of the pencils and such, try looking around for some vintage drafting materials. That would cover most of the paper and drawing items you need.

    Under you mean a big metal pencil sharpener that attaches to a desk or wall, you're probably looking for flint paper sharpeners, I think they're called. I just found some with my father's things. They're little sheets of fine sandpaper attached to a wooden handle. If you're in the field and stuck, a pocket knife will work in a pinch, though. ;)
     
  15. Mojave Jack

    Mojave Jack One Too Many

    Messages:
    1,785
    Location:
    Yucca Valley, California
    Matt, the chip brushes were just the ticket! I bought three sizes, put the smaller two in my tool roll and left the larger one loose in my kit. I don't know what the fibers are, but my dog wanted to eat them.

    Thanks for the confirmation on the grease pencils, too, Minerva and Warbaby. Were any of the ones you both found colored? I've only seen examples of black used on museum tags and artifacts, but I suppose red would have been useful in some circumstances.

    An emery board would certainly work, but for fieldwork probably the pocketknife is more the ticket! I also stumbled on this site:

    http://www.officemuseum.com/sharpener_small.htm

    Miss Neecerie and I were talking the other night, and she suggested looking for Bakelite sharpeners, which I found in abundance, like the one below.

    [​IMG]

    I shouldn't have much trouble tracking one down, and an modern, plain aluminum one would probably be just fine, too. The style has not changed much in the past 80 years!

    Also, in my search for a decent metal dustpan, I found a reference to coal scoops being used on digs.

    [​IMG]

    I've never used one myself, but it would certainly fill the bill and would also have been extremely common during the period. They also have the advantage of costing about $5!
     
  16. MPicciotto

    MPicciotto Practically Family

    Messages:
    771
    Location:
    Eastern Shore, MD
    Mojave Jack;

    I'm glad to see things are coming together. You might try an automotive store next for a parts washing brush. Looks similar to the round handled one you are searching for. They are CHEAP like the chip-brushes. But many now have plastic handles. They used to be built like the chip-brushes. Used with a parts washing been and kerosene to degrease auto parts. Some of the cheap auto tool suppliers like you see at some flea markets or Harbor Freight might have them.

    Matt
     
  17. Mojave Jack

    Mojave Jack One Too Many

    Messages:
    1,785
    Location:
    Yucca Valley, California
    I've added a smashing good Esterbrook fountain pen, which I found with Mme. Neecerie's assistance, plus picked up a Remington Portable #1 typewriter (1922) today, as well. Also got an Estwing rock hammer with a stacked leather hammer to replace my oh-so-modern rubber handled model.

    The notebooks I'm using are Esselte Mini Account Books, which are really the cat's pajamas.

    [​IMG]

    I also landed a couple of small chalkboards and chalk, the kind used in classrooms, for use as photo boards.

    [​IMG]

    My next project is to build some screens. I had tentatively planned just o bring home a couple shaker screens from work, but the format I have planned for the demonstration would work much better with hanging screens. I've got a design in mind for an A-frame that will break down for easy transport, but will be plenty sturdy for letting the participants screen through buckets of dirt seeded with artifacts. ...n the other hand, maybe the participants should experience real archeology, and use a shaker screen. It's not real archeology unless you go home with your boots full of dirt from screening, after all!

    Oh, and BT, the design I have in mind looks much like a tall trestle! ;)
     
  18. Atterbury Dodd

    Atterbury Dodd One Too Many

    Messages:
    1,063
    Location:
    The South
    Jack, I just thought I would say that when you need a reference to comepare items to, an old Sears Roebuck catalog is a great thing to have.

    Looks like your putting together a neat "impression"!
     
  19. Mojave Jack

    Mojave Jack One Too Many

    Messages:
    1,785
    Location:
    Yucca Valley, California
    Oh, good call! I'm a bit ashamed I didn't think of that. That'll probably answer just about all my questions right there, since if you couldn't get it from Sears & Roebuck, you just didn't need it!

    I'll have to start posting some pics of the kit as it currently stands. Not only is it a lot of fun to put the kit together, but I am learning a lot about Golden Age field methodology. I've read bios on some of the greats, like Mortimer Wheeler, Sylvanus Morley, Hiram Bingham, and so on, but they never really discuss the field work in depth, just the highlights or problems on a dig, and the aftermath. I am going to peruse the Campbell library in a couple weeks, and try to read what they were reading in terms of archeological references. They donated the entire thing to Joshua Tree Nat'l Park, which also has a lot of their field photographs. Should be very enlightening!
     
  20. Minerva

    Minerva Familiar Face

    Messages:
    74
    Location:
    Downers Grove, IL USA
    Grease pen colors: They were mostly black. There was a couple of white ones, a red one, a blue one, and I believe a green one as well. If I see any others while cleaning, I'll post and let you know, but I think if you just got a few black ones, that would probably suffice for most purposes.
     

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