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An on-the-level find

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I love antique stores and flea markets, and stop whenever I see one. The old tools you find are usually run-of-the-mill, but sometimes you get lucky.

Just about every antique or junk store has at least one booth or shelf with old tools. If you check these out like I do, you know they’re always pretty much the same things: some old planes, fat screwdrivers and rusty odds and ends. I swear, sometimes I think they literally are the same, and these places just take turns with them.

Sometimes, though, you find pure gold. I recounted a year or so ago finding a wonderful hammer at a great price at one of these places. I think I’ve been in dozens since then without finding anything. This past weekend, though, was different.

In one display of mostly glassware and smallish junk, I came across an old Stanley pocket level. Not in fantastic shape, but not bad either. About three inches long, it’s made of steel and has an ornate brass face. Registration notches and a screw allow you to attach it to a rule if you’d like. Some online research tells me this is the Stanley No. 41 level, with a patent date of February 1890. According to the listing I’ve found, this was produced from 1890-95. It works perfectly, which is odd because the bubble vial inside is clearly tilted at what seems a sharp angle, but when I set it on something I know is level the bubble inside is dead-center.

This is not only a Very Cool Thing, but it’s an antique tool that I will probably actually use – being able to carry a reliable level in my pocket is the perfect thing for a woodworker who constantly sets tools down where he can’t find them, which describes me.

The best part is that I paid – get ready for this – a whopping $3 for it.

Till next time,


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