Document 31: Dr Arthur Dean's Advice to a Mother About Buying Woodworking Tools For Her 12 Year Old Son 1927


From the Charleston Daily Mail, October 1, 1927:




Arthur Dean. SC. D.  

Dr. Dean will answer -all signed .letters pertaining to parents'

problems with their buys and girls. Writers' names are never

printed. Only questions of general interest answered in this column
but all letters will be answered by mall if written in Ink and a stamp.

self-addressed envelope is enclosed.  Address Arthur Dean. In care
of this paper.




"He wants a set or tools but I have advised hint to buy them sep­arately. He has five dollars with which to buy them.


He is only twelve years old, yet he has already made a tool chest. What do you advise?"





Below is Dr Dean's effusive answer to this mother's letter. Notice how far $5.00 will go! 




Now folks, I do not suppose you see anything very wonderful about this letter. Just an. ordinary mother and an ordinary twelve year old boy who has five dollars he wants to spend. "Nothing remarkable in this," you say. "Every boy likes to spend five dollars because he is always wanting something."

True enough! But here is a boy who wants to spend five dollars to buy something- which will be ever-'lastingly useful to him as a boy, as a man, and to his present or future home. And he is a wise one, toe, or perhaps it was his mother, when he started out with a toll chest.


As a matter of fact his mother is not ordinary. She is extraordinary because she is in the class of parents who believe in giving their children something to do rather than a lot of directions on what nut to do. And this youngster of hers can work off a lot of surplus energy with a. set of tools and some boxes and boards on which to vent his boyish energy, enthusiasms and constructive methods.


Only yesterday I was doing a job around the house and a friend of mine happened to he watching me. I said to him, See this saw?" Well I have had it for thirty-five years. I earned that saw. See this old fashioned wooden plane? My grandfather gave. it to me when I was a youngster. Come down cel­lar and see the tool chest I made, when I was fourteen." Alas, those days are gone forever.


Not Junk to Mother


Now I am proud of that saw that piano and that tool chest. In this sense I am human, just as you are. There isn't one of my older readers who isn't almost egotistical over something which he did in his child-hood. I made a table-a wondrous affair of the gingerbread architectural order-full of klnks and curves and twists and turns. Of course I thought it was wonderful. And mother thought it was wonderful too It was out of data before It was made but one could never get my mother to destroy it. Now she Is gone and I can't get the boss of my family to destroy it either.


The beastly thing is still in the house, I am haunted by it, and yet I can't help saying to myself,


"Yes, I made it? What a joy it was:" How much Mother liked it, or. pretended to.


"When I went to bed it gave are something to think about in that I planned what I would do on it the next day. It kept me in nights. On rainy days it made. me happy, and most of all, I had accomplished something."


So I say that this mother is extraordinary and the boy is quite genuine. Now he wants a set of tools.


I agree with Mother that he ought to buy them separately. There is such a thing as giving a boy too much or a boy getting too much for himself at one time. He will need a hammer, crosscut saw, an inch chisel, bit stock, two bits, a square and a pair of pliers. Now It Is get­ting pretty hard work to get this list of first-class tools for five dollars.


He can get a yard stick for nothing. There is no use buying a third rate saw -- one can get along with a second rate hammer, Per­haps cheap hits and bit stick are all right to start. How I do wish he could include a plane -- boys love to see the shavings fly, and besides it is a necessary tool.




I am glad that he has made his tool chest. My father bought me just a few tools - a hammer was already in the house. All I had to get was a saw, square, and a chisel to start my tool chest. Father said I could not have any more tools until I had a tool chest. He watched me as I progressed. The job I was doing was so good that he agreed to get me a plane -- then I finished the tool chest, and believe me he had the nerve to tell me, "If you want any more tools. Arthur, yon: will have to earn them. But I will give you plenty of jobs and as you need a new tool for a new job I will give fifty percent toward its cost if you will earn the other fifty percent.
"All right, Dad, what's the first job?"

"Well I want a coal bin to hold the furnace coal. Go to It." "How big should it be?"

"Oh I don't know, figure It out." So I had to find out how many tons of coal he ordered each year and how many cubic feet were necessary to park each ton of coal.

Then mother wanted some picture molding around a couple of rooms, This meant a miter saw and a bevel, being a mother, and I being a boy, it was easy to "work" her for a couple of new tools.

And by and by the neighbors wanted my services. Didn't I feel big when they were called "services"! So I repaired back door steps, framed pictures, plated off doors which would not close, put on new looks, mode window screens, put up shelves, and laid new flours over old.

I did not mean to talk about myself today, but this letter of Mother take me back to the days of my boyhood, a set of tools and a tool chest. If it will lead some father or mother to buying a few tools for a boy of twelve, thirteen or fourteen BEFORE he becomes wayward, I am sure that this act will be an entering wedge in keeping him from becoming wayward.

If so, I am satisfied.