Lee Valley & Veritas Woodworking
Lee Valley 35 Years  
  Volume 7, Issue 6 - July 2013    
What Is It?
What Is It?
Tradition is the great leveller in today's woodworking world. For some, woodworking is about the rediscovery of long-ago secrets and techniques for manipulating raw wood and creating fine furniture in the myriad of styles that have been recorded over the last 350 years. For others, it is all about new ways to do old things with nary a care as to a right or wrong method. For the latter group, it's the end product and not the path that's important. In that vein, I would not be surprised if in the next 10 years a machine is on the market that can look at a tree and produce the final product. It is only a matter of time until the 3D printers can be adapted for other consumables such as, say, wood. This is a rather perverse take on Moore's Law and the effect it has had on our society. Far too often, consumers wait for the new and improved product without any thought of making do with the old.

This item reminds one of the old ways of doing things. It is something that everybody seems to recognize at first glance and then, upon closer inspection, does a backup, being unsure about its intended use. We will get it out in the open as to what it is not. It is not a woodworking tool, but rather one of the many ancillary objects that multiply endlessly when pursuing a craft or trade. Time has a habit of relegating such objects into the "what is it" pile. For woodworkers, it's like the pile of cut-offs that grows under the bench. You know that if you throw it out, the next day you will not only feel guilty, but also need one of the pieces, which inevitably causes many inappropriate words to be spoken.
What Is It?   What Is It?
An apron hook such as this one takes the place of tiebacks found on modern work aprons. It was used either in a pair (English) or singly (the Continent). Often the various trades were represented on these hooks. This one shows images from the lock makers' guild. Using a pair of hooks, it was a simple matter to engage the two sides of the apron to secure it. The hooks allowed for fast removal without the nuisance of having to reach behind the back and untie a knot. I surmise that if one was using a single apron hook, a hole or a button would be placed on one side to engage the unit after threading the hook through an opening. Even "The Schwarz" expressed an interest in this method of anchoring an apron, commenting on his blog* that some days he can't tie a bow behind his back.

The use of the apron in some trades never disappeared – witness the local butcher, if indeed you even have such a service in your neighborhood. Long ago, it was commonplace to wear one. There are numerous pictures from the 1800s of joiners and cabinetmakers wearing a shirt and tie under their shop aprons. We forget that clothing was more expensive in those days. Nowadays, company uniforms and work-specific clothes are more affordable, which allows for frequent changes when they become soiled. In days before, wearing an apron alleviated the problem of soiling one's good clothes.


D.S. Orr

D.S. Orr has been a collector, user and student of woodworking and metalworking tools and practices for more than 40 years. Recently retired, he has devoted even more time to these endeavors.
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