Instrument set

Carol needed an Xacto knife with a sharp blade, so I pulled out the drawer that holds the wooden box with Xacto knives, along with the log-log slide rule, the regular slide rule, and the drafting tools: French curves, triangles (including two that belonged to my grandfather, the naval architect), erasing shields, architect’s and engineer’s scales, a lead holder or two, and the instrument set. Somehow I managed to upset the instrument set, and had to spend five minutes putting all the tools back in the case.

I bought the instrument set maybe twenty-five years ago at Charette, which sold architect’s supplies, at their store in Woburn. I was working in a lumberyard by day and taking art classes night, and every once in a while I’d pick up a little extra money doing some drawing or simple drafting on the side. For some reason, now long forgotten, I needed a compass. The salesman at Charette tried to sell me the instrument set: a slim black plastic case with compasses and dividers.

“You can buy this for only a little more than that compass you asked about,” he said. He was only a few years older than me.

“Why, what’s wrong with it?” I said.

He showed me where one corner of the box was broken. I still couldn’t believe how low the price was, and said so.

“I can’t sell it with the box broken like that,” he said. The architects, the pros, they wouldn’t buy it that way.

But I would. It cost more than I felt comfortable spending, but I bought it. I still remember my excitement as I walked out of that store: I finally owned an instrument set.

I have a vague memory of using a compass for something or other half a dozen years ago, but I really don’t do drafting any more. Yet everything’s still in the case: the small compass, the large compass with the quick-release mechanism, the extension arm to fit on the large compass, the dividers, the little case with leads, the pen nibs for drawing circles in ink, the lead holder, the tiny screwdriver so you could repair things; each item nestled in its slot in the flocked interior of the plastic box. The large compass has one or two tiny spots of rust now.

Surprisingly, you can still buy the Charette #471 instrument set. Who buys them in this era of computer assisted drafting? I suspect a few architects buy them out of nostalgia, and play with them in their spare time.

5 thoughts on “Instrument set

  1. Administrator

    Scott — I love Make magazine. And I think you’re right, the Charette instrument set would appeal to the Make crowd.

  2. Administrator

    Scott — If you combine Make and Craft, maybe you could knit scarves that incorporate GPS devices in the strands so the mariners could know which direction they are headed….

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