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April 12, 2006

Grandpop's Shop


I just returned from Philadelphia, the city where most of my family was born and raised. Many of them still live there, including my grandmom who's still sharp as a tack.

My grandfather died a number of years ago. He was very well loved and his machine shop under the house has been kept almost a shrine in his memory. Though my uncle uses the shop for small projects, for over ten years not much has substantially changed; my grandfather's toolbox rests opened, his scrawled notes and plans are scattered all around, even his smell – machine oil – is everywhere.

It's strange to say that the shop was always a magical place for us kids. Grandpop would invite us in, show us a strange mechanism (usually his lathe) and begin to create a trinket right before our eyes. A miniature baseball bat. A plexiglas lightsaber! Then he'd invite us to try our hand at it. I'd watch him shape metal as if it was puddy. Turn square blocks into curved cyclinders. Nothing seemed impossible.

Now, whenever I visit I always go down and poke around, but not too much. It almost feels like he's still there. This time I finally took photographs. I love them! (click to enlarge)




Workbench, high-res (slower loading)
Shop overview, high-res
Side bench, high-res

Note: If you have a browser that resizes images to fit the window, don't forget to zoom-in to see the detail. Also, the high-res images are slower loading.

(cc) Robyn Miller, Some rights reserved.

April 12, 2006 | Permalink


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Wow. The texture you captured in these photos is astounding. Looks great!

Posted by: Mark | Apr 13, 2006 7:12:59 PM

Take another look at the wall of papers.


Posted by: jedimacfan | Apr 14, 2006 3:28:13 AM

Oops, just realized I spelled your name wrong. Forgot the "Y". Sorry.

Posted by: jedimacfan | Apr 14, 2006 4:42:28 AM

jedimacfan, I love your retouch!... very fun.

Posted by: Robyn | Apr 14, 2006 8:55:52 AM

Did you know that there is a thing of fingernail polish on the worktable in the shop overview picture?
... just thought it was kind of funny to see that in a shop.

Posted by: Alli | Apr 14, 2006 9:57:38 AM

It's really great when a family can keep their old stomping grounds intact. I can only trace my family's beginnings back so far, and we've never stayed in any place longer than a year or two. You're very fortunate.

Posted by: Adam Wilmer | Apr 14, 2006 10:22:56 AM

Reminds my of Grandpa's garage. There was always curious looking gadgets and strange smelling oil and such lying around. Grandpa once made me a toybox when I was a child from within that garage.

Posted by: Chris | Apr 14, 2006 10:41:26 AM

I use the same organizational strategy in my shop.

As kids we used to hang out in an old garage which still had the pulleys and leather belts for the steam driven machinery. Of course they eventually ripped it down to put up a little strip mall.

Posted by: Chris G | Apr 14, 2006 11:34:19 AM

What a cool place to be a kid! It explains much about you guys' tinkery nature.

Posted by: Eleri | Apr 14, 2006 3:17:11 PM

Tinkery? Is that like engineeritude?

Posted by: Adam Wilmer | Apr 14, 2006 5:07:12 PM

Very nice photos. It looks like it has stayed essentially intact over the years. Reminds me a lot of my grandfather, who did a lot of woodwoorking/carving after he retired, mostly folk-art type figurines. He died of cancer when I was still quite young.

Posted by: Alex | Apr 15, 2006 11:57:20 AM

Also too, Robyn, love the revamp of the site. I especially like the posts links via catagory. Very organized... big thumbs up! And from a neat freak like myself, that's saying something.

Posted by: Adam Wilmer | Apr 15, 2006 5:52:17 PM

Alli - Fingernail polish has a number of practical uses, should you need to harden over a surface.

Posted by: Mark | Apr 16, 2006 12:08:25 AM

Okee- thanks. I was wondering about that.

Posted by: Alli | Apr 16, 2006 11:12:48 AM

The photo of the workbench makes me itch to click on all the tools until I find which secret entries they will lead to... maybe a magic chamber or a passageway into a forest without trees, or a tiny locked door that has no key...

Posted by: growabrain | Apr 16, 2006 11:59:27 PM

Growabrain, I did take enough photos to create a Myst-styled walkthrough (click to open the door, click forward down stairs into shop, etc...) but it takes time to put these things together. More importantly, the photographs don't all match one another... some had to be taken with flash, some with the overhead lighting from the shop, so a walkthrough would end up with that annoying color and lighting discongruity. I still might do it... for my family.

Posted by: Robyn | Apr 17, 2006 11:21:35 AM

Keeping these memories alive with a photo/myst like walkthrough is a wonderful way to honor your grandpop. I think it's also neat that his shop has been untouched these many years. I wish I had the same to remember my dad, although between my brother and I we have half a mountain of rocks from geology quests to keep his memory alive.

Posted by: rgmb | Apr 23, 2006 7:07:39 AM

Fascinatingly detailed images, and jedimacfan's retouch is witty!

Posted by: iain | Apr 23, 2006 2:33:56 PM

Finger Nail Polish;
Used by some old timers to mark their tools. My high School TV/Radio teacher ( An old Ham) always exhorted us to "put a mark on it"
My first year of college required a full complement of electronic tools. Before the first day of shop I dutifully marked each one with nail polish and placed them all neatly in my new toolbox. During the first class I opened my toolbox and the smell of nail polish filled the shop. Needless to say there were a few pointed comments sent my way. 30 years later I still have some of those tools and the fingernail polish gives me a chuckle when I see it.
Older shops are also a snapshot of consumerism. Being frugal any and all types of containers were used to store hardware screws nuts and bolts.
Today I have plastic stacking bins that hold my assortment screws, nuts and whatnot efficiently with little wasted space. But tucked away under an improvised shelf are containers that flashes back to years past. A short squat coffee can , of a type that hasn't been seen on the supermarket shelves for 40 years ( it needed a key to open it) holds a variety of nuts and bolts some of which have been there for over 40 years .
And God willing, there they will stay for another 40.

Posted by: fred | Dec 19, 2006 5:10:01 AM

Hey, just ran across these pictures and they look awesome. I think it captures everybody's memories regarding Grandpa's shop... Those old drawers in the side bench are classic.

Posted by: Chad | Apr 12, 2007 8:38:44 PM

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