Tom Fort has written a book about the village hardware shop-cum-general store rescued, restored and run by his formidable daughter-in-law Shro. He uses the story of the shop’s revival to explore ironmongery, DIY and the history of associated tools, artefacts and techniques. Normally, hardware and DIY make for dry subjects, but this delightful book is full of surprises.
Let me without further delay direct the reader to the heart of the book, page 107, where Fort extols the merits of the Studley tool box. Are you sitting comfortably at your computer? If so, search for images of ‘Studley toolbox’. This breathtaking artefact is the icon, nay, the holy grail, of DIY. It is a large, vertical tool chest that opens like a book. Fashioned from rare woods, it contains a dedicated holder for every conceivable tool, also fashioned from rare and beautiful materials. Open, it looks like the diptych above a more than usually sacred altar – an altar dedicated to the god of handwork.
I grieve to say that I first approached this subject in a spirit of merriment. The names of almost everything to do with hardware could easily be applied to those sickly but potent cocktails swallowed in such quantities by socialites between the wars. The screwdriver, gimlet and sledgehammer we already