This week we embarked on a complete (and long overdue) bathroom renovation project. The contractors were scheduled to start Tuesday morning. I liked the idea of a little head start, so Monday I began the demolition portion of the work. I pulled down all the plaster and removed some of the lath before running out of steam. Tuesday AM the pros showed up and started their day by removing the rest.
While they were at it I jokingly asked if they'd found a coffee can with $10,000.00 in it yet (Because everyone knows the real promise of any one-hundred year old house is the possibility that some batty Silas Marner type stuffed $10,000.00 into a coffee can and hid it in a wall). Obviously they hadn't, but we all had a good chuckle and then went back to work.
Fifteen minutes later though, Ray, the project leader, called me over. He presented an old chisel - about eight inches long and one inch wide - and said "Look what we just found in the wall". Well, it's not $10,000.00 in a coffee can, but I'm smitten with it all the same.
The chisel is a single piece of (presumably) hardened steel. It's amazingly sharp, and has the name SHELDON stamped on it. I'm guessing that's the original chisel owner's name; residing in plain view on the tool as a way to differentiate his chisel from those of others on the crew. I suppose it could be the manufacturer's name, though it doesn't really have the look of a maker's stamp or mark.
It's width (as seen in the accompanying photograph) is a perfect match for the mortises that our door's hinges sink into. My wife, being the consummate history buff, is thrilled to now have in her possession an artifact (albeit a modest one) that's actually linked to the construction of our house.
Personally, being someone who's left his share of tools in under hoods, on ladders, behind sinks, and in crawl spaces, I felt a certain sympathy for Sheldon. Clearly he set down his chisel at some point only to have the plasterers come along, hang lath, and then plaster it into history. Whether he ever realized the chisel's ultimate fate remains a mystery, but finding it now, in the year of our home's centennial celebration, was a real treat.
As a testament to my wife's reverence for the continuity of history she's decided that even if we move the chisel stays with the house. I'm not sure if that means putting it back in a wall at some point, or presenting it to the new owners at closing. I suppose we've got time to decide. There's a bathroom to remodel, and I'm going to want to stay here at least long enough to be able to say I had a chance to enjoy it.