Last September, I received the email excerpted below:
“Greetings Brad, We have a new case study to create. It is with a system builder partner of ours in the UK…”
A fortnight hence, I had finished my work in Leicester, UK, and was traveling the 110 miles south by rail to London with my lady sitting next to me. You see, whenever I go on a business trip somewhere—uh, scratch that. Whenever I go on a business trip somewhere nice (Seattle, San Francisco, the UK) I encourage my girl to go along with me to take a few days extra for a mini-vacation.
After setting up shop in the Thistle hotel, we had an early dinner and crashed early to combat our lingering jet lag.
The next day, our touring began at the Tower of London, where wood-based housing still exists from the time of Henry the VIIIth.
Some of the grounds’ chambers had open walls which I was sure to snap for my woodworking travel collection.
After we finished our tour, we walked back to the hotel, wanting to explore the city on foot and take it in. The thing about modern London is that it has all manner of architecture, ranging from modern skyscrapers to this very old brewery. Copious use of wood trim…
But best of all, London has Andy, aka Brit on the woodworking forum http://www.lumberjocks.com. Turns out that even though he hails from the southern wiles of the UK, he was on assignment in London for an IT project. Better still, he was a 10 minute walk from his hotel to ours.
It would be a woodworking crime to be that close and not meet him. So we emailed, and decided to meet up Thursday evening for some pints and fare. Wouldn’t you know it, we met in our hotel lobby, each bearing a gift for the other (I’ll get to mine below. 🙂
So Andy, being the consummate host, takes Gail and I to an ancient pub called the Flag and Lamb.
The watering hole got its liquor license in 1623 and sits in the posh Covent Garden district of the city. So with pints of Fuller’s London Pride ale in hand, we settled in and got acquainted. After draining our glasses and enduring a roaming mariachi band’s rendition of When the Saints Come Marching in, we headed to a nice restaurant. There, we talked about travel, woodworking, family, woodworking and all the cool things Andy’s wife has him doing. He was both delightful company and generous to a fault—picking up both tabs that night. When next we meet, I look forward to returning the favor.
A spirit level
At dinner we opened our gifts. I lost my “before” pictures, but it’s a spirit level 10” long by 1 1/8” wide by 1 1/8” high. The brass top plate had that black-gray patina that comes from being decades removed from any polish. I could see writing, but wouldn’t be able to make it out until I got home.
I told Andy I liked it the way it was, but he suggested that I restore it…and I’m glad I did.
Turns out it was made by John Rabone and Sons of Birmingham England.
According to Grace’s guide of industrial history, the “company had its origins in Birmingham, as rule and tool makers in 1784. The business was continued by John Rabone and his grandson, Eric Rabone. It operated under the name of John Rabone and Sons c1784-1953.”
The brass plate is a bit ornate, a manufacturing flair that hints at an older 20th century vintage. It does has steel screws to hold the plate in place. Maybe that would help date the tool, but I’m not versed on the nuances of the use of brass versus steel screws and when.
I think that the wood is mahogany, though from looking at various ones around the Internet, some were made of rosewood.
I love this level, and keep it on my desk to remind me of my trip to the UK and meeting Andy. It amazes me how commerce and affordable jet travel have shrunk the world we live in. So much so that I may get the chance to show him Colorado’s finest brewpubs. I think that he’ll find that while they lack the century’s history that permeates London, they make up for it with an uncompromising passion for the art of brewing.