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Engineering Tools I don't even know how to use

We are all amazed by those that came before us. I am particularly amazed, like many engineers, that many of the engineering achievements which we hold in highest regard were accomplished before what we consider to be modern engineering tools existed. I'm not just talking about CAD - I'm talking about calculators, measurement equipment, and other things we take for granted today. Apollo, the Brooklyn Bridge, The Golden Gate, the Interstate Highway System, The Manhattan Project and even the first artificial hearts were all designed and built using slide rules, protractors, pantographs, pencils and each of these tools were held in the hands of an engineer or drafter.

Although I took several manual board drafting courses in school as part of the beginning of my engineering education I don't even know how to use a slide rule. I even own several.

Despite the fact that I don't often use them, or even know how use all of them, I have a modest collection of classic engineering, drafting and machinist tools many inherited from my family with pedigrees like "This was used when I was a machinist in World War II". These tools are meaningful to me. I wonder what the future holds as I don't expect that someone years from now will have the same fondness for my keyboard and mouse.

Peter Ghiringhelli feels the same way about these classic engineering tools and has a beautiful collection of vintage engineering and drafting tools with a wonderful website detailing them here: My favorite item of his (pictured above) is the Amsler proportional polar planimeter which was "used to calculate the area of an irregular shape by tracing the outline".

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