I often write about hammered silver coin caches, Anglo-Saxon hoards, Roman burials and all the other magnificent finds made by detectorists. I’m privileged and very lucky to have the opportunity to relive the exploits of the finders and tell their stories. And for that I think myself very fortunate and honoured to do so. That’s how I get my ‘fix’. But my blog is a little different.
I was once challenged by a friend to write about what he described as the ordinary detectorist. The use of the phrase intrigued me; what exactly did he mean? My interpretation was that he was talking about the hobbyist commonly encountered at a rally, on detecting forums and usually not exceptional in any way and the artefacts he or she finds.
My friend’s interpretation was rather skewed. I can only conclude that he must have been reading some other magazine, because this is what I do, and especially in my blog! Anybody reading my scribblings will be aware that I love discussing and exploring the stories behind what many might consider to be quite mundane and unimportant stuff detectorists have ‘hoiked’ from the ground! Please forgive the inflammatory language at the end of the last sentence. I’m trying to keep ALL of my readers interested. Don’t want attention to waver or pall at this early stage. I’ll get to the point.
Recently, Detecting Scotland organised a rally in aid of The Scottish Association for Mental Health [SAMH]. Seventy members raised a magnificent £750 for the charity. Howard [aka Chilgrove] found something quite interesting with his Deus, a late Victorian to Edwardian pencil sharpener. In an understatement, he said, “I think its sharpening days are over but it is in pretty good condition. The steel blade is rusted but still partially there!”
I must admit that I hadn’t realised that pencil sharpeners even existed at the turn of the 20th century. Then I found several of similar design on the PAS and UKDFD that had been found by detectorists. See HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE for further examples.
I suppose that knives were originally used to sharpen pencils. My research tells me that French mathematician Bernard Lassimone applied for a patent on a pencil sharpener in 1828. His friend Therry Des Estwaux invented the first manual pencil sharpener in 1847. The race to design and market the ‘best’ pencil sharpener seems to have begun in the 1880’s to about 1910 or so.
I understand that pencils were not used in schools in the early 20th century. My parents used to tell me about using a quarry slate set in a wooden frame. A slate pencil [not chalk] was used to form the letters. The advantage of slates over paper was that they could be wiped clean and used again and again, but there were several disadvantages. Work on a slate couldn’t be retained.
Because the slate was for temporary work, memorization was crucial for learning and in passing examinations. A teacher could walk around the room and review a student’s progress much like today, but assignments couldn’t practically be collected and then returned at the end of the session with a grade. There was just too much chance something would be erased accidentally. Once the work was reviewed at the student’s desk, the slate was wiped clean and new work commenced. And now you know where that saying comes from! pastperiodspress
If you are of a certain age you will remember the pencil sharpener attached in a rickety fashion to the edge of the table in your secondary classroom. Probably not, but I have vivid memories of countless disasters trying to sharpen my pencils. Something starting off at a length of five or six inches usually ended up annihilated and unusable. I hated them.