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Tool of the trades

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Carpenter collects hammers for more than 20 years

By Mark Scohier, Staff writer

If never being without a hammer is the sign of a good craftsman, then Ken Carpenter lives up to his last name.

Carpenter, though not a wood worker by trade, has more than 500 hammers. Ball-peen, plumber’s, framer’s, claws and jeweler’s, most of which are antiques, hang in rows from the rafters of his workshop.

“I just like the variety,” the 89-year-old Chiefland resident said.

He also has mallets, masonry hammers, a few hatchets, axes, adzes and even a homemade coopers hammer for setting the staves on a barrel.

Carpenter, who began collecting hammers in 1982, said it’s the homemade ones he likes best, though he admitted he’s sometimes perplexed by the modifications made to some in his collection. “If somebody had a need for something, they’d just manufacture it,” he said, pawing a medium-sized hammer with the steel folded over and pinned with a rivet. 

Most of his hammers are tagged with labels explaining what they were used for and where they were purchased. Carpenter said he’s picked them up through the years in various towns and cities in the Eastern United States. He said he paid $1 for some and, after haggling with the seller, as much as $75 for others.

“I never miss a flea market or a yard sale if I can help it,” he said. 

Carpenter said he and his wife of 66 years, Eleanor, moved to Chiefland in 1980, soon after the completion of a cedar-sided house he built with his own hands—and his own hammers— on the edge of town.

They had moved to the county a few years earlier when Carpenter, who worked for a West Virginia power company for 28 years, was offered a job at Central Florida Electric. He worked there for several years and then went into retirement, which, he added, has been good in Chiefland.

“If I was gonna’ move anywhere in Florida, it would be right here. We like it. It’s a rural setting. When we came to Chiefland there was one red light and two restaurants.”

As for collecting hammers, Carpenter doesn’t have plans to purchase any more. He said the novelty of the hobby wore off a few years ago.

 “It was just something to do. It kept me out of trouble.”