Seeking Perfection in a #2 Copper Tack
If you were to be a part of the conversation lately at the tack machine, you would think “what on earth are they going on so about a simple small tack?” It helps to know that to become a master tack maker at the W.W. Cross Nail Co. of Jaffrey, NH, required a ten-year apprenticeship. The master tack maker, along with the banker in town, were the only two to go to work in a three-piece suit. (The master tack maker changed to a work coverall of course. But the status recognition was similar.) When I bought our two Perkins No. 4 tack machines from Cross in 1991, I met Earl Beemis, the remaining tack master in production. It would not be far-fetched to know that one looking at a tack could identify Earl as the maker. How so? Read on.
The perfection of a fine #2 tack is a matter of correctness of dimension, proportion of design and all together simplicity. You would have to be around tack making to appreciate the many setup demands of the Perkins No. 4. These were mechanical wonders of an industrial age two centuries ago. The miscuts of an imperfect setup are obvious. The adjustments became more accurate, the output more acceptable and with each coordination the tacks became examples of something a craftsman could use in securing the Shaker oval box.
Such an example may serve the basic need, but it would not be perfect. Many of the flaws are recognizable at first glance, such as excessive flashing where the head and shank meet. There are another half dozen points of conversation regarding tacks. Is the head round or ovular? Is it centered on the shank? Is it at right angles to the shank? Is the tack straight or slightly bent? Is the point sharp or blunt? Is the head smooth or grooved? And all these concerns assume that the length, diameter and thickness are all within spec.
To wax prosaic on the perfect #2 tack takes experience with the myriad of ways it can be flawed. Take my word for it, it is worth it. Appreciating something not easily accomplished, but easily overlooked, is what living fully is all about. Simple perfection. Like the Shakers defined perfection: the best you can do today.
Enjoy your tacks.