Author Topic: A Chinese tool puzzle  (Read 3058 times)

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Offline rusty

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A Chinese tool puzzle
« on: May 28, 2011, 05:34:59 PM »

Back in 1900 or so, most of the Chinese population could neither read nor write, the ideographic alphabet , containing thousands of characters was learned by only a select few....

This posed a problem for the fellow running the tool room in a Chinese machinist shop, who rather wanted the workers to return all the tools at the end of the day, but had no way of making a list of tools that anyone could read.

His solution was this pictographic tool chart, written with a paint brush in the traditional method of writing chinese characters, but with simplified symbols for each tool.

For example, No. 1 represents an ordinary open end wrench, No. 2 is a monkey wrench...

How many of the rest can you guess?

[Answers in next post...]
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Offline rusty

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Re: A Chinese tool puzzle
« Reply #1 on: May 28, 2011, 05:35:58 PM »
Answers below....











No. 1  an ordinary open end wrench
No. 2  a monkey wrench with screw 
No. 3  a nut wrench with screw jaw
No. 4  a key wrench for screw propeller nuts
No. 5  a wood boring bit
No. 6  letters and figures (letter stamp set)
No. 7  a double-handed wrench for taps and reamers
No. 8  an oil lamp
No. 9  a drill ratchet
No. 10 a twist drill
No. 11 a wood saw
No. 12 a pair of plyers
No. 13 a die
No. 14 a tap
No. 15 a reamer
No. 16 a sledge hammer
No. 17 a tube expander, 2-1/2"
No. 18 a soldering iron
No. 19 a straight edge
NO. 20 a square;
No. 21 a hack-saw
No. 22 a pipe cutter
No. 23 a brace
No. 24 a tin funnel
No. 25 a 7/8 wood bit
No. 26 a circular saw
No. 27 a spirit level
No. 28 a wood axe
No. 29 a crowbar and
No. 30 a pair of pipe tongs
No. 31 caliper (outside)
No. 32 caliper (inside)
No. 33 divider caliper
No, 34 a surface gage
No. 35 a soldering lamp
No. 36 a cape chisel

(From an article in Machinery, June, 1900)
« Last Edit: May 28, 2011, 05:37:58 PM by rusty »
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Offline J.A.F.E.

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Re: A Chinese tool puzzle
« Reply #2 on: May 28, 2011, 06:12:16 PM »
What are machinists who can't read or write going to do with letter and number stamps?
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Online Papaw

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Re: A Chinese tool puzzle
« Reply #3 on: May 28, 2011, 06:20:29 PM »
I needed that when my boys were young!

Even now they sorta need the tool outline on the pegboard to put the tools back in the right places.
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Offline Branson

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Re: A Chinese tool puzzle
« Reply #4 on: May 29, 2011, 05:45:40 AM »
What are machinists who can't read or write going to do with letter and number stamps?

Probably they didn't use them.  I'm not being glib here.  But then, there really aren't Chinese letter stamps, and the Chinese number system is pretty direct and easy to know. 

I've watched and worked with Chinese and Viet-Namese tradesmen, especially carpenters and shipwrights.  I found them a highly skilled and inventive lot.  Amazing, really. 

Offline Branson

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Re: A Chinese tool puzzle
« Reply #5 on: May 29, 2011, 05:52:15 AM »
What are machinists who can't read or write going to do with letter and number stamps?

Oh.  I see the problem -- the stamp set.  Still not so hard.  Thinking about the way a shop would run, not everybody needs to know letters and numbers, and younger workers often get clean up duty at the end of the day.  They wouldn't have to know the letters or numbers, only that there was a set for them to return.

Offline Branson

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Re: A Chinese tool puzzle
« Reply #6 on: May 29, 2011, 05:54:31 AM »

Back in 1900 or so, most of the Chinese population could neither read nor write, the ideographic alphabet , containing thousands of characters was learned by only a select few....

This posed a problem for the fellow running the tool room in a Chinese machinist shop, who rather wanted the workers to return all the tools at the end of the day, but had no way of making a list of tools that anyone could read.

His solution was this pictographic tool chart, written with a paint brush in the traditional method of writing chinese characters, but with simplified symbols for each tool.


This is fascinating!  Where did you run across this?  Provenance?

Offline rusty

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Re: A Chinese tool puzzle
« Reply #7 on: May 29, 2011, 07:53:34 AM »

> Provenance?

It was after the answers ; P

Try this link  http://books.google.com/books?id=AysAAAAAMAAJ&dq=machinery%20june%201900&pg=PA311#v=onepage&q&f=false

There was a related article somewhere that I can't find about the railroad telegraph system, and how dispatching train orders was a problem because the dispatchers couldn't read the telegraphed orders. Apparently, to send a telegram, the operator looked up each glyph in a book, and telegraphed the number of that symbol. The fellow at the other end then looked up the number and drew the pictograph associated with it. Neither had any idea what the message sent actully contained....
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Offline Branson

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Re: A Chinese tool puzzle
« Reply #8 on: May 29, 2011, 09:33:31 AM »
Thanks for the link.  No wonder these looked kinda familiar.  The shop was in Hai Phong, Viet-Nam.  I worked with shipwrights
from Hai-Phong.  Symbols like these are commonly used by these guys for all sorts of things.  I've come to use some of theirs
myself.  Very cool!