I’ve always loved tinkerers.
You know, those men and women who aren’t afraid to tinker with anything. The Wright brothers were tinkerers. So were Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. And the late Lee Safranek of Atascadero.
His longtime cabinet shop at the corner of El Camino Real and San Anselmo Avenue took on another life in the ’70s, and he and his employees began making boring and shaping tools that were shipped throughout the world. Many steps in the fabrication of those tools were done on automated machines (before computers) created by Lee.
One of my favorite tinkerers was Harry Gross. What, you never heard of him? That’s understandable, because he was my grandfather, my mom’s dad. I didn’t get to know him until after he had retired as a tool and die maker. They are guys who work in very close tolerances using metal cutting tools.
In his retired life, he befriended the owner of a machine shop who allowed him free run of the place. He would create special fittings for the shop on an as-needed basis, and then the rest of the time he played.
I remember a cannon he built that we’d fire on the Fourth of July. He came up with a special tool that was carried on most of the fire trucks in Santa Ana in the 1940s. I have a numbers of miniature tools he made and gave to me. They’re sitting on my desk.
I remember a time when my brother and I and several cousins all gathered at our grandparents’ house. Grandpa gave each of us kids a piece of 2-by-4 cut into the shape of a ship. He gave us all day to make something of it. We could use any nails, screws, wire and other “stuff” from his shop.
While some quit after 45 minutes, I worked on my project all day.
I built it with the same passion I used when I built my California Mission in the fourth grade.
All this thinking about tinkerers was triggered as I was getting my ’46 Willys Jeep ready for the Estrella Warbirds car show that was held last Saturday.
Trying to correct “wobbly” steering, Herb Brazzi (himself a tinkerer), who owns Pop’s Garage in Santa Margarita, told me about something called a TightSteer, along with a place in Pennsylvania where I could get it. I ordered it and installed it a few days before I drove the Jeep to the Warbirds Museum.
Come to find out, the device was created right here in Atascadero by Roger Siminoff, who is currently tinkering with some other Jeep parts. He wouldn’t say what he’s working on, but I look forward to finding out.
Tinker on, Roger.