The Random Excuse Generator – firing on all three cylinders.

Henry Hoke’s Random Excuse Generator as it was rediscovered

Dr Chris Block and I recently completed a trial run of the reconstructed Random Excuse Generator – the little known masterwork of mechanical genius Henry Hoke.

It was a great occasion: achieving a sort of closure to many years of hard work by Dr Block (who is the Technical Director here at the Insitute) and I.

A film crew was present to record the final triumphant moments and it is viewable on Youtube at:

We are endeavouring to present the REG at a number of public events in the upcoming year.

The Lost Tools of Henry Hoke

HH-cover-cropped2 The Lost Tools of Henry Hoke is the story of an unsung inventive genius whose work could have revolutionised the modern world. From an isolated workshop in a distant windswept town came a constant stream of dazzling leaps of mechanical imagination, culminating in the extraordinary Random Excuse Generator. The long weight, the wooden magnet, the glass hammer, dehydrated water pills – the man’s mind was truly a fountain of innovation. Unaccountably, all these brilliant tools have now all but disappeared. In this groundbreaking new book, deep shed researcher Mark Thomson uncovers the true story behind our greatest inventor – or why, as Henry Hoke himself was known to say: ‘There’s no tool like an old tool.’

Price: ($25.00 AUD)


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Rare Trades

raretradesthumb.pngMark Thomson delves into the history of rare trades – and the lives of the tradesmen who preserve them – to uncover a wealth of special tools, unique traditions and secrets.The nature of work is changing. We no longer use our hands to make things. Human hands, capable of making objects of great utility and beauty, are now used to dial phones or press computer keys. We feel that loss keenly. On weekends, hardware stores fill with people satisfying a deep urge to do something practical and useful.

Rare Trades pays tribute to the kind of skilled manual work – requiring the artistry of a real master – that nowadays has become so rare. Featuring great photography and stories of tradesmen from the haystack maker to the wheelwright, the cooper, the tinsmith and many more, this book recognises the type of skills that are fast being lost from our society.

ISBN: 9780732269043; ISBN-10: 0732269040;

Price: (AUD)


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The Complete Blokes and Sheds

The Complete Blokes and ShedsA collection of stories and anecdotes about Australian men and their sheds in this new, combined edition of the bestselling books Blokes & Sheds and Stories from the Shed.

An Aussie man’s pride can be measured by his shed – its size, what he stores in it, and what he can fix in it. Now, two bestselling books come together in one edition to explore and explain the male obsession with structures of corrugated iron, beer fridges, dartboards and piles of timber offcuts.

In Blokes & Sheds, Mark shows how, like the dunny, the footy game and the meat pie with sauce, the shed has an important place in Australian culture and mythology. It stands as a symbol of the Aussie male’s ingenuity, a testimony to his ability to fix anything with a length of fencing wire, a hammer and a piece of 4″ x 2″.

In Stories from the Shed, enthusiasts from around the country come clean and tell how it really is the last bastion of Aussie maledom. And apparently it’s not all hammers, nails and timber offcuts. Set against a backdrop of wall–to–wall stuff, junk, gear, supplies and stock, these funny and affectionate stories capture the past, present and future of a changing Aussie shedland.

This new edition is a must for every father, brother, husband or son who has a dream: his very own shed.

ISBN: 9780207198236; ISBN-10: 0207198233;

Price: (AUD)


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Hoke’s Tool Co.

Was this Henry Hoke’s Shed? We may never know as it has now been purchased by a shadowy Indian software conglomerate...

Watt, Boulton, Tesla, Stephenson, Whitworth, Edison… a few of the great engineers and inventors who were the giants of our technological history.

The time has come to add another name to that stellar gathering: Henry Hoke.

Throughout much of the twentieth century, in an isolated workshop on a dusty windswept plain, Henry Hoke labored mightily to conceive a string of dazzling inventions that, to this day, still defy the imagination.

Culminating in his extraordinary masterwork, the Random Excuse Generator, Henry churned out breakthrough after breakthrough in his shed. Hoke’s Waterproof Tap, his Wooden Magnet, his Long Weight, Hoke’s Dehydrated Water Pills, to name but a few, have now almost vanished from the public gaze. And whatever became of Henry’s clockwork car? Dark “big money” forces seem to have guaranteed its “disappearance” and all the remains is the Giant Windup key… at a time when the world is crying out for a replacement for the increasingly unsustainable internal combustion engine.

It is Hoke’s Random Excuse Generator that remains his most illustrious and even disturbing invention. What was the role of Refined Bulldust in this amazing device? Was it, as Henry seemed to hint towards the end of his life, “the answer to just about everything”?

Hoke's Refined Bulldust - the popular antidote to just about everythingHoke's Refined Bulldust - the popular antidote to just about everything

Or perhaps the answer lies in the slogan of Henry’s company: “There’s no tool like an old tool”.

The full story is to be found in the excellent book “Henry Hoke’s Guide to the Misguided” published by ABC Books and available by clicking this link.

The Institute of Backyard Studies has devoted many years of research into Henry Hoke’s life and works, and with the aid of like-minded colleagues around the country and, indeed, around the world, has recommenced some limited commercial operations of Hoke’s Tool Company.

We are pleased to offer a very limited number of his tools and inventions – Hoke’s Wooden Hammer, Hoke’s Dehydrated Water Pills and in some cases, the containers they came in, such as Henry’s prepackaged Sparks for Spark Plugs, Hoke’s Smoke Hammer and several others.

Keep an eye on the Online Shop for the availability of these rare artifacts, some of which we will be able to offer for sale in the near future.

Hoke's waterproof taps were a brilliantly conceived water conservation measure but sadly the so-called market could not see their superiority.Hoke's waterproof taps were a brilliantly conceived water conservation measure but sadly the so-called market could not see their superiority.

Henry Hoke worked hard on refining the manual chainsaw but unfortunately the internal compustion powered version of the same concept took the opportunity to make a massive impact on the tool world away from him  Henry Hoke worked hard on refining the manual chainsaw but unfortunately the internal compustion powered version of the same concept took the opportunity to make a massive impact on the tool world away from him


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