Monday, October 23, 2017

Tools ~ my column from Sunday's paper

My name is Rick, and I’m a tool-a-holic. There! I’ve said it. I come by my addiction honestly. It started with my grandpa who was a blacksmith. He cared for his tools like he would a restless baby. “Take care of your tools, and they’ll take care of you,” he once told me.
He had a tool shed behind his four-room house in Sloss Hollow. Many of the tools he used he made himself. He had a pair of pliers with handles as long as a fireplace poker. He used them to heat steel over a hot kiln.
My grandpa wasn’t the only one that influenced my tool habit, but he was the first. I have some of his tools in my shed.
My dad did most of the repairs on our cars and trucks. If one of the vehicles was too broke for him to fix, he’d often trade it off rather than take it to a mechanic. I learned about wrenches before I could read. If he told me to fetch a 5/8-inch wrench, I’d ask if he needed a box-end or an open-end. I knew the difference between a punch and chisel. The first time he asked me to go to the shed and bring him a monkey wrench, I thought he was pulling my leg. I have that monkey wrench in my shed now.
In 1976, when I was between jobs, my father-in-law Sharky took me on as a plumber’s assistant. He taught me about the use of threaders, soldering irons, and other tools of the trade. I have some of his tools in my shed.
All these men took care of their tools. Before any of them “called it a day,” they made a mental inventory of everything they’d used. They would clean each tool, and return it to its place in the shed. The next time they needed something, they knew where it was. They could close their eyes and tell a young child exactly where to find it among hundreds of other tools.
When I bought my outbuilding many years ago, I built a workbench. On one end is a vise to hold things secure while I work, and at the other end is a grinder. Every stud in that building has nails for hanging shovels, rakes, hoes, and hammers.
For years I kept it organized. My mentors would have been proud. But one hot day after working outside I was frazzled. Instead of cleaning the tools and putting them in their proper place, I just tossed them in the shed.
Had that been the only time I was careless, things would have been fine. But I’d started a trend. Soon, my shed was a mess, making it impossible to find tools when I needed them. It should have been condemned long ago. A wiser man would have burned everything to ash and embers. That would have been the easiest solution. But in my mind, I could see my mentors shaking their heads.
I started preparing to make things right a few weeks ago when I swung by Harbor Freight and picked up a 10-drawer tool chest. Moving old tools from one place to another was a waste of time, so I decided to do it right. The tool chest would be a good start.
After eight hours of sorting, snorting, placing, and cleaning the shed was back to normal. I know where everything is now. I was tired and sweaty, but I was happy.
My grandpa, dad, and Sharky would be proud of me.


  1. Job well done. I bet you slept sweetly that night.

  2. I have found that putting the tools away after each project is the smartest thing to do, and cleaning my shop or work bench is sometimes as simple as just putting the tools away.

  3. "A place for everything and everything in its place"
    Bet you heard than many many times.

  4. When I first read that you thought of just razing it to the ground, I thought, “Nooooo” because I have been brought up to save every bloody thing. I’m glad you hunkered down and got things organized

  5. Funny, Hubby had me look up an electric winch on Harbor Freight's website earlier this evening. (4 1/2 stars; 98 mostly-good reviews) and then I saw your post. Beautiful cement mixer! Too pretty to use, though. Maybe plant some zinnias in it.

  6. All useful knowledge your have acquired, not to mention tools of every persuasion. I love stories about people like your blacksmith grandpa, who made his own tools.


  7. I know what a monkey wrench but I don't know what that orange tool is. Could it be a spreader of some sort?

    Those old guys were great teachers and taught you well.

    One day we were out to another town and my car needed repair so we took it to a garage and after fixing the problem, the mechanic wiped all his tools carefully and placed them all in their proper place and then made up our bill.

    My husband can never find his tools. He sometimes leaves them where he did the job.

    Having good habits needs some conscious effort where bad habits needs no efforts.

    I hope you can reap satisfaction for a long time now that your tool shed is all in order.
    Hugs, Julia

  8. Good for you on getting that big job done! We all can work more efficiently when things are in their proper place.

  9. Great article. A lesson I have been unable to explain to my youngest son, who is now mid 50's. I am in the process of trying to figure why I have ten 1/2 inch wrenches my self. I do appreciate folk like your grandpa and your dad. Tools are my favorite thing. I can walk thru the tool section of Sears/harbor freight/Lowes slower than a lady in a dress shop. LOL
    Your readers will love this article.

  10. Our son is a professional mechanic and has thousands of dollars invested in tools. As for me, if it can't be done with a hammer, screwdriver or stale gun I can't do it.

  11. So now you are mixing cement? With all your tools in place I guess you can pave the road.

  12. You should see my son's gigantic tool chest. It's impressive.


  13. Anonymous5:25 PM

    They're smiling down from Heaven at you!!

  14. My father was a tool-a-holic,he has a large collection of tools which have a habit of ending up at my brothers place but Dave says that dad no longer uses them, which is true dad doesn't do much now days he is too ill to do so

  15. What? No comments?



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