Over the years I’ve built cars and houses and boats and batteries and computers and …
OK, you get the idea.
Over the years I’ve collected a lot of tools. A couple of them would go home at the end of the day but most went back in the toolbox or chest where they belong.
Over this summer I’ve had a little plumbing project.
Stop it, Harper! This isn’t the Story of O. This is the story of Dick the Tool Guy.
My great grandfather Barnard the farmer-engineer built cooling tunnels and had a small-gauge steam train on tracks in the front yard. He had tools. My grandfather Harper the station master built a wood shop in the baggage room of his station where he made lovely cabinets. He had more tools. My dad rebuilt most of our boat from that wood shop but he later moved it to our chicken coop where he made exquisite tables and more. This Vermont house has a nice 19th Century barn that I converted to my shop when we moved here.
I inherited and kept some of the tools my dad inherited. I inherited and kept all of his tools. And I’ve managed to buy one or two of my own.
Oddly, my dad and I shared most of the same tool preferences although he was a southpaw and always a Ford guy and I’m not. Still, you can’t tell the difference between his hand tools and mine. And I didn’t like my grandfather Harper’s hand tools but I did keep his Shopsmith.
I started the real assemblage when I started building race cars. In fact, the bed of my 22-foot long, green 1973 Chevy crew cab was more workshop than anything for the years we used it to haul race cars. The centerpiece of that was a stacked mechanic’s roller cabinet. The truck is long gone but I still have the tool box and now I’ve mostly duplicated them with my dad’s. (I got out of racing when it became apparent I’d need an 18-wheeler instead of a pickup).
Power tools are a whole ‘nother kettle of fish.
My dad was also a table saw guy. I lurve my radial arm. Now I have three table saws, the Shopsmith, and, natch, a good 12″ radial arm saw. Each one has its strong points although I find myself using one of the table saws more than the radial because I can put it on the jobsite while the radial sits in the barn.
Speaking of power saws, I somehow ended up with four circular saws; I bought one in 1975 and another a quarter century later. And two industrial Sawzalls. And three jigsaws which he always called “saber saws.” My dad was also a bandsaw guy. He had one that now lives in the very back of my hut, the outdoor cinderblock storeroom in South Puffin. He used it a lot but in all of my projects, I’ve never had enough reason to drag it out; it always seemed easier to cut that curve with a jigsaw. I bought a bandsaw on a super sale 20 years ago. I’m almost embarrassed to admit I’ve never set it up.
I have three air compressors but only one pneumatic framing nailer. And one air hammer. A straight line air sander. A rotary air sander. Two impact wrenches, though, one air and one electric.
Other than the bandsaw, all of my own tools have arrived in response to a job: working on cars, building a boat or a cabinet in the barn, modeling a robot, building a bunch of float chargers.
The plumbing project also turned into a wiring project. The hole I had to dig in the kitchen floor stumped me, though. The original floor boards laid in 1855 or so were not quite as smooth as we expect for modern kitchen needs such as vinyl or cork or laminate or tile. The design isn’t conducive to using a (rented) floor sander and I knew I’d get wavy results (and a mess) with the big 9″ disc grinder or my belt sander and I’m way too lazy to use a jack plane on the whole bloody floor.
What a perfect opportunity to buy a 3-1/4″ power planer. I’ve resisted that particular impulse in the past, simply because I didn’t need it. Until now. It did just what I needed and now I have another power tool.
Recently, I’ve been thinking I should have an oscillating multifunction power tool, too. And I really want a milling machine…
I don’t begrudge people using power tools. I know they have their place in the evolution of progress.
My dad made his living as a carpenter, and he built houses from the ground up — inside and out — and only used hand tools. He laid out foundations, built the sub and super structures, did the roofing, put in windows and built inside cabinetry (with drawers that slid in and out and doors that fit tightly); and he never owned an electric or pneumatic device until he was retired, and I bought him a Skil-Saw.
He never used drawings — as my son the engineer refers to blueprints.
Jesus was also a carpenter like that.
Me, I have Dad’s old tools and frequently use them. I also have a jig saw that my liberal SIL got from Home Depot and gave me. It’s a piece of crap made in China.
I have an electric drill and Dad’s old Skil Saw, but the cord doesn’t reach where I often need to work.