Notes from the workbench
My envy is all too frequently aroused by those marvelously equipped cabinet benches that the hardware store displays as its center of interest in the holiday window. Folding doors are thrown back, bristling with tools of every conceivable kind; the top lid is raised to display supplementary racks of more tools; drawers and cupboards of such an arsenal must be an inspiration sufficient to keep the home craftsman aware from meals, sleep, and family life, while he creates masterpieces in wood. Strangely enough, I have never known a man who possesses one. Perhaps the man does not live who dares buy one and face the responsibility it seems to entail. He would be left absolutely without an alibi for the neglect of anything that henceforth needed attention in the household.Mr. Saylor may have been poking fun at the hardware stores and their attempts to commercialize the amateur craftsman, but I suspect he’s dangerously close to a sore spot. Take a close look around and I bet you’ll find any number of houses with dripping faucets, drooping cabinet doors, stuck windows, dead electrical outlets, and all of the tools needed to fix these things idle in the garage.
There are some people in the world who have access to a fraction of the tools being wheeled out of box stores and yet they work wonders with mechanical systems most people could only gawk at. I know of one gentleman in particular who spent many years in a little factory on the equator. If you wanted something fixed you asked Mr. Mac, and he would get out a toolbox about two feet long and less than a foot in the other two directions. It was full of simple tools, many of them modified for specific purposes. Trimmed down wrenches, home built hammers, hand whittled pry bars made up to fit odd angles and tight spaces all rested amongst an assortment of well worn sturdy hand tools. Regardless of what you needed done, he would go to that toolbox and find exactly the tool he needed for the job.
Many of us could take a lesson from Mr. Mac and his toolbox. I know I have a backlog of repairs to make around the house. I also have enough tools in the basement and garage to keep me from having any excuses.
Of course I have a small assortment of soldering irons, guns, and torches, but this little beauty tops them all.
Really though, the most important tools I have aren’t in the garage or the basement shop.
There was one time in a factory (in the middle of nowhere) when a well meaning mechanic broke off a pipe fitting in the end of a large manifold. He and some of the other mechanics tried desperately to remove it so they could get machine running again. I asked them where to find an easy-out and was, not surprisingly, met with blanks looks. I watched not-so-patiently while they attacked the broken bit of fitting with vise grips, small grinders, files, hammers, and punches. As they wore themselves out, my patience wore thinner until I finally I started digging through the toolbox (note the singular noun) at our disposal. I didn’t find much of use, but I did manage to come up with a wrench, a hammer, and a square piece of aluminum. I coaxed the mechanics out of the way and then proceeded to drive the aluminum bar into the fitting. Once that was done I put the wrench on the bar, gave it a twist, and out came the remainder of the fitting. I showed it to the mechanics and walked off while they stared at me as though I were from another planet.