The wide spectrum of good “tools”
By Justin Isherwood
Maleness is about tools; behaviorists know this, sex therapists know this, anthropologists know this. Being that animal myself, I freely confess the charge. Some think this attachment is biologic in origin, I’m guilty of that too. The bald fact is I like writing about tools. Sigmund Freud felt similarly about maleness.
Tools come in variable guises; cars count, guns count, tractors are tools if at certain vintage tractors become reliquaries, meaning holy … tools. There are such things as holy tools. Pickup trucks come to mind. It is amazing what sane people will pay for a vintage pickup with solid metal dashboard, vinyl seats, a 6 volt battery, that requires the sacrifice of the first-born to start on a cold morning.
In the realm of tools and their attraction are distinct and special chapters, if more correctly referred to as hierarchies, some of these are actual tools. I have a tool chest in my farm shop, make that two tool chests. One of these two chests is mine, one is loaner tools.
Farm shops as everyone knows are communal spas, when you want to talk to the man you don’t go to the house, you go to his shop. In season this is on something of an open schedule. 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. if not 5 a.m. to midnight depending on the repair and its latent urgency. Sometimes people, meaning neighbors, stop not to talk, not to confess, not to do anything particularly neighborly except borrow a tool. Which comes under neighborly on both sides of the transaction. Among tool guys loaning tools isn’t a sin, if perhaps a transgression.
The same goes for loaning actual money. The thing about tools is you never know when you yourself might need it or them. Meaning the whole set not just the Whitworth sockets. This because an MG car once had British Standard Whitworth bolts requiring the Whitworth spanners, they in the third drawer from the top. Strangely enough Whitworth bolts were attached to metric threads. To acknowledge here the latent curse of secondhand equipment, as might have been, probably was, if indeed a known fact … balderized.
You can look up this word if you want. To the end what started out metric became English inches. The resulting problem is the case of awkward heathen couplings. In science known as disequilibrium, when inches gets mixed with metric.
Letting someone use your good tools is like letting someone use your soul to go to Las Vegas. Never mind the military does this all the time, as does my wife, but these are privileged unions. I can and do loan my neighbor my tools, my grease gun, my second best tow chain; not my wife. This why any proper farm shop has two sets of tools, even three in the case multiple neighbors want to borrow tools at the same time. It happens.
To the end you can loan a spanner, a socket set, even a welder because you have another on the shelf. It is custom at this juncture, if you haven’t guessed this already, to keep the good stuff at the back of the shop with the loaner tools at the front of the shop. Because if it’s the other way around, front to back, the neighbor will guess that he is being loaned the Harbor Freight stuff, the Menards crescent wrench not the Craftsman, certainly not that imported Italian ratchet marked “Ferrari”.
This act of discrimination bothers some people, never mind they are getting free use of good-enough tools. This ought not cause conscience turmoil but it might, because the borrower hasn’t thought this through. Borrowing a tool is like borrowing the wife. It’s one thing if you are borrowing to help chase cows, or put up hay; it’s another if they want the honeymoon experience, never mind that when it comes to wear and tear this is probably easier than chasing cows. Especially if it’s the young stock as got out, in the middle of the night, and it’s raining.
When it comes to good tools, not enough can be said. Good tools are the kind of adoration that votive candles were designed for. Because good tools cost more, because they will take abuse to a degree that astounds science. Cheap tools are good enough but tend to flinch under live-fire. A really good socket will grab hold of a nut that has been theretofore unwilling. It won’t slip, flinch or stumble. A cheater bar can be attached. The nut can be heated to incandescence, good socket fitted and not melt around the edges. Good tools can be hammered, levered and pried, in a word, abused, but don’t say that too loud as abuse is legally frowned upon. Beyond this, really good tools have a built-in homing instinct same as some pigeons. You don’t’ really have to put them back in the toolbox yourself as they will creep back entirely on their own. The alternative explanation is this could be due to selfish instinct, an unconscious possessiveness to the end you have no memory of putting the tools away. Or alternately, as I theorize, they crawl back entirely of their own volition.
My wife has innocently and often enough asked, when she is in my shop, if I don’t have enough tools. She knows the right answer. There is no such thing as enough tools because when it comes to mechanical advantage over a cruel world, people who fix things are inherently and forever behind. Somewhere out there is some genius Frankenstein building a tractor, car, a whatchamacallit that will necessitate a new set of tools to fix. If you thought you had all the tools to cover all the contingencies, you are wrong, that next thing just hasn’t broken yet.
Sometimes on a Saturday night I go to my shop with no other ambition than to sit in that shop in the company of tools. I feel at home same as when I’m in the back pew at church. This because some of us don’t believe sitting in the front end loader of God is decent.
I sit there in my shop same as a person sits in kirk. Same sort of meditative, same kind of lazy. A beer at this point is nice. To think church services should try that.
I like to sit in the company of disassembled machinery. Even if I don’t know how I will fix whatever calamity is at hand. This the reason it’s in the shop in the first place.
Like Col. Crockett I believe you can kill a raccoon by staring at it long and hard enough. Same for broken machinery. If you relax enough to come to the point of mental equilibrium in the company of machinery, you can fix things by looking at them. Same as Jesus, same as Buddha. Whole thing kinda disassembles right before your eyes and what was inscrutable becomes scrutable. Machinery is this way.
None of this matters if you have just loaned out the good set of tools.