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 …
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.
Rick Watson is a columnist and author. His latest book, “Life Goes On,” is available on Amazon.com. You can contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.