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Thread: Yeahhhh Toooools

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Sonora, CA

    Default Yeahhhh Toooools


    This afternoon I really had no pressing issues to deal with so I picked up my current issue of Fine Woodworking magazine (yep they still print paper magazines that they snail mail to you periodically for a fee) and after breezing thru several articles on wood working I arrived at the “Looking Back” article by Andy Rooney musing about his wood working tools and his wood working endeavors. The looking back part is the article that was written 15 years ago and sadly Mr. Mooney has since passed. Inspired by his article I find myself day dreaming about my tools, how I got them and my experiences with them.

    My life with tools has been similar to Andy’s (hope calling him Andy is OK) and not similar as well. He admits to having way more tools than he ever would use and purchased some tools just to have the satisfaction of owning a new tool. I’m very much the same. I have lots of tools, hand tools, power tools, shop tools, general use tools, specialized tools, tools that fix or maintain other tools, accessories to make tools better and some tools I’m not sure quite what they do. My professional life is in engineering, using calculators, computers and drawing instruments for a living rather than the typical shop tools. One of my other lives is building or making anything that seems cool at the time, and having the tools to do it.

    All of my tools I’ve purchased or acquired over many years and a few I inherited. My inherited tools came from my Grandpa Jones and my Dad. Grandpa Jones was not a tool nut. He used tools until they wore out, or broke, or wore out were fixed and them broke. Mostly he had hammers, screw drivers, shovels and hoes. His work was usually crude, nothing real precision about plowing a field, pouring concrete or fixing an irrigation pipe. Grandpa didn’t read instructions because there usually “wasn’t” any and besides, as he carefully explained to me, if you’re lucky you don’t need smarts. My collection of old wood handled screw drivers, broken hammers and some old Ford wrenches came from Grandpa Jones.

    Dad had tools, but he also wasn’t enamored with them. He usually had one small tool box and a few tools thrown in a drawer in the garage. When I was about 10, I had my own tool box and a few hand tools. Dad would work on something and throw his greasy, dirty tools back into his tool box with the rest. When I would complain, he simply explained that the grease just kept them from rusting. He worked as an aircraft inspector and would bring home tools he found in the bowels of the aircraft that had been lost by the mechanics. From that I acquired several high quality wrenches, sockets and even a complete small micrometer set which I carefully cleaned and stored in my tool box. In later years I would buy the big Craftsman screw driver sets for Dad each Christmas because by the next Christmas most of them were missing. Although with Dad’s passing I received a few wrenches, sockets and pliers, no screw drivers were present.

    Some tools I purchased for a specific project or a repair that was needed. Some tools were purchased because they could be used to make something cool…if I ever made something cool. One of my failings is that I buy tools that I have needed in the past but didn’t have at the time. I buy tools I don’t have an immediate need for, but may need in the future or it’s a tool just too cool to pass up. Sears has whole tool lines in the cool area that we probably never will need. Who can pass up ratcheting jaw pliers, sockets that will fit anything or gold and black colored “special” sets? I personally have whole complete sets of both standard and metric sockets in shallow, deep and extra deep, ¼ inch drive, 3/8 inch drive and ½ inch drive, color anodized to identify each size. Uh, these are in addition to my full complement of the same thing in traditional chrome.

    Andy’s sound advice is to spend what it takes to get the best quality in the tools you use the most. Unfortunately I have not always followed this advice. Between the discount tool houses, China’s flood of products on the market and my own frugal nature (spelled c h e a p) I’ve purchased a lot of tools that have proven to be of widely varying quality. Don’t get me wrong. China’s products can be good or can be bad. If a set of pliers is $0.99 and not $9.99 or $19.99 or $29.99, then they probably won’t function very well and will probably break the second or third time you use them. Andy claims no set of pliers will ever reset the jaws properly, but my $0.99 set would reset themselves at any time and did actually break one jaw on the third use. I was happy to throw them away.

    On the other hand I’ve had tools for 30 years that were cheap to begin with and are still working. When discount tool places cropped up in the 1980’s, the cheap import power tools made previously too expensive tools available to home shops and hobbyists. My belt/disc sander, drill press, band saw and jointer are still going and are serviceable. These are not precision machines, but passable. Yes, Andy, my disk sander throws the sandpaper disk across the shop after a few uses as well.

    The purchase of power tools in my world usually precedes their actual use by some time, as much as a few years. Flyers from tool discounters enticed me to buy a set of wet stones, a drill doctor drill bit sharpener, a power circular saw blade sharpener, a power chain saw chain sharpener, a dedicated power chisel/plane sharpener and a wet/dry grinder/sharpener over a period of about five years. Of course none were actually un-boxed and used in the time of purchase. Finally I got the urge to sharpen something. I took a homemade wood cart that was formerly a semi successful router table project from Fine Woodworking and planned a rolling sharpening station. After mounting all the “new” tools I sharpened about 200 drill bits (all having been kept in a box for future sharpening), two chain saw chains, three 10 inch circular saw blades, a 14 inch diameter metal cut off circular blade, several sets of kitchen knives, some scissors, three complete sets of wood chisels and two block plane blades. I roll the table/station around the garage every so often, but haven’t used it in the last year or two.
    One expensive power tool I bought because it seemed so state of the art and it could be used for a grand project I had in mind. That tool was the 1990’s Carvewright CNC carving machine and software. My wife and I had an 1890’s antique circular dining room table that was carved oak with one 18 inch wide leave panel of quarter sawn oak. The table had been “restored” but was just the two end round sections and the one leaf that didn’t have the carved valence to match the round ends. The carved legs were beautiful. The underside of the table had a whole series of wood extension slides that would accommodate a number of added leaves for a much bigger table. The Carvewright seemed like the perfect tool to be able to carve the many carved features to complete components needed for the large table. So I plunked down what was a lot of money at the time for a tool I had never seen used nor was certain it would work.
    While my intensions were good, several years went by in which I only “tried” a few experiments with the software and the machine. I believe I carved two of the simple example flat carvings that came with the machine and one “sign” in a pine board to see my name in wood. The machine worked, but I just had no time to undertake a large project…having to go to work, help raise kids, keep a business going the home fires burning. After many years, moving to a new home (and new shop) I finally found the time to start the project for which the tool was purchased. Of course things have changed. The software is now several versions later and even the machine requires several “upgrades”.

    Oh and the wood available seemed to be a scarce as hen’s teeth. I did search for quarter sawn oak. Most dealers just laughed. I found some 4” boards for a king’s ransom. I ended up with 5” rift sawn oak that could be glued and joined to make wider boards. In the rift sawn pile I found two quarter sawn boards that I scooped up and saved. Those two boards have now been passed over a few times as the projects they were being considered for were not worthy of the boards. Maybe someday I’ll find a project worthy of their use.

    It took months, but the table project was completed and even turned out pretty well. The Carvewright machine, software, upgrades and accessories purchased in the course of the project are now a working, proven tool that has produced tangible results. Although this tool is about 16 years old and is dated as far a computer things go, I surprisingly don’t see anything in the market place right now that is its replacement. It’s one tool that sat for a long time before being used and came thru performing the task for which it was acquired.

    My tool addiction isn’t confined to wood working tools. My garage/shop is sectioned off into several areas. The shop has wood working (of course), metal working and welding, lapidary/faceting/ jewelry and automotive/motorcycle areas. I have lots of opportunity to acquire tools in many areas of work and lots of opportunity to not use them. Some tools in my tool boxes (that’s plural…9 at the last count) are just out dated and not used anymore…by anyone. Air conditioning gages for Freon 12, Bultaco 250 (motorcycle) flywheel puller, a Craftsman manual transit and “church keys” beer can openers. My 20 something son and nephews didn’t know what they were.

    My shop doesn’t just contain tools. Like Andy’s shop I also have lots of bits and pieces that may be needed to complete projects. Things like rags, metal and wood materials, nuts, bolts, screws, washers, fittings, etc….My kids believe I have OCD or PSD or CNC or whatever causes one to collect and arrange things so they can “find” them again. I come by this honestly. When I was 16 I got my first “real” job at a gas station and repair shop. I had lots of previous jobs but they were not “regular” work so this was my first time having a regular boss and mentor. My boss had several requirements but two major requirements. One was to do what you are told and the other was to always be busy. If the paying work was done, then you cleaned. If the cleaning was done then you sorted out the loose nut, bolts and parts kept in a large container for future use. That task was never finished. So my shop has rows of (about 600) the little plastic drawers filled with all sorts of bolts, nuts, screws, washers, bits and pieces of everything. Not that I keep everything. I have two CAT LUBE trash barrels that fill up with stuff and have to be emptied every couple of weeks.

    I have to admit that although I earlier poked fun at the paper magazine, I have a cabinet full of Fine Woodworking magazines dating back from the 1980’s to present. By using the on line article search on FW’s web site, I can find articles on whatever subject of wood working I’m interested in and mostly have a copy of it in my cabinet. I also keep a small library of shop manuals and publications that may someday be useful if I have to rebuild a 1969 Honda S90 for instance.

    Andy mentioned wondering what would become of his tools after he was gone, especially the ones he had grown fond of and had a “relationship” with. I wonder too. Were Andy’s tools passed along to a son, daughter or relative that would use them or maybe enjoy them just as mementos? Did they end up in a garage sale in the hands of someone who could care less? I have the same thoughts about my tools. What will happen to my favorite Snap On 3/8 inch ratchet that my Dad found deep in the belly of a B52? Will it end up in a land fill or in the hands of a 10 year old working on his or her bicycle and then working on a spaceship to Mars? Like my father in law told me once, I won’t know or care because I’ll be dead.

  2. Default

    What a great article, Thank you for sharing, My son already claims my tools and when I do sell one so I can pay for a better one or an upgrade he looks at me like I stole his property and sold it. He is 30 years old and he often borrows the tools for many months until I need it and ask for it. I know he will cherish them even more than I do because I look at them as something I need to accomplish the tasks at hand. He looks at them like he will save every harbor freight screwdriver for the rest of his life and never let it go. My shop is full of used, garage sale, and cheap tools sale items, I am really cheap (and on a fixed income) and if I had not gotten my carvewright used and broken and cheap,later to be fixed and used for years I would not have ever bought one. I only buy upgrades when the job requires and pays for them so I only have 1.87, pattern editor, centerline and conforming vectors. Because of my financial situation the only things of real value I will leave is the tools, my carvewright account password and log in so he can continue to use the patterns and software I purchased, and perhaps the knowledge I gave my son on how to use them.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2014


    Thank you for sharing your wonderful memories and thoughts. Fine woodworking magazine is a great magazine. fI regret having so many tools every time I move but when I start using them again I am thankful I have them. I am currently moving them and I believe I have cursed at least 20 time at them today because of their weight. My drill press especially (190 lbs) is top heavy and I dropped it twice today. I'll see later this week if I have a drill press to pass down some day.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Southern Delaware


    Had to stop and check to be sure I didn't write this article. Have a son-in-law who may want some of my automotive tools and a son who may want a few
    of the miscellaneous ones but most will probably be auctioned. Have started looking for a youngster who has similar interests who I can give some
    of them so they don't just go for squat to somebody I don't know.
    Thx for sharing, it's affirmed that I need to be more proactive in planning for the future.
    Rick H

  5. #5


    Excellent, thank you. I believe you were able to put into words what most of us have in our minds .

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