It was a Dark and Stormy Night. Or perhaps not. I really don’t remember, but it seems like the right way to start my monthly addition to the Welcome Column…. with the archetypal example of bad writing by Ed (what’s his last name?) And… since my memory is often wrong, we will just just settle and call everything in this article Fiction. So, on that night (or not) I suddenly realized the funny thing that happened to me on the way to my adulthood… I became a Tool Guy.
You know, the person (man or woman) who has ALL the tools, knows how to BUILD it or FIX it and is ever ready to give you the LONG explanation of how it can be done three different ways. Famous Tool Guys include Norm, Bob Villa, MacGyver and Tim (the Tool Man) Taylor. And me, Ray. Oh, and don’t forget that famous T.V. show from 2009 called (wait for it)… Tool Guys. In a world of hi-tech, zombie and cop dramas, it lasted 12 episodes.
Now, to be clear, I am not in the same class as a Supreme Tool Guy (most of the aforementioned)….as that would include building or fixing most any machine or thing that powers, moves, welds together or could break. Of course, that also includes include owning all of the tools for those tasks (observing a moment of joyous Tool Guy silence…).
Mostly I am an “everything of wood, construction, and around-the-home machinery and stuff, appliances and fix-the-computer” Tool Guy. I am proud to say that this covers a huge amount of tools and shop equipment… which I have collected along the way, and will mostly stay hidden until I need to say… make new Oak handles for the wheelbarrow or rebuild the mower.
In my shop, every tool always is stored in a certain place. I always know every tool and part that is in my shop, and usually what condition it is in. And… I swear to gosh, I have never hung my tools on the wall and drawn the tool shape around them…. Because IMHO this would be Weird Tool Guy behavior.
Alas, I will not likely rise to the level of Supreme Tool Guy. In the last 4 years I have been drawn to Bluegrass Music (think “moth to flame”)… and that holy instrument of instruments… The Banjo. Happily, the banjo is a great “Tool Guy” kind of instrument, as it is made from all kinds of wood, metal and other neat stuff that takes A LOT of tools to build or fix. It needs things like Allen wrenches, fret-wire nips, drum head gauges, a lathe, feeler gauges, etc. Perfect, I say. Oh yes… I keep a good compliment of “banjo tools” in my banjo case just to feel secure. You should also know that I do have some friends who are Supreme Tool Guys…. And they are really out there… not like me.
It all started in High School… In Industrial Arts Class. Yes…. WE had that curriculum in high school! That was back in the days of The Knights of the Round Table. Every student was required to successfully complete a class in the use of very old power tools with un-grounded electrical cords and hand tools that had only been sharpened in odd numbered years. We were required to paint, carve or solder our way into detention class… Or cut, hack and burn natural stuff into a personal artistic possession… like some bookends… or leaning pottery…. OR ashtrays (never a failed project).
As I recall, an ‘A’ grade was pretty easy to get unless you somehow damaged the building while operating the equipment. Oh…. And even though we wore overalls in class, we always ruined our new clothes immediately with either some kind of solvent or various forms of clay or grease. Man, it was the best time of my life…. Except for now.
Today is the best time for a Tool Guy partly because there are many out there who turned away from the “tool guy way of life” long ago (or are not old enough to have experienced Shop Class) and are always either over-joyed (or over-annoyed) by us Tool Guys and our ability to make anything that is broken start working again. The truth is that many times we will get something working again just long enough to understand that we can’t ever really fix it. I think it’s quite likely that the infamous Tail-Light Guarantee evolved from the temporary repair of un-fixable stuff by Tool Guys.
Today is also the best time for me as a Tool Guy because after decades of personal evolution in safe tool use and ownership, I can now share my abilities and experience with anyone who wants to buy their own tools and start the journey. I will build it for you… or fix it for you for a fee. But, if you want to do it yourself (skinned knuckles and all), I will share with you how to do it safely, and how to avoid the mistakes I made… for free… just to see your joy at the end of the pain.
It’s the least I can do for my old shop teacher (Sir Gallahammer). He was hoping I was out there.