A love affair with tools

David Atwood Points of the Compass
Posted 9/13/13

I am a terrible money manager. That is essential to your understanding my love affair with tools.

I have no trouble making money, but I have never been able to keep it. Many think that the measurement of wealth is how much money you make. Not …

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A love affair with tools


I am a terrible money manager. That is essential to your understanding my love affair with tools.

I have no trouble making money, but I have never been able to keep it. Many think that the measurement of wealth is how much money you make. Not true, it is the amount of money you KEEP that matters. I have kept none. If I made a million dollars a week, and was paid on Friday, by Wednesday I’d be bumming five from somebody. It is that bad.

When I was a kid with a quarter-a-week allowance, which I got on Friday, it was gone on Saturday when the family went shopping. I was constantly encouraged and lectured to, “Save your money.” I tried. I hated it, still do.

If it were not for the God sent Admiral, I would be living in a tent, or at best, a shack, and hiding from bill collectors. If I lived long ago, I would be a permanent resident of debtor prisons, but I have turned over the finances to a true money managing genius. I am on a strict allowance and have been for years. She spends wisely. I am an irresponsible maniac when I have money.

There is one thing in our life that she has never imposed limits upon. When I was making our living as a mechanic, I could buy tools with impunity, and I did.

The days when the tool trucks would visit the shop, were happy times for me. They not only represented a break from work, but I got new tools, usually on credit. Whenever the Admiral went shopping, if she was going near a Sears store, I was there. I could spend an hour or two wandering through the tools, and never came away empty handed.

My fascination with tools has root in my youngest days. Whenever Dad had the task of babysitting my sister and me, I was easy. He would set me on the floor of the garage with a few scraps of wood or metal, a pile of tools, and I was good for hours. As I grew older and more adventurous, I began to take apart and put back together anything within reach. Later, in high school, it was cars, and I heard the frequent shout, often laced with juicy expletives of “Put my tools back where they belong!” It had become time for me to get tools of my own.

My first acquisition was a set of fractional, 3/8” drive sockets with a ratchet and extension for $15, and they became the cornerstone of my toolbox. They are good quality, SK Wayne tools, and I still have them, all but one. The Admiral lost one overboard when we were living on our sailboat. I stared at her in disbelief, hurt to the depth of my soul by the loss. She was appropriately contrite, but I must admit that there was a small joy growing deep within me because of her gaffe. I knew she would not say a word the next time I went tool shopping. I keep the empty spot in the rack of sockets as a memorial to the lost member, and point out to the Admiral every time we need a 1/2” socket, that the tool we need sleeps with the fishes.

She asks me, “Why don’t you just buy another one?”

I stare at her and ask in reply, “Can you replace a lost loved one?” End of argument. I can go tool shopping again, but I think she has decided my grieving is passed, but it won’t hurt to try.

I do love my toolbox, which has grown from a small, hand carried affair with my simple collection of tools to a large roll-around chest containing hundreds of tools worth many thousands of dollars. I love opening the drawers and seeing the collection of screwdrivers, the racks of wrenches divided as to size in both metric and fractional, the sockets and ratchets in their spring loaded organizers, the pliers, one or more for every occasion, and hammers for every imaginable purpose.

My favorite drawer is the one containing my specialty tools. Some have been used only once or twice, but they saved enough time, which is money, to justify their purchase. Their precision is a joy to behold. One tool among them is my great pacifier. It is a Porsche cam-nut socket wrench. It is cut to fine specifications and the finish is so smooth that whenever I am frustrated with a job and about to lose control, I go to the specialty drawer, take it out, and hold it in my hand. It fits perfectly in my palm and its coolness has the ability to take away all my frustrations. Silly, I know, but it works.

With my three sons, and five daughters, I saw history about to repeat itself, and since I made a living with tools, I did not want my children scattering and losing mine. When they were babies, I started buying a tool for each child every Christmas. I started with a box, and have added to it every year. One year it would be hammers, then wrenches, and so on until they have a pretty good set.

This tradition has done two things for me. First, I have enjoyed the giving and teaching how to use the gift, but more importantly, I get to shop at least once a year for tools. Somehow, something for me always slips in there, because I have no sense of financial responsibility, and I am a tool junkie. I hope there is no Tools Anonymous. From this addiction, I do not want to recover.

David Wilson Atwood is a local writer whose human-interest columns offer a unique perspective. He may be contacted, and his other works viewed at: www.starchasers.us, or david@starchasers.us.