Okay, I’m not talking about any of the latest far-right natterings. I mean actual tools. Hand tools. Power tools. “Toys.”
An important set of skills on the homestead involve fixing things when they break. Most days, this involves the use of a tool of some sort–from something as simple as hammering in a nail or tightening up a screw, to potentially having to build (or re-build) something from scratch. I’ve got my ‘favorite’ tools, and an occasional theme I’d like to start on will be to go over them, a few at a time.
I’d like to start with what always (in my workshop) seems to be the most important tool. They’re probably not what you’re thinking: not saws, or hammers, or drills, or screwdrivers… Nope, I’m talking clamps. I’ve got several, and “need” more. (Any woodworker will tell you, there are never enough clamps.) They come in all shapes and sizes, and serve a variety of purposes. Here are a few of them:
Were I to have to begin outfitting my “tool stash” from nothing, one of the first things I’d get would likely be a set of bar clamps. If money were no object, I’d pick up at least a quartet of 36-inchers… For typical stuff, the grip-type are good enough; there are some that are more like fancy “C” clamps. (A set of C-clamps would be high on the list, too. These clamps are all useful for holding things together when they’ve been glued, or simply holding parts in place while they’re otherwise attached more permanently with nails or screws.
Much less expensive are spring-clamps. These are typically better for holding something down to a surface while you’re working on it; they don’t grip as well as bar- or c-clamps, and they don’t open as wide, but they’re much faster to work with. The clamp list goes on (and on, and on); I won’t bore you with them any more than I already have.
The next most important thing on my list is probably a saw. For wood, I’m more fond of the newer pull-saw types; I can get a factory-quality cut with one, using just a minimal amount of effort. They do cost a bit more, and they wear out rather faster than a “traditional” saw, but I believe the ease-of-use more than compensates. (These are best for “cross-cutting,” across the grain of the wood; they can “rip” along the grain, as well, but they’re not much better at that than your old-fashioned “push” saw.) And yes, there are all sorts of fancy saws out there, for cutting veneers or sawing off dowel tips, or a whole array of other things. If you feel you need one of those, go for it; unless you’re doing “find woodworking,” you probably won’t use it more than a few times.
More on tools, the next time I come around to this topic…
Briefly, I’ve seen some folks talking about a few things “in the wild” that I’ve mentioned once or twice here. First, this week in the Chicago Tribune, Clarence Page noted (lamented?) that despite all of the advances of civilization, we’re still basically tribal animals (“We Find Comfort In Our Tribes,” 3 September). Our tribes these days divide us along racial lines, and along political ones; along financial lines, and cultural. I’m not linking to the article (it’s behind a paywall), but if you can track it down, it’s worth a read.
Secondly, also this week, Paul Waldman at the Washington Post (also here, at Newsday) noted that the usual litany of suspects are trying to scare us into yet another venture, in Iraq (again), or maybe Ukraine, or possibly both. I agree with him; and there’s a question I’m fond of asking, whenever I find someone trying to scare me into one action or another: why?
Next week, I’d like to circle back around to the idea of responsibilities, so marshal your thoughts–I want to hear them!