June 2008 On The Floor - Tools - Editor's Letter
On The Floor
What would the world be like without tools? Can you imagine it? We'd have nothing. We wouldn't even be here. Humans couldn't exist without tools. The earliest inhabitants of this planet would've died of starvation if they didn't figure out how to make spears out of sticks and rocks to hunt animals with. Tools are necessary, tools are good, and a love of tools is woven into the genetic fabric of every man on earth. Even if you've never wrenched on your truck, you still like tools. Even yuppies that never get greasy have electronic tools of some sort, and they are just as addicted to those tools as you and I are. Hell, I dig tools so much that I sometimes buy ones that I don't even need yet.
The other day I was at Sears because I needed to replace a 9/16-inch deep socket and I wanted to buy a new vertical bandsaw. Vertical bandsaws are fantastic tools for fabricating mounting brackets and other truck parts out of sheetmetal. It's an excellent low-budget replacement for a laser cutter, water jet, or plasma cutter, and if you have a steady enough hand and a sharp eye, you can cut out parts almost as smoothly as those high-end tools. No one I know has the dough for a laser cutter, but with a bit of patience and 300 bucks, we can all have our own bandsaw.
As I checked out the bandsaws, I saw a new drill press that had a laser sight system with cross hairs for the ultimate in precision drilling. I thought, "Tools with laser beams! Now that is something every guy needs." I daydreamed about all the cool holes I could be drilling in the cool bracketry I cut out with my new bandsaw. The super laser drill and the matching vertical bandsaw were both out of my financial reach though, so I passed on them and just left with my shiny, new 9/16-inch socket.
New tools are fantastic, but used ones can be just as rewarding, especially when you score a smokin' good deal on them. While checking out the internet classified ads today, I came across an ad by a guy who was about to move out of his house. He literally was moving in less than 30 minutes, and his ad stated that the first person to come to his house with 150 bucks could leave with all his tools. I noticed the word "bandsaw" in his bare-bones ad, so I didn't even call the guy to find out what else he was selling or if he was selling a vertical or horizontal bandsaw. A horizontal bandsaw is only useful for making straight cuts, and you can't really fab up an airbag mounting bracket with one, so this might have turned into a wasted trip.
So I made tracks for his house with my friend Eddy, who had a truck with an empty 8-foot bed. When Eddy and I arrived, the guy who posted the ad was dragging the last of his moving boxes out of his house and the only things left in his garage were his tools. We left his place 150 bucks poorer but with a truck bed full of tools, most of which I didn't even need. I don't even know what a miter saw is, but I have one now and I figure I'll use it someday. Besides, it's always a good feeling to have just the right tool in the ol' toolbox when a friend needs it. And I now have my bandsaw and a drill press (albeit a drill press minus the laser beams), but I only spent half as much as I would had I bought new tools. That'll keep the wife happy.
Aside from the fun of buying a new tools for cheap, having the right tool to do the job at hand is also a great feeling. Nothing drives me nuts more than trying to fabricate something for my truck with the wrong tool when I know that the job could turn out better using the right one. The last thing I want is someone checking out an area of my truck that looks like crap and thinking that I didn't know what I was doing, when in the back of my mind I know I could have done the job better.
Have you ever tried to cut airbag mounting brackets out of 1/4-inch steel using a jigsaw? During the mad rush to airbag my '67 Chevy a few years ago, I was forced to do just that when our vertical bandsaw broke around 11 p.m. Without a tool store open to save me, I was forced to use the only other cutting tool I had. It took me four hours and 12 jigsaw blades to make mounts that didn't look nearly as clean as they would have if I had been able to use the right tool. Weeks later, I ended up going back after the fact and building all new mounts for the airbags just to satisfy my own sense of aesthetics, because the ones I cut with the jigsaw were functional but ugly.
Tools are the fabric that keeps our world together. We can't live without 'em, and the calendars put out by tool companies are almost always better than those cat and dog calendars you find at the mall. I could keep going. I've got a hundred reasons for loving tools. I've also got a hundred tool disaster stories. I'll save those for another time. See ya next month.