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A philosophical look at tools

A philosophical look at tools

If you haven’t guessed it I’m a tools guy. Not gadgets but tools. Like the blog name says, it needs to be practical.

I’ve written in the past about folding tools like Leatherman, SOG et al and different tools for the PC but I was at the tool store, Home Depot the other day to pick up a few things with my wife and I took my nearly 3 year old son for a trawl around the tools section.

It’s never too soon to explain to the little guy what each tool does; when I was just a little older than him I started running around the house trying to take everything apart to see how it worked. This was probably the starting point for my career in QA.

As we looked at Drills, Hammers, Screwdrivers, Spanners etc and I tried to teach him how to say each thing I was struck by a memory from childhood; my late grandfather was a very hands-on guy, he built his own house, had a factory and in his split level garage had a large workshop in the lower level.

As a kid this place was the magic kingdom to me; work benches, real cast iron clamps and an assortment of tools and projects he was always working on. One tool stuck in my memory, he had this beautiful, yes beautiful ratchet screwdriver about 60 cm long with a red varnished wood handle and chromed steel parts. I was forever hunting loose screws everywhere just so I could borrow the ratchet screwdriver and pump away at the handle and watch mechanism turn and rotate the screw back into its hole.

A couple of years ago I was on Route 17 in New Jersey near Paramus and I saw an old style tool store, after horse trading with my wife that I would gladly go round Nordstrom with her she agreed to stop, no doubt fearing that I was going to either start drooling over every tool in the shop or want to buy stuff that I would have to schlep back home to Israel.

We walked in and I roamed the aisles taking in everything and I went to chat to the ubiquitous old guy behind the counter. Remembering my grandfather’s ratchet screwdriver I asked him if they had such a thing in stock to which he replied just a little sadly that no-one makes tools like that anymore and if they do then the are made with plastic not wood. If they did make tools like that they would simply cost too much for him to hold in stock and frankly these days everyone uses a Cordless Drill/ Screwdriver.

He was kind of surprised that a guy my age would prefer mechanical over electric and we got to talking about the underlying philosophy of the sheer pleasure of using a tool like that even when an easier option might be available.

Empty-handed but cheered up from the conversation we drove on to Nordstrom where thankfully at least the coffee was superb (frankly they have some of the best Espresso ever); and yes I had a good time shopping with the Missus.

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