Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Tools You Have

A sad truth of anyone's life has I'm sure, at some point included needing to do something and not having the right tool. I'm sure everyone has wanted to drive a nail, and not had a hammer, or wanted to cut tape on a box and not had a knife. What do you do then? The two options are go find the right tool, or make do with what you have. On a homesteading scale there's, as we discussed yesterday, a lot more tools and many more jobs to do. Today I'm going to be talking about my experience and thoughts on making do with the tools you have, and when you shouldn't try to.

Rule Number 1 of Making Do
Don't be stupid.

Look up Stupid Tool Injuries on Google image search. If you have safe search off you'll see some fairly horrifying hand injuries. I didn't see any eye injuries on the first page, but those are also common with misusing tools. Thus don't be stupid.

What do I mean by don't be stupid? I mean that you should use eye protection, wear gloves, and point the business end away from you. Make sure the area you are working in is clear of obstructions, that you know what you are doing, and that you are not standing in the path of something coming apart's natural path of least resistance. I guess in the end, think about what you're doing and do it as safely as possible is what I mean.

Rule Number 2 of Making Do
Sometimes, you just have to get the right tool for the job. Otherwise known as, sometimes what you have, just won't do.

Examples of this, making precision curving cuts in a small piece of lumber with a circular saw, driving nails with your hand (Unless you've trained for it, in which case stay over there thanks), lifting a truck with a car jack, etc. Some of these things fall firmly into don't be stupid. Others of them are something that looks reasonable, then you get started and realize you just can't do it. A personal example of this was trying to lift in the 5'x5' windows by hand with two people. Weighing in at over 300 lbs, extremely cold, and very awkward to move into an overly tight space it just wasn't possible. We realized it about the time I lost my grip and put a deep gouge in the floor.

I'm not saying you'll know that your idea is wrong before you start, just think about it before you start. Once you start, don't stay committed to your idea to the point of stupidity or damage. Realize that sometimes you need to get the right tool for the job, or a different idea. Which leads to . . .

Rule Number 3 of Making Do
Don't fixate on the first idea you had.

This applies even when using the correct tools, but it is especially important with improvising. Just because you spent 3 hours setting up a winch over the branch of a tree doesn't mean you should decide to just go a little more when you start hearing the tree branch cracking when you just barely have what you're lifting off the ground. Put it down, and reconsider. I suppose this is another version of Rule 1, but it is important because it is so easy to fixate on "I've almost got it" or "I spent so long, I'm going to make this work."

Rule Number 4 of Making Do
Don't be stupid.

Some Examples Of Making Do
Things that I have seen work out ok, or done myself.

* In the absence of a jigsaw using a Sawzall to make "precision" cuts.
* In the absence of a square making a measurement every few inches and connecting the dots to get a straight line to cut along.
* Using a pocket knife instead of a keyhole saw to get through dry wall.
* Not Recommended: Using a rubber mallet and a block of wood to hammer on a window pane until it sat flush in the frame.
* Using a shovel to break ground and get a trench dug instead of breaking the hard ground up with a mattock first.
* Using a 5 gallon bucket to move earth load by load to fill holes instead of using a wheelbarrow. 

Things that I've seen work out poorly, or messed up myself.
* Using a measuring tape as a straight edge.
* Lifting aforementioned glass without proper lifting tools.
* Trying to move a large rock by using a shovel as a lever to flip it up. I was trying to lift the rock then put something under it so I could level the stone step out. All I did was bend the shovel and nearly break the haft of it. Properly I should have made a tripod and probably  used block and tackle to move the blasted thing, or a tractor.
* Screwing in a flat head screw with a knife.

* Cutting up a downed tree with the saw from a leatherman. It's less that it didn't work and more that it took for ever and broke the knife in the end.

So What?
So, make sure that you choose your tools well for adaptability, and that you think about what you are going to be doing before you do it. You'll save a lot of time, money, sweat, blood, and pain on your various projects.

1 comment:

  1. I think I have hammered in more nails with non-hammers than hammers (high heeled shoes work great for picture hanger nails into drywall). I need to get a small hammer for my in-house tool kit (just started it recently, so far it contains duct tape, painter's tape, Gorilla Glue, a multi-bit screw driver, corded power drill and a soldering iron that I purchased to repair a piece of jewelry), my big hammer lives in my camping gear.