Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Tools and life

My round-nose pliers have disappeared into the 8th dimension. I know that's where they are because about a million years ago I saw The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension and I learned that the 8D denizens are evil, greedy bastards. (Also that brain surgeons in chaps are hot.) Am I crying? No. It's a chance to buy tools and, even better, upgrade! I love tools. Tools are my second favorite kind of accessories, right after shoes.

About ten years ago I started woodworking - it all came from my love of Craftsman furniture. (Speaking of movies, remember Dead Again? That might be my favorite Ken Branagh movie. It's got one serious issue though: he's a lowly-ish detective with a house FULL of Craftsman/Mission furniture. Sorry, not economically plausible.) I found a wonderful book of reprinted instructions for making Mission furniture originally published between 1909 and 1912. The instructions were so simple and clear that I was inspired to try my hand at woodworking. And, with just a power drill, jigsaw, and hand tools, I made this:

It turned out well, though I did goof and put a non-authentic satin finish on it. Still, many years later it's a very serviceable and handsome piece of furniture. Apparently gambling addiction often starts when the first bet is a winning bet. The same is clearly true of tool addiction. After that initial success I started accumulating power tools at an ever increasing rate. Within a couple of years I had three power drills, one of them a hammer drill, a circular saw, a table saw, a compound mitre saw, three sanders, a router, and a biscuit joiner. I was in tool heaven. I built a 10' x 7' wall of built-in shelves in my office, complete with a built-in desk. I built several tables, gear boxes for horsie friends, a wine cabinet, and a couple of free-standing bookcases. In the garden I built two Wave Hill chairs and a table, a tuteur, an 8' long trellis for climbing roses and clematis, and several raised beds. And I repaired furniture, cabinets, woodwork, whatever. I learned many things:
  • Power tools aren't optional for women who lack upper body strength - they allow you to work much more safely and accurately. Don't obsess about being a "real" woodworker and doing everything first with hand tools.
  • "Fine woodworking" isn't for me - the fiddly, precise, incredibly time-consuming work drives me nuts. Especially the sanding, hours and hours of sanding. Not happening.
  • Varnish is not my friend.
  • Even a new biscuit joiner can't save a failing marriage.

I haven't done much woodworking for the last 4 years or so, partly because my current basement is wet and moldy, party because I moved on to painting and jewelry making and a whole new set of tools. Which brings me back to the round-nose pliers. The question is how much to upgrade. Do I go for the $56 Swanstrom pliers, the $43 Lindstrom Rx pliers, or the $18.50 apparently generic German pliers? My inner shoplete says, go for the Lindstroms, but I rather like the longer jaws of the less expensive German pliers. With any luck, the 8D denizens won't return my old pliers till after I've ordered new ones.

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