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  • Everyman Tools

    Something similar to the article below was posted to BluesNews, I figured I'd share the full version with you guys. Working in our garage when I was younger, I have to say a lot of his descriptions are spot on :)

    The Right Tool For The Job

    by Peter Egan Road & Track April, 1996

    Had a strange dream the other night: I was out in my workshop, making
    sandwiches, for some reason, and I had about a dozen slices of bread laid out
    on the workbench. (Sanitation is meaningless in dreams, unless the dream
    lasts long enough for you to become seriously ill.) Oddly, I was spreading
    mayonnaise on the bread with a tiny Craftsman screwdriver of the size
    normally used to fix alarm clocks or busted Smiths tachometers. Naturally, it
    was taking forever, and I was quite frustrated with the whole process.

    Before we put too heavy a Freudian spin on this dream (inadequate tools,
    etc.), I should mention that I had some Wild Turkey on the rocks after a
    dinner of chorizo enchiladas with Negra Modelo, which is asking for trouble
    if you include the espresso we had while watching Bullitt again. When I went
    to bed, my neurons were firing like a string of cheap Chinese firecrackers.

    Anyway, dedicated mechanics will recognize immediately the source of
    frustration in this dream: I was using the wrong tool for the job.

    Anyone with an ounce of mechanical experience will tell you that a better tool
    for spreading mayonnaise on bread would have been, say, a broad-tipped
    Snap-on gasket scraper or an old hacksaw blade with some spring to it. The
    only legitimate use of a small, thin-tipped Craftsman screwdriver, of course,
    is to mix epoxy resin and hardener to a consistent dark gray color on the
    torn-off lid of a Fram oil filter box.

    There’s a lot of this kind of tool-use confusion in garages today, so I
    thought it might be helpful (leaning on my years of experience, as usual) to
    reveal to the novice mechanic the rightful roles of the tools found in that
    2000-piece tool set your family got you for Christmas ($4000 cheaper than if
    they’d bought each tool separately!). Let’s start with the main stuff.

    Hammers: Probably the Original Tool, if you exempt (as I always do) a straw
    stuck down a termite nest in search of food, as used by lower primates and
    some of the guys who were in my high school shop class. Originally employed
    as a weapon of war, the hammer is nowadays used as a kind of divining rod to
    locate expensive car parts not far from the object we are trying to hit. For
    those with a more accurate sense of aim, the hammer is useful for tapping on
    oilpans, water pumps and other brittle pot-metal castings to see if we’ve
    forgotten to remove one of the bolts, which we have.

    Electric hand drill: Normally used for spinning steel Pop rivets in their
    holes until you die of old age, but it also works great for drilling rollbar
    mounting holes in the floor of a sports car just above the brake line that
    goes to the rear axle.

    Pliers: Used to round off bolt heads.

    Hacksaw: One of a family of cutting tools built on the Ouija board principle.
    It transforms human energy into a crooked, unpredictable motion, and the more
    you attempt to influence its course, the more dismal your future becomes.

    Vise-Grips: Used to round off bolt heads. If nothing else is available, they
    can also be used to transfer intense welding heat to the palm of your hand.

    Oxyacetylene torch: Used almost entirely for lighting those stale garage
    cigarettes you keep hidden in the back of the Whitworth socket drawer (what
    wife would think to look in there?) because you can never remember to buy
    lighter fluid for the Zippo lighter you got from the PX at Fort Campbell.

    Zippo lighter: See Oxyacetylene torch.

    Whitworth sockets: Once used for working on older British cars and
    motorcycles, they are now used mainly for hiding 6-month-old Salems from the
    sort of person who would throw them away for no good reason.

    Drill press: A tall upright machine useful for suddenly snatching flat metal
    bar stock out of your hands so that it smacks you in the chest and flings
    your beer across the room, splattering against the Rolling Stones poster over
    the bench-grinder.

    Wire wheel: Cleans rust off old bolts and then throws them somewhere under the
    workbench with the speed of light. Also removes finger-print whorls and
    hard-earned guitar callouses in about the time it takes you to say, “Django

    Hydraulic floor jack: Used for lowering a Mustang to the ground after you have
    installed a set of Ford Motorsports lowered road springs, trapping the jack
    handle firmly under the front air dam.

    Eight-foot-long Douglas fir 2×4: Used for levering the car upward off the
    hydraulic floor jack, perhaps.

    Tweezers: A tool for removing wood slivers.

    Phone: Tool for calling your neighbor Chris to see if he has another hydraulic
    floor jack.

    Snap-on gasket scraper: Theoretically useful as a sandwich tool for spreading
    mayonnaise; used mainly for getting dog-doo off your boot.

    E-Z Out bolt and stud extractor: A tool that snaps off in bolt holes and is
    ten times harder than any known drill bit.

    Timing light: A stroboscopic instrument for illuminating grease buildup on
    crankshaft pulleys.

    Sanyo boombox: An electomechanical device that miraculously allows the lovely
    Cecilia Bartoli to sing Rossini arias in a garage full of choking paint
    fumes, which is something she would not normally be inclined to do.

    Two-ton hydraulic engine hoist: A handy tool for testing the tensile strength
    of ground straps and hydraulic clutch lines you may have forgotten to

    Shop manual: A kind of mirror whose smudges and grease stains reflect the true
    soul of the clean and apparently innocent car standing nearby; the automotive
    equivalent of a police blotter.

    Shop rags: Composed almost entirely of pink lint, shop rags are essentially a
    washable version of the shop manual; when laundered at home they add a nice
    fresh scent to the washer and dryer.

    Craftsman ½ x 16-in. screwdriver: A large motor mount prying tool that
    inexplicably has an accurately machined screwdriver tip on the end without
    the handle.

    Compression gauge: Used during buyer’s inspections by overly cautious
    consumers who do not own a 2-ton hydraulic engine hoist or a Craftsman ½ x
    16-in. screwdriver.

    Outside micrometer: A device for periodically reviewing the meaning of all
    those little incremental marks on the barrel and trying to remember whether
    they translate into thousandths or hundred thousandths of an inch and exactly
    how many decimal places to the right of the period that is, anyway.

    Battery electrolyte tester: A handy tool for transferring sulfuric acid from a
    car battery to the inside of your toolbox after determining that your battery
    is dead as a doornail, just as you thought.

    Metric wrenches: Used on cars from countries whose citizens believe that an
    acute misunderstanding of the earth’s circumference (updated to a unit equal
    to 1,650,763.3 wavelengths of the orange-red radiation of an isotope of
    krypton) is a more legitimate and easier–to–visualize form of measurement
    than the instep of a dead king (as in, “Ludwig, let us pace off those
    wavelengths again!” Or, “Zut alors! I need to measure the curtains and I have
    forgotten my isotope of krypton!”). On American and British cars, metric
    tools are used primarily to round off bolt heads.

    Aviation metal snips: See hacksaw.

    Trouble light: The mechanic’s own tanning booth. Sometimes called a drop
    light, it is a good source of vitamin D, “the sunshine vitamin,” which is not
    otherwise found under cars at night. Health benefits aside, its main purpose
    is to consume 40-watt light bulbs at about the same rate 105-mm howitzer
    shells might be used during, say, the first few hours of the Battle of the
    Bulge. More often dark than light, its name is somewhat misleading.

    Phillips screwdriver: Normally used to stab the lids of old-style
    paper-and-tin oil cans and splash oil on your shirt; can also be used, as the
    name implies, to round off Phillips screw heads.

    Air compressor: A machine that takes energy produced in a coal-burning
    powerplant 200 miles away and transforms it into compressed air that travels
    by hose to a Chicago Pneumatic impact wrench that grips rusty suspension
    bolts last tightened 40 years ago by someone in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, and
    rounds them off.

    Grease gun: A messy tool for checking to see of your zirk fittings are still
    plugged with rust.

    Deep-well sockets: Normally used as piston-pin and wheel-bearing drifts,
    deep-well sockets are also good for drawing circles when a coffee-can lid
    would be way too big.

    Toshiba miniature refrigerator: A trouble-free appliance, manufactured to
    metric standards; used primarily to chill Lotus piston pins down to an easy
    press-fit while storing up to 12 bottles of Guinness stout, proving once
    again that Science is really at its best in the service of Art.

    Well, that’s enough for now. I’ve got lots of unmentioned tools left in the
    old box, but I should probably save them for another day when I run out of
    column ideas, much as I did earlier this morning.
    ~~ Veritas simplex oratio est ~~
    No matter how far a wizard goes, he will always come back for his hat. --T. Pratchett

    <---- You know you're getting old when you rely on your forum meta-data to remind you how old you are.



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