It belongs to you now

So, yesterday morning, was I ever surprised when Santa Claus came down our chimney and left me a new Pioneer car stereo. Sweet!

This now allows me to play my iPod on the system – heck, it charges the stupid thing, and I can control it from the stereo system faceplate. Or, if I’m feeling lazy in my compact car – use the silly remote control.

While I was sitting in my driveway installing this contraption (no, I had never installed a car stereo before.. this was gong to be fun), I read the directions very carefully to ensure I didn’t have to pull the center console apart a second time (I did). And, while trying to secure the four 10 mm bolts back into the deep recesses which secured the stereo mount, one fell off the socket and fell down behind the center console.  Damnit!  The instructions warned me several times to use magnets to capture the nut and keep it from doing this very thing.

I got the other three installed and was entering my second half hour of fishing for a bolt that I couldn’t see, when it hit me. Why the heck was I looking for it?  I grabbed the mount and shook it. It was rock solid. It didn’t shake. It didn’t shimmy. Nada. I made the command decision to just close up the interior panels I had to remove and get the car back into workable condition.

Why so cavalier?  Well, with me, when I buy a car, I tend to drive the sucker until it falls apart. We got rid of our 2001 Dodge Caravan earlier this year when the odometer clicked over 150,000 miles and the vehicle was preparing to wheeze its last. The Corolla the stereo is in is already five years old, and will probably be handed down to my oldest son when it’s time to go to college in four years.

So, who is ever going to notice this one missing screw?

I bring this up because I do obsess. I obsess about the condition of my tools. I like to leave them as close to the way I purchased them, not making any changes that could identify them as my own. Why on earth do I do this? I have no idea. Maybe it’s because I like to fool myself into thinking the tool is brand spankin’ new. Maybe it’s because I think should the absolute worst happen to me that my wife will be able to see my tools for what they cost me when I bought them.  Maybe it’s because I think I’ll ruin them if I modify them to work better for me.

I remember once when Jim Heavey was teaching a class at a Woodworking Show here in Tampa. He suggested that – perhaps – it would be easier for woodworkers to do a certain task if they scribed the exact mark on the top where the left side of the carbide teeth of a table saw blade would begin to cut. For some attendees, this was a nearly blasphemous statement.  How COULD Jim even suggest that someone defile the surface of his saw by doing something so permanent?

Well, Jim made it clear that when the time came to resell the saw, there was going to be a significant amount of depreciation – regardless of how much money was spent or how much time was lavished on its upkeep. And, that it was very proper – thank you very much – to customize your saw to meet your needs.

Many of you may have gotten tools under the tree yesterday. If you did, good for you! Now, get out there. Work with them. And, if they need to be modified to suit your needs… do so judiciously.

This week, I have to finish a set of pantry doors. I have this Rousseau router plate that holds my Freud FT2000 router. I picked it up about eight years ago.  Those little insert rings have never quite fit right – they have always been too tight. I have been holding off doing anything about this because – you guessed it – I didn’t feel right about ‘customizing’ the plate to meet my needs.

That ends today. If I’m going to get good results on my cope and stick joinery, I’m gonna need a very flat table. So, out comes the 220 grit paper and I’ll be shaving the rings down to size to make them fit.

The sounds of a happy client who got perfectly milled doors? I’m sure that will be music to my ears!


4 thoughts on “It belongs to you now”

  1. Great post, Tom. I look at tools as “kits” in various states of readiness and never hesitate to modify them so that they work better for me.


  2. You ain’t livin’ right Tom. I’ve got a ’99 Grand Caravan with 274,000 miles on it and still runs like a scalded dog. And I did the scratch thing on my table saw right after I got it. Comfort and convenience is the name of the game.

  3. I did the etch thing on my table saw this past summer and on my router table for a bit I use frequently on a project I just completed. Both made things a lot easier.

    And, I got 289,000 on my 89 Suburban before she called it quits. It was a solemn day at our house that day.

  4. Dang… what the heck are you guys doing to keep those cars going? The van was ready to give up the ghost… we had it on life support…

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