Wednesday, July 25, 2012

When Is It Time to Replace a Tool?

I hit myself in the face on Saturday.  Oh it wasn't because I had annoyed myself, or that maybe I had insulted myself.  I rarely get that annoyed with me. Me, myself and I have really great discussions together...but as usual, I digress.

No, the reason I socked myself is...well, I was using my pruner on a big tough branch and it snapped - not the branch, the pruner  (seen above) causing one hand to come up and rather forcefully smack me in the jaw.  Don't worry, no bruises. But I was pretty ticked off. Having a tool break like that in the middle of a job can really get to you. The job doesn't get done, I'm standing there shocked at the loss of an old friend and hurling epithets while I try and figure out what caused the break! (First, of course, I had to glance around to make sure no one saw the aforementioned Fist-To-Face Fiasco.) 

Y'see, it's those holes.  See them there in the hardwood handles? That's what caused the breakage.  Those are from when I hung up the pruner in the open air carport. No, I didn't cut the hole to hang the thing.  The holes were created by Carpenter Bees.  Xylocopa Latreille (if you want to get specific)  are found on every continent on the  planet and at first glance are about the same size as small flying SUV.  Ok, so maybe they aren't THAT big, but they are bigger than your average bee.  Nice thing is that they are fairly docile.  Except for that digging holes in wood thing they got going on.  The females dig the holes to lay eggs and sort of hibernate during the winters. Each year they return using ready made holes (whether they made them or not).  

The hole merely weakened the hardwood handles of my favorite pruner - ok, my ONLY pruner.  The pressure on the hole made it break.  It's like losing an old friend.  I've had this particular pruner for longer than I care to admit. I got it when the need got too great, the untrimmed trees and bushes calling out to be cut.  The paint has worn off the grips and the handles had to be tightened with a couple of wood screws, but it got the job done.  Now it looks like I'm going to be looking for a new one.  

I can't seem to throw out old tools like this. It will probably sit in the shed in a box until I come upon it in a few years and will toss it then, asking myself "What was I thinking keeping this old rusty thing??" 

The fact of the matter is, really, I can't go long without one.  Life in the south requires, no - DEMANDS that you keep trees and bushes from encroaching on your house, shed and walkways.  The only way to do this is with the right tools, and a pruner with as big an opening as possible is at the top of the list.  

This time, however, I'm getting the neigh-indestructible-non-wood handles. 
Dang bees can go mate elsewhere!  

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Is It Hot Enough For You?

As I'm sure I've said once or twice, and to which this blog is dedicated, I love living in The South (yes, with the requisite capital 'S.')   I love most everything about it.  However, there is one thing about the South that I do not like and that is the heat. Summer heat in the South will make you imagine what the surface of the sun must be like.

More than that, it's also me.  Growing up in Colorado, my body was originally geared for cold.  If there is no frost on the window I'm not happy.  The wife and I have argued more than once about the setting on the thermostat. She being from Arizona likes it warm. Me: Cold.   (A digital thermostat only added to the fire, so to speak, as we now can argue over one degree.)  

The temperature outside today was 105 degrees.  One Hundred FIVE Degrees! Oh yes, I'm sure the heat is much worse where you are, but give me a chance here.  In the Rockies, a hot day is 90 degrees, maybe 95 but 105? Holy GuacaMoley!  If I had a fever of 105 they'd be digging a hole to put me in!  I've debated once or twice seeing if I could cook an egg on the driveway, but I just don't want to go out there.  Or waste an egg.  

But more than the heat, you got that Suthun Humidity.  Sometimes it's so humid, I feel like I need a snorkel to get to the car!  When it's that hot outside, and you got that humidity, stepping out the front door is like being hit with a hot towel.  Immediately you feel like you just stepped out of a shower.  The coolness of your skin causes the high humidity to condense and soak through everything. Don't even think about wearing more than one layer.   In only minutes you feel like you've been out there for days.  

It's just as well, I can't seem to do anything anyway because all my tools are too hot to touch. The Shed feels more like a sauna or better yet a steam-bath.  The only good thing about this heat is that the lawn doesn't need mowing as much which means the Lawn Wars are postponed due to weather!  

And then there's Bubba. Neighbor Bubba walks around in this weather like it's a temperate Spring Day. He wears a pair of overalls over a light cotton tee-shirt, and he looks like he's enjoying himself as he works on his car or pushes a wheelbarrow around the backyard.  Bubba is a real Suthunah, which is more than I'll ever be.  True suthunahs live for the heat, thrive on the heat, and perhaps even work outdoors in the heat.  

Me?  Turn down the thermostat, close the dang door and bring me another glass of ice water.  I'm not coming out til November.  

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Andy Griffith Last of the Good Ol' Boys

June 1, 1926 – July 3, 2012
It has been a week since the death of Andy Griffith.  I cannot tell you how this affected me.  Andy was a part of our American heritage, as much as Mom and Apple Pie and he has been as much a part of my growing up as anyone I actually know.  He represented a male father figure to me and my brothers, and he represented the part of us all that was laid back and at ease in his own skin.  He embodied the true Southern Gentleman, the last of the Good Ol' Boys.

He was a Broadway Star in the 1950's and was reknowned as a comedian using a view of life from a backward hick to skewer such things as American Football.  He was a star of movies, tv and radio and won a Grammy for Best Southern, Country or Bluegrass Gospel Album (1997). In 1999 he was inducted into the Country Gospel Music Hall of Fame and in 2007, he was inducted into the Christian Music Hall of Fame and Museum. He was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bush on November 9, 2005.

But above all that, he will forever be Sherrif Andy Taylor of Mayberry, North Carolina, USA, nephew to Aunt Bea Taylor, mentor and best friend to bumbling Deputy Barney Fife and of course, father to Opie Taylor.  He was also friend, confidant, mentor and father to us all.  You can't watch the show and not want to be there in Mayberry,  a town representative of just about any of the small towns of the South.  You can just see yourself walking down to the diner for lunch, hanging out at Floyd's Barber Shop for some gossip or just watching as Andy and Opie head down to the fishin' hole for an afternoon of close bonding; a friendly wave and a fading whistle as they disappear over the hill.

Another reason to just love the South, but without Andy in it, it's just not the same.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Southern Man's Tool Box Revisited

Back in January my New Years resolution had me defining the perfect tool kit.  It's only been 6 months but it feels like half a year; and after much heated debate (ok, I'll admit it, I'm debating with my evil twin and he's a real PITA) we're ready to reveal the Southern Man's Tool Box. This is the box/tool bag which you keep handy, for those quick jobs or easy repairs.  In addtion, we also have defined those things one realy needs to have handy just in case.

Let's take a look:

Tool Box – Sturdy. I personally like the soft type of bag, but for this sort of use, the sturdy box will allow you easier access in a hurry.

Hammer - Most everyone will immediately look toward the wood handled hammer, but I go for the fiberglass. I've had 2 of them for years and they don't wear out, dont split and they don't ever need to have the head tightened.

Carpenter's pencil - No, not one of those round #2 pencils you used in school. These are flat, which means when you set it down, it WON'T roll away.  I keep several around. A notepad is also a good idea.

Adjustable Crescent Wrench  -  One medium sized, but two sizes are always better.

Screwdrivers - I'm sure this is self explanaitory, and for those who don't realize it, there are many sizes of screw drivers, both Slot and Cross headed.  I have also found useful to have a set of bits to fit all sorts of screws (cross headed, stars, hex and even some sockets) which fit into a universal handle.

Vice Grips/Pliers - Reg/NeedleNose/Combination - Anyone that needs to know what these are for has never worked on anything. Pliers help you grip things and vise grips (locking pliers) help you get a good grip on things. Channel Lock Pliers make a big job easier. Needle Nose and Combination pliers will have wire cutters, and help pull things out that you can't otherwise get out.

Small Flashlight - Nuff Said. I like to have one that will fit between my teeth for hands free working and I also have one that is strung in such a way as to go around my head and focus light right where I need it. (Store with the battery removed, in a zip lock bag.)

Utility Knife/Scraper - A cutting implement is one of those things that you don't realize you need in a tool box until you do.  Gotta open those plastic cases somehow.  And the scraper can be a life saver when painting around windows.

Nail Set - Pound in a nail and be careful not to scar the wood, you'll still see a bit of that nail sticking up. Don't try to pound it flat, you'll only end up with a nice hammer sized dent in the wood. A nail set can knock that sucker flat (or further if you want to add wood putty) in no time. (You can even use a 10 penny nail in a pinch)

Awl - I rarely use an awl, but I keep one handy. This is like a long pointy screwdriver but round and very thin.  It's originally designed for sewing and can be used to poke holes in leather. It can also be used as an Ice Pick or to mark wood or metal with a scratch.

Power Tester - When working with electricity this is a must.  Unless you like testing power with your tongue.

Putty Knife -  Metal is best, but cheap plastic ones can be used and discarded after use. 

Tape measure - This is another of those 'you should already know what it's for' kind of things.  Make sure it's spring loaded retractable and even lockable once it's in position.

Chisel - When someone suggested this, I first thought it was a bit of overkill for this box. But then I realized how much I do use my one chisel for shaping wood, or cutting stubborn screw heads off.  Keep it sharp, you never know when you'll need it.

Tapes - Teflon tape for working with pipes.   Duct Tape is one of those things you will just HAVE to keep around.   Black Electrical Tape for making connections and marking wires (colors, too, like red and white are always good for that.)

Level - A small level is always good when hanging paintings, checking walls or putting up doors.

Cable, Stud and Pipe Detector - Now you might think of this as another of those overkill things, but when we're talking about some small type emergency and you need to know where the pipe or wire is in a wall, NOW, this will be important to have.

Baling Wire (or other thin easy workable wire), length of string, rope and other cordage (got that word from a show on Discovery) and even a few cable ties can help in a small quick job.

Pack of Pipe Cleaners - These are great for cleaning tools or wiring things in place while you work with them.  Wrap one around a screw to hold it in an odd position while you drive it home with the drill motor.  

Paint Brush - This is not really so much for paint as it is for brushing dirt or saw dust out of small spots or just keeping the work area clean.

Protection - Ya gotta have this stuff for any job, so keep some handy in this handy box.  Things like a dust mask, eye protection and gloves.  (I have a pair of heavy leather gloves for the hard work and a pair of nytrile coated gloves for all other work.)

Calculator - This does not mean you need a big plug in type. I have a small light powered calculator for making sure my math works well when I need it.

Drill Motor - When I grew up in the west, we called this a Drill and Drill bits.  Here in the South, they call it a Drill Motor and Drills. Whatever you grew up calling it, keep one handy and of course, cordless is always best if you can get it.  If you don't have cordless, then be sure you have a long enough cord. 

Band-Aids - ok, yeah, this last one was included by my brother, Bubba. There are times when I rate a job by the number of band-aids I use so a fresh handful is always good to have handy (in sealed plastic like a zip lock bag to keep 'em fresh!)

Along with the above tool box, you'll also want to keep the following handy for any job that might pop up.

Bucket - My wife will tell you the story of when I "borrowed" her favorite mop bucket and ended up ruining it. I still haven't been able to find an identical replacement and it's been a year or more.  Get a good sturdy bucket for your own use, Bubba. You'll thank me later, and so will your wife.

Step Ladder - I have a nice 6 foot ladder for small jobs and I keep it in the house by the back door. For smaller jobs I have a folding 2-step ladder I keep in the laundry area.

Extension Cord - This is a no brainer when working with power tools.  Everyone should have a good heavy grade extension cord.  No, not that thing you use to put lights up at Christmas.  Get a good heavy duty one made for power tools.

Portable Workbench - You take down a piece of wall and are about to put up some nifty thing you built in the garage, so don't go messing up the dining table by working there.  A nice folding table or portable workbench for your own projects is just what Dr. Marvinator ordered.

Variety of hardware - nails, screws and a way to keep them separate.  It doesn't matter if you keep them in a coffee can or a fishin' tackle box, just be sure to always have them on hand, or you'll end up running to the store for a 99 cent pack of nails every time you turn around.

There you have it.  Gleaned from a lot of emails and not a few lists on the internet.  Oh and one last addition.
You really need to have one or two of these things:
(In case you didn't know, it's a paint can opener and bottle opener.  
The Perfect Tool, the Perfect Suthunah's Tool I would hazard.)