Language is full of instructive sayings. This is a pretty list on Pinterest. One such is “If you take care of your tools, they’ll take care of you.” Putting things up and out of the weather is the first thing to think about, but there are many others: sharpening, oiling, sorting, replacing, cleaning. It’s always a victory for some not to have cut the extension cord when trimming the bushes, so proper use also belongs on the list.
Just as each profession or activity has its vocabulary as discussed in the post “f/8 and Being There,” each has its tools. They require a learning curve, as usual. And sometimes one stumbles there. Once I used a pair of fabric shears to cut paper in view of the owner of said fabric shears. I didn’t know! This little explanation isn’t as strong as it might be. Apparently everyone else knows you don’t use fabric scissors except on fabric.
An important note: Having the tools doesn’t increase the skill. All of these sewing favorites wouldn’t help me. I need patience and practice. My grandmother taught me to sew. Her mother had been a fine seamstress, and although she herself didn’t do much sewing, she had the skill. Once my uncle’s wife asked her for a potato sack dress. Fad! And she complied with some quiet mumbling. It was her hope I would have some talent as well as patience, but I lacked both. She also hoped I wouldn’t fall in with her friend’s corner-cutting ways. Wrong again. I learned how to shorten a hem by simply turning it up rather than cutting it open and resewing. Eventually with iron-on tape, I didn’t even have to thread a needle. One sweet memory, however, involves her doing my hem the right way, with a seamstress marker that used a tiny puff of chalk to mark the length evenly. Now going for $185 on eBay.
Traditional tools can be simple or complex, as basic as a hammer or as full of pieces as a ratchet set. Popular Mechanics gives us 50 that we should all have. With links to purchase sites, of course. Just as with a grandmother’s marker, my grandfather’s planer is featured on eBay but for $9.99 plus $20.60 shipping. He was a carpenter, and his tools are not unlike those today, in principle at least.
This list of kitchen tools seems reasonable. My garlic, however, comes out of jar or squeeze tube. Seems fine to me. That cook is obviously more serious. My personal kitchen favorites are a good knife and an electric juicer. This one from Proctor Silex looks great. It’s only $20, gets super reviews, and I’d buy it if my 40-year-old one didn’t still work just fine.
Some tools are quite specialized. Piano tuning and surgery come to mind. I’ve needed both through the years. My great-great-aunt had a degree in piano performance from Baylor University, earned in 1898. Yes, she was my piano teacher, and I frustrated her more than I did my grandmother. She was, in fact, married to a piano tuner. My success was doomed because we did not have a piano for me to practice on. I do remember one song— “Five Little Chickadees.” This version may be it. Not the counting song.
No one tried to teach me surgery, though. A fascinating array of cutters and pullers await us here, as well as lots of other things. This bit of advertising takes the cake: “Don’t you hate pesky abdominals getting in the way? Now, they don’t have to. The Balfour retractor holds open abdominal incisions in place, allowing the surgeon to work on the area freely.” The only thing that separates this from the worst copywriting ever is that at least it doesn’t say “Don’t you just hate…”
One grandchild, interviewed for this post, suggested that a sword would be a favorite tool. Disallowed. Doesn’t own one. Next choice was nutcrackers—not the decorative kind but the ones that actually help you eat pecans and walnuts and such. Here is a brief overview. One loves a creative mind and a willingness to respond to random questions.
Obviously, this could go on forever. From mechanics to astronauts, farmers to artists, hikers, photographers—the list has its overlaps. Today’s picture of ballet toe shoes seemed different and interesting. This site follows the pattern of Tools You Must Own. So, shoes are tools. Tutus are not. And those foot stretcher tools look painful. Oh, and yes—they tried to teach me ballet. Never advanced technique; the teacher broke her collar bone and I was done. I do remember the positions, well, four of the five anyway.
A favorite poem by Seamus Heaney, the Irish Nobel winner, is called simply “Digging.” He tells of his father and grandfather in the bogs, cutting and removing peat. The entire poem is here, but they seem serious about the copyright. These last images are perfectly descriptive:
“The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.
Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.”
We’ll conclude with a few more relevant aphorisms, new to me. “Buy nice or buy twice.” This is a companion to “You get what you pay for” and “Penny wise, pound foolish.” I try. Another new one is “Cry now or cry later.” Perhaps a match with “Pay me now or pay me later.” “Horse to water” could also be applied. I now see that I need to change my ways, having lost the opportunity to sew or play piano. I can at least buy good tools.