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Santa Maria Sun / Humor

The following article was posted on January 26th, 2016, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 16, Issue 47 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 16, Issue 47

Sharpest tool in the shed

When it comes to tools, Rob gets the best


Last weekend I found myself hanging out with my old man. We knocked back a beer or six and began to reminisce about the good old days working on cars and hanging out in the garage. Our visit down memory lane was going swell until he asked me the stupidest question I have ever heard, “Do you have my grinder?”

Beer almost came out of my nose, “Excuse me, do I have your what?

“My grinder. When you and your brother moved out, all of my tools somehow disappeared.”

The reason I found this question to be so preposterous is because my father never owned a grinder. In fact, he never owned a tool in his life that cost more than $9.99. Like a vegetarian refuses to eat meat, my dad refused to purchase any quality tools, ever. Why buy a complete set of nice wrenches when one rusty crescent wrench from a swap meet would work? That sort of thinking, along with the $10 budget cap, certainly precluded any power tool ownership. Our version of power tools were just tools that were powered by human sweat. The closest thing we had to a grinder when I was growing up was some 100 grit sandpaper wrapped around a block of wood and a lot of elbow grease. He didn’t own any tools that plugged into a wall because nobody made tools that plugged in that cost less than $10.

I grew up in a house with a two-car garage, with just enough room for one car if the doors were shut and the mirrors were folded back. The rest of our garage was filled with miscellaneous car parts and cheap tools. Well, not just cheap tools, most of them were free tools. I’m not talking about race team sponsorship, free Snap-On tools. I’m talking about when you buy something from Walmart that you have to assemble and it comes with that little free disposable screwdriver. My dad’s toolbox was actually filled with tons of those free crappy screwdrivers.

My dad did at one point make a big purchase, big for him anyway, and picked up a socket set that was sitting in the Daily Deal bin in front of the cash register at Pep Boys for a whopping $19.99. Socket sets normally come metric or standard sizes, but my dad’s socket set was somewhere in the middle of those sizes. The sockets wouldn’t fit a standard bolt or a metric bolt, but universally they would strip both types. Because of all of the rounded off bolts from the junk socket set, I found that the most useful tool in our garage was a pair of Vise-Grips. This tool also happened to be the only name-brand tool we owned, and thus it was the nicest we possessed. We only had this nice name-brand jewel because my dad found it on the road one day.

Every project I ever worked on as a kid always took 10 times longer than it should have because I was busy trying not to strip bolts with crappy tools or because I was attempting to cut things with a dull saw blade. My dad didn’t understand the concept of replaceable blades. He thought once you bought a hacksaw for $9.99, you were fixed for life. I didn’t need a gym membership as a kid because I got all the cardio I needed trying to cut roll-cage tubing with a dead hacksaw blade.

Working in my dad’s garage did teach me some very useful skills, like how to change a tire very quickly. I learned how to do this task lightning fast, not because I was training to be on a NASCAR pit crew, but out of necessity because my dad’s jack leaked hydraulic fluid and thus would only hold a car in the air for about 10 seconds. If I didn’t pull the old wheel off and put the new wheel back on in nine seconds or less then I had a car sitting on the ground, or worse, a part of my body. Why didn’t I use a jack stand you ask? My dad wasn’t really into occupational safety back in the 1980s. Safety wasn’t a priority so we didn’t own jack stands. Instead we owned different sizes and shapes of blocks of wood that substituted as jack stands, in concept only. Setting a car on a teetering tower of firewood was not a smart plan. It was better to just be quick with the tire change.

Besides refusing to buy quality tools, my dad also refused to buy hardware. Instead of making a run to Orchard Supply to find just the right sized bolt, my dad had a rusty coffee can with about 8,000 greasy bolts, nuts, screws, and washers in it. These bits and pieces of junk hardware dated back to WWI as the can of bolts has been handed down in our family from generation to generation. I told my brother that when the time comes, he can inherit the can. 

My dad mandated that every single bolt, nut, screw, and washer in the rusty can be checked for comparable sizing prior to any trips to the hardware store. We lived 1 mile from the local store and a locking washer costs all of about $.08. Five minutes and $.08 could solve a problem during a car project. But my dad would rather spend an hour digging through that coffee can just in case we had a match. It’s what his great-great grandpa would have done during the Depression, so it’s what my dad continues to do today.

When I grew up and moved out of the house, I decided to buy myself some legitimate tools. Tools that feel right when you hold them in your hand. Real tools that actually work, not something that came out of a cereal box. I certainly didn’t feel the need to pilfer any of the crappy tools from my dad’s collection of bargain bin tools in his messy garage. And I most definitely didn’t take any of the tools from his imaginary tool box—you know, that one with that supposed grinder in it.

Rob has two sets of everything and he won’t let anyone borrow either one. You can read more from Rob Krider or contact him at

Weekly Poll
Should the proposed aquifer exemption in Cat Canyon be approved?

Yes—the water from the proposed area can't serve as drinking water.
No—oil containments could still pollute usable groundwater.
Additional oil and gas projects can create more jobs.
We need to move away from oil and gas and look at renewable energy projects.

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