Pragmatic Gear

Neil Gaiman, in his excellent “Sandman” series wrote that tools can be the subtlest of traps.  I’m still not sure what I think about this, but if there’s a practical way to drive a nail barehanded, I’d love to see it.  Tools, it’s been mentioned, are petty much essential for performing certain functions.  If you’re looking to julienne an onion, whittle down a stick for tinder, or fix a rip in your clothes or backpack, you’re likely to need some kind of implement to get things done.  Where Gaiman starts to make sense (to your author, anyways) is in the extremes of said implements.  At one end of the scale, I’ve seen the bargain basement / dollar store tools.  They work, in theory.  They are the shape of something that COULD perform a tool like function, but the actual functionality and quality is a crapshoot.  The cheap hammer technically works; it applies physics admirably, but may shatter due to the temperature of the steel being off when it was drop – forged.  The pry bar that you can bend by hand?  NOT going to be much use on a stubborn joint if you can warp it with puny human muscles.  The cheap tools have their use, where excessive wear or expendability is needed, but they’re not the ones I’d keep in the car repair kit.

The other end of our spectrum features a marvel or modern implement distinguishment, the “Gear Nuts” (Other less flattering names apply).  Add the words “tactical”, “military spec.”, or “professional grade”, to any item, and someone will likely buy it for that sake, but may rarely have use for it.  High powered flashlights, absurd folding knives, and futuristic boots abound.  They certainly have high – quality tools, but few have a use for them, taking preparation, even CRAZY PREPERATION into absurdity.  A tool you do not need is dead weight.  (If you don’t want to take my word for it, carry around a 10 pound sledge for a day.  Unless you work on a farm or in construction where you need it, it gets old fast.)

Be pragmatic when acquiring tools.  Of course with utility razors, markers, or drill bits, you look at a limited life span regardless of what you acquire.  Things you expect to use hard, for a long time, do your homework on as far as features and potential maintenance.  A wooden handle will need eventual replacing, and I’ve yet to see a pair of boots that doesn’t benefit from regular cleaning, oiling and waterproofing, for example.  Where you need it, seek out well crafted stuff, shell out what is practical for your use / means, and take care of it.  (Cain had a great example with his long – lasting hiking boots.)

As a closing thought, while some things just seem AWESOME, resist the temptation.  (Yes, the 64 oz. engineer’s sledge may look fun as all hell, but for the occasional project it won’t be as easy to use or precise as a 20 oz. claw hammer.)  Utility first, then novelty.  Good luck!

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