Caring for Tools

Dad would never let this happen

As I explained yesterday, Father’s Day caught me off-guard this year. I think that’s OK. Father’s Day might be the official day that I think about my dad, but it’s far from the only day. I was thinking about my dad a few days ago when Maddie and I walked by that scene at the right. If I had left his tools outside, overnight, well, that’s just it, I wouldn’t have. If he had seen that toolbox, I would have been out there, in the dark, putting those tools away properly in the toolbox and bringing the toolbox inside. This I know – from experience.

I was planning an elaborate post around that toolbox, and the memory it evoked, but now, I realize that that isn’t necessary. The fact of the matter is, I see my father’s influence in the way I think about almost everything. I regularly encounter people, things, images and activity that remind me of my dad. I regularly find myself in situations in which my actions and reactions are the direct result of having been raised by my dad.

I think, if my dad were here right now, he might say:

Stop trying to make this more than it is. Tell them about the toolbox and let them go about their day. They have other things to do besides listening to you.”

My dad worked hard to teach my brother and I several things about tools. He established multiple rules about his tools, and he urged us to carry those rules forward when we started buying tools of our own. I haven’t always listened:

Never lend tools – My dad would drive to your house and fix something, but he would not lend you the tool needed for that repair. He wanted to be sure that his tools were being used correctly. I have broken this rule on several occasions. More than once, I paid the price by having a broken tool returned or by not having any tool returned.

Don’t borrow tools – Dad felt that if he borrowed a tool and then broke it, he would have to replace it. That was usually all the justification he needed to buy the tool he needed. I’ve broken this rule, only to find, as dad predicted, that the premium extracted upon return can be higher than the interest rate charged by Sears.

You will never break a tool by using it correctly – First heard after breaking the handle of a garden rake. Yes, I had been banging it into the ground, trying to get better leverage on a rock that needed to be dislodged. Upon fessing up to the mistake, we first dug the rock out with proper tools. Then, we fixed the rake.

Regarding the photo, I’ll share the story I was reminded of: I had ridden my bike home from a friend’s house one night. When I got to the bottom of the hill we lived on, I discovered that my back brakes were not working. Anyone who has ever gone over the handlebars of a bike when only using the front brakes knows the dilemma I faced. Fortunately, we lived at the corner of two hills and I was able to turn up the side street and let gravity bring me to a safe stop.

Not wanting to have that experience again, I used a small socket set to loosen the cable on the back caliper. I then used two pairs of Vise Grips to pull the cable forward and to hold it in place while I tightened the cable clamp.

Then I went to bed.

My father was bowling that night. He came home after midnight and saw the tools on the floor next to my bike. The next thing I knew, I was up, out of bed, moping my way downstairs, in my underwear and barefoot, to “wipe those tools off and put them away.”

This is a lesson that never stuck with me. I still tend to leave tools out, but I hear his voice every time I walk into my garage.

I know I’m sliding this in under the wire, but I hope all the fathers in your life had a Happy Father’s Day.


  1. Dan, thanks for sharing these father and tool stories. I played around with my dad’s tools as a youngster and picked up a thing or two about how to use them along the way. Now I feel I have way too many tools but still enjoy having them handy for when you need just the right tool for a certain job. Best, Brett

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Back in 2011, I lent out my straight-claw hammer and the man promptly disappeared with it. I don’t know his name and I can’t remember his face. We were on a construction site when he borrowed it. I didn’t mind. I thought the electricians I was working with knew him. Turned out they didn’t. They thought I knew him. From then on, I never borrow tools and I never lend them. I can give out anything but not my tools. If they don’t come back damaged, they disappear.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It seems we all learn the hard way, Peter. I had an electric brad-nailer come back broken. The person said “it was working fine when I used it” and I really had nothing to say. Thanks for adding your experience. Nice knowing that it isn’t just me.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Janet. We had a great day. I am protective of my books. I have had to replace a few that I loaned. The thing that bothers me most is when I lend something and then the person loans it to someone else. That’s what happened with one of my books.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Wonderful post, Dan. Even though you don’t always follow your dad’s rules, how awesome is it that you are reminded of him every time you break one or pick up a tool? The story of the late night tool pick-up in the middle of the night made me chuckle. What a sight that must have been, although I bet you weren’t too happy about it. Happy belated Father’s Day to you and Happy Monday!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Mary. That night was not my fondest memory, but he was right, it would have only taken 1-2 minutes to put them away properly. I just never thought he’d notice. I probably left a light on, or something stupid. I spent a lot of time with him, in home and work settings, so there are just tons of memories. Have a great week.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. My Dad is the same way Dan. Sounds like my hubby to be sure, although of late he has not been so good about putting things away. Blame it on the knee. He never lends tools but has always picked up “extras” at garage sales. Flea mkts, etc; so it is common for him to tell a friend or family member,”Be right back” then disappear into his personal hardware store and retrun with an adequate tool that he hapluy gives to them. Or, like your Dad, he used to offer doing the repair himself. Isn’t it nice to have little things trigger those memories for us? Most people don’t realize that simple lessons like those of your father helped give you the sense of responsibility and the good work ethic that you have. Frankly I see less and less of it in this new generation of parenting. Oh, and be sure to put those tools away young man! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Cheryl. It’s true, I don’t see a lot of younger people using tools properly or even knowing that there are tools to make a hard job much simpler. I will volunteer to help people do things. The last thing I want is for my tools to be used by an amateur. I buy antique tools. The only time that’s sad is when it’s a tool I learned how to use when I was young ;)

      Liked by 2 people

  5. LOL, MiMi and those tools. Dan, maybe she was one of the builders of the Great Pyramids in a past life. =^-^=
    I remember the big old wooden tool box my dad had when I was very small. I remember struggling to climb up on top of it (it seemed so high and large!), pulling my little sister up behind me. We sprinkled Peter Pan pixie dust on our heads (powdered laundry detergent) and then jumped. We were so sure we flew, at least for a second. (Of course I got into big trouble for wasting detergent. And for letting my sister play, but that was a no win situation. I was told to let her do everything I did, and every time I did, I got in trouble.)
    Yes, tools and everything else had to be taken care of diligently. Fun post, Dan. New week hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Teagan and thanks for all your support of my wandering thoughts. I was the younger brother, and my brother got in trouble a few times for “including me” in his harebrained adventures.

      Thanks for the hugs :)

      Liked by 1 person

  6. This is an interesting topic for Father’s Day! I guess all fathers have a toolbox. I remember when I was a kid, my dad always kept a tool box under my bed. There were all sorts of stuff in there, organized in a neat order. And my dad would know everytime I took something out from it. Hahaha…he wasn’t happy when that happened!

    By the way, MiMi is the way we call all cats at my hometown…hahha…cute MiMi! Does she/he get along with Maddie?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the comment Liu (is that correct?) MiMi gets along with Maddie, but Maddie doesn’t always get along with MiMi. I guess MiMi sometimes crosses the line and seems like something Maddie should be chasing out of our house. Maddie has some neurological issues that seem to interfere with good behavior.

      That’s funny about calling cats that way.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. This was a great post, Dan. I do live by your father’s rule: Neither a borrower nor a lender be. I don’t borrow and I don’t lend. Excellent advice. And Mimi is adorable in her love of tools.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. :) MiMi loves tools! Too cute!

    I feel the same way about my kitchen tools, and my camera stuff. Well, all my stuff really. I’ve never liked to lend anything because I’d hate to have it broken, or not returned, and I don’t borrow because I’d hate to break or lose it and need to replace it. I’d rather save up and buy it myself if it’s something I really need or want.

    I hope you had a happy Father’s Day!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Never mind how great this post is — aren’t they all! — but I love how you and Faith work together on stuff.

    According to my family lore, my father didn’t teach me much of anything because HIS father never taught him. See, Grandpop Hy was a professional tradesman, and apparently his line was “I can’t afford to have you help me.” That’s rough! And partly explains why every project around here is an adventure. :-|

    Hope you had an excellent day. You deserve it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much Steve. I hope your day was great too, as you deserve that! I know people who refused to teach people stuff they knew. The guy we bought our house from bragged about how he would send an apprentice to get something out of the truck when he had some particularly tricky operation to perform, because he didn’t want others to know how to do everything he knew.

      You, on the other hand, want people to learn everything you know :-)


  10. My dad locked his tools away in a room in the basement. It is when I learned to pick locks. It confused the hell out of him when he would find his pliers laying in the grass…then he figured it out.

    The rest of the story involved corporal punishment and is too painful to recount.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Your dad was a wise man. My husband loaned someone his practically new chainsaw and when he got it back, it never worked again. It’s now being repaired. Other tools he loaned out, he never got back. Tools are too expensive to loan out, leave them outside, and just not take care of them. I tell my husband that we don’t buy tools for others to use. He’s finally getting the message . . . I hope!

    Liked by 1 person

    • If the person who borrowed the chainsaw is like the people I’ve loaned tools to, the comment was: “it was working fine when I last used it…”

      Yeah, tools are way too expensive to be loaned out. It took me too long to fully appreciate my dad’s advice, but it’s carved in stone now.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I always appreciate your dad tales.
    I have the kind of dads (2) who can fix anything ever and who never wanted me to learn to fix anything ever. I can remember being yelled at for a good ten minutes when caught changing my own license plate. They can say what they want, but I think it’s more than sexism, I think it’s wanting to be needed. Perhaps working at the hardware store was a form of feminist rebellion. And then I married a mechanic. LOL BUT! The Mister likes to teach our kids how to fix things, even the girl ones, and I love that.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. I appreciate your Dad’s approach to tools….appreciate the concept is as far as my reality goes with it. I am constantly harassed about my tools…not that I lack in any (I truly don’t), but my organization of them. Having a number of shelves in the garage decked to my tools is as close to organized as I get. Yes…that tool is somewhere within the confines of those specific shelves….where in those confines is the challenge, unless of course I left it out somewhere the last time I used it. My Dad and father in law would just shake their head…heh..I’m uber organized about other things…just not tools.. Happy belated Fathers Day to you, sir!!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. A bad tradesman blames his tools but only a fool fails to care for his tools. Your father was a wise man Dan, they’re some pretty good tool rules.

    My dad is the same, and expected as much of us. Regardless of what time you are going to start again in the morning you clean, oil and put away your tools when you finish for the day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, that’s exactly the lesson. I think he might have walked up to the door as we walked past that engine repair, and told the guy to go pick up those tools and cover that engine block. Thanks for the comment. It sounds like we both learned from wise men.


  15. I had to smile at this one, Dan. My dad could have learned a lesson or two from your dad :)
    His garage was always a disaster zone of miscellaneous tools in various stages of neglect … but his butcher shop was the complete opposite. Everything immaculately clean and in its rightful place.

    … and his paperwork? As an accountant, I don’t want to take the trip down that horror highway.

    I loved this post. Your dad left a huge print on you – all of it good :)

    Liked by 1 person

  16. So glad you posted this, Dan. Our dads sits on our minds in so many ways. Mine never tolerated a bike left in the sun. It would damage the tires. It bothered me to obey and store my bike. But years later I impose the same rule to my kids. And I do onto myself too :)
    Those dads!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree, Judy. I wish everyone felt that way about tools, especially when they break them. That kind of common sense seems less and less common these days. Sorry I missed this earlier.


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