Columbia Spy is privileged to publish several articles by Columbia native Mike Clark, with permission of the author. The essays were previously published in The Globe Leader and 50-plus Senior News and will continue to be reprinted in the Spy over the next few weeks.
by Mike Clark
There’s a place just off our family room that I like to call my workshop. Workshop is a misnomer, however. There’s hardly room to move in there, let alone do work.
It’s become a place where I go only to look for tools when something in the house breaks, leaks, or falls apart. Sometimes I even think about making stuff—until I turn the lights on.
I look there because I know I put tools in there at one time or another. I just don’t remember which ones or where. I store tools in other places, too (which exacerbates my problem), but the shop is the principal place for the essential implements that I need to maintain our home.
Halloween decorations and paint cans (filled to various levels with paint and dried paint scum) are out in the open on a shelf toward the back of the workshop.
I haven’t used either in years, but at least they are easy to find. I don’t know why Halloween decorations are in there. I certainly didn’t make them. And the paint colors are outdated.
Easily finding things that are no longer of any use to me indicates another problem, as of yet undefined. Hoarding?
But specific tools, when I am in urgent need of them, are hard to find. Not all tools, mind you, are hard to find; large, cumbersome tools are difficult to misplace, after all. There’s a 10-inch table saw right about in the center of the shop. It acts as an anchor and is a symbol of the possibilities and potential of what could someday be a viable workshop.
To get to it, I must step over a chain saw, a circular saw, a jigsaw, and a router. All these power tools are in their original, molded-plastic cases, which enhances the size of each obstruction. Therefore, they offer a challenge when trying to climb over them.
The router, by the way, is brand new; I forgot I had it. I also forget why I bought it.
I would like to move everything aside while walking to my table saw and the workbench beyond, but pushing these ungainly objects to and fro just jams them more tightly against other articles that should not be on a workshop floor. These power tools can only be stored in the spaces in which they sit. I pick them up, and I set them down.
Hand tools are not always so visible, however. And therein lies the gist of my troubles.
Any relatively flat surface in the vicinity of a job I’m doing is a potential storage spot for a small hand tool. It is also a convenient spot to deposit wood scraps, bent nails, stripped screws, and other, larger tools. It happens often enough that a significant supply of important hand tools can end up concealed under mounds of things that should have been discarded long ago.
Oh, the tools and gadgets that I’ve taken the time and care to hang on my large, brown peg-board are fairly neat and in order. I attribute that to the fact that I seldom use those things. They consist of screwdrivers, chisels, nut-drivers, pliers, wrenches, hand saws, hand drills, leftover plumbing supplies, and miscellaneous doodads that are all the wrong sizes and types for the tasks that I need to tend. I must have needed them at one time. I mean, why else would they be there?
I have often searched an inordinately long time for a tool that I know I have. And in my frustration, I give up looking. Then I go to the hardware store and buy a new tool. It saves me a lot of time, and the tool I need is usually inexpensive. The hours I waste looking could be spent repairing, I always say.
In the latest episode, my garbage disposal jammed. You’ll have to ask my wife why, though. Fine, it could have happened to anyone (as she says). So I went down to my workshop to fetch a quarter-inch Allen wrench to jog the flywheel back and forth, which usually clears the jam.
I searched until I found an array of Allen wrenches lying scattershot in a place far from where they should have been. There was no quarter-inch wrench in the pile, although I know I have one—somewhere. In the meantime, I went to the hardware store to get a new one.
Someday I’ll clean out and organize my workshop. And when I do, I’ll more than likely find two of everything.
I’m going to plan a yard sale.
Mike Clark writes a regular column for The Globe Leader newspaper in New Wilmington, Pa. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior/Applied Psychology from Albright College. Mike lives in Columbia, Pa., and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org