Wednesday, March 16, 2011

New Tools! And Why The Tools At Lowe's Are Wack!

This year I have decided to go through my tools at work, reorganize, clean out, and try to make my tool bag and "tool kits" more professional. Maybe professional is not the correct term but just easier for ME to use and a little more presentable. I also made the decision to have another tool bag. I wanted to make a small tool bag for what I consider small or light jobs that I do upstairs that I am tired of carrying my big heavy tool bag to. A smaller bag, with a common (slotted) screw driver, small pair of hogs, phillips screw driver, my leatherman, a pair of dikes (diagonal cutters) and a small set of allen keys. I had a bag that I used for a while a few years ago and decided against. I also had a small pair of hogs, the leatherman, and allen keys. I unretired a pair of dikes from home and went to Lowes' to buy the rest.

I had a gift card form Lowes' that I got for Christmas so I figured I would get the stuff I wanted from there. Sounds easy but I spent two hours in Lowes' looking for something worthwhile to purchase. All I wanted was a slotted screwdriver, phillips, or even better a flip flop that could do both. My troubles started when I figured out that ALL of Lowes' tools are cheap plastic things that look like they would not last a year out on the line. ALL the flip flop screwdrivers were garbage units that tried to do too many things and as a result everything they did was wack. When I look for a flip flop I either want one that is simply one handle with one shank that has a slotted head on one side and a phillips head on the other. ALL the ones at Lowes' where gimmicky with special apex heads that could be flipped around but that if you lost them-the tool becomes useless. The one half decent one they had had an awful plastic handle with a cap on top to hold the apex heads. The cap was cheap plastic also and you could tell it was going to fall apart.

I ended up buying a slotted #3 Husky screwdriver with an acrylic handle sort of like the old school Craftsman screwdrivers. Since I could not get a flip flop I tried to find a apex holder, or a screwdriver that could hold a standard apex bit. Lowes' does not carry one of those. What I did find was a little apex holder that came in a kit that included a small pair of hogs, the apex holder with bits, a small tape measure and a knife. The apex holder was small (about three inches) with a magnetic apex holder and the rest of the stuff I just kept at home. The little kit was about $10.00 so I thought it was worth the risk.

Since I started using my small tool bag the little apex holder has helped me out a few times and I think I like the idea of the smaller tool bag. I also added a small waterproof pouch on the side for my apex bits.

In addition to my tool bag, I got my golf cart cleaned out, and organized. I was able to make enough room in my cart for my own environmental splice kit that I just made. The kit includes splices, barrels, wax cord, zip ties, a small wire stripper, lighter, shrink wrap, and a small portable butane torch. I always hate having to go back to the shop to get the environmental splices when I'm out on Tango so I now have my own small kit.

This may seem like overkill to a lot of people but the world of a Line Mechanic is a fast paced one. I still believe in trying to do my job as quickly and efficiently as I can. I hope these new tools will help.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

It's Hard To Let Go

I work with tools for a living. Tools have allowed me to own a few homes, buy nice cars, go on vacations, put clothes on my families back, and feed them as well. Tools have been a major part of my life since high school and like most mechanics I have come to love tools, all tools. I can spend a lot of time in the tool section of any store. I like ALL tools, I even collect old and antique tools so when a tool breaks and is no longer useful to me it is understandable that I have trouble throwing it away. Like a lot of mechanics, I think, I end up with a lot of broken tools in my tool box at home.

The other day while working at home I needed a pair of Channel locks or slip joint pliers. I went and pulled the largest ones I have out of my box and went to work. Well these pliers came to me a few years ago from a person who was working on my back yard. This guy disappeared and later I found out he got arrested! When he got out he called and said he was going to finish the job and come by to get his tools. Long story short: two years later I sold all his stuff but kept some of the things I thought were worth it.

When I tried to use these pliers they would slip, every time I went to apply pressure to the stupid thing the joint would slip and the pliers would not be tight anymore. I tried tightening them with the same result and by now I was pissed off so I chucked them in the trash.

Sounds like an easy choice but those pliers sat in the trash for two days and every time I went into that room I saw them. Being a tool lover I kept thinking "maybe I could fix them" or "maybe I can use it for something", "hey I could always use the handles as levers". I stayed strong and they ended up going away. But this brings to light how hard it is for a mechanic to throw away a tool.

When a tool that I use at work breaks I "retire" it. When I retire a tool I bring it home and put it in my big tool box. These tools have been to battle and war with me, they have been on the cold ground with me, they have fixed millions of dollars worth of equipment in their lifespan. When they get too old or busted up I bring them home. The nature of my job requires that the tools I use work when I need them so when they get too old they have to be replaced. When I worked in the hangar I was able to keep my older tools at work and in that setting it is often handy to have some wrenches that you no longer use around which you can cut up or weld on to make special tools.

For me are my life. I will always have a hard time getting rid of them and truth be told, if you take care of them they do not need to be replaced often. I have a hard time letting go of them, some of them have been with me since Aviation High School and are really a part of me. They say that you always remember your first love, well you always remember your first flip-flop screw driver, or good pair of safety wire pliers. I may be a "tool nerd" or "airplane junky" but that's ok, I keep planes in the air, sounds simple but requires a lot of tools and some knowledge. Tools are to mechanics like a computer program is to a tech guy, we use them to figure out (in our case) what is wrong with a plane. Simple concept and when done right it's like a little miracle.