an ode to power tools



There’s power in self-reliance. I remember when I learnt how to rewire the clapped-out fuses in the geriatric fuse box of my uni sharehouse. It made me feel so grown-up. Forget cooking or learning to pay bills on time; it was that minor repair that made me feel like I’d flown the nest. I’ve always had a Leatherman (a multi-tool, for those not au fait with such things), but that was my limit: I could construct IKEA furniture, tighten a screw, change a fuse and clip my nails. I always thought that one day I would work at Bunnings. I loved the large trolleys, the smell of wood shavings and the staff uniform – mostly the tool belt. My Bunnings dream career never materialis­ed, but a while back, I did get a new job that brought me into the world of tools (and not the colleague kind). Where I was once surrounded by nerds solving problems with algorithms and spreadshee­ts, I found myself among people wielding power tools and discussing the merits of different masonry drill bits. A forklift licence was a prerequisi­te to joining the cool clique.

And then came home ownership. Buying an old apartment where doors are hanging off hinges and the walls are a mosaic of bad patch jobs is a great motivator. There’s nothing like the nuisance of waiting for a handyman who shows up late, does a dodgy job and leaves the mess for you to clean up to inspire an interest in DIY. The stars had aligned, and it was time for me to master tools.

I kicked off my new life with the purchase of a top-of-the-line drill. (OK, it’s second-tier. Don’t get too excited.) I also bought a set of drill bits, after I’d wrongly assumed all the ‘stuff’ would just come with the drill. The one thing it did come with was a poster of all the Makita power tools that were compatible with the battery packs I now owned. Did you know the actual drill part is called the ‘skin’? Any power tool you buy is a new skin for your battery. Learning is fun. I put the poster on my wall as an inspiratio­nal mood board.

With my new tool in hand – both hands, actually; it’s pretty heavy – I tried to attach a whiteboard to a brick wall. It was straight and looked good, until it fell a few seconds later. Turns out you shouldn’t drill into the mortar, but directly into the brick, which you need a whole other type of drill for and, apparently, some skills. I wouldn’t be defeated by this early failing, though. Instead, I enlisted a teacher. A tool teacher. This guy had every single tool imaginable, whether he needed it or not. Turns out I had a lot to learn – like what torque is and masonry drilling and why you don’t put your fingers under the circular saw, even as a joke.

With my teacher and plenty of passion, I know it won’t be long before I’m measuring twice and cutting once. My birthday list only has power tools and hardware vouchers on it now. I plan to turn my second bedroom into a tool shed – I’m not sure why more people don’t do this. Who needs a study or guest room? No one visits me and I’m well past my studious days. Instead, I’ll fill the room with benches and tools I can hang on the wall, with silhouette­s marked out in black texta like some bizarre hardware crime scene.

And it won’t just be me benefiting from this new lifestyle. In return for the hardware accoutreme­nts my friends and family gift me (yes, they bloody well will), they’ll receive homemade things like simple wooden boxes or pieces of ply with holes drilled in them and bits cut off that have uses limited only by the recipient’s imaginatio­n. How nice.

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