"One Perfect Part at a Time"

“I’ll Buy That!”

I just had a minor epiphany thanks to a comment in an email from my friend Ed. He said, “…I focus on my project and not on the tools unless they impact the project.” What a profound statement. I have been preaching that concept since day one on my web sites.

I often get asked, “What machine should I buy to get started in the hobby.” My stock reply has always been, “First decide what you want to build.” “Second, how much can you spend?”

Ed is an outstanding builder of small scale live steam locomotives and has a wonderfully equipped home machine shop, all top notch machines and tools. His comment hit me so true I could hear the angles singing. Well, almost.

I have read most of Kozo’s books and have seen photos of his modest workshop. He shows his shop in at least the A3 book and several others. I know THAT master builder has a very modest workshop.

Wonderful works are not judged by the machines used to create them. It is the skill of the operator that makes it art, not the chisel and hammer. Are the workshop and tools of Michelangelo famous and on display? No, just what was produced by their use. It is the work that is remembered, not the tools in the shop.

Yes, yes, someday there may be a special on TV about the tools of Michelangelo because some people will be interested, but it is not the tools that have made him and his work immortal.

We all have to decide for ourselves, what is my hobby? Is it making miniature live steam locomotives or owning fabulous machine tools? Neither answer is wrong. Doing both is fine if there is the space and the money. But if my primary desire is for what I can make and not the brand of tool I use to make it, then the choice of tool is clearly defined by the work and funding at hand.

For me, I cannot imagine a worse feeling than sitting in a workshop full of sparkling tools with no idea of what project I want to make or do. I have been in my own professional construction / installation type businesses for most of my life. I bought only the tools I needed to do the work that was providing my income and of a high enough quality to insure ultimate dependability. I still have some of those tools, still in operation after decades of hard and constant use.

I have often expressed “tool lust” in my writings. I think it is a common affliction for creative construction people. The best thing I do is expose it for what it is, an emotion and not a need. Yeah, it hard to keep them separate but all I have to do is ask myself, “Do I need it for what I am doing now?”  I force an honest answer and decide on that naked truth. Well, most of the time.  It has saved me from many squandering purchases.

Just yesterday I saw a 3n1, 12 inch, combo shear, break and roll tool in a HF tool flyer I got in the mail. “Wow”, I thought on impulse, “I can really use one of those in my shop for sheet metal work!” So I ran the test. “Do I really need it now?” “NO.” “Can I buy it later when/if I need one?” “YES” …and probably a better one as most versions are notoriously poor quality imports. The result is my cash is still safely in my business account.

Oh, I did look around and found a better quality version for when I do need one!

NOTE: Log in is for admin and members only, not required to post comments.