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Power Tool Ineptitude
posted: 9/6/02

[This is the first installment of Whinge, on this here site, As first installments go, it's pretty weak. Whatever.]

I'm getting old, and I still live in an apartment. This is more or less by choice. The fact is I actually have a couple of abodes in a couple of cities (which is far less swank than it sounds, believe me). They are both apartments. I moved around a lot as a kid (and as an adult, I suppose). I stopped counting at some point, but at age 28 I think I had lived in a different place for every year I'd been alive. The count is something like 33, I think. I abhor moving. Which is why, after going on five years living in a suburb outside Washington, D.C., I still live in the same apartment (rather than a house, is my point - and really, it's bollocks, but you sort of get assimilated after a while living in an environ, and society dictates that the grown-up thing to do is purchase a house, even if it's a standard, county-issue, 3-story, finished basement, vinyl siding job, standing next to 300 other exact replicas in some gated community with a name like Droney Village or Options Folly). Some of the reason I've not gotten around to procurement of a roof of my own is responsibility. I'm already in my thirties, going on 70. I don't want to grow up any faster. Buying a house just seems so grown up to me. Some of it is laziness. A lot of it is I'm sick of moving. So I haven't.

The apartment is nice. Fireplace. Several rooms. Kitchen, tiny dining room. Not bad. Pretty good, really. Lately I've been dropping coin on furniture upgrades, in an attempt to make things a little more hospitable, comfortable. Less mental. As I've gotten more furniture, less carpet seems to show. At the moment, there is simply no space left in the apartment. If anything new comes in, something old must go out. Closets are piled high with endless loads of crap. Nothing will fit under anything. Don't go in there. Occupado.

Recently I had a couple of cabinets built and finished. I have a couple of friends who are carpenters and I've always held the occupation in high regard. What is more cool than building something? Way cool. I've hammered a few things here and there, and I've taken a hacksaw to this and that (yes, I've used the wrong tool for the wrong job now and again). But I don't really know what I'm doing, and I'd sooner leave things to the professionals. Plus, I don't have any room for tools. I don't do tools.

I have a CD collection that numbers around 600+. For years I've been looking for a decently designed, hardwood CD storage unit, preferably one that would also house a stereo. What I wanted was pretty specific, and I won't go into it here. Okay, briefly, I will. Basically, if you're old, you'll remember what a card catalog in a library looks like. That's what I wanted. The way I'd do it, the CDs go in the card catalog drawers, the stereo goes on top. I'd even take a card catalog and convert it. I actually searched on Ebay for a few, and they're out there. But most of them weigh a ton, and shipping alone was more expensive than having something built. And I'm not sure the dimensions of the drawers are right, anyway. And I'd have to do some conversion, taking the metal dealies inside out. And stuff. Too much stuff.

In the end I caved and bought some relatively simple Mission-style cabinets. I decided I'd convert the insides myself (because the dealer wouldn't - he sort of sneered at me when I said I wasn't much of a DIY kind of guy; I started to go into the I-don't-have-room-for-tools thing, but I didn't really have the energy, and to do so would involve revealing most of the first part of this topic, and you know how interested woodworkers are in the details of my personal life). Initially this meant getting an additional shelf installed, then cutting some dividers and installing them. I'd cut them with my... band saw... that... doesn't exist. And I'd install them with my... nail... gun... After I... drilled...


So after some hunting, I found some little wooden CD crate things, which fit nicely in the cabinet and make good use of space. They were cheap, and eventually I'll stain them and they'll look less cheesy. They actually look kind of nice.

A couple of days ago the cabinets were finished and I moved them in to the apartment. I have this little, tiny area when I have a bunch of recording equipment, mics and mixers and things. So all of the audio stuff is back there. It's a bit crowded, but nice. Then it dawned on me. To install the shelves and little boxes, I'd need a power tool. Specifically, a drill.

A few weeks prior I'd actually bought a "power driver," which is not actually a drill, but more of a powered twisty thing that will take various bits for the screwing of... screws. Freakin' genius. You can also get a string winder attachment and change guitar strings at ultra-sonic speeds. Sppprrrooonnnggeee-ee-EE. Pank! Great fun. So, before I committed to actually buying a drill and having to clear a roughly 2' x 2' space for storing it, I decided maybe I'd just take that power driver out, put a Phillips head attachment in it, and see, provided I had the patience (doubtful) and the time (why yes, I do), if perhaps I could make a hole in wood. And I could avoid the drill purchase, and the space concerns and added responsibility that owning a power tool might convey upon me.

After about two minutes of holding down a button on the power driver I had a couple of 2mm-deep gouge marks on the interior of the cabinet. Next stop, Sears.

Sears had about 104 drills on display. I randomly picked a 9.6V Black & Decker (having choices of 3-something-V and 12V - I was hoping to come off sort of middle-of-the-road: not a wimp, but not looking for something to prove either - I didn't need the guy asking me, "Hey, you must be working on something huge, since you're getting the 12-volt - what are you building?" Me: "I am... making holes."). I made my choice and bought exactly one ¼" drill bit, after measuring the diameter of the shelf-support dealie that I'd brought along with a tape measure located in the... measurement aisle.

I came home and made holes with my 9V Tool of Destruction. I managed to do this without actually drilling completely through the cabinet to the outside, and with a minimum of sawdust residue. It was intense.

Then I decided to make more holes.

Yesterday I went to the Mega-Lo-Hardware and bought 24 tiny cabinet knobs, a Black & Decker (brand loyalty is already developing) 13-piece drill bit set ("All the popular sizes!" "For wood, metal and masonry!" "Like I care!") and a real-and-for-true Stanley tape measure (only 16'; again, I don't want to come off too cocky). Last night I went home to my increasingly diminutive apartment, what with all of these knobs taking up space, and inserted several of my new drill bits into my new drill. It took a while before I figured out what size I actually needed. I made a template for drilling a hole in a precise location. And then I got to drilling. But... things weren't really going as planned. The drill wasn't working too well. Very little sawdust emitting from a very shallow hole. The wood isn't too hard... Was it the new bits? Were they inferior? Maybe if I press hard on the drill. That helps, a little. What is that burning smell?

At some point I realized I had the drill set to counter-clockwise rotation. So I was effectively drilling backwards. A minor point.

Eventually I drilled 24 tiny holes in 24 CD boxes. An hour later I discovered that the included screws were about ½" too long. Back to Mega-Lo. Another hour later I attached 24 tiny cabinet knobs to 24 CD boxes and inserted those 24 CD boxes into two cabinets. All while doing laundry. Endless enjoyment. I so enjoy repetitive tasks.

I believe the nail gun is next. On that score, I can't think of a nail gun without thinking of whatever "Lethal Weapon" sequel it was where Danny Glover "nails" the bad guy.

I'm wrapping this up with a tribute to one man and one man only. Bob Abrams of The New Yankee Workshop. Bob rocks. He is so not Bob Villa. I used to sit around on Sunday mornings, nursing a hangover, watching Bob Abrams build things, listening to his down-east accent. It took me to a happier place. Try it sometime.

[Freudians will read far more into this installment than I intend. But, whatever.]

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»State-Dependent Memory, Vol. 5
»State-Dependent Memory, Vol. 4
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