Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Own Tools

The first rule of mechanical independence is “Buy tools.”

The second rule is “Buy good tools.”

After a few years slacking off on buying tools, I suddenly made up for lost time this week.

The contrast between the workshop at the bike shop and my workshop at home was getting too great. It was a combination of little things, like double-ended cone wrenches, and big things, like having to drag a frame to work or a heavy tool home to do something like press a headset or chase a bottom bracket.

I don’t live right in town. It’s a big deal for me to haul a heavy shop tool home on my bike. And then I have to make sure I get it back immediately. Transporting a big tool usually ends up involving a car in some way.

Is it worth more than a thousand dollars to avoid all that? Apparently. But I could spend that much on a home theater setup and just have something to sit in front of and get fat. Tools open up vastly more possibilities.

Part of the motive is competitive. Among the athletes, riders match their strengths, sprinting, climbing, endurance. Among the mechanics, we match our skills and equipment. I’ve already conceded it’s a bit late in life for me to build up a complete machine shop. But I like to own the tools I know how to use. You never know when one might come in handy. Once they’re bought, they cost nothing to own.

The danger in buying a bunch of serious tools is that you then buy something to work on, or hope something serious breaks. Actually, with the sudden increase in my tool inventory I now have to reconfigure my work space just to be able to unpack the real big dogs. The major frame tools still nestle in their boxes. I need to talk some friend into buying a frame.

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