February 1, 2023

Unjust Accusations…by Brendon Marks


I have received some feedback on a previous column, unjustly accusing me of advocating the use of tools while under the influence of judgment-altering substances, specifically beer. Regular readers know this is not true. That would be criminal lack of judgment.

If I were going to advocate something, it would be vendors on every street corner dispensing free hot dogs, the total abolition of car insurance, or changing all street names to the Dewey decimal system. Anything else, I just report what I see and I don’t have to make things up. However, I’m not the first to observe the relationship between the male try-it-yourself-before-paying-to-have-it-fixed-er and beer. It’s the plague of the amateur handyman.

If you’re a professional carpenter, a claw hammer is truly a thing of beauty. It’s much more elegant than a big ugly nail gun, belching and blasting oil-soaked air and who knows what other gases into our atmosphere, not to mention dragging a hose all over the jobsite. Even the sound of a hammer is music. I don’t mean up close where it just makes a bam, bam, bam sound. I mean from about fifty yards away where the sound blends with the echo and becomes kachunk kachunk kachunk chunk. I understand that the sound of carpenters building his guesthouse was the inspiration for one of Beethoven’s symphonies, but he had to change the title to a number (which I forget) because his publisher didn’t like “Das Banginboomer.”

For a pro, the claw on the back of the hammer is essential. Not because what they build ever has to be taken apart, but occasionally nails, owing to imperfections in their construction, not due to any fault on the part of the hammer swinger, bend and splay out all crazy-like and need to be removed. This is especially true when said carpenter is driving upwards of four million a day.

Some people wonder why the claw can be either curved or straight, but that’s easily explained as well. The curved claw works better for pulling longer nails, but the straight works better for digging, raking, or hatchet-ing. Anything that can’t be dug with a straight claw needs to be turned over to the labor’s union.

The weekend do-it-yourselfer however, has no need for that claw. If, during the use of the tool, it is determined that the nail is bending, the part is not fitting, or some object like a thumb is in the way, it wastes time to stop and turn the hammer over. Just whack harder or change the angle of impact. But, even though the claw is not necessary, you can’t just leave it off or the whole balance of the tool will be affected, not to mention the aesthetic qualities, I mean a hammer with two banging ends is just redundant.

That’s why I understood completely when a friend told me about a hammer he had seen that had a bottle opener on the non-pounding end. Obviously this was an antique, I mean they’ve had twist-off caps for what, twenty years now? However, the designer had really captured the essence of a true handyman. Either hit it some more, or open a beer.

There are other proofs of this concept as well. For example, did you ever wonder why car manufacturers have taken to bolting the wheel covers on instead of the way they used to be? It’s simple. With pop-top cans being so popular, nobody has a can-tapper (which used to be called a church key although I have no idea why) in the glove compartment anymore, so you can’t get the darn things off without breaking a fingernail.

Do you think it’s a coincidence that a tool belt has four pockets? That’s just enough to hold the beers that won’t fit in your hands. With a buddy, you can handle a twelve-pack, and with a four-man crew, a whole case. (Fun fact: Canadian carpenters call a case of beer a 2 by 4.) Just remember though, with those thin aluminum cans it’s best to empty the nails out of the pockets first, or you’ll scatter beer all over the job site. I don’t want to be accused of advocating the dispensing of beer to dandelions. That would be a criminal waste.

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