Tuesday, August 20, 2013

In Praise of Yard Sales

  My very first power tool, a drill, died.
(You always remember the first fondly)
It was a gift and had been bought new almost 40 years ago; it was good quality and has since outlasted just about every tool in my collection. Not being a professional tradesman my tools are not for daily use. Although I cannot afford the very best brands I still try to get something durable and make it last. Some favorite tools of mine even acquired names (but I wouldn't share something so intimate).
  So there was my drill, dead.
  Made around 1975, it was steel bodied and durable, reversible and variable speed. It was on its third chuck, had been dropped, kicked, drop-kicked, squeezed in a vise, frozen in the snow and overheated numerous times. It had drilled, screwed and unscrewed, driven bolts, reamed, polished, honed, spun, cut hardwood plugs, and spent hours wire-brushing rust from old metal. The brushes and armature had been cleaned and polished, the reduction gears greased twice and the cord had been repaired three times. When it finally died I knew every part in detail but (sigh) it was beyond repair.
  Too bad.
  Good tools like that are hard to find.

  Contrast that to just the week before, when a hammer-drill I'd owned less than four years packed it in.
  It was not expensive, the outer case was plastic, but it came, as modern tools do, with a handy box full of bits and accessories.  It worked adequately, but after 'Adam Squared' (Adam & Adam the carpenters) borrowed it to run 3/4" bolts into concrete to build our deck.  "We had one just like it," shorter Adam was grinning, "but it fell apart." After it was returned to me it rattled ominously. My final task of drilling tapcon screws into concrete was the last straw...  no more drilling, no more hammer-drilling, just a death rattle. Opening it up revealed the main ring gear had teeth ground to nothing in one spot. The whole drill was cheaply made; and I didn't grieve it like my old steel-bodied drill because it was throw-away quality.

  Time to buy some new tools!
Building a house these last few years has been a great excuse to spend some real money on good tools, but this day I realized that unless I was willing to spend a couple hundred bucks, the best quality I could expect these days was similar to the hammer drill. Plastic and cheap.
   Like an unwanted thought, it came to my mind several times that maybe I could find a good old quality drill somewhere like a yard sale.
   The next Saturday it was a beautiful morning, mist in the low areas, and a great time to be out. It kept coming to mind to go out and check yard sales. I hadn't frequented yard sales for a couple of years.  I doubted I'd find any decent, reliable steel-bodied drill like old faithful.
  "Pray about your old drill" the thought jumped into my mind.  I was sure that was a stupid idea.  God doesn't have time to be concerned about something so trivial as a drill.  
  "Pray about it." came the thought again.
  So I did.
  Feeling stupid, I prayed I'd find a replacement for my good old drill.
  Down the road to Wooler, the nearest town, was a sign for a yard sale. The first I saw that day. It was at a house beside Old Wooler Rd. Through the car window I didn't see many prospects.  Clothing on a rack, some old furniture and kids toys. No tools to be seen. Something told me to get out of the car, to take a better look.
  Inside a cabinet drawer were three tools; a crappy belt-sander and a SEARS battery-powered electric screwdriver, probably shot...
and my drill...
  My heart beat a little faster.

  Here was the exact twin to my faithful old drill, and hardly used at all.  The original chuck was still in place and the original chuck-key was attached to the cord. The steel body was shiny. Even the label was in place and the lack of scars showed this drill hadn't been (ab)used much.

  The only problem was the cord was starting to split where it joined the drill - just where I'd repaired this drills twin brother three times before.    

  "How much?" I asked the lady, holding up the drill as

  "Five bucks."

  For the price of a round of coffees at Tim Horton's, I may have this drill for another 40 years.
  Maybe God cares about little things after all.  

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