Hammer time

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What’s the most basic woodshop tool? There are probably several, but for me it’s got to be a plain, old hammer.

By “basic tool,” I mean just that – a tool you use for almost every task or project, the tool you have in multiples, the tool generally always within an arm’s reach. Typical candidates include hammer, screwdriver, square, pencil, etc. You’d be lost without any one of these, which is why you buy and use multiples in the first place.

Well, I found myself lost yesterday when I went to get a hammer and there were none to be got. I keep my two regular hammers hanging above my bench, another in a tool tote under the bench. There’s one in a drawer in my assembly table, one up in my small second-floor toolbox, one in a drawer in my office, and there’s one in the kitchen tool drawer. I also have a big framing hammer somewhere, but I’m not sure where. There are several more in boxes with other duplicate tools stashed here and there.

But yesterday when I needed a hammer for the most basic purpose of driving a single nail to hang something on, I couldn’t readily put my hand on one.

Because I’m in mid-project (mid-multiple-projects, actually) I have stuff scattered everywhere around the shop, because when I work I tend to set the most recent thing I use down and then forget where. My two regulars where nowhere to be found. That tool tote under my bench was still in the car from that trim install I did a couple weeks ago. The hammer in my assembly table was AWOL. I had no idea where that framing hammer was and had no real desire to go rummaging in dusty, spidery boxes for a spare. There’s a wooden mallet above the bench but I didn’t want to damage it pounding on a steel nail.

So I used the most basic Neanderthal hammer available – a short length of maple scrap I grabbed from my no-such-thing-as-scrap barrel. Pounded the nail in satisfactorily and all was right with the world. Which belies my original premise, I suppose. The most basic woodshop tool isn’t a hammer at all.

It’s scrap.

A.J.

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