Men and Their Tools
The following is a special assignment story I wrote for The Cincinnati Enquirer in the late spring of 1995. My editor at the Enquirer, Ann Haas, challenged me with this task. Not having a journalism degree, I knew enough that I had to interview a few experts to shed some light on the subject.
There was no doubt I had to feature my best friend at the time, Richard Anderson. I had noticed over the previous ten years his special relationship with his tools. That late spring day the article appeared in the paper, I was glad to see his tinner's hammer got top billing!
Perhaps the best part of the story is the surprise ending. It's a great example of how journalism SHOULD BE practiced today - in other words, do whatever is possible to keep personal bias out of the story, gather all the facts, and then put ALL OF THEM in the story allowing readers to take what they will.
Why put all of the facts in a story or report? Because HALF-TRUTHS are WHOLE LIES. - Tim Carter
Men and Their Tools
by: Tim Carter original copyright (C) 1995
Have you seen the panic on the face of your father, husband, boyfriend, or brother when someone asks to borrow a tool?
How about when a tool is not returned, or is returned dirty or broken? I have friends who develop facial tics when confronted with such a situation.
With Father's Day on Sunday (a favorite tool-giving time), I've been thinking about the link between men and tools. I open several cabinets in my own home and see hundreds of tools. Most are older than my children. Many I've used almost daily during 20 years in the home remodeling business.
I think about the coolness of the chrome-plated steel of my plumbing wrenches. I look at my wood levels: they are worn, but accurate.
I feel a certain synergy in the presence of my tools. It is powerful. I'm just more confident when I know that they're all safely in my possession.
I realize I've compromised other prized possessions - such as my heavy-duty, three-quarter-ton pickup truck - for the tools. A week after I bought the truck, I had the bed removed and a custom-covered bed with cabinets and shelves bolted to the frame.
But I know I'm not unusual. A friend of mine, Richard Anderson, owner of Sergeant's Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning in Harrison, admits he has strong feelings about his tools, too.
"Well sure, there are tools I prefer." Anderson says. "Take my tinner's hammer. I will go out of my way to get it, even if another hammer is closer. It feels good in my hand. It doesn't beat up the sheet metal when I strike it."
In the kitchen
Singing the same tuned about a different set of tools is the Maisonette's chef de cuisine, Jean-Robert de Cavel. When I visited him in the restaurant kitchen, the chef lamented the loss of a favorite ceramic knife.
"If I get another, I surely won't bring it to work," he said.
He showed me an extensive collection of wire whisks. Some are old ones, purchased in France.
"I would love to know who made it and why he or shed thought it would work better," de Cavel said.
In another part of the kitchen is a rack with numerous chinois, funnels used to make smooth sauces. "They are always in high demand," says Marsha Banschback, assistant pastry chef. Often, she confessed, a funnel will be "hidden" for protection from less-careful hands.
As I get up to leave the Maisonnete, de Cavel starts chuckling.
"As a carpenter," he says, "you would appreciate how I bring my tools to work each day. I - and all my assistant chefs - carry our cooking tools in the same metallic boxes you must use for your tools."
Later, my tool-time thinking takes me back to my wife's last birthday. I thought I had the perfect gift: a gardening shovel to replace her favorite shovel that I had somehow left coated with concrete.
I made sure my gift - with a nice, long handle - was the last one she opened.
"Oh, thanks," Kathy said flatly. "It looks like a nice shovel."
My instincts told me better. I asked her why she didn't like the new tool. "It's just not my shovel!" she responded.
I'm stunned. This tool obsession is definitely not relegated to men.
"The first tools were stones and bones," says Harold Fishbein, author and University of Cincinnati professor of psychology. "The manufacturing of tools was central to human evolution."
"You know," Fishbein adds, "women maybe manufactured the first complex tools. Man first lived by hunting and gathering, with 80 percent of the food being gathered. Women most likely the gatherers. They needed tools with which to dig. They needed to make things to carry the food back to the camp site."
My men and tools connection shot full of holes, I go home, get a chisel from my truck, and proceed to chip the concrete from Kathy's old shovel. Fifteen minutes later, it looks almost as good as new.