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0 Comments | Aug 15, 2010

Home Repair


The following observations are presented in no particular order, save for that in which they occurred to me. Which is to say that no one item is any more hand-toolsor less important than another, unless of course there is a specific safety issue being discussed, in which case I will make that plain, and expound as necessary. The only preemptive statements I will make by way of establishing credibility in the home repair field are to observe that I own a formidable collection of tools, both manual and powered, and yet I still possess all of my appendages, digits, and assorted extremities, which is more than I can say for my seventh-grade shop teacher.


Since I’ve brought it up already, a few quick words about safety are in order. In general, as with so many other risk mitigation strategies, it is antithetical to progress. Which is not to say that safety is unimportant or to be cavalierly dismissed, simply that the safer you choose to be, the slower and less productive you will also be. It is left to you to determine the degree of trade-off you are prepared to make in this regard. Think of it another way; driving with a seat belt is safer than without, but it takes time to put the belt on and take it off and your comfort is mildly compromised throughout. Again, your call on the tradeoff.

Safety in home repair work generally takes three forms, things that you wear, things that come attached to your tools, and the degree to which you pay attention to what in the hell you’re doing, this last item being most probably responsible for more accidents and misplaced digits than all other causes combined.  Situational awareness is as important to home repairmen as it is to jet fighter pilots. Junior high school shop teachers love nothing better than a good introductory safety briefing, possibly even more than drivers ed teachers love showing that grisly accident video. Shop teachers don’t typically have the benefit of visual aid (aside from any personal war wounds), so sharing their safety advice comes down to good old fashioned story telling, in this case not unlike the horror stories kids tell around campfires. My favorite is the one about the guy who, interrupted by a friend while he was ripping lumber, insouciantly turned around and hopped up on the table saw for a seat without first turning the saw off…ouch. Again, the general theme is that of awareness.

Then there are a whole host of guards and assorted plastic covers that come attached to your new power tools and which it is your sworn duty to immediately remove prior to powering up the new tool. Most of these guards are intended to prevent kick-back of stock, or to keep dust out of your eyes, or to keep your digits as far away from rapidly rotating blades to the degree possible. While I cannot officially advocate discarding these guards, I will state that it my personal preference to toss them all since they tend to compromise visibility, accuracy, and productivity. I figure I can more than compensate for the lost modicum of safety by paying that much more attention to what in the hell I’m doing.

Other safety-related wisdom that I’ve tended to ignore over the years includes the wearing of safety glasses (which I rationalize with the fact that I always wear normal glasses, which argument lasted me about three decades until a couple of years ago when a small piece of fast-moving aluminum ricocheted off my left cornea. I figure though that I’m good now for another thirty years, so I still rely only on my everyday glasses). It will also be recommended that you tuck in any loose clothing, which is probably good advice, since you wouldn’t want to get sucked into your table saw by the tail of your shirt. That would get real ugly real fast. This particular rule seldom applies to me though, since I live in Houston and am generally working in a garage whose mean temperature is about 110 degrees, meaning that I seldom wear more than a pair of shorts when I work.

The final piece of personal safety advice you may encounter has to do with hearing protection. Most power tools can be pretty noisy, so some sort of ear defenders are not a bad idea, though I only resort to these when doing something prodigiously noisy, like using a router. My hearing is already pretty bad from several years working in close proximity to the jet engines of military aircraft, so I really have nowhere to go but up on this score.

Bottom line on safety—don’t be an idiot. Pay attention to what you’re doing. But if you do manage to bleed, try to keep it off the lumber.

Inescapable Rules of the Shop

There are certain immutable rules that apply to every home repair project or piece of new construction, from the lowliest birdhouse or bit of caulking repair to the most advanced bathroom installation or electrical upgrade. It is best to familiarize yourself with these rules and ultimately to embrace them. Many have gone before you, donating at least their time and, in many cases, their body parts, in order to identify and codify these rules. Ignore them at your peril.

The Laws of Gravity and Associated Energy-Conservation Principles

Blame Isaac Newton, who as far as I know never did any carpentry work, but whose insights set the stage for the rules that govern much of construction these days. If you drop a tool or part, it will, of course, travel downward, caroming off your floor, or any other solid object it happens to encounter en route to your floor, so as to end up either invisible or underneath a piece of large furniture the movement of which will require at least an hour. There is a strong inverse correlation between the object’s size and the difficulty of securely holding onto it, and hence the probability of dropping it[1]. Worth noting as well is the important corollary that if you attempt to catch the falling object before it has come to rest, you will, ninety-nine times out of a hundred[2], simply exacerbate things by deflecting it into an even more obscure or hard-to-reach location. Best one can reasonably hope for is to watch the object fall and keep your eyes on it until it has come to rest, either in-sight or beneath something. Those who have fallen victim to this phenomenon more than once will know as well that if you happen to be in a seated position when you drop the object, you will, with time, develop an automatic reflex whereby the falling object will cause your thighs to instantly slam together in the (usually futile) hope that the falling object will fall onto your lap and remain there.

Therer exist numerous corollaries and extensions of the basic laws of falling objects in a garage or shop. It is well known, for example, that if you have in your possession several identical interchangeable objects, odds are good of you recovering the one you dropped, whereas if the dropped item is unique and irreplaceable, like for example, a specific sort of clip, etc. the one you drop will vanish forever.

Yet another important variation on this topic pertains to objects that fly in directions other than downwards, generally as a result of a strong pent-up force that is suddenly released for some unexpected reason. A classic example is the so-called Jesus clip, neologism for any small spring-steel ring used to prevent rods or other cylindrical objects from sliding out of a hole, i.e. in a similar fashion to the function served by a cotter pin. Inserting or removing a Jesus clip requires the application of tremendous force in a very controlled manner in a very tight space, the usual outcome of which is that the clip flies off the end of the tool at terrific velocity and the only hope you have of ever seeing it again is if it happens to actually lodge in some part of your body (hence the name). This outcome is quite likely even when using the proper tool for the job, and of course a complete certainty when attempting the difficult insertion or removal operation with something other than the correct tool. And because the correct Jesus clip tool is a challenging item to find[3], most home repairmen opt for attempting the removal or replacement operation with needle-nose pliers. This is, to cite an only-somewhat-related medical analogy, the equivalent of attempting a tonsillectomy with a chainsaw.

There is an entire branch of science that addresses dropped, falling and flying objects in the unique physical confines of a shop or garage, and at least one university offers a graduate program of study in this field.

Still More about Newton

When a tooth comes off a spinning table saw blade it will be traveling very rapidly, and it will be sharp, an unfortunate confluence of events and conditions. Given the great velocity at which such failed pieces typical move, the traditional laws of gravity break down over the relatively short dimensions of a typical garage or shop. For while any object will eventually succumb to gravity and make its way to the ground, that saw blade tooth will be traveling in excess of a couple hundred miles an hour and is far more likely to end up in your garage ceiling or wall (or your forehead). Combine this effect with more esoteric tools like dado blades, which not only spin rapidly but also wobble back and forth, and you can get some truly bizarre and unpredictable trajectories.

As a general rule, when metal things (or any things for that matter) fail/break under great pressure (like for example an over-stressed socket or too-highly-torqued pipe wrench) the resulting pieces will generally be sharp and fast-moving. Also, unlike the example of the single saw tooth flying off a table saw blade, in the case of failed wrenches, sockets, etc., there are frequently multiple parts flying in a variety of directions, which makes the whole process of avoiding them that much more challenging.

One more important corollary to the previous item—when that tool fails and breaks, the extreme pressure you’re exerting (which caused the failure) does not immediately abate upon structural failure of the tool, but instead causes your hand/arm to continue moving rapidly in the direction of the applied force (Newton again) until stopped by a solid (and inevitably sharp) surface or object. This almost always results in bloodshed and florid language[4].

Finally, everything discussed in this section gets worse the colder it is outside.

Why Subtraction is Easier than Addition

It is much easier to make a piece of wood (or any material, for that matter) shorter than longer. This is but a different way of expressing the well-known but oft-ignored “measure twice, cut once” aphorism. Similarly, it is easier to increase the diameter of a hole than it is to reduce it. It is remarkable the range of errors that result in wood being cut too short or a hole made too large. Most common among these are:

  • Incorrectly converting from English to Metric and/or vice versa.
  • For real precision work, not taking into account the width of the saw blade, i.e. cutting down the wrong side of the line you’ve drawn.
  • My personal favorite, starting the tape measure at the one-inch mark instead of at its very beginning (a trick for gaining a bit of greater accuracy) but then forgetting to subtract the extra inch from your final measurement[5].

Sadly, it is only when the already-cut piece of wood is being set in place that the error is discovered.

It is worth observing here that both of the aforementioned corrective tasks can, in fact, be accomplished, (i.e. making the piece of wood longer or the hole smaller) but only with extraordinary effort and more than a little skill.


Splinters go with woodworking like peanut butter with jelly, except that neither peanut butter nor jelly are particularly inclined to become lodged under your skin, whereas this is the whole raison detre of splinters. As a general rule, splinters come about as a side effect of sanding. Of course there are two kinds of sanding, power and manual. Power sanding doesn’t entail nearly the pain, energy or risk of hand sanding, and so deserves little discussion here aside from a few random thoughts that will come up when we get to the section about power tools in general.

Manual sanding, on the other hand, is an art form in its own right. For starters, it requires the application of significant force, combined with hand movements of a usually quite vigorous yet controlled nature, which any physicist can tell you is a dubious pairing indeed[6]. Throw into this already-fraught mix the fact that many manual sanding jobs take quite a long time and can be fairly boring (which combination often results in a diminution of focus on one’s work), and what you are left with is the extraordinarily high likelihood that you will thrust a large sliver of wood into some part of your hand before you have finished.

One of the first things you learn in basic woodworking is that sanding is to be done in a direction parallel with the grain of the wood[7]. As bad luck would have it, parallel to the grain is also the direction in which splinters orient themselves. The faster you slide the piece of sandpaper along the piece of wood, the deeper into your hand (or, if you’re really lucky, under your fingernail) the splinter will slide. Splinters are of course a necessary part of all woodworking, particularly when dealing with less finished pieces. The best ones manage to lodge themselves entirely beneath the skin, leaving nothing at all sticking out to grasp with tweezers, teeth, etc. This then requires self-performed minor surgery, usually using a utility knife whose sterility is suspect at best. Any such operation in which you manage to remove at least eighty percent of the splinter is generally considered successful.

Milton’s Law of Replacement

If you misplace a tool or part, the quickest (and frequently only) way to locate it is to get into your car and go purchase a replacement, in which case the misplaced item will reappear almost instantly upon carrying the new one into your garage. In 99% of such cases the replacement (and now unneeded) item is never returned to the store but simply hung on a pegboard against the chance of being required someday in the future. A useful corollary to this rule is that when an identical part is lost again at a later date, the previously-purchased replacement item (the one that wasn’t returned to the store) will also not be locatable, engendering yet another trip to the store. This cascading phenomenon is how guys end up owning seven 13mm sockets without knowing where any of them are.

Blood, Sweat and Tears

Blood and sweat play prominent roles in nearly all carpentry work, whereas tears only make an appearance with the occurrence of some truly tragic occurrence, such as, for example, incorrectly cutting that three-hundred-dollar piece of black walnut.

Since most garages tend not to be air-conditioned, sweat is a normal part of any work process lasting longer than thirty seconds. The only time it will play an important part in one’s work will be if it is copious enough to get into your eye at a critical moment, such as exactly when you are making a delicate cut or just pulling the trigger on your nail gun.

Blood is fortunately not as common in everyday home repair work, though I long ago adopted the probably overly-romantic view that any new-construction project worth doing is worth bleeding on at least once. More often than not, the first time you notice that some of your blood is suddenly outside of your body, it will be on the piece of wood you are trying to apply finish to, which is unfortunate since blood is itself an excellent staining agent. If you act quickly, you can generally wipe or sand away the stain before it seeps too deeply into the wood.

Most people’s normal first reaction to discovering the presence of blood (particularly given that quite frequently you will have no knowledge as to how your skin became perforated) is to check that all of your appendages are still attached, intact and functional. Having satisfied this examination, and having ultimately located the source of the leak, it will at this point become apparent that you have no idea where in the hell you put the box of Band-Aids. In fact most project-oriented garages have at least one permanent blood trail on the concrete floor clearly indicating the path that the leaking individual traversed while searching for the goddamned Band Aids.

Drill Bits

It is possible to do an entire book just on the subject of drill bits. The principal attributes common to all of them are that they are sharp and very brittle, which means they break a lot, particularly if misused like all good tools eventually are. A few things to keep in mind:

When a drill bit breaks, the break will always be below the surface of the material being drilled so that you cannot grab the broken-off part with your vice grips and pull it out. And since the hole is exactly where you wanted it and now has a permanent hardened-steel drill bit fragment in its center (which is by definition too hard to drill out with another drill bit), you’re fucked and must throw out the entire piece or significantly modify your design. This is of course mainly the case if the piece you’re working on does not allow access to the back, in which case you can sometimes remove the broken piece from that direction. The foregoing also applies to using threading taps, though even more so, since taps are extremely hard and brittle as crackers and break way more far often than drill bits.

Important side note about drill bits—Much of the energy created by the drilling of that new hole is absorbed by the bit in the form of heat. This heat takes some time to dissipate, particularly if the drilling session has been a long one, the stock is particularly hard, or the bit isn’t as sharp as it once was[8]. Attempting to remove the bit from the chuck before it has cooled off will inevitably result in you holding onto it for about two seconds, realizing that you’re cooking your fingertips, and then throwing the bit violently across the garage, at which point Newton’s laws as discussed above again come into play.

Final note about drills—None of the chuck keys you own will fit any of your drill chucks.



Power Tools

Power tools come in two varieties, stationary and portable, the latter of which are further divided into corded and battery-powered. All three of these categories deserve their own discussion, as they each offer their own benefits and pose unique challenges. As a general matter though, things happen much faster with power tools, which is, after all, why you bought them. The wood gets cut faster, the hole drilled faster, etc, etc. Unfortunately, the bad things happen faster as well. No one, so far as I am aware, has ever cut off a finger using a hand saw. Doing so would take rather a long time and most reasonable people would know to stop sometime around reaching the bone. On the other hand, digits can go flying in a blink with any power saw, typically before you even know what has happened. Other things happen much faster with power tools as well, e.g. dust and shavings get created much faster and in far more copious quantities. And finally, mistakes happen much more quickly with power tools, not just the life-threatening kind, but the kind that screw up whatever it is you’re working on[9]. The following observations concerning power tools are ordered from least to most powerful (the tools, not necessarily the observations).

Battery-Powered Hand Tools

These have come a long way in the past ten years. Time was you couldn’t generate enough torque with a battery-powered drill to wind a wrist watch, whereas the principal issues these days are not torque or cutting power, but rather battery life and charging speed. And of course, as with all things involving construction, there are certain immutable laws that apply to this as well. Like, for example, the fact that when you most need your battery-operated tool, the battery is pretty much guaranteed to be dead[10]. The battery tools are also a good deal heavier than their corded counterparts, since you’re lugging around the power source with you. All this said, the moral of the story is that battery stuff is okay for around-the-house chores that don’t require much horsepower or duration. When you’re at a job site and there’s an outlet available, my advice – use it.

Corded Hand Tools

These come in all varieties and have been around pretty much forever, or at least as long as there’s been electricity, maybe a hundred years, give or take.

Stationary Power Tools

The absolute nirvana for any home repair type of guy is the purchase of a good quality stationary tool. Doesn’t matter—drill press, table saw, band saw, joiner, you name it. Nothing gets the male juices flowing quite like a brand spanking new power tool sitting smack in the middle of the garage where the car is supposed to be parked. Everything about the experience, from shopping and comparing scars with the guy at the tool shop, to the first time you fire that puppy up and marvel at the momentary dimming of the lights up and down your block. And of all the tools you can purchase, nothing quite touches the senses like a decent table saw. Yes sir, you combine a shiny new table saw, a good sharp ten-inch, sixty-four-tooth blade and a 2×4 just waiting to be ripped, and mister, you’ve got something there that’ll make a man glad to be alive! It’s all you can do to get a guy in this situation to put on safety glasses or ear protection. You simply don’t want to miss one sensory moment of the entire experience. So what if you go deaf or have to spend the rest of the weekend pulling splinters out of your eyes with tweezers.

But every one of these tools has a special flavor all its own, so each deserves a bit of detailed discussion.

Table Saw

So we’ve already crowned the table saw the king of the stationary power tools. But what do you need to know to be productive and avoid killing yourself while using it? Well, assuming you’ve taken my earlier advice and immediately removed all of the guards, you should be good to go. All you need, aside from the saw itself, is the fence that locks to the table for keeping an edge, and a few different kinds of ancillary pushing tools, all of which serve the laudable purpose of allowing you to complete cuts without getting your fingers anywhere near the blade. This is very important because of all the tools that exist in the world, the one on which bad things happen the most quickly and unexpectedly, the table saw again reigns supreme. A few randomly chosen examples of bad things that can happen when using a table saw:

  • You can, of course, cut yourself in all sorts of creative ways, resulting in either minor or very major wounds, depending on your reaction time
  • You can be impaled by a piece of wood kicked backward by the blade, since it is turning at high speed in the reverse direction from how you’re pushing the piece of wood. This typically happens when you hit some impediment you didn’t notice in the lumber, e.g. a nail, a knot, or just a damp spot in a piece of treated pine. Most table saw safety manuals will wisely instruct you to hold the work piece while standing to one side. That way, when it kicks back, instead of impaling you it will fly through your garage door or car windshield. Your call.
  • You can be blinded or scarred for life by a small piece flying off the main work piece. This can include particles of removed wood, or, in rare instances of poor saw maintenance, one or more teeth from the saw blade itself. As described in the earlier section on Newton’s laws, objects departing a table saw blade tend to do so at great velocity, so much so that you cannot see them coming or take any reasonable steps to get out of harm’s way.
  • You can also hurt yourself on a table saw when it isn’t even running, most frequently while changing the blade. Managing the delicate ballet of holding the blade shaft still while working two simultaneous open-end wrenches makes one glad that this isn’t required too terribly often, unless of course you’re one of those dado-blade people, in which case you will either get good at the operation or you will learn to use a router instead.

A few other tips on table saw use:

  • It’s possible to put the blade on backwards, but it doesn’t cut nearly as well (think trying to cut your steak with the back of the steak knife).
  • If you’re doing finish work (furniture, etc.) keep the side of the wood that you care about facing up. Since the blade is spinning toward you, any little bits that are going to flick off will come off the bottom side.
  • Get one of those rolling-pin-on-an-adjustable-height-stand thingies. They are real handy when trying to cut a 4 x 8 sheet of plywood by yourself. Like it isn’t hard enough sighting the pencil mark when holding the other end of the plywood (from eight feet away), it’s really annoying when you get about two thirds of the way through the cut and the far end starts tilting down from the weight of the wood. That’s when the rolling-pin thing comes in handy[11]. Suddenly having to struggle to hold down the remaining third of the sheet of plywood has a way of making you forget momentarily about the blade, which is not good.
  • As a general rule, when smoke starts coming out of the saw blade or there are burn marks on the wood after you’re done cutting, this is a subtle hint that maybe it’s time for a new blade. You will also get hints about the increasing dullness of your blade from the gradually increasing effort required to push that piece of lumber through, particularly when doing rip cuts. When the lights in the shop start going dim the harder you push, that’s another hint. Having the breaker blow and the saw quite in mid-cut is pretty annoying, especially if you’re trying to do something precise and accurate.

Chop/Miter Saw

The chop saw is an invaluable tool that is essentially a circular saw on a pivoting head. These typically can be rotated in a number of directions and are especially handy if you do a lot of molding work, hence the more common name Miter Saw. Unfortunate things can happen pretty quickly with one of these as well, particularly since the cuts are not of long duration like with a table saw. There is a tendency to get a little cavalier with the chop saw and pull down the handle very quickly, particularly when lopping 2×4’s in half, that sort of thing. Problem is that quick cuts like this have a habit of removing digits just as quckly if you’re holding something too close to the blade.

Drill Press


Band Saw


Router Table/Shaper






Nail Guns

No power tool discussion would be complete without addressing possibly the most fun tool of them all, the nail gun.

The Role of Obscene Language in the Shop

Appropriate methods of cursing….

Examples of Relatively Harmless Misuses of Tools

  1. Hitting a nail with the side of the hammer head because you are working in a space too tight to allow a full swing of the traditional hammer head.
  2. Easily the most frequent—using a common screwdriver or chisel to open a paint can. It will be news to many that there exists an actual tool for doing this banal job. Useful side note—this is the only tool you can legally obtain for free[12]. They will give you one at the Home Depot paint counter. In all likelihood the free-ness of this tool accounts for its infrequent use.

Examples of Incredibly Dangerous Misuses of Tools

  1. My personal favorite – holding a Skilsaw upside down and using it as a table saw.
  2. Cutting anything on a chop saw that is smaller than six inches in length while holding it with your fingers.
  3. Holding a piece of wood (especially a small one) and lifting it upwards to drill a hole with a drill press (as opposed to mounting the piece of wood to the drill press platform and pulling the drill bit downward).
  4. Similar to #3 but way MORE dangerous – holding a small piece of stock in your hand and drilling through it with a power hand drill[13].
  5. Placing a piece of pipe over the end of your crescent or open-end wrench in order to gain more torque. This is an excellent way to fracture the wrench and cause numerous sharp, fast-moving fragments to ricochet around your shop.

Lessons I’ve Learned the Hard Way

  1. The very first thing everyone should learn about their house is where the master water cut-off valve is located.
  2. Never buy a tool belt that has the side pouches attached to the main belt with Velcro.
  3. Stop pushing on the piece of wood you’re trying to ram through the table saw with a dull blade just before the circuit breaker blows in your garage (you can tell because the breaker blows about two seconds after the lights start to dim).
  4. Don’t use a hammer to pound the lid back on a paint can while wearing any clothes you care about.
  5. Don’t apply a fresh coat of polyurethane during mosquito season.
  6. Wait a minute or two before trying to remove that drill bit that you just forced through something really hard (it’s hot). Ditto for router bits, saber saw blades, and anything else metal that cuts.
  7. You cannot solder a copper pipe that has water in it—especially water under pressure.
  8. Do not use a nail gun within three feet of any piece of glass.
  9. If you have to replace/repair popcorn texturing on your ceiling, hire someone. Do not, under any circumstances, buy or attempt to use the can of ceiling popcorn texture material they sell at Home Depot. It will end in tears. This is the only substance, so far as I am aware, that is designed so that once it starts flowing (at an insane and uncontrollable velocity) it cannot be stopped until the can is empty.

10.  Never squirt the can of liquid foam into a sealed space. It will expand anyway and something will break or explode somewhere.

11.  Unless you’ve vacuumed and mopped your entire garage floor in the previous five seconds, do not turn on a fan in your garage to help dry that last coat of polyurethane.

12.  Pouring paint thinner on your hands to clean them is an excellent way to find small cuts.

13.  Do NOT fuck with that big spring thingie at the top of your garage door.

14.  A belt sander with No. 40 sandpaper removes stock really quickly, especially pine.

15.  A table saw blade can propel a three-foot 2 x 4 through an aluminum garage door.

16.  When a band saw blade breaks, numerous unpleasant things happen very quickly. Best strategy is drop to the floor and stay low for several seconds.

17.  If you manage to blow a circuit breaker by over-stressing a power tool, make sure the tool is turned off before you reset the circuit breaker. This is rather important since you will not be holding the tool when the power comes back on.

18.  Remember to remove the chuck key before starting the drill.

19.  If you accidentally drop caulking on any surface, trying to clean it off will only make it worse. Let the blob dry completely without touching it, then just pick it off.

20.  Pay the extra money to have someone install your garage door opener.

21.  Don’t cut something with a saber saw that you’re holding on your lap.


Things That Make No Sense about Home Repair

  1. A 2 x 4 measures 1 ¾ x 3 ¾ (ditto for 2 x 6, 2 x 8, etc.)
  2. The shelf life of a can of PVC pipe glue is about one hour. Don’t buy more than you need right now.

Useful Tips and Tricks

  1. When you plug your power tool into that extension cord, tie a half knot in the cords first. That way you won’t pull the tool plug out of the extension cord while you’re up on your ladder. This saves much cursing and many unnecessary trips up and down the ladder.
  2. You can get away with using metric sockets on English nuts (and vice versa) so long as you don’t push too hard and don’t mind slightly rounded corners on the nut afterwards.

General Topics to be Addressed

  1. Toilet unplugging
  2. Retrieving ring from garbage disposal
  3. hand-tools

[1] Other factors come to play in the complex mathematics of falling and ricocheting objects, including, for example, shape and mass. Round objects in particular are troublesome because once they strike the floor, they like to roll. Materials are germane as well, since part of determining where your errant part landed is to listen to it and follow the sound of movement. Certain metal compounds emit distinct sounds. Others (and plastic parts in particular) make practically no sound at all, so if you don’t see or are unable to impute where they go, you’re screwed.

[2] The one time in a hundred that you do somehow manage to catch the falling object, there will ironically then be some reason for dropping it again, either because it is hot or sharp, or because you will simply be so overcome with emotion at actually having caught it.

[3] And even if you do happen to own one, it will invariably not be the correct size for the clip you are working with.

[4] The role of colorful language in a shop environment is an important one and will be addressed later in its own section.

[5] I haven’t described this very well here, but anyone who’s done woodwork will know that the end of most tape measures is usually attached a bit loosely (typically with a cheap rivet) to the end of the steel tape, resulting in a tiny bit of slop which many purists find unacceptable. To compensate, I, like many, have adopted the habit of aligning the end of the piece of wood with the one-inch mark on the tape, which increases accuracy of measurement, but then requires that I remember to subtract one from my measurement. In this particular example, forgetting the subtraction results in a too-long piece rather than a

too-short one, but the point remains.

[6] I’m going to veer onto dodgy ground here and suggest that Heisenberg has a role in this. Anyone versed in science will know that the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle teaches us that we can know either an object’s position or its velocity, but never both simultaneously. Applied to this situation, what it means is that the faster you sand the less likely you will know where the splinters are. I accept, by the way, that this is an entirely inappropriate use of the theorem, since it was intended only to address certain quantum mechanical phenomena and not carpentry. Still it makes for an intuitively pleasing explanation, so I will stick with it for now.

[7] Sanding off-axis (in a direction non-parallel to the grain) only results in the creation of new scratches to the wood’s surface, which, in turn, engenders the need for even more sanding.

[8] Helpful hint: If the tip of your drill bit is glowing red as you drill through the material, consider getting some new drill bits.

[9] See the earlier section on why subtraction is easier than addition.

[10] This rule seems to apply to my cell phone a lot too. I’ll be happy once they finally figure out how to send electricity through the air so that battery tools are just always magically charged up.

[11] Applies to ordinary-sized table saws. If you’re wealthy enough to buy one of those bug honkers with the eight-foot-square table, more power to you.

[12] Unless you regard a paint stirring stick as a tool, which I do not, seeing as how it is nothing but a piece of scrap wood.

[13] I have watched two people in my life backing drill bits out of their hands. It ain’t pretty.

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