Monday, January 18, 2010

365/18 Catch the Wave

365/18 Catch the Wave

"My own experience has been that the tools I need for my trade are paper, tobacco, food, and a little whisky."

William Faulkner

Ah, the Leatherman Wave. A tool that I rarely, if ever, leave home without. Much like the camera, really. Neither are ever more than a stone's throw from my hand really.

You can tell a well-loved tool by the marks upon it. You can see that it's been used and not babied. No, tools don't require tender, loving care. Quite the opposite. You need to be rough on them. You need to put them through their paces as often as possible, as quickly as possible, with fervor and glee. A good tool doesn't buckle under that load. No, it perseveres.

A common gripe about tools of today is, "they don't make 'em like they used to." That's quite true. There's a certain attention to detail that today's toolmakers seem to lack. Well, I don't necessarily blame the toolmakers themselves. Tools today are drop forged or hard punched from steel and ribbon. They're not zealously made by a craftsman who has jealously guarded his techniques that were passed to him via age old rituals only whispered in the dead of night. No, tools today are made by hook or by crook. Whatever gets it done on time, under budget, packed, stacked, racked, and sold to the lowest bidder.

I was at my dad's shop today. He does furniture restoration, amongst other things. He enjoys taking a broken and busted piece of furniture, knocking the rough spots off, and making it a workhorse of society again. He has a baby crib in the shop. Nothing overly expansive, just a simple and Quaker-ish. But, this wooden spindle-laden box on a rocker was over a century old. About as old has him and I put together. Talk about an everlasting gobstopper of toddler proportions! It wobbled a bit when it got to him, but he fixed it right up. It's an heirloom with a purpose now, not a dust collecting pile of tinder.

And that's what I want to see in tools today. I want to know that I can pick something up and without realizing that it's 40 years later, have something good and useable in my hand. The Wave might get there. I've had this one for about 8 years I guess. This is my second. I lost the first. It was a crushing defeat. You never want to leave a man behind ... or a tool. Especially a dependable one. But, as I recall, Leatherman makes their tools to last. This one has a 25 year warranty on it. That's staying power. The first Leatherman I ever had, I gifted to my father when the Wave came out. He used that one for three or four years. Accidentally cracked the blade off when working on a piece of furniture. Not a bloody easy task, I'll have you know. But, a galloping trip back to the manufacturer and it was fixed up without a question.

That's what I like to see. Especially in this throw away society.

Now, I don't know if I'll have my D300 twenty years from now. Or even ten. Digital just doesn't have the physical staying power of our grandfather's film cameras. But for now, it's my workhorse. It does what I ask it, no questions asked. Sure, the battery might whine a bit when it's low and over-abused. It might get a little wet now and then. But, pay that no mind. It's going to work until it no longer doesn't.

This idea of tools reminds me of a Johnny Cash song. Yeah. Me? Johnny Cash lover? Who knew? The song is The Legend of John Henry. A line about his hammer, in particular, is what comes to mind.

learn to hoist a jack,
learn to lay a track,
learn to pick and shovel too,
and take my hammer,
it'll do anything you tell it to.

And now, me and my camera are gonna go suck some wind. Let's see what waves we can catch.

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