SHEDNOTES 28: THE KOWALSKI TOOLKIT

On behalf of the shed world, Walt Kowalski, strong silent politically dodgy hero cast by Clint Eastwood, in Gran Torino, guess who got the part, tells a young fella:
“You can have this. WD-40, vise grips, and some duct tape. Any man worth his salt can do half the household chores with just those three things.”
The prescription is discussed well at
http://www.lifehacker.com.au/2013/07/how-to-build-the-essential-toolbox-for-every-level-of-diy/
and
http://www.artofmanliness.com/2012/03/12/the-walt-kowalski-toolbox/
The line in the film was a resaying of the old wisdom: “If it doesn’t move, and it should, use WD-40. If it moves, and it shouldn’t, use duct tape.”
Otherwise rendered as The Engineer’s Prayer:
“Dear Lord, grant me the WD-40 to move those things that are stuck; the Duct Tape to fasten those things that are loose; and the wisdom to know the difference.”
The Royal Navy calls gaffer tape and a hammer the Marines’ toolkit.
The vise grip, or what Brits would call a mole wrench, adds the advantages of an adjustable spanner and a good grip as required. You can use a small one as a spoke wrench for straightening a bike wheel. And somewhere we have picked up the tip that you can make an emergency screwdriver by pinching a small coin into the jaws.
What else?
If it’s for somebody leaving home, there is a lot to be said for a multitool but they are expensive, and fiddly, and only worth it at all if all blades and tools lock in position, which makes them illegal to carry without a good excuse. Despite this, The Shed has tooled up several of its nieces and nephews but anyone with a house is better off with slim-nose pliers, wire snips, a knife or two, two kinds of screwdriver in three sizes each and as many bradawls as you can fit in a jar.
Then you want araldite-type two-tube hard glue, evo-stik-type fabric glue, superglue and blu-tak. One of the discussions we visited added a recommendation for shoe-goo, for making insulation, repairing your car key fob and even mending shoes.
Superglues seem to be much of a muchness but it might be worth paying for a good dispenser, depending on the job, and not all are quick drying, if that is what you want. Araldite is great but cheaper ones seem to be okay. Blu-tak appears to have no rivals but you can get a square for a quid and it lasts forever if you keep rolling it up and putting it back in its bit of clingfilm.
Then you want tapes besides duct tape – gaffer, parcel and stretchy plastic. And string and rubber bands. Any farmer would add baling wire but cable ties are easier to get tight.
Your mole grip will make a hammer but a hammer would be better. One with a claw for drawing nails, until you’ve got the proper pincers.
The online debate includes a lot of warnings about the limitations of WD40. It is a solvent and moisture displacer, not a lasting lubricant, everyone points out – so not a cure-all for your bicycle joints, for example, and won’t last a minute in bearings. Also, a bugger in clockwork, apparently, because it picks up dirt quickly. However, it’s still a pretty good all-round first try for a lot of problems. Heap drivers swear by a squirt of it in the air intake for a cold start and a squirt or two on tinder will work as a firelighter. However, we came across a couple of American recommendations, still to be checked out, for using something called Houdini instead. And the following intriguing recipe: “I prefer Ed’s Red (equal parts acetone, mineral spirits, kerosene, and a bottle of ATF. I leave the acetone out and put it in a plastic spray bottle. The acetone makes it work better, but being able to put it in a plastic bottle is awful handy.”
ATF is transmission fluid, we think – a fine oil. Mineral spirits? Still to be deciphered.
Another American contributor to the debate has written: “I prefer Gaffer’s Tape to Duct Tape. The adhesive doesn’t break down and cause a gooey, nasty mess that can only be removed with WD-40. Nobody’s mentioned 3-in-1 oil, which I don’t like because it’s vegetable-based and oxidizes into varnish. I use Tri-Flo, wheel bearing grease, white lithium grease, and Rem-Oil (gun oil) for 90% of my household needs. And White Lightning for the bike and moped chains.”
In short: it’s horses for courses when you are looking for maintenance. But then, you can get WD40 in the glove compartment.
We should probably mention that duct tape, or duck tape, known in off-highway America as Alabama Chrome, is not an insulating tape. It contains aluminium and can conduct electricity.
To be continued, no doubt.
butdonefornow …

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2 Responses to SHEDNOTES 28: THE KOWALSKI TOOLKIT

  1. John baxter says:

    I only found out recently that the WD in WD 40 stood for water displacement. I do wonder what the other 39 were like.
    A cousin of mine was once at ACLU try fair in Dorset where one of the high ranking raffle prizes was a years supply of WD 40?? Which got me trying to quantify my own WD usage in order to work out how they worked that one out.
    As an elevator engineer a Friday afternoon breakdown “quick getaway” toolkit was can of WD 40, a pair of mole grips ( spanner and pliers in one) and a screwdriver with reversible end Philips and flat. If it couldn’t be fixed with those items the client was reminded that “luckily your stairs are still working very well”.

  2. hack4hire says:

    You never run out of WD40 but you do run out of nozzles all the time …

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