illustration of a Wrench Tightening Man
Illustration: Serge Bloch
I have never been a "tool guy." I have bought tools, of course, but only with the confidence of a high school senior pinning a corsage on his buxom prom date. "This...feels ...awkward." Some guys are more worldly than me. Some guys love their tools with passion. I have a neighbor whose entire garage is a temple to tools. Table saws and drills and all sorts of impressive, furniture-size equipment, all waiting for him to come along and knock out a bookshelf or a window seat or an ark.

My garage has two overflowing cat litter boxes, five bikes with flat tires, and lots of bins filled with a lifetime of crap, most of it purchased from the local Sports Authority. I have a toolbox in the basement, but my garage has a total of two tools in it: an axe and a ladder, which in the strict sense of the word, probably isn't even a tool. I got the axe because I thought I might have a need to fell trees when I moved to the suburbs. I never use it because my neighbor has a chain saw. The ladder is 10 feet tall and made of wood and weighs roughly 753 pounds. Turns out, only electricians use wooden ladders, and even they have mostly given them up for fiberglass ones. The rest of the world uses aluminum, which is very lightweight. I once asked my electrician if he wanted my wooden ladder, and he looked at me and said, "You know, they make those in aluminum...."

So one day, as I was in the garage with my axe and my ladder, feeling ashamed and thinking I was lucky that my house was still standing given my lack of tool knowledge, I decided to head downstairs to poke around in my toolbox. What would its contents reveal? I knew I couldn't compete with my neighbor, but had a lifetime of stumbling blindly through the tool world taught me anything at all? Here's what I found.
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