5. A jar of screws and a jar of nails
It took me about five years to realize that I should separate the two. There is a ritual that goes along with having a jar of screws and a jar of nails: First you realize that you need a screw or a nail for something. Then you get the jar and dump it out onto the table. Then you remember that the reason all these screws and nails are in these jars is because they weren't right for some previous job, or else you would have used them and they wouldn't be here. Then you pick one that will kind of work but not really, and you jam it into whatever hole needs it. Wait two weeks; repeat.

6. Expensive stuff
With each new tool purchase comes the possibility of success and the mastery of a skill that has always eluded me. Can I really put a price on something that profound? Actually...I can. A very high price, it turns out. So when I needed a plane to trim a sticky door, I decided I would master the plane! I needed the best one money could buy. I foresaw a future where everything in my house was planed to a smooth and straight line. Crooked doors and stuck windows would tremble when they saw me setting up my sawhorses (which I hadn't bought yet). Did I say one plane? Nay, two or three is more like it, and I would also need extra blades. Eight hundred dollars later, I planed my first and, as it turns out, last door. Not only did I not like planing very much, I also wasn't particularly good at it. I cleared off a shelf in my basement to display my impressive new plane collection.

There were other clues in my toolbox: a bag of rubber bands, a tiny little rusty saw, some picture-hanging wire, three pencils, a padlock with no key, WD-40, and...a quarter.

What else? In my bedroom, I keep a pair of pliers next to the air conditioner because the knob broke last year and instead of getting a new knob, it seems more practical to permanently assign a tool to live next to the AC unit.

And in the end, those pliers really explain my relationship to tools better than the axe, the ladder, or the toolbox itself. Those pliers say to me: I know exactly all I need to know about tools. In a pinch, I will use my axe to cut a piece of twine, especially if it's 10 feet closer than the scissors. If I want to hammer a nail with a wrench, that's my business. Does the nail go in? OK, then. One day, I may really need that strange little screw at the bottom of the jar to stop a leak or help save a man's life. You never know. For me, tools are merely a means to an end. Sometimes they are useful, sometimes they are symbolic, sometimes they're beautiful, and sometimes tools just feel good in my hand. But most times it's the bubbles.
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