How Many Tools and How Many Trips

Ken Horner
Ken Horner

How many tools will a job take and how many trips back to the shop? After some 50 years of home repair, I’ve come to expect to go back for more tools at least three or four times. More than that and I really feel dumb; less than three and I feel pretty smart. But why can’t I think of everything the first time?

It is just a small job – I need to take off the baseboard and make a small notch on the bottom edge for the new heater grill. I stand and look at the baseboard and at the new grill plate. The one-half-inch x three-inch baseboard is 12-ft. long. I just need to pull a few nails, ease the board away from the wall and cut a notch – maybe one-half inch x nine-inch Should be an easy job.

I start ticking off the tools I’ll need: a cat’s paw to get the molding off and a hammer to put it back. Then I’ll need a small box to use as a saw horse, a small hand saw (I’ve decided to go all arm-power so I won’t need any electrical tools with extension cords, etc.), maybe a wood chisel, a little bit of sandpaper and then put it back using the same nails and put in a little wood putty. Won’t need any paint.

I doublecheck and then, out in the shop, I gather all the tools I’ve thought of and head back to the dining room. I lay out the tools and then notice that I need a wide scraper blade to ease the baseboard away from the wall before I pry it off. I think the whole job through again and go get the scraper blade. Trip number one.

Back at the job again, I break the molding away from the wall and grab the cat’s paw. Aw! I forgot a small board to keep from denting the drywall. Trip number two.

Back in the shop, I remember to get a pencil to make cut marks. I go back to the job and get the board off with no trouble. I slip the new grill into place and I’m ready to mark the molding, but I discover that the pencil won’t mark on the high gloss, varnished surface. Back to the shop to get some masking tape. Trip number three.

Once more back at the job, I put some tape on the molding, mark it and make the required cut; it looks great. I sand the edges smooth and slide the board into place. The nails go right back into the holes and I tap the board back in place. I grab the putty and then notice that some of the nail heads are protruding: I forgot a nail set. I need a stupid nail punch.

Fourth trip to the shop, but in no time the job is completed except for wiping the excess putty off. I need a rag. Instead of another trip to the shop, I go to the kitchen and get some paper towels. In my mind this job was almost normal – just four trips to the shop; I don’t count the trip to the kitchen.

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