Since my first construction-related job in 1974, labor costs have risen and tool costs have dropped. This changes the way contractors make decisions related to tool maintenance and repair. Many tool repair jobs that would have been routine 50 years ago aren’t worth the trouble these days. In the same way that watch repair and shoe repair are now rare, few carpenters these days bother to replace the wooden handle on a hammer or replace the broken tape in a tape measure. If a hand tool breaks, you throw it away and buy a new one.
Of course, I replace or repair frayed cords on my power tools, and occasionally replace a bad switch. Any tool with an internal combustion engine gets regular tune-ups, air filter changes, and sparkplug changes. I still sharpen my chainsaw chain. But I no longer get circular saw blades professionally sharpened. (Believe it or not, that used to be a thing.) Like everyone else, when my circular saw blades get dull, I throw them away.
Tape measure tapes? Forget about it. Throw the whole tape measure in the trash.
I still replace wooden handles on my wheelbarrows, axes, and mauls, although these days, better handles have been invented—steel or fiberglass handles—so I have fewer tools with wooden handles.
An inventory of dry ash
Ash is the best wood species for baseball bats and tool handles, and of course dry ash is better than green ash. As a young man, cutting firewood, I used to save 40-inch bolts of clear ash for handle wood. I would split the bolts into quarters and store them in a corner of the garden shed. Once dry, I would use the wood to make tool handles.
After I had split, sawn, and whittled my replacement handle into a close…
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