How Things Work, Or the Tools that We Need

toolsMy dad had a workshop in a corner of our basement.  He had a big, sturdy workbench made of wood with a vise grip clamped to one side and a variety of interesting tools, an assortment of little necessities sorted into compartments, and shadowy larger items on the shelf below.  Then there was the whole wall of metal shelving that had rows of coffee cans full of screws and nails plus more tools, scraps and mystery items that I only left alone because there might be spiders lurking.  In the middle of his workshop area, he had an old door hoisted on two sawhorses where he would keep his larger projects.

My dad was not a natural teacher, but I learned early on that if I could watch quietly without distracting him with questions, then I was welcome to sit on a stool and observe while he created.  So I did.  I remember being drawn down to cross the dark lengths of basement in my pajamas, skittering toward the halo of light over his workbench.  I remember sitting perched on that stool until the cold from the basement crept up the stool and all through me, but fascinated by whatever project he had set up and not wanting to retreat to the warmth upstairs.

Dad loved to work with his hands; he knew carpentry and other useful household repair information like electrical and plumbing.  He also had a strong artistic interest and out of this came many decorative items like taking a Pennsylvania Dutch design from a tissue box and reworking it to paint onto an old milk can.  He made models of ships and took over a few diorama school projects of mine and my siblings.

I’m not sure if my love of process came out of the hours that I spent watching my dad, or that I was so drawn to watching him because I enjoyed the process.  I know that I have learned more than I realized and this has come in handy, and in situations that bear no resemblance to any of dad’s projects.

One of the tools that I really just had to touch was the level.  It is a long and narrow metal (well these days, plastic) item with two or more glass areas, filled with liquid and an air bubble, that are angled and perpendicular.  It is used to help ensure that something like a table top or a picture is level, hence the name.  But what if you could apply the concept to human interactions?  Is the interaction ‘level’, i.e. are all parties understanding the direction and intent?  Sometimes I can clearly get a mental picture of a level where the air bubbles are not lining up while observing a conversation.

I also couldn’t help but play with the vise grip – what a handy item, literally.  It could hold something in place when you needed both of your own hands to perform a task on the item.  Wouldn’t it be useful to hold a slippery idea in place while you examine it more closely?

I don’t work with my hands in the same way that my dad did, mine type or answer the phone or write notes.  But I have an understanding of tools, process, and how things work thanks to those quiet hours in that circle of light at my dad’s workbench that I build on every day.

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


Filed under Personal Growth, Work Life

3 responses to “How Things Work, Or the Tools that We Need

  1. How fortunate you are to have had a father like that – taught you not only how to use the tools, but patience and observation as well. ❤

    • Thanks Stacy, I think so too – although I think that he might be surprised at what I gleaned from those watching hours. I still call on him in my head when I have to try to fix something around the house.

  2. Pingback: Giving Our History Its Due | Practical Business

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