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Is it possible that you get to a point where you own so many tools that you forget what you own? Or is it just the ravages of old age taking its toll on my mind?

A few days ago, I decided to round over the corners of my drill press table because I’ve dinged up the edges pretty good. So I grabbed my Colt router and looked for a round-over bit. The only 1/4″ shank round-over bit I own is a 3/8″ radius, but of course I have a nice selection of 1/2″ shank round-over bits.

Rather than using the Colt, I end up flipping the drill press table upside down and routing a 1/8″ radius on my router table; it was awkward, but it worked. It looked so good that I wanted to relieve the edge of the router table I’m in the process of building. I figured I’d better pick up a 1/8″ round-over bit for the Colt next time I’m at the store rather than try to muscle the new table on top of the old table.

cA few days later, I was in the store looking at router bits and it hit me: Why didn’t I just pull the router motor out of the table and use my plunge base?

This has happened to me numerous times. A few years ago, I was mounting a bar sink in my garage for dumping used oil. The sink would drain into some 5-gallon buckets which I could just grab and bring to the oil dropoff site. I needed to cut a hole in the counter top for the sink and the only tool I could think of to do the job was my recip saw. Of course I butchered the hole so badly that there were places where the sink didn’t cover the hole. Only then did I remember that I owned a perfectly good jig saw that would have done a much better job.

So have you ever forgotten what tools you own and ended up buying one of them again? Or have you used a less-than-ideal tool for the job, only to remember later that you actually had the right tool? Let us know in comments.

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23 Responses to Reader Question: Ever Forget You Own A Tool?

  1. IronHerder says:

    Like the post’s author, I have forgotten about particularly appropriate tools until after the projects are done, but all of the specific details seem to escape me. 🙂

    What I do that may be different from other folk is to plan for this ahead of time, and have backups for my backups, all purchased at tag sales, auctions, etc. I prefer to regard myself as a very green, very pro-active recycler, not, as some might think, an excessively frugal tightwad.


  2. Gregg says:

    Couple of years ago I used old bricks to as filler for a soak away, breaking them up with a small 5lb lump hammer and a brick bolster. As I was packing away (and aching) I picked up the large SDS demo drill and the box of chisels to dump the hammer and bolster back in tool box. I just stood there looking at them piteously.

    I could have been at the pub hours before!

  3. PutnamEco says:

    I definitely have to many tools to keep track of them all. whenever I dig around in my storage areas I always find retired tools that I forgot I had.

  4. Fong says:

    Nope, I either don’t own quite that many tools yet or am just too anal about where they go in the shop. Probably a result of growing up scrounging for resources to do the simplest things.

  5. ToolGuyd says:

    I sometimes misplace tools, but I’m usually good about knowing what I have available and where they are. In a few years maybe this will change.

  6. DeadGuy says:

    Yes, sometimes I have the same problem about…wait, what was the question again?

  7. Tom says:

    My problem is usually finding a tool. I look for a while, use a tool that is not quite as suited for a task, and then while cleaning up (or days/weeks later) I find the tool I was looking for.

  8. Adam says:

    I forget I own tools all the time… mostly because half of them are out on loan! I was up at a good friend’s house last weekend, helping him install a couple of new doors on the house he renovated last summer… Along the way I reclaimed my cordless drill and extension cord spool- but left the ladders, drill bits, and other tools he’s had since the project began! I guess I’m using him as tool storage while my housing is in flux. Lucky him 😀

  9. Toolhearty says:

    IronHerder Says:
    …I prefer to regard myself as a very green, very pro-active recycler…

    I’ll have to remember this. I usually just come right out and admit to people that I’m a cheap bastage (within reason, of course).

  10. Gary says:

    Tape measures.

    I own 4 or 5. I have this gift for putting them down and forgetting where. That and pencils.

    I’ve learned my lesson about lending out tools. I have one roll of chisels on the end of my workbench that I let people borrow and they can borrow garage tools. Nothing else in my shop.

  11. Mr. Man says:

    yes, but never co-workers by the same name..

  12. Dreamcatcher says:

    My very first boss required that we clean up the jobsite every night and pack out all the tools. He had a small-ish truck considering the amount of tools that he carried (enough for a crew of four) and everything fit in just so. If something was missing, other tools wouldn’t fit right. Ever since then I have become far more anal in my own tool organization efforts.

    First off, all my tools that came with cases always go back in their case every night. I even go so far as to make or adapt cases for tools that came solo. Not only is it easier to stack, spot, and manage a big square case but the tools take much less needless abuse.

    Another thing I can say is that I currently have about $64,000 in carpentry tools (replacement value – not necessarily what I paid). I know that because I keep a spreadsheet of all my tools and accessories; right down to individual sockets and screwdrivers. The same file carries digital photos of each tool next to a handwritten sign noting the make, model, serial number, and itemized list of accessories. Small tools are photographed in groups (e.g. collections of screwdrivers or specialty tool collections).

    As I mentioned I have certain “tool collections” to make it easier. I am not a fan of putting all my tools into one container so I break them up and/or have multiples. Since I am a remodeler, some of my collections include: Electrical, Plumbing, HVAC, Framing, Automotive, and so on.

    Lastly, I don’t loan out tools. If you need what I have I may be persuaded to bring my tools with me and help you out for awhile but don’t ask to borrow anything. BTW; if anyone needs help my “minimum wage” is beer and steak.


  13. Ron says:

    Needed a Wonderbar for something, couldn’t find mine so I went to the Big Box and bought one. Later in the year I was cleaning my garage and found 7 Wonderbars squirreled away. I’m Wonderbarred for life. And no you can’t borrow one.

  14. Wheels17 says:

    I’m with Tom on the “have it but can’t find it” issue. Just today, was replacing the glass in a display cabinet and had to drive the nails into the muntins. I know I have a tack hammer, but after about 15 minutes I gave up and used the toy cast iron hammer from my kid’s tool set. I’ll find the tack hammer tomorrow while I’m doing something else.

  15. fred says:

    Over the years as we acquired tools and a shop or two – we learned from our predecessors. In one shop – we have Lista storage that was set up with labels and outlines of tools in many drawers to show where things go and what’s missing. The same was done on pegboard storage above benches.

    In our Knaack boxes – we outfit them with plywood compartments – labeled to show what goes where at the end of a day’s work – ready to be locked down.

  16. Jim says:

    I know the problem all to well. That is how I ended up with a second motorcycle.


  17. Patrick says:

    I’m a minimizer. I know I have an obsessive personality (I spend work doing this stuff, then I could go home and work four hours on my projects, easy) so I just try to keep my tool collection focused on a certain set of jobs. Only thing that keeps the wife’s car and my bike in the garage.

  18. DR says:

    I don’t forget tools, but I am always forgetting accessories. I forget that I have certain bits (router, drill, whatever). I have forgotten that I have a certain size box of screws or nails. I have forgotten that I have a certain type of glue or caulk. You get the idea. I usually can find the glue, paint, or stain after it is expired, dried out, or curdled in the appropriate curdle for that former liquid.

  19. DoItRite says:

    @Ron’s post about Wonderbars reminded me of and old joke we kept retelling around the jobsite: They were called Wonderbars because we always wondered where they were!

  20. Philip Maynard says:

    I used to forget I had tools and then I got organized (mostly). Now since I have a place to look, I end up knowing what I have. On projects, I generally plan them out in advance so I can do them without multiple trips to those places that suck money out of your pockets. The planning process includes what tools I’ll need and that makes me find them or buy them ahead of time. No I’m not anal about organization, I just find it helps my over 40 mind that many times strikes me stupid.

  21. Sander says:

    I don’t own a whole lot of tools, so finding “lost” tools only happens with small things like extra drill bits and other small purchases that I bought on sale.

  22. k says:

    my dad was workin on a buddys car and he left some tools in there and we forgot until we worked on it again 3 years later we went out and bought replacement tools

  23. Shawn says:

    I forgot all about the engine hoist I bought years ago. I loaned it to a friend. When I was moving he wheeled it over to my house. He had had the hoist for 4 years & used it once. I had it for 3 years before that & used it twice.

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