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Normally we take the weekend off here at Toolmonger, but as it’s father’s day today, I thought I’d take a quick minute to tell you a little bit about my father. He died in 2003, but his love of tools, the shop, and doing things for himself — as well as some of his stubbornness, problems, and issues with keeping the shop running — live on with me. Well, at least I hope they do.

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If you’re under 40, when someone utters “Radio Shack” your head likely fills with images of third-rate cell phone deals, Sharper Image rejects, and overpriced electronics. If you’re over 40, though, you just might remember the ‘Shack as a local source for electronics components, cheap batteries, and home computers (when the latter was still a rarity). It looks like a few folks in the ‘Shack management team remember that, too, and put this video out to find out what it would take to get back in the good graces of those who remember — and into the buying thoughts of those who don’t.

Or maybe the whole thing’s just a stunt to get some views on their YouTube page. Either way, that’s fine with us. A hit on RS’s YouTube channel isn’t going to draw me to the store.

The video asks for your recommendations in YouTube comments, and looking through them I see some great ideas already. A few of my faves:

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I’ve heard no shortage of belly-aching over custom wood pens. They often get dumped on for one reason or another and honestly, undeservedly so. I have always been a fan of anything one can custom-make and pens are no different. Pens like these from reader rboyett2001 are a great way to spend a little time in the shop and get a sweet-looking writing utensil out of it on the other end.

The main complaint I hear is that you buy a kit and make a pen according to plan and that’s not real woodworking. Well, yes, of course it is. Case in point: A friend of mine just started making custom wood pens and once the first few had been spun off the lathe he showed them to his buddies who proceeded to crap all over his work. Telling him “anything like that just isn’t considered real woodwork.”

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I’m sure you saw Sean’s great post about his new truck last week. Well, he swung by my place with it not long before that and gave me the lowdown, which got me thinking about my own truck situation. I’ve been nursing along a 1997 F150 since around 2004, and it’s been a good ride. I inherited it from my father, and he’d already added an aftermarket transmission cooler and an electric towing package. Bottom line: I’ve towed up to 15,000 lbs. with it with no problem.

But like all F150s, it has an Achilles heel: the heater core. After a second replacement in four or five years, I decided I wasn’t interested in removing the dash again down the road. And honestly, I’m doing a hell of a lot less towing than I was when I first got the F150.

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Reader Rick correctly pointed out in comments the other day that Scott French’s TM-featured workspace seems oriented entirely toward working with electric guitars. And that reminded me of my first (and only) attempt an such work: my first bass.

I played the trumpet in high school and college, but stopped for a while when my favorite instrument (a Bach 25th anniversary Stradivarius) was stolen at a gig. For years I had a Steinberger (think oar) knockoff laying around my apartment, but after a few beers one night I traded it to a friend for a chromatic harmonica. (Doh.) So later when I wanted to pick up the electric bass to help out some friends in a band whose bassist had quit, I tried to reverse the trade.

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I purchased my DeWalt 12″ miter saw about 10 years ago, and I wouldn’t make the same choice today — I almost certainly would buy a sliding miter saw instead. Back then the choice of sliding miter saws was limited, and they were very expensive. As the title suggests, the other thing I’d do differently is choose a 10″ over a 12″ saw.

It’s not that my DeWalt 12″ it isn’t a good saw; it’s just that I chose it based on a landscaping project I was planning that required cutting a bunch of 4x6s. Rather than trying to figure out my future needs, I weighed too heavily the fact that a 12″ saw could cut a 4×6 with a single cut. I haven’t cut another 4×6 since.

I’ve learned a few things since then and have a few reasons for buying a 10″ saw. Maybe the type of projects you do require a bigger saw (building decks comes to mind), but for the average woodworker/DIYer, the following reasons might be something to consider.

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With the change to daylight savings time a while back came the reminder: Did you change the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors? Consider this a second reminder for those (like me, for example) who blew right past the first. The life you save might be your own.

And if saving a life isn’t enough to motivate you to do the deed, consider this: It’s a statistically-proven fact that if you let the battery in your smoke/CO detector die on its own it’ll inevitably die at 3-f@$$#ing-30 in the morning and wake you up with its infernal beeping. You’ll find yourself standing in the middle of the house trying to a) stay awake while b) carefully listening for that damn beep every 60 seconds to tell which one died.

Just sayin’.

(Thanks, sun dazed, for the CC-licensed photo.)


If you enjoy reading Ben’s posts about new tools here on Toolmonger, you’ll probably enjoy his new personal blog as well: Ben’s Workshop. It’s all about the project he does with those tools, and we bet they’ll look familiar to anyone who enjoys their shop — in short, Toolmongers.

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I understand the value of a positive mental attitude and I also consider myself a reasonably festive individual during the holiday season. Often in the month of December, I can be found at most social functions wearing my beloved Santa hat. However I don’t feel very festive in the beginning of October. Starting bright and early on the first of the tenth month, I was greeted at the local big box with jingle bells and light-up trees — WTF?

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I noticed a lot backlash from readers regarding my tire pressure management post. The gist: TPMS won’t keep your tires aired up, and if you’re too lazy to check them every so often you’re probably too lazy to air ’em up either. I half agree, specifically that an indicator light is no replacement for good maintenance. After all, no tool can ever replace the drive to actually get in gear and do the damn project.

But before we go smacking down an indicator light, let’s take a close look at ourselves. Do you fall into any of these three Toolmonger pitfalls?

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