There's Always One More

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This article is from Issue 95 of Woodcraft Magazine.

By Ken Burton

I was doing a little shop reorganization when I came across a coffee can with the label “MISC” written on its lid in my grandfather’s handwriting. It contained a jumble of odd hardware from his shop and some that I had added over the years before losing track of it. Seeing that label brought back a flood of memories. I had inherited this can along with several dozen others whose contents were much more organized when he was downsizing and getting ready to move into a retirement home. Screws, bolts, washers…he had a wide range of them in cans and boxes all meticulously labeled in his neat handwriting. As we packed up his tools I remember him telling me that he didn’t mind so much giving up his shop as he did losing his hardware collection “just when it had started to be useful.” 

Fast forward forty or so years and I find myself with a hardware collection that begins to be useful as well. My grandfather’s collection is largely gone, his slotted screws and nails consumed by my decades of jig and furniture making, the coffee cans gradually replaced with plastic tubs, the square nuts giving way to hexagonal ones. At this point, I’ve accumulated enough extra hardware that when I go to make a new jig, I can usually cobble together the requisite nuts and bolts for the build without a trip to the hardware store. This is not to say things always match. I’ve been known to rethread and cut down a long bolt to make a shorter one (the reverse process is MUCH more difficult, believe me.) and eschew symmetry with different diameters of fasteners. There are times, however, when my collection falls just a little bit short. 

Before firing up the truck to make the run to the hardware store, I’ve come to rely on a bit of shop sorcery with a “law” I call: There is always one more. The time to put this into play is usually late at night when the want of a single piece of hardware means you can’t finish the job at hand until the hardware store opens in the morning. To invoke the law, you say something along the lines of “Come on, there has got to be one more.” followed by a frenzied search of the floor, your tool box, and anywhere else the wanted part might be lurking. Inevitably you’ll turn up something that will work. This is not a concept to be taken lightly. It only ever works once per project, maybe even just once per month. But it has worked for me often enough to make me a believer. But by writing about it, I am a little worried that it will never for work for me again.

Even if this proves true, I will always remember the most recent time I said those key words. As I was wrapping up a project shortly after that re-org I came up one corner brace short. After checking all the usual places, I finally found a usable substitute. Where? In that coffee can with the MISC label. Somewhere, I suspect my grandfather is smiling. 

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