Offcuts: Tool Envy

Like most woodworkers, I sometimes get a case of one of the world’s most curable afflictions: tool envy. I’ve reasoned that, “If only I had one of those bad boys in my workshop, I could really crank out some nice stuff.”

I confess I’m suffering from tool envy at this very moment. But what makes this case so frustrating is that I already own the equipment I’m lusting after. My new jointer − 285 lbs of cast iron magnificence − sits tantalizingly close to my shop, tormenting me every time I walk past it.

The nice young man who gave me the great deal on my new jointer was also kind enough to help me hoist it into the back of my van. But it wasn’t until I got all the way home, carefully backed up the driveway, swung open the cargo door and grabbed hold of my gorgeous new hunk of machinery that I came to the literally painful realization that it was he who had done the bulk of the hoisting, while I was the one who had done the helping.

Here’s the thing about being a middle-aged guy: Most of your friends are other middle-aged guys. One is currently undergoing physical therapy for a shoulder injury suffered during a potato-sack race at his company outing, so he’s no help. Another is actually able-bodied and, better yet, “owes me one” because I helped him haul his own jointer from the car to the basement back when he scratched his own tool envy itch. True, his was in three manageable pieces, not fully assembled like mine, and we were both a couple years younger back then. But it’s a moot point – he just moved five states away, so it’d take a round-trip ticket to enlist his help.

I did manage to persuade one of my pals to stop over after our weekly round of golf. Oh sure, you can call him “Tiger” when he’s out-driving me by 30 yards on every hole. And at age 52, he’s practically what I would call a young whippersnapper, if I used words like “whippersnapper.” But one fistful of the mighty iron infeed table on my sawdust-making behemoth turned him into Mr. Pussycat. He ran off as if his manhood had just been challenged, which, come to think of it, I guess it had.

Meanwhile, I pine for my bought-and-paid-for yet inaccessible woodworking tool. And pine is the operative word. I’ve accumulated plans galore requiring genuine, slabbed-from-a-tree lumber just waiting for my new surfacing equipment, but I figured I’d first build a few things with medium-density fiberboard because it comes from the lumberyard already flat and straight as an arrow. That’s the upside. The downside is that MDF is way heavier than real wood. Still, it was ideal for constructing something simple and rectangular, like a pedestal for my widescreen television. (Hey, that’s a tool, too – gotta have a way to watch those informative woodworking videos.)

So there you have my frustration in a nutshell. I have a backlog of woodworking projects I’m just itching to get started on, but not before I get to channel Tim Allen, grunt “More power!” and plug in my prized machine currently imprisoned mere steps from my workshop. And I can’t do that until I can corral a couple suckers – er, I mean buddies – to help me horse it off the truck. I guess all I can do in the meantime is plant myself in my recliner, grab a beverage and the remote, and settle down in front of the big screen. But, you know, the viewing angle isn’t quite right and, between the TV set and my homemade base, that’s an awful lot of weight to lug around into a better viewing position.

Know anybody who can come over and help me move it?

Lee Gordon is a copywriter and announcer who has voiced thousands of radio and television commercials. He lives in West Hartford, Conn.

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