Thursday, June 25, 2009

Why I Hate Tools

My father wasn't very handy around the house. The sum total of his tools was a shoe box kept in the closet which had one flat-blade screwdriver with wooden handle (cracked), one pair of slip-joint pliers with slip nut badly warped so they wouldn't hold in the wide position, one ball-peen hammer (rusty) and a small tin of bent nails and stripped screws. There was some black electricians tape to provide field expedient repair to whatever was further damaged by application of the tools.

Consequently I never got much role-modeling in tool usage. When I found myself a married home-owner, I was thrust into situations in which I was required to perform simple manly tasks or face an empty checkbook at month's end. I soon discovered that college education and military aviation training does not prepare you to fix a leaky faucet, install a ceiling light dimmer, or build a dog house. I never had the right tools although eventually I did acquire a few more than my father had. My lesson learned was that I would always cause more damage and more expense than if I had called a professional in the first place.

Things got ever more complicated. Once there were only inches to deal with in wrenches and sockets. Now we've got metric to confuse things. Eddie's first law of wrenchs and sockets is that whatever you've got is slightly too large or too small for the nut to be turned. The first corollary to Eddie's first law is that a Channel Lock pliers is not a reasonable alternative. The second corollary is that the rounded off bolt can be replaced for three cents, but it only comes in packages of two hundred for fifteen bucks.

My father never taught me about Phillips head screws but that wasn't so complicated. Then we got hex head and Torex and others to deal with. Nut drivers and Allen wrenches were needed along with universal joints, extensions, various size drivers and rachets along with an array of special purpose, known only to the guy at the hardware store, use once in a lifetime gadgets. I never had the right one regardless of the job.

Today, my aversion added one more item. It was a simple task. I had a Trijicon ACOG (Advance Combat Optical Gunsight--which is tactical-speak for a stubby 4x riflescope) to attach to my new M4 carbine (which is tactical speak for an AR-15 with a collapsible stock.)

How tough could it be? The ACOG is designed specifically for that rifle. It is designed to attach with one simple screw to the carry handle. Just one screw. The carry handle is held on the rifle with two simple finger-tightened screws. It comes off so you have easy access to the handle. Slide the sight into the groove it is designed for. Fit the screw into the hole already in the handle and tighten with the supplied proper-sized Allen wrench. How could I screw that up?

The scope fits, the holes line up, after a bit of fumbling the screw gets aligned with the pre-tapped threads in the scope and it finger tightens. Now, pick up Allen wrench and find that it is cunningly designed to be just one-half inch too long to fit into the space between the screw and the base of the handle.

The solution, apparently, is to find a four hundred dollar grinding wheel somewhere and a heat resistant tool to hold the five cent Allen wrench which will get hot while grinding off a chunk of the end to clear the gap. Or, maybe drill an access hole through the bottom of the carry handle to give straight access to the mounting screw. Or, take it to a pro.

One screw and a supplied tool. How tough could it be? I hate tools.

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