The Manly Art of Power Tools

I’ve noticed a few changes in myself since Sue got pregnant which my wife ascribes to a combination of surging testosterone and nesting instinct. I’ve found myself with a growing desire for an honest-to-God work bench, an admiration of power tools, and a hankering to watching professional football.

As a result, I went out and bought myself some sawhorses to build my workbench, picked up some ever-useful C-clamps for, well, clamping stuff, and organized my basement in such a way that I now know where most of my tools are. And on Sunday, I even watched an entire Giants game … and was disappointed that I only got to watch the first quarter of the Eagles vs. the Seahawks.

All of this from a guy who would much rather play with computers than drills, and would much rather play D&D on a Monday night than watch football.


So what’s going on here? Well, I know the answer regarding football — last year’s Super Bowl, which was damn good, and probably the closest big game I ever watched, was thrilling to watch. It piqued my interest in the same way that the Mets’ playoff excursions in 2000 and 2001 did — I can’t help but appreciate skill and determination on the playing field. It appeals to something primal in me while at the same time resonating with my philosophical values. The fact that the Eagles are kicking ass this year also helps — watching Donovan McNabb play on a broken ankle through most of a game, while leading his team to victory, was inspiring. I’m not about to ditch my gaming stuff for football jerseys, nor will I try and sneak a radio into weddings so I can listen to the game, but I do want to see more Sunday games.

As for the power tools, well, that’s a little more complicated. Part of it, I think, is a desire to make something real. I spend my days creating Web sites and manipulating data, which are real in their own way, but they’re nothing you can physically handle. As the mom, Sue actually gets to “make” the baby. Me? I did my job, now I get to support her until the baby comes. That’s great – I love my role – but it also leaves me with all this creative energy that just isn’t satisfied by pounding out Web sites. Or at least, it’s not entirely satisfied by that – I want to build something I can actually lay my hands on.

Another factor I can’t deny is that working with tools and actually building stuff makes me feel a lot more dad-like. I always loved working with my grandfather — building decks, installing lights, pounding out bookshelves – and I’ve got this urge to do the same sort of activities with my kids (my dad’s a great guy, but power tools are not his thing). I’ve got this vision of working in my basement with my 7-year-old, showing him or her how to measure wood, make sure stuff is level, square out a shelf, etc.


And then there’s the satisfaction that comes from knowing that you can actually build and fix stuff. I have a great deal of admiration for any of my relatives (my younger brother-in-law Dave, my grandfather, my father-in-law Barry) who can actually <I>fix</I> stuff. Now there’s some things that I’ll probably never enjoy working on – plumbing topping that list – but it’ll be nice to be able to look at a setoff plans and say, “yeah, I can do this”. And it’s also nice to walk into Home Depot and actually have half-a-clue what I’m looking for.

That said, I’m not a Jedi yet. While I know a few things, I’m no were near actually being able to do all of the things I want to do (not to mention the fact that I need more tools … grrr … more power!). My greatest nemesis – the bookshelves my wife has been demanding for the last three years – are only half completed, and loom like an incomplete Death Star over Endor. But I’m getting there.