There are thirty-two types of hammers. I looked it up.
I have six hammers, four of which are varying sizes and decrement of the same type much like siblings but in tools, one is specifically for flooring, and the last is a sledge. I suspect I may have more hammers in places where they shouldn’t be--a remnant behavior from childhood, but at the last gathering of the hammers, there were six.
The four related hammers are from the claw family. During my exploration of personal hammers, each was lifted and toyed with and paired with the question as to why I had so many of the same hammer. One was my grandfather’s. When he passed away, I was gifted an old milk crate full of his meticulously kept, old-timey tools, many of which are now gone—again, the same remnant behavior from childhood—but the hammer remains. It’s got some paint and plaster and dirt on it, but it is otherwise holding up just fine.
My Dad bought me a hammer as a housewarming gift. The others just seemed to appear. I don’t recall ever buying a hammer. Never. Never in my life has the thought, “hmm, I need a hammer” ever run through my mind. In the same way that my step-dad’s hammers disappeared from his tool box, new ones keep showing up in mine.
The sledgehammer was a birthday gift from a friend. Someone knows me very, very well.
All of the hammers wear their love from me like a fancier person might wear a tennis bracelet. In lieu of bedazzling with diamonds, my tools are smeared with paint, smudged with dirt and tinged with plaster or goo. They have been used often and they all do their job quite well.
So, it was a mystery to me, when after the last blog posting which showed an image of one of my hammers, a male friend commented that I needed a new hammer. Immediately shrouded in shame, I saw that my hammer looked pretty rough. Clearly, cleaning the handles has not been a priority, not even in the slightest, and I spiraled down, making a silent promise to myself to take better care of my tools in the future.
The unkempt nature of my tools belies the fastidiousness in which I keep my house. It is immaculate.
As I shrank into my shame spiral, I asked him why he thought I needed a new one and braced myself for the lecture around having dirty tools. I was not prepared for his actual reason.
He explained that they make hammers out of new materials now that are lighter and easier for someone like me to use.
Someone like me? Someone like me. Old? Feeble? Female? Unable to properly swing 2.2 pounds? The conversation degenerated into stammers and incomplete sentences. Someone like me was not happy with the implications. The shame blanket caught fire.
That’s when I gathered my hammers, laid them all out on a table, and lifted each and every one. Then I went to the hardware store and lifted all of their hammers. Someone like me had a hard time noticing the nuance differences in weight. My knowledge of tools comes on an as-needed basis and I was quite certain that I didn’t need a new hammer.
When I was in fourth grade, we moved to a new old house. Shortly after we moved in, a brand-new house was being built on the neighboring lot. Every day, a shirtless man appeared and set up his work, laid out his tools, and said hello to the growing crowd of on lookers. His name was Mike, and he was the dad of the kids who occasionally tagged along and the husband to the wife who appeared after the house was completed.
It’s hard to say who showed up first, the neighborhood kids or the neighborhood wives. Mike, as I recall, was one good-looking guy. While he worked, he never lacked a little helper or a cold beverage or a sandwich. The wives were very attentive to everything but their kids.
Mike was awesome, though. He gave all of the kids who showed up a task to do. He didn’t care about your age, gender, or ability. If you came to the lot, he put you to work. Some kids got to stain wood. Other kids were tool runners. Others still picked out the big rocks and placed them near the driveway so Mike could use them later for landscaping, he said.
Tool runners were instructed as to which tools were which. It was important that we knew the difference not only between a wrench and a screwdriver, but also between the types of wrenches and the types of screwdrivers. Mike gave us all lessons on what each thing was called and how it was used. As we waited for the next call out for tools, Mike let us practice using the tools on the scrap wood in the yard. We hammered and pulled nails, screwed and unscrewed screws, and were otherwise occupied for as long as Mike was working.
Sometimes he’d check on us or take a break, and in those times, he’d check our progress in working with the tools. He’d always give a demonstration of how he could put a nail through a 2x4 like a fly ball through a window. Bam! Bam! Two hits and he’d be done. Hashtags weren’t around then but if they were, we would have all been like “hashtag goals!” Mike explained that it isn’t the power of your swing but the physics behind it; how holding the handle properly allows for the weight of the hammer’s head to create its own momentum. He said to us girls, and there were a lot of us, that it wasn’t about strength but about allowing the tool to do the work for you.
Collectively, we girls were not ever instructed in this way. I stopped practicing piano so I could practice using tools with Mike. I was not alone in this. By the end of summer, I had moved on to building my own house: the fort in the back lot. What I lacked in knowledge around structure, I gained in ability to drive a nail. The fort was made up of a LOT of nails.
Flash forward to my current home and the work that I’ve done on it. It isn’t perfect. I’m not a carpenter, but I think Mike would give a nod to how much my hammer skills have improved over the years. So, when it was suggested that I get a lighter hammer because it would be easier to use, I took offense because I know my way around a toolbox. I had hammer lessons, after all.