Now that I'm retired, for the last 4 years I have been helping my
daughter, a middle school science teacher, with her science
competition group on their building projects.
I am continually amazed at the number of boys (and girls) in 7th and
8th grade who have never held a wrench or screwdriver, etc before.
This in a relatively affluent suburb where the majority of parents are
doctors, lawyers, etc. Daughter says it was very different when she
taught in a rural school some years ago. She says those kids knew how
to change oil on the family tractor.
I don't quite follow the idea, but that page has some interesting stuff.
I bought my first flare nut wrench this year after 40+ years of never
knowing about them. Real handy for connecting tubing. Interesting
reading about Crescent wrenches - looks like a least one factory is
still in the US - generically called "adjustable spanner" I guess...
I learned long ago not to call a pipe wrench a monkey wrench or you
might get one up side of the head. LOL! Although according this link,
"monkey" does not refer to the person using it...
How various tools were invented has always been interesting.
Encouraging to see how simple things came about.
"That's because in Europe their sex is all metric and ours is
*standard* and just doesn't fit their openings. Ever try it? You turn
and turn the sockets but they just skip without grabbing. It's a good
way to strip your nuts, if you ask me."
-- PMS (America's Leading Relationship Authority)
I didn't know _what_ you were talking about until I realized you meant hex!
It just takes savoir faire. If you had a 3/8" head, you'd size up their
wenches until you found a ten. If it feels too loose, put tin foil over
the head. You might need a hammer.
I went to an engineering school in the '60s and even then quite a few of the
students were Indian or Chinese. The conventional wisdom was while most were
brilliant students, if you had one for a lab partner you never, never let
them touch a tool. Same deal. While most American kids that wanted to be an
engineer had some grease under their fingernails, the foreign students were
upper middle class and hadn't spent any time out in a garage rebuilding a
I have noticed that here too. Many times well-to-do non-US students
need detailed procedures - even after they graduate and have been
working for a few years. They seem to like check lists - which I like
too, but unless you're doing some kind of standard job, you usually have
to make your own checklists. The exception is Mexican students - they
are extremely sharp, resourceful and will not give up until something
One time we were doing a job for a Korean company. They sent a few
engineers to the US for inspection. We learned quickly if you asked
them questions about what they wanted to see, you end up spending 2
hours trying to guess what they mean. Ended up just giving them lists
of things to check and they were happy. The last sheet said "Is the
inspection satisfactory - Yes or No. If "No" please list the items to
correct and what constitutes acceptability." That pretty much insured a
passing inspection the first time around. Funny -- all one of them did
was go around the plant taking close up photos of pages in people's
notebooks. They were obviously not the right people to send for an
FWIW, I live in a middle to lower-middle class townhouse n'hood. and
with only a few exceptions, I never see anyone working on their house or
I have one n'bor 5 houses away who buys cars and has a partner who knows
how to fix them, and then he sells them.
And another 10 houss in the other direction who I've seen working under
And a n'bor 8 doors in that direction who borrowed the shower stem
socket from me.
Maybe it's not as bad as I t hink. I don't know what people do in
their back yards
And the front yards are small, about 22' x 22', so there's not much to
do there except gardening, and most do keep their lawns very nice. They
bag their clippings and maybe fertilize, so the grass is very green.
OTOH, I'm from Indiana, where I don't think anyone bagged clippings (do
they now maybe?)
My immediate next door n'bor married a mechanical engineer, and he did
everything, replacing the whole batroom, but the several n'bors in that
house earlier did nothing, afaik. The current one is the one that
wants the basement powder room and seems to have delayed building it
because of the price. It's certainly a job I could do myself if I
wanted it. (He has two daughters)
Each house has a small sort-of patio in front of it, surrounded by a
shoulder high "privacy fence" that needs rebuilding every 20 years or
so. I've seen 5 or 10 n'bors hire someone to do that. Only I and the
guy above next door did it himself.
A lot of these people may have grown up in rentals, and the landlord
took care of problems, and some other projects that are not caused by
"problems" would have required the ll's permission. It will be
interesting to see if their kids figure out they could do their own
repairs for a lot less money, but I won't know because the kids move
(One of my n'bor's kids is a vice-president of a Fortune 50 company with
global sales. His mother can hardly believe it. (His father died when
he was about 18. The kid used to mow my lawn. His friends teased him
because his job was harder than theirs working in McDonalds, for
example, but he said he made 3 times what they made. He also played
varsity football, and once I saw in a local paper a list of honor roll
students, and his name was in the list.)
Overall, I've found Mexicans to exhibit the Yankee ingenuity that the
Yankees lost a generation ago. The gabachos look down on the MacGyvered
solutions but if they were faced with the same problem they'd be screwed if
they couldn't find a COTS fix.
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