A Tool in the Hand is Worth How Much?

"Dad, do you have any extra tools?" The question was being asked by my daughter, Vicki who was calling from Wheaton, IL. She had volunteered to go to San Pedra Sula, Honduras, to work on a Habitat for Humanity project. This year, she explained, they were being encouraged to leave behind the tools they had brought with them when they were to return home to the states.

Vicki preferred not to give away her personal tools, but knew that I was a tool collector. The tools being sought were pretty basic ones, she explained: hammer, saw, level, to name a few.

I proceded out to the shop to see what was available in my boxes under the bench. There were two claw hammers I had rehandled, a mason's trowel that hadn't been used in years, two pairs of pliers and a combination square. A box of tools recently purchased from a friend had produced a nice type Stanley No.10-1.2 rabbet plane for my collection and other miscellaneous tools. From this box, I retrieved a 25-foot tape with a repaired tip, a recently manufactured wooden level and a rusty cross-cut saw.

The saw required about 15 minutes cleaning to get it to a condition where I wasn't too ashamed to take it to be sharpened. My friend in the sharpening business decided to retooth the saw, sharpened it and provided a plastic tooth guard, which turned out to be a godsend.

To make the tools easier for my daughter to carry on the plane, we designed a "just the right size" box to hold the tools in as compact a space as possible. The saw, of course, was the longest item. Great plan, right? Wrong! Airline security concerns wouldn't allow the box on board. Now the tools had to repacked in other luggage with clothes, etc. Did you ever try to put a 32 inch long saw in your suitcase? It ended up in a duffle bag, wrapped in blue jeans.

All the tools arrived on the job site in the Honduras along with the crew of volunteers from the United States. During the next ten days, three 25- square-meter cement block houses were built.

The photographs and the stories our daughter had to tell were heartwarming. She told of Carlos, 9, and his sister, Olga, 8, who would live in the house, measuring and squaring-off car-siding boards that would be used to make their front door. The level that I would have put a $1 price on at our next garage sale was the delight of the mason's helper on the job. With the tool, Giovanni could now lay up a corner by himself.

The story I liked best is about the saw. There were three houses being built within a 1/2-mile radius and word soon got out about the sharp saw on the job where our daughter was working. A runner was sent from the other house projects to get the sharper saw. It was allowed to leave only after it was understood that it would be returned. That old Akins saw did itself proud in the hands of local tradesmen.

The tools we gathered and sent might have been worth $20 here.

But, as my daughter said, "Dad, you can't even imagine the value they had for the people who got to use them."

This article was written Oct. 14 by Vernon R. Broberg, M-WTCA member from Moline, IL. He died Nov. 24, before it could be published in The Gristmill.


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