Baby's First Toolbox

Whether a rite of passage or a necessity, every young man needs a toolbox

Andy Bolig - November 03, 2011 10:00 AM


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I can remember my first toolbox very well. It was your typical one-handled, Craftsman® carry-all box. While I yearned to someday have one of those vast chests, filled to the brim with job-specific tools and tidbits, my first toolbox had more than just basic hand tools in it.

Somewhere between those ratchets, screwdrivers, hammers and sockets tossed into the bottom compartment was my future. Along with the material things that came in a combined package, there were also lessons to be learned, sweat to be spent and complications to be overcome. This entire tool set, chock full of metric and SAE, Phillips and flathead components, was the foundation for which the fires of my enthusiasm would be fanned. I can remember as I was just starting out, Dad would bring home engines, both large and small, that had given up the ghost. Some even had the exit points showing where he had made his hasty departure! Dad would bring the engines home and I’d set out at tearing them down, investigating deep within as to what made them run and what ultimately ended their running spree. A two-dimensional drawing and all the spec sheets on the planet couldn’t replace the real-world education to be found by finally extracting a camshaft for the first time or feeling the weight of a crankshaft in your hands.

Initially, there was really no danger since the damage was already done long before I got inside, but eventually, my escapades transferred from figuring out to fixing. Turning all those nuts and bolts began to have a purpose other than making smaller parts out of big, heavy parts. The ultimate benefit was, in fact, hearing your “fixed” project fire up for the first time. Not that it always ran as good as it once had, but the fact that it did run after I had been deep within its bowels was still evidence that the purchase of my first toolbox was not in vain. My brother still jabs me about the time a hacksaw held the answer to a piston skirt/crankshaft counterweight interference issue. That early effort at modification might not have worked out so well, but my ’85 Corvette with a ’92 LT1 and Vortech supercharger goes to show that I’ve learned a thing or two about not only making things fit, but also work properly.

Life marches on, and like so many other things, I moved on to other toolboxes, each one getting a little larger and with more specialized tools. My tastes have changed over the years. Instead of going ultimately for size, I went for selection. Rather than one large cabinet with acres of drawers, I chose the build-as-you-go method. By adding smaller, self-standing roll-around cabinets, I was still afforded space for my increasing cache of tools and I was able to do it economically. After all, it’s not the box that allows you to fix your car; you use the tools in it! Sure, keeping all your tools in a nice toolbox is important when you want to go back and use them again, but I’ve had friends who paid as much for a small plastic box containing a simple ¼-inch drive ratchet set as I did for my entire first toolbox – with tools!

I can’t even remember what ever happened to it. Sure, I’ve still got most of my tools from that first box, but eventually, it went from my revered steel case of fix-all to a secondary travel box. My first tools ultimately blended with other tools that I’d acquired over the years (some from my dad and even my grandfather), and somehow, only the tools remain. So, what got me reminiscing about my first toolbox? My son’s first toolbox, which he just received. You see, like my father and his father before him, I believe that there’s a lot of lessons to be learned by owning your own toolbox. It not only gives you the ability to fix things, but it also teaches life lessons like taking care of your stuff, using the right tool for the job, and most importantly, the value of working hard for what you want, keeping it, and respecting others who do the same.

Last night, we found ourselves out in the garage, tearing apart various pieces of engine parts. We took time identifying what each part and sensor was and their purpose. We dissected everything from throttle bodies to crankcases. As we went through each part, I explained what they did and allowed my son to wield the necessary tools to make smaller pieces of larger ones, much like my dad had done with me and my first toolbox.