You might remember Adam Savage from his 14 seasons on Mythbusters. Savage’s new book is a celebration of the acts of experimenting, building, creation, and discovery. Savage believes our kids aren’t learning how to use tools; they’re too busy with their smartphones and video games. I enjoyed Savage’s story of learning how to “fix” things from his father who encouraged his son to take stuff apart and put it back together again. Savage also worked as a model builder. He ended up in Hollywood and then found himself on TV.

I’m one of those guys who didn’t get the “fix-it” gene. I only have two tools in my house: a screwdriver and a hammer. I don’t want to be tempted to fix anything because the result will only make the problem worse and cost me more to repair. I know several friends who do own lots of tools and know how they work. I call them when something goes wrong. But I admire Adam Savage’s attempt to inspire people to build something, to “Do-It-Yourself,” and to improve your life with creativity. GRADE: B+
Introduction 1
Chapter 1. Dig through the bottom of the rabbit hole 9
Chapter 2. Lists 37
Chapter 3. Checkboxes 53
Chpater 4. Use more cooling fluid 67
Chapter 5. Deadlines 107
Chapter 6. Drawing 129
Chapter 7. Increase your loose tolerance 147
Chapter 8. Screw > glue 175
Chapter 9. Share 193
Chapter 10. See everything, reach everything 215
Chapter 11. Cardboard 247
Chapter 12. Hammers, blades, and scissors
Chapter 13. Sweep up every day 281
Acknowledgements 291
Sketchbook 292
Index 301

19 thoughts on “EVERY TOOL’S A HAMMER: LIFE IS WHAT YOU MAKE IT By Adam Savage

  1. Steve Oerkfitz

    I didn’t get the fix it gene either. I do have more tools than you. I have a hammer, screwdrivers ( both flathead and phillips ) and pliers. Living in an apartment doesn’t allow for much accumulation.

    1. george Post author

      Steve, I have friends who have hundreds of tools. One of my friends goes to Garage Sales each week looking for more tools (at a cheap price).

    2. wolf

      We now have mostly pozidriv and torx screws … 🙂
      Phillips are old fashioed and not as stable.

  2. Deb

    You could give my Dad a hammer, some nails, a piece of wood, and 20 minutes and he’d build you a bookcase—sadly that gene missed me too. John doesn’t have it either. Just the process of the two of us putting up a new curtain rod and curtains will result in tears, recriminations, and the silent treatment for hours! And don’t even talk about what happens when we have plumbing problems! My favorite tool is the phone—where I can call a competent professional to come and fix things.

    1. george Post author

      Deb, same here. I just pick up the phone and call one of my fix-it friends whenever I have a plumbing or electrical problem. One of my friends built his own house and did all the plumbing and electrical work by himself. That would be an impossible mission for me!

  3. Dan

    The years forced a certain fix-it wisdom on me no matter how hard I fought it. Currently I’m tearing out a rotted picket fence and replacing it with a white rail one. Just spent A WEEK getting a root out of the ground the size of my head, using spade bits, pruning saw, wood wedges, axe head and a 4-lb sledge.

    I’m thinking of having it stuffed & mounted.

  4. wolf

    I like to do mechanical work with a drill, a saw and other electrically powered machines.
    I do try to fix electrics – but I don’t touch anything that uses water or gas like a heating system.

    1. george Post author

      Wolf, I envy your mechanical abilities! I have a friend who can build anything out of wood. He has all kinds of woodworking tools. My wife wanted a corner hutch for Patrick’s room and he came out and measured the space. A few weeks later, he delivered a custom-built piece of furniture that dazzled us then and now!

      1. wolf

        George, I’m not that good.
        “If I were a carpenter” … 🙂
        When the tolerances are one mm or less I give up.
        But I like to put together IKEA furniture or similar stuff. After I bought my holiday home here in Hungary I bought many pieces (only pine wood, no plastic, never!) in Germany and transported them here with my car – in Hungary you could only buy plastic stuff ….
        The funniest story imho where my tools were used:
        My “new” wife enjoyed the waterbed in Germany so much that she wanted the same here in Hungary. So we looked around and found a company which sent two guys with all the stuff needed – and then they found that they had been given the wrong size for some boards, around a foot to long. But they didn’t have tools like a saw – and the company was more than an hour away …
        So I proudly showed them the three(!) different electric saws I have and asked them to choose the one which was best for this work. They were so happy, just like my neighbours who sometimes ask me for help with tools …

  5. Jeff Meyerson

    I’m with you, and Deb. My father and father in law were both good with their hands. My father had a business fixing vacuum cleaners and small appliances for years. One of the best things about living in an apartment with a talented and helpful super who can do anything is, just call him when there is a problem and he can fix it. It doesn’t hurt, I’m sure., that Jackie (like Steve Martin’s character in MY BLUE HEAVEN) believes in over tipping.

    I do have a few tools (my father had a garage full; when he died, my nephew took a bunch of them) and can follow simple instructions, but IKEA products defeated me.

    1. george Post author

      Jeff, my father had that “handy” gene where he could tune up his car and change the oil. He was skilled at all forms of gardening and yard work. My father could fix common plumbing problems (he could install a toilet). He could do basic carpentry. The only thing my father would NOT attempt was anything to do with electrical problems. He would call a friend who was an electrician for those issues.

  6. Rick Robinson

    There is no “fix-it gene”. You learn by trying, and doing. When something needs fixing, just fix it. Most of the time it’s not very difficult and a half dozen basic tools can take care of most jobs. No, I don’t do plaster work, nor electrical work, nor plumbing beyond something like cleaning out the drain pipe when it gets clogged, but for most jobs you can find a YouTube video to walk you thorough if you’re not sure how to do it. I have a garage full of tools, and though I don’t use most of them often, when required, it’s sure nice to have them.

    1. george Post author

      Rick, part of the “gene” metaphor is interest in tackling a repair (I have ZERO) and the ability (shaky in my case) to actually effectuate the repair without making it worse (I have some experience in this area). Frankly, I find it easier to call in someone who actually knows what they are doing and possesses the proper tools to complete the repair successfully.

    2. Deb

      Rick—I really believe the ability to visualize the actual steps you will follow in order to repair or create something IS a huge part of being able to do it successfully. Perhaps it’s a right-brain/left-brain thing, but I’m utterly incapable of that visualization (on the other hand, if someone tells me they need 500 words or any topic in five minutes, I’m their gal). When I was pregnant with our oldest child, John and I put together a crib, only to realize that—despite our best efforts and following the instructions closely, we’d managed to put the drop-down rail on backwards. So, we disassembled and reassembled everything correctly, only to realize that the finished crib was too big to get through the door (we had put it together in the den) and down the hall into the nursery. So, we disassembled it once more, carried the pieces down the hall, and reassembled it in the nursery. I cried so much that day, it’s a miracle John & I stayed together to have two more kids—who used the same crib! There really is a “handyman” gene and I don’t have it!

  7. Cap'n Bob

    I’m reasonably handy and I have relatives to call on for jobs beyond my ken (usually that means not having the right tools)!


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