Fish out of water

You always feel odd when your surroundings aren’t what you’re used to. But when you’re a woodworker or a general handy guy, extended traveling creates real withdrawal symptoms.

As I enter the second week of a visit with my daughter, I find myself missing my shop. More than that, I feel constantly unprepared. I don’t think I could feel less equipped or able to handle simple chores if I was hanging out with Tom Hanks on that desert island.

Case in point. One of the things I wanted to do while here is to replace my daughter’s current Wi-Fi setup with a decent one (the lousy one provided by her cable company for a ridiculous $10 a month has a range of about six feet). Part of the process involved crawling around under her desk and working with a spaghetti tangle of assorted wiring, adapters and connectors, and every step of the way I found myself needing something I didn’t have.

To begin with, the desk — which I built for her nearly 15 years ago — is only partly assembled. I designed it to be easily knocked down for moving, but the last time it was moved the top was never reattached. It’s still solid and all, but the top isn’t attached. A simple fix if I had the right-sized screws, which I don’t. Which is fine, since I also don’t have a screwdriver and have no idea where her husband keeps one.

That tangle of wires includes some that are way, way too long, making the tangle worse. A simple fix if I had some shorter cables, which I don’t. A few wire-management brackets would also help to route things around and eliminate the tangle, but I don’t have any of those either.

The new wireless router I bought for her works like a charm, but it’s of an upright design and the weight of the cable keeps pulling it over. I could make a simple holder base for it in about five minutes if I was home. All it would take would be a piece of scrap oak to match her desk, a band saw (any saw, really), a drill and the appropriate bits, some walnut stain, and something for a quick top coat, like a can of spray lacquer or something. I don’t have any of that stuff. What would take minutes at home would take hours here, and most of that would just be going out to buy everything I need.

I have every one of the things I mentioned above at home in my shop; it’s all even organized well enough that I could go right to each of them. But I’m not home, and nearly helpless. I’m certainly tool-less.

Now I know how Tom Hanks felt.

A.J.

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