Not everybody does, but I love tools. I find nothing helps me immerse myself in my task better than having the right tools to hand and knowing how to use them instinctually. I marvel at the ingenuity involved in making some tools. How did they ever discover a way to drill such tiny holes, or piece together such intricate parts?
I love having a good toolbox full of software tools too. When I am creating something digital, like a piece of music, an audio soundscape, an image or a web page, having a good tool lets me forget about the tool and think about the creative work. That flow feels good.
Often, especially with painting tools, simply choosing to use one of them, over another, can inspire new creative works. I love big brushes and huge palette knives for this. I find that when I pick up a new tool and begin playing with it, I often get quite surprising and unexpected results. It has been said that Impressionism couldn’t have existed were it not for the design of the flat brush and the filbert.
Although it isn’t always the case, I tend to find that one community of craftsmen that consistently produces high quality output are the people that specialise in making tools. Tools seem to have an integrity that other products don’t have. To me, there is something honest and wholesome about a well made tool.
The thing is, they embody some startling and exquisite thinking. Somebody, somewhere, solved a problem that couldn’t easily be solved any other way, simply by devising just the right tool to make the task easy. I watch people struggle for hours with the wrong tools, damaging their work in the process, when all they needed to know is where to find and how to use the correct tool. Having the right tool is transformative.
Tools deserve special reverence and respect, because they enable you to extend yourself beyond your human limitations and do something difficult. A good set of tools will serve you well for decades, or a lifetime, if you are careful. Maintaining them, keeping their edges keen and ensuring that the tool remains in good order, as their maker intended, is the difference between accomplishment and failure, often.
Sometimes tools are deceptively simple. If you weren’t aware of the subtle refinements of their design, you would be oblivious to their finely tuned nature. A slight angle of the blade or a different balance of the tool in your hand can make the difference between a fine result and a botched job. Cheap tools are often a false economy, for this very reason. They have no finesse. They appear to be something they are not. The goal of making them cheap has compromised their intended function, often beyond utility.
It happens to not be true, due to the closed shop nature of most trades, but it feels like a good set of tools will always make it possible for you to earn a crust. If not that, then at least it prevents you from feeling helpless in the world, capable of mending, repairing, fixing, creating or shaping the world. Of course, having tools and knowing how to use them can save you a lot of time, hassle and money, too. Tools give you the sense that you know what you’re doing and that you could solve problems. They let you convert raw materials into artefacts that have greater utility, beauty and value. They grant you agency and facility. That’s a nice feeling. You get the idea that you can shape the future, given the right tools.
Tools rule (but a rule is a tool, too, as a rule).