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by Steven D. Johnson
Racine, Wisconsin

This month:

Tool Tune-Up Squad

Building The New 5S Compliant Clamp Rack

My Visit To Highland Woodworking

The Tool Tune-Up Squad

Click on any picture to see a larger version.

Okay, right up front I will concede this may never happen, but I wish that like the "Geek Squad" for computers there were a "Tool Squad" for woodworking equipment. I will sign up today for a quarterly maintenance contract.

Figure 1 - Uber cool, but not for woodworkers

This will offend the sensibilities of some… it will be so foreign as to almost be unbelievable to others… a few may actually identify… I am just not very "mechanically inclined."

Oh, sure, give me a hunk of wood and a handful of tools and I can build almost anything, but give me a mess of mechanic's tools and tell me to fix a car, a lawn mower, or a washing machine and it's borderline embarrassing.

Once, while living in one of the most remote locales imaginable, I decided to change the oil in my old Ford Bronco. A couple of hours later with Bronco parts strewn everywhere, several busted knuckles, and a throat sore from yelling obscenities at an inanimate object (really inanimate by that time), I had to hike a couple of miles down the road to a neighbor's farm and get the nice gentleman to help me reconstruct my vehicle. To enhance my embarrassment, he told me he would have sent his wife, but she was busy working on their tractor. Very funny.

There is no logic to it. I can wire up a building almost as well as a real electrician, albeit more slowly. I can, in a pinch, perform basic plumbing repairs. Put on a new roof? No problem. Install siding? Piece of cake. Build a wall, install kitchen cabinets, put in a window, hang a door? Easy Peasy. Fix a furnace? Forget about it.

Once I successfully repaired a vacuum cleaner. It took me four times as long as any normal human. There was a couple of parts left over. For the most part it is best to keep me away from mechanical things. Perhaps it is because while other kids my age were tinkering with cars I was taking care of my horse. Perhaps my father's approach jaded me. He always said, "Do what you do, leave everything else to professionals." As a commercial contractor he had scads of vehicles and tons of equipment, but he found it more profitable to concentrate on building buildings, not repairing equipment.

Basically though I chalk my ineptitude up to a total lack of interest. I love to work with wood. I do not love to tweak machines, adjust belts, replace bearings, or oil things. If a company came a-callin' with a proposition to come in once a quarter and tune up my woodworking equipment, adjust all the belts, gears and stuff, oil and grease things, and generally do all that mechanical "stuff," I would sign up in a New York minute.

The Tool Tune-Up Squad could set up arrangements to buy parts from all the major manufacturers. They might even get some work from those manufacturers if the equipment was still under warranty. They would, of course, have to stock certain parts, but the knowledge of which and what and how many parts to stock would come with experience and familiarity with their local clientele.

Figure 2 - The Tool Tune-Up Squad needs a tough truck
that can hold a lot of parts

By necessity the Tool Tune-Up Squad would need to be woodworkers… or at least familiar with woodworking. But I suppose the Geek Squad folks are all computer nerds. The Volkswagon would not be the vehicle of choice… perhaps a Sprinter type vehicle with racks inside for parts and tools. Black and orange for the logo is taken, and yellow, green, and off-white would look too tool brand specific, so good logo colors might be brown and beige… call the colors walnut and maple.

The squad could provide many ancillary services. Having a list of all the clientele's equipment would make sense so that they would be ready with parts when needed. That same list would serve as valuable backup for insurance claims. The squad could perform needed match-up services; not like dating, but like when I am thinking about trading in my old [insert name of equipment here]; they might know someone that would want it. A small commission might be paid for arranging the sale. The squad could even provide valuable insight to potential new equipment buyers… "What's your experience with [insert name of equipment here]?"

The Tool Tune-Up Squad would need to be available for emergency service. "The motor went out on my [insert name of equipment] and I need it replaced RIGHT NOW!" would be a call that would require an emergency response but would also earn a premium fee.

There is a potential business here, particularly in areas "dense" with woodworkers (or in some cases with "dense" woodworkers). I'll bet the right person in the right town could make a very decent living. There might even be opportunities to expand on the basic concept. Offer sharpening services, perhaps, or maybe accessory sales. Some smaller loaner equipment might be a sideline… "I need to take your router to the shop to repair it, but I have a loaner on my truck if you need it."

The possibilities, in fact, are almost endless. Somebody, step up. I will be your first customer.

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