Raising Ms. And Mr. Fixit

By Alan Viau

I was useless. When I was first married, my wife asked me to fix something around the house and I was terrified to do so. Not only did I not know what to do, I didn’t even know which tool to use. I vowed that my kids would not grow up this way.


My youngest son learning to hammer a nail. Photo by Alan Viau

My Dad is not a handyman. He’s a smart man, but he just doesn’t know how to use tools. Luckily, if any work needed to be done around our house, my uncles had the know-how. As a result I never got to use tools when I grew up.

Then came the day when I was newly married and my wife asked me to fix something. I was terrified because I didn’t know what to do. With some (lots) of cajoling and the threat of getting an expert in, my pride buckled and I attempted the fix. A small success! For our first Christmas that year, she gave me a Sears power drill. It was my first power tool ever!

With more projects and more fixes, I gained experience. I took Finishing Carpentry workshops at the local college to learn even more. Now with 32 years of experience and my wife’s encouragement, I have the confidence to tackle most anything.

Along the way I made sure my kids were there with me, learning how to use tools so they would not have to go through what I did. Maybe it took longer to complete the project, but they learned how to properly use tools. When each one of them left home, I gave them a small toolkit to help them on their way.

What are the tools all kids should learn to use? I’ve come up with the Essentials List:

Measuring: You can’t start a project without knowing how to measure things. Most carpentry is still done using the imperial measurements of inches. Since children now are oriented towards the metric system, they will need to learn how to use fractions. Another important tool is the level; you can’t hang pictures without one.

Screwdrivers: Each screwdriver is used for different functions. The Robinson head is uniquely Canadian. Knowing which kind of screw to use is equally important.

Power Tools: The safe use of these is absolute mandatory. Youngsters need to learn how to use a power drill, circular saw, jigsaw and sander.

Gardening Tools: At some point they’ll need to know how to use a rake, shovels, pruners and other garden and outdoor tools.

Reading Instructions: Before getting to the level where they can build without a plan, they will need to assemble something. Knowing how to read assembly instructions is important. I once put together a simple garden arch and had pieces left over because I didn’t read the instructions properly. Why not have them assemble the next piece of furniture from Ikea? Or design and build a garden bench this summer?

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