Tool-borrowing etiquette

The win-some/lose-some game of borrowing tools

By Paul Rush

tool etiquette

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My question: should I return the two ancient pulleys I borrowed from a friend 12 years ago, back when I was planning to put together a block and tackle? Or should I simply keep those pulleys forever because of what happened to my chainsaw?

Let me explain. I lent my good chainsaw to a friend and borrowed the pulleys from him. He used the saw for a couple of months and when he returned it, he told me two nuts had worked loose and become lost but he had found replacements in his workshop. That seemed fine, but when I fired up the saw in the woods, dense, black smoke belched forth. When I took the machine to the repair shop, they pointed out that the casing had melted.

I ended up paying $125 for repairs, but I never told my friend; however, I do still have those borrowed pulleys.

That tale is an example of why the borrowing and lending of tools is so complicated. Tools vanish. The smaller the tool, the more likely the vanishing. I’ve had a lot of screwdrivers leave my possession, but they are compensated for by the ones I have borrowed and forgotten to return. It’s the same with chisels and wrenches. Borrowing is surely why I have eight axes, two splitting mauls and three axe heads waiting for handles. The axes are puzzling. I can account for five; but the others, they must go back to my tree-felling days, when I accidentally pocketed them after work. Strange but true.

Some borrowed tools I have kept for only a couple of years; although I have a very nice wood rasp I borrowed around the time of the Montreal Olympics. I find I still need it. Besides, I think the owner believes he lost it years ago. (Which, in effect, he did.)

A few years ago, I borrowed a tablesaw–but I kept tripping over it, so I gave it back. At the same time, I lent the saw owner my router. Now I’m starting to wonder if we have parted company forever.

In case you are wondering why I’m not more upset with the friend who ruined my chainsaw, let me tell you about the time I borrowed the outboard motor. It was so long ago that it was a 5-hp Johnson. I got the motor to the cottage and decided to test it. I knew nothing about motors.

I clamped it to a wooden shutter fixed to a garage post and started it up. Ran fine. I shut it off and started it up again and suddenly there was blue smoke and the motor stopped running. When I touched it, there was heat.

Only then did it dawn on me that outboards are water-cooled and I was 100′ from the lake. I took it back to the person who had lent it to me and told him: “It runs a little balky.”

Then I left town.

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