Janet Combs

Janet Combs

As we work on our home, I keep a chronological list of projects or events that have occurred in the course of renovation that I think will be amusing in the future, and I refer to this list on the weekends when I sit down to write.

Some tasks have not yet ripened to riotous in my mind — for example, “No hot water for the weekend” is number 7, right above number 8, “Working up high on a walk-board,” but these memories only give me variations of the same physical, bone-chilling response. Such topics languish on the Planet Janet list, hoping one day to work themselves into a column — and how about that, they just did! Still, they are not yet side-splitting, so I will abandon them in favor of today’s topic, the “Hierarchy of Power Tools,” which clearly has the potential to be hilarious.

I often ask myself, “Janet, if you were stranded on a desert island, or perhaps just stranded on Pawleys Island — and yet you had access to electricity for charging and watching “Conan” YouTube clips — which three power tools would you take with you so that you could build yourself a useless, asymmetrical, structurally unsound shelter?”

Before I reveal my selection, let me admit that every power tool I have used in our weekend projects has been completely foreign to me — from the reciprocating saw to the router. I’ve seen firsthand how these tools can advance the speed, precision, and overall neatness of a project, and I’ve definitely improved in my use of them over the past year.

I know this because my husband, who taught me how to use these tools and admittedly has a low tolerance for craftsmanship errors, now only rarely shouts “Straight!” over the din of the particular tool when we are working together. Apparently, I used to approach a worksite like a snake charmer, weaving this way and that with my finger on the trigger of the power tool, when you are supposed to remain still in a more solid, supported position with your power tool at a right angle to the item being nailed or screwed down. Thankfully, I have tempered my Twyla Tharp technique and Shwarzeneggered down.

Also, in the past, when I would mistakenly fire off two nails into the siding or molding with the air gun instead of one and reflexively utter “Sorry,” my husband would respond with “Sorry doesn’t cut it.” Please do not embroider this on a pillow and give it to me for Christmas, because I will affix it to the couch with an air nailer. My point is, I only infrequently hear this inspirational phrase now! Possibly because I have stopped apologizing.

All in all, I have advanced from “Needs Improvement” to “Satisfactory” in my power tool prowess, and that is why I am qualified today to share my top three power tools:

1. The cordless drill, specifically, the Makita cordless drill. Light enough for me to maneuver for hours, it retains the “oomph” to extract salt-air-rusted screws galore! This tool gives me more time at the pool. Makita may purchase this tag line from me in three easy installments of $199.99.

2. The oscillating saw — it’s the cleanest, sharpest way not to turn your kitchen into a dust-bowl scene from a production of "The Grapes of Wrath." This literary reference has been inserted to show my high school English teacher that she was right — good books just stick with you, popping into your head when you’re cutting an arch in the drywall with an oscillating saw.

And ... finally ... 

3. The air nailer. I have the bad-golfer approach when nailing the old-fashioned way — I position the nail, swing, and frequently entirely miss, gouging a nice divot in whatever it is I’m nailing. Not so with the air gun — I just press down, squeeze the trigger and it’s done — maybe even done two or three extra times for enhanced security!

Oops! Not sorry.

Janet Combs is a freelance writer living in Georgetown County. Her column is published regularly in the Georgetown Times. Contact her at https://janetfrickecombs.wordpress.com.