Witness here a relic of my childhood, all that remains of the Handy Andy toolkit I opened one Christmas day long before I even dreamed of riding motorcycles. Inside the metal box from Santa Claus were this blade screwdriver, a hammer, a saw and a few other tools that are lost to time. Intended for small hands and small construction projects, I can assure you that in my little paws the tools did more destructing than constructing. Still, the set helped me build boats to float in the creek, wooden airplanes to zoom around my brother’s head and anything else my imagination could conjure up. Limits were few – Dad had a nice scrap pile and what I couldn’t find there I could scrounge from nearby construction sites. My biggest challenge was keeping a nail straight long enough to join two pieces of wood.
The Handy Andy hammer was large enough to blacken a finger nail, small enough to require 100 well-aimed whacks to sink a 16-penny nail. The saw was sharp enough leave a bloody zig-zag trail on a small arm and dull enough to skip along the surface of wood, almost ensuring injury. The screwdriver was special. The powers imbued in its once-shiny shaft were magical for a tiny technician: pry bar, jabber, stabber, reamer, chiseler, splitter. In a pinch you could even turn a screw with it – if you had one.
The blue plastic handle bears the scars of early onset ham-fistedness – chips where pliers have grasped it, a chunk missing from the end where the hammer rung out one too many times, probably some teeth marks if you look close enough. And that once-square blade has long since met its match: me. A smooth, rounded shadow of its former self, the business end of the screwdriver is certain death to any screw it touches.
I could retire this worn-out warrior to my box of mementos, but it remains in my tool tray because it’s still useful for jobs that I won’t touch with a better tool, like popping chunks of mud off my DR-Z or prizing rocks from a tire tread. And recent testing in my garage has shown that the time-worn shape of the blade will open a bottle of suds if there’s no church key close by. Not necessarily what the good folks at Handy Andy had in mind when they sold it, but if my leg up on tool use taught me anything, it’s that most of them can be multi-purpose. And multi-purpose is just what the roadside mechanic needs when stranded in the boonies. I’ve used many tools in ways that would make real mechanics strip their ratchets, but thanks to early tutelage by Handy Andy, I’ve never had to walk.