Earlier this week, I tried to write a post about why I give my everyday tools and gear extra attention. I kept rewriting it until I gave up. The post wasn’t a total loss, though, as it helped me understand myself a little better.
I also realized that some of the obsessive aspects of my personality – such as what compels me to try 4 different types of new-to-me screwdriver styles at the same time – go back to high school. Maybe it goes back further, but there were definitely strong roots stemming from high school-aged experiences.
Update: Well, I guess I wasn’t quite over that abandoned post, as this one turned out a lot longer than I anticipated.
It was maybe 1999 when I took a drafting class, and I needed extra supplies from the art supply store. I remember having tons of questions and purchasing indecisions at the time.
I also remember how difficult it was to find a book on technical drawing to help me get better. So, I took some risks with trial and error. I had a limited high school student budget, and so “trial and error” then was mainly “make a choice and live with it.”
Trial and error taught me a lot about what I like and don’t like. For instance, I like writing with gel pens more than I do ballpoint pens, and I prefer finer pen tips than wider ones. I like my steak cooked to medium “doneness,” t-shirts without pockets, and orange juice without pulp.
Trying different things allows us to find our preferences. But I also like the “trying things out process.” And when it comes to EDC tools, pens, pencils, and some other daily-use gear, I tend to care more than average. Part of this is likely due to ToolGuyd being a big enabler.
“I just don’t get it.” I hear that sometimes.
I gave a small inexpensive fountain pen to someone the other day, and their colleague remarked about her husband’s deep interest in pens. She might have used the word “obsession.”
Why does he like pens so much? I just don’t get it.
Since I had just written and rewritten a long post about a similar topic (before abandoning the idea), I had what I think is a reasonable answer.
For one, it’s a hobby. But how does it turn into a hobby?
Why do some people like pocket knives? Flashlights? EDC tools? Pens? Pencils? Watches? Shoes? Other things that use or carry with us daily or even just regularly?
Why spend more time, effort, or money on something than is beyond functionally necessary?
At the least, I like things that better suit my preferences. Working with something that suits our preferences helps make tasks more enjoyable, or at least less mundane.
Working with others can do the same, but there are lots of times when many of us are working privately. Many of the different jobs I had were very social environments. Now, much of what I do is private. My kids are at preschool, and I am alone, writing to you. We might interact, via email or social media, but right now, I am alone, typing away.
I’m tapping away on my Ducky mechanical keyboard, with clicky keys and orange LED lights. My next keyboard will have less audible keys.
Did you know that some people have more than one computer keyboard?
I like my keyboard, and spent a lot of time researching it, after trying a more mainstream option that I didn’t like and returned. I went to different stores and did a lot of online research before settling on the Ducky Shine 3.
Why did I want a mechanical keyboard in the first place? I tend to break or wear out keyboards every few years. My last keyboard before this was a cordless Logitech. A key was stuck one day, and I removed a key to fix it. Well, apparently you can’t remove the keys on that keyboard. I was done with the cheap membrane-style keyboards. With the one I have now, an LED is out. I can fix that myself when I want to. If a key wears out, I can replace it. Keycaps can be replaced. A big bonus is that I can remove all the keys and give the keyboard a thorough cleaning every few years.
I bought this keyboard 4-1/2 years ago, for $149. I had gone through maybe 3 cordless keyboards the previous 4-5 years, and so I think I’ve gotten my money’s worth with this one.
If I have to type a lot, shouldn’t it be a good experience?
If I have to wear a watch, why not one that I find aesthetically pleasing?
With pocket knives, I had been getting along just fine for years, with just a cheap Gerber and whatever utility knife I bought on sale.
I then bought a Gerber multi-tool for keep at work, and it came in handy. One day, I treated myself to a Leatherman Wave, because I was buying a couple as Groomsmen gifts and wanted one too. And then I bought a Leatherman Skeletool as a gift to myself when I passed a milestone in my PhD program.
One day, whether it was a sale on Amazon, or a forum post somewhere, or a combination of the two, I bought a Kershaw Leek knife. Did I come across the forum when looking into making Paracord keychains? The timing seems about right. The Leek was a gateway knife, and helped deepen my curiosity and interest in pocket knives. After that, I wanted something different and went with Benchmade. After that, Spyderco.
I remember obsessing about the Benchmade mini Griptilian that I bought. I did lots of research, and then waited for a good sale. If not for ToolGuyd, I might have stopped there, at least for a while.
At the time, ToolGuyd was a hobby, and I used the little revenue to bolster my tool budget. If I was ordering from a supplier, maybe I’d add on a different brand of screwdriver to try out. ToolGuyd didn’t give me obsessive personality traits, but it’s definitely an enabler.
I wanted to answer questions, for myself, and for ToolGuyd readers.
The other day, we talked a lot about EDC bit-holding screwdrivers. That would have been a very different post if I hadn’t been interested in exploring EDC and multi-bit screwdrivers.
Now, I’m preparing for new knife reviews for the later part of the year. I always go a little overboard when I do this.
This happens every time I plan to test new knives for ToolGuyd. I can never decide on one at a time. Reviews will take a while. The big boss isn't happy about what I do to the quarterly tool budget, but he'll get over it. I returned two for being too different than anticipated, and a small folder for having a defective lock. That never goes over well when trying a new brand. #newtools #toolguyd #edc #knives
ToolGuyd allows and even compels me to explore different brands, styles, and preferences.
I know what I like, but I enjoy the exploration process. I tell myself that my exploring and testing different knives will help me help others, who might only be ready to buy just one knife. The same as it is with tools.
In the EDC screwdriver post, how can I describe the merits of different brands and styles if I had bought just one and stuck with it?
If I have to cut things throughout the day, such tasks are a little less mundane if it’s with a knife I like. I still use utility knives quite a bit, but I like using my knife.
Is it pocket jewelry? Maybe. But that’s okay.
Little joys can turn into bigger ones, and deeper hobbies, but they don’t always.
Years ago, I knew I liked gel pens. I was happy using disposable Pilot G2 pens. I would try something different every now and then. And then I got into fountain pens. Now, I have a few pens a couple of ink bottles, and a bunch of ink sample vials.
Some people are into headphones, and I don’t understand it. To each their own.
If there’s a bowl of m&ms, and you can just have one, do you pick out a particular color? Did you buy a particular color of water bottle? Do you have any preferences when it comes to shoes? Boxer short or underwear colors and patterns?
In today’s world, we often have many options. With tight budgets, we have to pick from among those options, and live with the decisions. With more discretionary budgets, there’s the potential to select more than one option, or something a little more premium in form, function, or both. Either way, decisions have to be made. Some people become more attached to their purchasing decisions than others.
Does it all just boil down to “that’s just the way people are?”
Why buy a pocket knife that costs more than $50? Why own more than one watch? Multiple pens and multiple inks?
Why buy more than is functionally necessary?
Because it makes people happy.
Not everything turns into a hobby for me. Sometimes I simply buy something to put to use without further thought. Other times, my budget doesn’t allow for much exploration.
Some people have watch collections, while others like collecting or at least trying out new bags, shoes, or outfits. Some people turn their daily organizer into artistic outlet. Here’s a Google image search for “bullet journal”.
Me? I like writing instruments and tools. It makes me feel better to know that it’s not just me. There are pen enthusiasts, pencil and mechanical pencil enthusiasts, and a lot of people into pocket knives, flashlights, and other kinds of everyday gear.
Here’s a Google image search for “EDC pocket dump.” EDC, or everyday carry, encompasses all or any of the little things that we use for our daily tasks, for work, play, or a combination. Sometimes sharing in an interest is what makes it a hobby.
I’d be lying if I said that I only look at different brands and styles for ToolGuyd-related purposes. A lot of times, there’s enjoyment in it for me. It’s in my personality, and it has been for a long time. Because I couldn’t find the answers I was looking for, I took it upon myself to learn things the hands-on way. And I found it to be fun.
My father likes to collect Hot Wheels cars and coins. I once found a car he had been looking for, and I bought it for $5 (maybe a little more?) at a collectibles shop while visiting family out of state. It was the Hot Wheels Go Cart. He was happy to have it, but I also think he wished he could have found it at the big box store or toy store for 99 cents. The search was part of the fun.
Some people collect things that will sit on a shelf or in a closet, and that’s okay. I tend to like collecting things that I use daily or regularly. It just kind of happened that way.
So why might someone have an active interest in pens? Knives? Watches? Tools? Because little things make us happy. It’s not about showing off or throwing money away, although there are some people who do find happiness in that.
Today, I’m writing with a Pentel Energel needle-tip gel pen (~$1.65), while my new Pilot Prera pen ($38) dries. I flushed it out and am waiting for the water to dry. I most recently jotted some notes on a Rhodia no. 16 dot grid notepad ($5.75). I need to draw something out soon, and will use a Staedtler pencil (shown at the top of the page, $12-20). My knife is a USA-made Hogue X1-Microflip in blue ($109).
There are some functional choices here, but also some intangible “because I like it” reasoning.
OH – and also a new Caribbean-blue paracord keychain that I made over the weekend. I am planning to give someone a small Victorinox Swiss Army Knife keychain, and wanted to give it with a kechain. I learned that I still stink at tightening up small bead-less monkey fists, and so I’m keeping it for myself. It’s not attached to anything at the moment, but I’ll fix that later.
You have to enjoy life. There are lots of things that won’t add any joy to one’s day, but it’s good to explore those things that can.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to full up my new pen with some new Pilot Ama-iro blue ink ($1.75 for sample). And then… I have a bunch of holes to drill in wood, with whatever drill or impact driver I find first.