How you screw-around defines your professionalism

When I find myself working on electronic racks, motorcycles, or even fixing the washer-dryer, it can quickly become evident to me if some bozo had worked on the device before me.  Here’s the dead giveaway:  the screw and bolt heads are buggered-up.  Some fastener types are quicker to give-up their story than others, due to softer metal or simpler ways to damage them.  Regardless, the results are the same – the product ends-up having ever-so-subtle abused look about it.

Phillips screw heads are one of the easiest to foul-up.  There are numerous screw driver bits that will sort-of fit, so bozos tend to grab whatever screwdriver / bit they have handy and wail away on the screw.  Too much torque?  No problem.  I’ll just tighten it ‘till the head is ready to break-off.  Not my problemI won’t be around when the next guy has to work on this!

I’d say:  “With that attitude you won’t!”

It’s simple really, use the correct tool for the job (Or, as my father would say: “Don’t use a Blacksmith’s tools to do a Jeweler’s job!”)  When you jam a narrow Prince and Reed screwdriver tip into an ISO Phillips screw head, the driver faces don’t fit tightly to the screw head recess faces, so when you reach the torque limit of the connection, the screwdriver tip cams out and deforms the soft metal of the screw head.  This causes numerous problems:

  • The deformed screw head now won’t cleanly accept the correct screwdriver tip, so subsequent work is never quite right.
  • The deformed screw head may have metal edges that protrude beyond the normal face of the screw head, which in-turn, can snag on clothing. (Think about the little brass screws used to attach seat number plates in an auditorium; then think about someone skootching along between the rows of seats wearing a VERY expensive gown or tuxedo – the result:  little tiny fabric tears and snags, and extremely upset patrons!).  That can be labor-intensive to file-of the snagging edges - and it still leaves a damaged-looking screw head.
  • The deformed screw head speaks to everyone else that lays eyes upon it.  The message it sends is: “Who was the bozo that put that together?”

Similar tooling marks and mangled metal show-up everywhere the bozo visits.

OK.  This isn’t about little screw-ups.  It is about how we portray ourselves to our coworkers and employers, and potential employers.  It also affects the mentoring we do for those coming-up through the ranks.  We must set a good example.  It is called professionalism.

The correct selection of a screw driver may not seem like a big deal, however, it is the little actions we take and the care we place in working on other people’s property that tell a story about us.  Yes, you may have ‘fixed it’, but at what cost?  Would it really have taken that much longer to inspect the screw or bolt head and reach into your tool box and extract the correct tool for the job?

The availability of the correct tool has a lot to do with it.  Tools are an investment.  An investment in our career, our image, our productivity.  Dual-purpose tools may be convenient (I foolishly purchased a ‘combination English-Metric wrench set’ one time, and I finally threw it away the other day.  Why?  It did a half-assed job on both Metric and English bolt heads!)  It is much easier to just keep a set of both tool types and grab the one that fits the job requirements.  Time wasted replacing buggered-up bolts and nuts, bloodied knuckles when the wrench slipped-off the bolt head and rounded-off the nut corners, and the resulting loss-of-pride in my workmanship.  I knew others would see my shoddy work.  That hurt me to the core.

Part of learning your craft is learning about the tools of your craft.  When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.  Knowing when and where to apply the correct amount of torque, pressure, programming, brush stroke, EQ, knot, or stitch, is the difference between a ‘hack’ and a skilled artisan.  Which one are youWhich one do you want to be?  Don't be the bozo!

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Tags: Craftmanship, Professionalism, Screwdrivers, Tools, mentoring, pride

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Comment by Lee Saylor on May 15, 2013 at 1:04pm

When I worked at a University Road house, I would often get asked by my student employees why I didn't carry a Leatherman/Gerber multi-tool.  I replied, "I have a whole toolbox full of the correct tools available to me."  While the multi-tool has its place, nothing beats having the right tool.

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