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For The Love of Tools

Here at NED, we're always talking about innovation, but now its time for us to hear your stories on the subject.

My tool of choice lately is an absolute monster.

I call it my “Hillbilly Sledge.” as far as I can tell, someone stuck a pipe into a giant vegetable can of some sort and then filled the whole thing with molten metal. The result is an insane, 35-lb., solid steel sledgehammer guaranteed to destroy anything it hits (along with your back, your shoulders, and every muscle you’ve got).

This spring, it has already reduced my front stoop, a retaining wall, and their collected debris into rubble at least twice as fast as a reasonable sized sledge would have accomplished.

I absolutely love it.

It was—like most innovations of its kind—discovered abandoned in the woods. The person who found it said he thought of me straightaway. Which is alarming, I suppose.

But he was right.

I have a long history with these kinds of things. Growing up, I was thrown into an endless lineup of remodeling, construction, and deconstruction projects, despite the fact that our tool arsenal consisted of a single bent hammer and a few busted wrenches. So we made do, finding creative applications for our meager toolset that always worked just well enough to get the job done.

Later in college, I worked a light construction job that—though we were constantly required to drive screws and hammer assemblies—only provided us with used metal safety knives. So I did what any reasonable person would do: I smuggled the knife home and filed rough Philips and flathead drivers into the handle and crammed enough scrap metal inside to let it function as a hammer. Obviously.

I still have that makeshift multitool, plus a few of my mom’s weird old wrenches on my bench today. But now, they are supplemented by real, functional equipment.

Heck, I even made a shadow board to keep all of it straight.

Despite my access to all of these unbroken, unmodified hand and power tools, though, I still find some jobs where the old safety knife is still the best choice. And, of course, I haven’t even touched my old 12-lb. sledge since I first swung the Hillbilly.

All of this makes for good stories, I suppose, and occasional injuries that are mild enough to be funny. But I know I’m not alone here. Every shop I enter, every bench I see contains a whole assortment of customized tools, devices, and one-of-a-kind solutions. It seems to be an unspoken requirement of every job.

But I think it’s time we started talking about it. In fact, I think it’s time we started celebrating it.

So here’s my pitch: have you customized your tools?

Have you discovered or invented tools to help you work or to do what no off-the-shelf product ever could? Well, I want to hear about it.

So I’m asking everyone out there to send me your stories and photos detailing your own modifications—how they work, why they were needed, and how you made them. The best examples will be published on

You can send them directly to me at: [email protected].

Can’t wait to see what you’re up to out there!

TAGS: Tools
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