There we were late Wednesday:  A local freight forwarder got our new Gold’s Gym here about 4:30 PM, or thereabouts.

The woman who owns the outfit was very pleasant and in two shakes, her son who works with her in the business had 230-pounds of gym off the truck and into the driveway.

Great!  (But now what?  It’s 94F and humid about that moment…)

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Turned out to be only a minor sweat.  We popped the box open and set about getting after it with our favorite Mechanical Labor-Saving Devices.

For me, it was a simple hand truck, not unlike the Milwaukee 30019 800-Pound Capacity D-Handle Hand Truck with 10-Inch Pneumatic Tires which runs about $60 bucks.   But it’s almost a dead-ringer for the red hand truck that I bought at the local Tractor Supply store back in 2005.

They were having a sale and testing the waters on Chinese tools, from what I could figure.  And on sale it was only $19.95.

As we have rebuilt the house, shop, guest quarter, out buildings and more, that damn hand truck has never failed to cut the amount of George-power needed by two-third, or more.  Even moved two compact water heaters (40 gallons per) with it, up stairs and down with nothing more than 500 mg of chlorzoxozone for three days for the back…. But I shudder to think what it would have been like without the wheeled helper-from-God.

Elaine’s approach was different.  I’d bought her a Radio Flyer Classic Red Wagon about 8-years back.  She schleps deer food, bird food, concrete stepping stones, and whatever else around with that.

Seemed like a poor choice to me, because even though I’ve explained this a zillion times,  people think I’m nuts.

One of the “urban survival secrets” is understanding what happens where the “rubber meets the road” or gravel, or lawn, or whatever.

Growing up in the 1950’s, my dad had a family legend:  A steel wheelbarrow with a metal wheel.  Hell of a fine unit EXCEPT one day my dad brought home a pneumatic tire wheelbarrow and I asked why?  The metal wheel was dandy.

He then “took me to school” on how reality works.

The TIRE should be right for the kind of surface you’re working on.”

20-minutes later, my dad *(firehouse nickname Capt. Encyclopedia) had me understanding that steel wheels on concrete are grand.  But if you’re doing construction (as he’d learned about in the Great Depression from folks working building Grand Coulee Dam), a metal wheelbarrow needs to have a track of boards laid down, otherwise the surface friction will cut material moved, by the same crew, dramatically.  Kaiser figure it out.

Fast forward a few years (about mid childhood) and my buddy (the retired major now) were off riding bikes along the freeway that was being built along the side of Beacon Hill in Seattle.  It’s now I-5 and the section ran from Dearborn Avenue down to the Rainer Brewery.

I had a spanking new “Robin Hood” three-speed English Racer (cats meow in the pre-mountain bike universe).  Tires pumped to 70 pounds and I was faster than the wind…on pavement.

The major, on the other hand (on the trip that comes to mind) was on his brother’s two speed Schwinn and it had a two-speed shift.  Those balloon tires had more surface friction than you could shake a stick at.  Try though he would, there was now what he could keep up with me.  I told him he’d been schwinndled.

Made me feel fit as a fiddle…competition and all that.

Then we got off pavement.

Those thin, hard tires?  Cut right down into the gravel and even in low gear I was standing up jumping on the pedals and screaming what a crappy bike I had.  He laughed and we have several million such events:  One where I’d be right for a minute, then he’d be right…you know how that stuff goes.

So Elaine brings out her Red Flyer and I smile.  “You might want to let me do that dear…thin tires, gravel, you’re asking for trouble….”

You could almost hear Helen Ready tuning up “I am woman.”  “I’ll be fine! she declared.

Uh-huh…sure…  Eventually, she got her wagon load through the 4-6 inches of gravel under the carport off the shop.  Meantime, the pneumatic  tires on the hand truck were floating my loads to into the shop with just a twinge of guilt.

OK, I was over it in 10 seconds.  Maybe 12.

My second favorite MLSD (mechanical labor-saving device, remember?)  is a good heavy vice and an assortment of 3/4 and 1” black iron pipe.

I don’t use it often, but if you ever have to straighten out a rod on a piece of equipment, like the anti-sway rod on the riding mower which gets bent up like a pretzel when you bang into trees (surely Swedes do that, too, don’t they?).

Take the nearly circular rod, put it in the vice, and then carefully work the 3-4 foot section of pipe like it’s a HUGE bending machine and in no time, you’ll produce a workable piece of rod and you’ll mentally make a not that the next time you go to Jacks Small Engines for parts, you MIGHT  order a new anti-sway rod.  I’ve lot count of how many times this one has been “fixed” only to run into a crazy at the wheel…

Next labor saving device is an assortment of pry bars.  OMG, give me a long enough lever and I really can move the world.

Stanley makes a pretty nice PRY BAR SET 5 PC by STANLEY MfrPartNo STHT55139 and though it’s $33, or so, there is NOTHING like a great pry bar.

I don’t know how many rooms you have walked into and said “This sucks.  I’m going to rip this sucker down to studs and do it MY WAY…”  I’m done it so many times I’ve lost count.  Doesn’t matter that my way gets shelved;  since it ends up being Elaine’s way…but we’ll table the discussion of change orders and celibacy some other morning.

Once you get a pry bar set, practice the “Ure Move.”

You see, most people know that you can take a pry bar, hammer it in between two boards that are attached, and pull BACK like a regular bar.

But did you know the sideways motion is event more effective?

The reason has to do with where the fulcrum is for the foot.  That right angle piece is often not in more than a fraction of an inch, so the fulcrum can be over an inch out from the work.

Hammer a thin bar (3/4″) in and then moving it sideways and you get a noticeable increase in mechanical advantage.

Final labor saver is a good shop brush.  Like the Weiler 71019 Horsehair Counter Brush which is $11-bucks.

I know there are people who would insist that a shop vac does a better job. But for counters and keeping the big piles of sawdust off shop equipment, nothing is better than a couple of shop brushes.  One for each bench.

Yeah, we have a retracting cord reel for power but the brooms work fine and they don’t eat filters. (Am I the only one that sees vacuum filters as a racket?)

And before I give this morning a final “brush off” remember with fall workshop projects ahead, there is nothing more useful than a couple of cases of chip brushes.  For $12 bucks, or so, see this 24 Pack of 1-1/2 inch Paint and Chip Paint Brushes for Paint, Stains, Varnishes, Glues and whatever. 

We usually get a case of these about once a quarter, or so.

How many times have you though “Yeah, I could throw half a dozen coats of spar varnish on this and it would look bitchin!”  Then you figure brush cleaning time or you don’t have enough brushes on hand…and then you don’t do it, the finished work is “unfinished” looking and you get depressed…

See how easy it is to avoid that mindset?

Before taking on ANY task around the house, ask “Is there an easier way to do this?  If I was as incredibly lazy as that Ure SOB, how would I do this different/faster/cheaper, more effectively (gai zin) and get the same results?”

Armed with my impact driver the first half of gym assembly Wednesday went well enough…not enough time in the day, though.

Elaine looked a bit worried because she actually read the instructions.  “See dear where they say no power tools?

There’s a time to read instructions and there’s a time to ignore them. Most times, I will sheepishly admit, yeah, reading the damn book may be one of those labor savers, too.

Write when you get rich,