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Tool Belt evolution

Rick Ryckeley's picture

Years of unfinished projects and a few mishaps along the way had permanently stained and spotted the brown leather tool belt.
Well-worn front pockets sagged under the weight of their contents. On the left side, smaller pockets held every possible hand tool. On the right dangled a silver and black claw hammer, held in placed by a wide leather loop.

After donning it early each Saturday morning, Dad never removed his tool belt until well after dinner. Though its contents have changed over the last 50 years, the usefulness of having the right tool for the right job easily within hand’s reach hasn’t.
The need for a new belt became immediately apparent at the grand opening of Grumpy Grandpas’ Daycare. With a current membership consisting of a 3-month-old girl called Little One, Grumpy Grandpas’ has plenty of space that could be filled. (Guess I’ll have to talk to The Boy about that.)

After a hectic first day, a quick visit to the giant hardware store with the orange roof was in order. A new brown leather tool belt was purchased by yours truly and then outfitted with the correct hand tools to take care of any job or emergency.
Let’s compare the tool belt of old with my newer version.

Dad’s tool belt had four big pockets in front. Three were full of assorted nails, fundamental for any home improvement project. Without them, you’ll have a real mess on your hands.
With that in mind, at Grumpy Grandpas two of our four big front pockets are outfitted with diapers. Yep, diapers – without them, nothing else really gets done and you’ll have a real mess on your hands.
Tools weren’t the only thing Dad had in his tool belt. Squirreled away in another front pocket were an assortment of candies, suckers, and bubble gum. Dad had a sweet tooth and so did all us kids.

The front two pockets of my tool belt are also filled with suckers: a wide assortment of pacifiers with small stuffed ducks, elephants, and even a sassy pink pig attached. Little One can easily hold onto them. Pick the wrong pacifier at the wrong time, and you can actually see “when pigs fly.”
Next up, staining rags. Hanging off left and right sides of Dad’s tool belt were strips of his old undershirts. They were used to stain wood, remove wet glue from little fingers, and even came in handy when a tissue couldn’t be found.

My tool belt at Grumpy Grandpas is also outfitted with rags. Assorted sizes of terry burp cloths and bibs hang off both sides, easily within reach for that much needed burp, occasional spit-up, or an accidentally overturned glass of sweet tea.
On an average day this happens 15 times. Burp and spit-ups, not overturned glasses of sweet tea. That only happened once. And it wasn’t by Little One.
A red and yellow plastic hammer rattle has replaced the claw hammer Dad used. Extremely entertaining, it also comes in handy when trying to assemble cribs, strollers, and playpens. Some of those parts just have to be forced to fit. Guess next time I’ll resort to actually reading the instructions first.

Needle-nosed pliers in the side pocket have also been replaced with tweezers, although their use still remains the same. Dad used them to grab hold of splinters stuck in feet or hands, the removal of an occasional fishhook from one of our heads, or marble from up our nose.
I use tweezers for that same purpose: to remove splinters, not fish hooks or marbles. Little One is still too little to fish.
The long pocket on the left side held Dad’s folding wood measuring tape. He announced many times, “With this tape, I can measure anything.”

I replaced Dad’s tape with a much more important measuring device. The pocket on the left side of my tool belt holds a cell phone equipped with camera and video capabilities. Both will record and measure the life of Little One.

Lastly, after any dirty job, Dad always cleaned his hands with goo from a tube. The special right side pocket of my tool belt is also outfitted with a tub of goo, but it’s white.
It’s also used to clean up after dirty jobs, butt it’s not spread on my hands.
[Rick Ryckeley, who lives in Senoia, served as a firefighter for more than two decades and has been a weekly columnist since 2001. His email is His books are available at]

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