International Forecaster Weekly

Hands On

Learn some skills. Better yet teach the newer generations the skills you have. They’ll be better off people, more able to stand on their own two feet,

Bob Rinear | August 28, 2019

I’m quite the open book when I write articles. I often include “personal” things that point out my successes and my failures. I often describe the simple fun I get out of a bike ride to the beach, or the thrill of finding a megalodon tooth in the surf.

But once in a while, I will get an email back from someone, that takes a jab at me. For instance, I started an article not long ago, about how my younger son and his buddy helped me change the rotors and pads on my wife’s car. The email came in suggesting ‘Why don’t you just take it to a shop like I do?”

Let me be very clear to all of you. One of the greatest gifts my dad ever gave me as a kid, was “inviting” me to help him whenever he was doing a repair on the house or the cars. Over those formative years, I learned crude carpentry, plumbing, fiberglass repair, car repair, and a hundred other things that I still use to this day.

You’ve all probably at least given a “thought” to the idea of “prepping” if indeed the crap hits the fan. But be assured, of ALL the things necessary to successfully get through some rough times, the ability to do hands on type things tops the list.

I will never forget hearing a woman talking to another lady while I waited for my then 88-year-old mom getting her hair done. The ladies obviously knew each other, and were talking about their kids, and the one was bragging about how her son had finished school and came out a physicians assistant, and she was so proud of him.

The other woman, mentioned that her son was still “something of a motor head,” didn’t go to any schools, and still worked in a local repair shop. At first it seemed like she was ashamed, or outdone by the Physician assistant’s mom. But then she put in the zinger. “Yeah, my kid is just a motor head, but he fixed your son’s car last week.”

Bingo, there it was. The truth of the matter is that hands on skills, the ability to fix and make things, is a commodity of incredible value. Sure the Doctor might be wealthy and have more “things”. But when the doctor’s car breaks down, or his plumbing backs up, or his roof is leaking, Mr. Doctor has to rely on a “hands on” person to fix it.

It isn’t just the money savings when you can indeed fix things, although that’s quite significant at times. It’s the knowledge that you’ve figured out the issue, fixed the issue, and you know exactly what you’ve got when you’re done. Again, that’s a very valuable thing.

Down here in Florida, I don’t give a rats behind how rich you are, when you’re A/C system goes down, you’re in a world of hurt. With temps near 95 and humidity in the 80% range, you can’t wait to get to the phone and call the “hands on” guy. So yeah, maybe the A/C tech is only making 40K a year and the Rich guy makes 300, but ultimately, the rich guy will need a hands-on guy.

The latest generations of youngsters, have been pressured into the whole go to college, get 75K in student debt, and try and get a job in social basket weaving. I am horrified at how dependent most of them are on other people. Our local Home Depot was running training classes on what a screwdriver is, and how to use one. In my generation, something like that would have been unheard of.

I saw a “meme” not long ago on Facebook. There were two young people featured. The top one was a photo of a somewhat distraught looking male and the caption read “I got 80K in student debt, a degree no one wants and can’t find a job” The second one was a picture of an electric company line-man and it read “Free apprenticeship, no student debt, and taking down 80K a year”

And there it is. The fact is that being a mechanic of any type, is never going to make you rich. You’ll simply never starve, and you’ll always have work. Likewise, having the ability to tackle some “bigger” jobs gives you the satisfaction of doing it, the money savings and the knowledge of doing it right.

There’s an electrician company down here that runs ads on TV all the time. Their catch line in one commercial says “Changing a lightbulb in a ceiling fan? That’s a do it yourself job. Changing the ceiling fan itself? That is NOT a do it yourself job, call the experts at blah blah blah” HUH?? Why is changing a silly ceiling fan “not a do it yourself job?” Because they know, the bulk of people, especially the younger ones would have no clue how to do it, or the simple tools to pull it off.

Here’s a small list of things that I think everyone should have at least some knowledge of doing:

Simple house wiring. For instance, say your electrical box is in the garage and you want another outlet in that garage. Knowing how to install an outlet box, wire it up correctly, run the wire back to the box, break out a breaker cover in the panel, and install a breaker is the foundation for doing things like installing a ceiling fan, or running an outlet to your shed, etc.

Simple plumbing. You should learn how to solder copper pipe together, how to work with PVC pipe and glue, how to swap out a faucet or a drain.

Simple mechanics. How to install a battery, change a headlight bulb (tail light and blinkers too) how to change the rotors and pads for your brakes. Learn how to change the filter on your gas generator. Etc.

Simple carpentry. How to frame out a small shed, how to install a roof, how to frame out a new window.

Simple tool work. How to sharpen a knife, lawnmower blade, axe head.

Simple Boyscout skills. Learn how to tie knots and use the proper knot for the job.

With just the basics of what I outlined above, you will be head and shoulders over the masses that can’t figure out how a light switch works.

But all that said above, for me, the real pride comes in knowing that I’ve done something properly. I started life as a jeweler. I was never the “best” jeweler, but I was certainly better than average. I was the guy that other jewelers in town came to, when they had a repair they couldn’t manage. There was a sense of pride in that for sure.

I supposedly write financial based articles. Well, one of the best financial moves you can make is “saving money” and the fact is that doing things yourself, saves you money. Obviously, right? Right. So, how much can you save? It can be thousands, it simply depends on the “job.”

I’ll go back to the wife’s car as an example. She had stopped into a reputable repair shop that does quite a few of the local businesses in town. I have the estimate in my hand right now. To do the 4 rotors and pads, with tax was to be 620.45.

I bought “better” rotors and pads from Rock auto, and did the entire job in my driveway ( with the kids help, I’m getting old ya know) for a whopping 172.65. I saved myself 447 bucks. But not only did I save almost 500 bucks, I know it was done right, and with better materials. I also know the knowledge my son and his buddy got, is “invaluable” going forward.

I grew up on the bayfront, so boating… and out of necessity “boating repairs,” was part of my life. I learned how to do marine mechanics and keep all my friends outboards running. Then, I learned how to do fiberglass work on the hulls themselves.

My friend Jim called me one day, and said a friend of his had a boat he was going to sell for cheap. I asked what brand and he told me. I was familiar with it and it was a perfectly “middle class” manufacturer, not junk. So I asked “how cheap?” and it was basically free. Okay, what’s the catch?

It had been stored in the parking lot of a gas station, sitting on concrete blocks. Someone backed into it, and it crashed to the ground. The bottom of the boat had 3 literal holes in it. The sharp edges of the concrete blocks punctured the hull in three different areas.

I went over, took a look at it, and said “if you buy the material, I’ll fix it for you.” He asked me what I thought a fiberglass shop might charge to fix it, and my guess was around three grand. We took pictures of it, and hit two shops on the shore that specialize in glass repair. First estimate was 2800, second was 3000.

He quickly decided my offer sounded better. Instead of 3 grand, it cost him 300 bucks in glass, resin, gloves, sand paper, etc. Oh, and a case of beer. That was 2009, and he uses it daily to this day. Savings? 2,700 bucks.

Let me end with this. In this day and age of google, and youtube, there’s a video on virtually any project you might consider doing. It’s like going to trade school in your own home and for free.

Learn some skills. Better yet teach the newer generations the skills you have. They’ll be better off people, more able to stand on their own two feet, and save money along the way. It doesn’t get much better.