Last Post On Tool Loaning

It does seem generally that most are agreed that it is too much of a risk to loan out the personal tools you either use in the every day of life or the ones you have grown to rely on to put food on the table. I have never had the luxury of having tools but for any other reason than to work and earn with. I don’t own any hobby tools. As a boy with a father and mother forming character in their children, I was taught to respect the tools people used. My mother, a time-served seamstress dressmaker, relied on her scissors and thimbles, unpickers, sewing machines and other sewing paraphernalia. From just a few years old she taught me that tools had their place and should always be returned so that they could be found there. She was an orderly working woman with no frills about her but she was kind and showed me how to organise things. My father too was an highly organised man and kept everything in place. Between him and two close friends I knew of, he shared belongings and always returned them clean and sharp. That’s who I learned from the most. When I started work, in those days you left school at 15 and started working at 15, it was simple enough. On Friday I left school as a boy, on Monday morning I started work as a man. I was still 15. Because of what my parents taught me I knew without telling to put tools away, sweep the floor and take care of the men’s tools and equipment. There was never any argument from me.

What I read in some of the responses over the past few days is that it is sort of, well, tolerant or something to loan out tools to someone you know will not return them. That it is somehow OK not to expect something to be returned. That is it is sort of OK to foster bad character in co workers, friends and relatives as somehow being the higher moral ground. Expect disrespect and not to get returned what you loan out  and certainly don’t expect it to be returned in decent condition. I might ask why would that be? Where did such a thing come from and how does that help the one stealing the tool by taking ownership of it from the rightful owner? Just asking.

Young men who apprenticed with me never got a second look in if they failed to return a tool to its rightful owner in a timely order.Not unless there was indeed genuine remorse that is. It was the same with borrowed money or whatever. This, believe it or not, was how men built character in the tardy and irresponsible. It worked. Over a number of months everyone failed by their parents to build moral character in their children received what was missing from the men who cared enough for them in work to help them make it to adulthood.

So there we are again. It isn’t really a question of being mean spirited about helping someone out. I think a good thing that has come out of this is to have a second set of tools you wouldn’t mind losing or seeing damaged if that happened. Personal tools like personal fountain pens and a seamstresses’ scissors are not for the loaning. Thanks everyone for your input here. It did prove quite interesting in the end. As the sign on the mechanics shop wall said, “Don’t ask to borrow my tools as a refusal often offends!”

43 comments on “Last Post On Tool Loaning

  1. That there could even be discussion of this topic actually surprises me. In part, because I can’t recall ever being asked to borrow any of my tools, and thus have never had one vanish in this fashion; but also because I just can’t imagine not returning a tool that I borrowed. I feel like what I imagine a youngster who has just been taught for the first time not to trust must feel. I feel disappointed and naive.

    But in spite of my naivete, if this is indeed taking place, then I do not blame the man who chooses not to lend one bit.

  2. I’ve always lent and borrowed tools among friends. I don’t rely on them for my income, and my friends are responsible.

    Books are different. I just give them away and replace it with a used book for a couple of bucks. The exception are books I need for work. They average around $200 a pop. They don’t get lent.

  3. Thanks, Paul, for spending space and time on this topic that every woodworker has their own stand on. As they say, the two camps — for and against tool loaning — will have to agree to disagree since neither of them is right or wrong. Tools will continue to be “unloaned” and loaned out in the woodworking community. It’s a matter of personal choices and opinions much like whether a dovetail joint should be cut by hand or with a router and a jig.

    I have enjoyed the diverse views expressed in the last two posts and they all have been civil.

  4. Interesting threads on this subject, the most comments that I can recall.
    In my line of work (computer programming) almost all of my tools were virtual, not physical. If I depended on having them back to pay bills, I would probably have been miserly about lending them out.

    Coincidentally when the first thread on this subject started, I saw a YouTube post by a most excellent Craftsman, Mike Peace. He borrowed an old sad auger brace from a friend for a demo, ending up not using it. Not only did he return it, he even turned a replacement for the handle that was missing, unasked!

    That’s someone who can borrow anything of mine, any time.

  5. For what it’s worth: If you have tools you really​ aren’t using, and that a novice stands a chance of being able to use productively, some public libraries are now starting to keep “library of things” collections that can be checked out by folks who really can’t justify buying. Making even a decent hammer available may help someone get interested in learning more, and gods know I’ve accumulated/inherited more hammers than I really need. Lending primary tools may be questionable, but gifting ones that would otherwise be neglected to the community at large may be less so.

  6. “Trust”.

    That is a very important word that you seem to not grasp the meaning of, Paul.

    “Trust”.

    • I disagree strongly with that statement. It’s not a matter of a lack in trust. Don’t make it personal, his reasoning is well explained and while I choose differently to Paul I respect his view. As an aside in my job my computer is my main tool and when I’m not in the studio anyone can and will use it. I’ve had to get used to it, but it can be annoying when settings get changed.

      • I don’t think a computer is a good example of the type of tool that is being discussed here . Computer settings are easily changed back with a click here and there . A smoothing plane for example if not returned to where it is usually found and having to find it can be annoying . If the same tool was returned but not in the same sharp ready to use condition is disappointing as it is not ready to use and must be sharpened , not what one expects . If we lend tools , we must expect to be dissapointed .

    • Rather harsh, Joshua. Not everyone’s experiences are the same, depending on the choices made and on circumstances or even measure of good luck. Just as my experience and upbringing, as posted a couple days ago, give me no reason NOT to trust, Paul and others may well have had real life experiences that indicate otherwise. Here’s something that some others might take the time to “grasp”: the meaning of most any word, including “Trust”, depends to a great extent upon it’s context, both in usage, and in its application.

  7. I teach my son to never borrow. And in turn I caution him to never loan. He was able to witness the rule being broken by myself. I loaned a automotive fluid transfer and removal pump to my own brother and stepfather. He was there when it was loaned and he was with me when it was retrieved by me, of course! The pump is a simple cylinder designed to either remove auto fluids such as motor oil. The only caution was that if you remove brake fluid it must be cleaned asap. That’s what they used it for, brake fluid, and that’s what they would not do; clean it. It sat there several days uncleaned until I was forced to go and get it. I rebuilt the destroyed parts that the corrosion ate. They came by the day I rebuilt the pump while lecturing my son once again of the folly in loaning your stuff. I lectured on while they stood there. Those two wouldn’t dare ask to borrow a sharpened stick from me now.

  8. Paul while I agree with what you say, I must point out that you yourself are in essence loaning tools when you teach a class. Thus there must be circumstances and conditions under which it is permissible and preferable to lend a tool, then to not lend a tool. (I suppose you will argue that they are paying for the class and are thus renting the tools and renting is different then borrowing. Is it?)

    Hence it is not so cut and dry. Lending comes with risk. When do the benefits out weigh the risk? What measures can be taken to mitigate the risk?

    I think this discussion could go on forever and I am glad to see this is the “last post on tool lending”. It however may not be the last word.

    • Not wanting to nitpick here, there is one pivotal difference. My students pay for the class and part of my commitment is to provide the tools they will use as part of the course training. In essence they are hiring tools from me that were bought in for that purpose. I don’t at all allow anyone to take my personal working tools away from me or the shop to work on something elsewhere. My sons I know will always return tools in the condition they received them in because they can parallel anything I can do. After all, I trained them. There is no risk possible because I will not lend out my personal tools. I will however teach and train people around the world to better understand the use of them and hopefully educate them to not borrow or lend outside of possibly teaching others to use them.

  9. I don’t think many would agree with Joshua Turnbuckle, and his contention that not loaning tools is wrong, because it shows lack of ‘trust.’
    Of course it shows lack of trust (!) and that is the very reason for not loaning.
    If you trusted the person to return the tool in good order, there would be no reason not to loan it, but unhappily, there are many people in this world who are not ‘trust-worthy’ and if you can’t tell the one from the other (i.e. if you don’t know them that well) then there is only one answer – “No!”
    Those of us who use tools for our living – and even for a valued hobby – know all too well what a pain it is to be deprived of a useful tool, or have it damaged by someone’s carelessness.

  10. My best friends knew that the only way I lent a tool was if I went with it. That way we worked on their project together and my tools never suffered. My Dad always taught me to buy the best I could afford, put them away and take care of them, and not to lend them out. My best friend would always ask if I could come over to his house, and as long as I was coming, could I bring a …….
    We had an agreement, whomever died owing the other a favor lost the contest. We are still going strong.

  11. I too, was brought up to respect others belongs and return thing to where they belong. I also do not lend tools to anyone other than my son, who is careful and respectful of my woodworking tools. Respect for this GS has gone by the wayside in today’s world. Maybe because I was born I. The early 50’s and seen too much change in this respect. Anyway, I heartily agree with Paul on this subject.

  12. Trust? It isn’t that simple… I have, in the past loaned tools on 3 occasions. Once to my sister, who I would trust with my life, but apparently not with my ladder. I let her use a very good 16 foot extension ladder and I never saw it again. Once to my brother, again I trusted, who returned a claw hammer with one claw broke off. Finally to an executive at the paint company where I work, who returned a pocket knife, which I valued greatly because I received it from my grandfather who passed away in 1974, with two deep dings on the edge of the larger blade. Woodwork is my avocation, not my vocation, but I value the tools I use highly. They will not be loaned.

    • I am not sure I would trust someone with my life that could not be trusted to return tool. If someone cannot be trusted with little, they cannot be trusted much.

  13. Another possibility. Being a blacksmith, people don’t borrow my tools. They don’t know how to use them. My other tools, woodworking, and construction, I loan by this method. I made up a form. Anything I have, you may borrow. It’s to be returned in pre- borrowed condition or replaced new. Don’t make me call or come get it. Sign the form. Deviate from the contract, and you’ll never borrow anything else! I’d begun to notice, that friends designed their projects around tools they knew I had. Too cheap to buy or rent. Needless to say, my tool loaning has dwindled to nonexistent.

  14. I’m 57 and grew up with my grandparents. They were sharecroppers, raising a young family during the Great Depression. By the time I came along, they were living in a small town in a small house across from the cottonmill where my grandfather worked. My grandmother “sewed for out” as it was known back then. They didn’t have much but took very good care of what they did have. They were generous people who would give someone the shirt off of their back and help anyone who needed it. But they didn’t loan out the things/tools that they used/needed every day. Grandmama would feed anyone who was hungry but she wouldn’t loan them her cast iron skillet. If she did and it wasn’t brought back in a timely fashion, what would she cook breakfast, dinner and supper in? If someone needed something cut out, she was happy to cut it out for them. But if she loaned her shears out and they didn’t come back in a timely fashion or worse came back damaged or not at all…..how would she cut out that dress that Mrs. Miller needs for next week? If Granddaddy loaned out his hammer and saw and they were returned damaged or not at all, how would he repair the front steps for Mrs. Prichett whose husband was disabled?

    I sense that some people are equating being unwilling to loan things out with being selfish. Given the example my grandparents set for me as a child, I don’t see it as selfish. I see it as as being practical. Some people are respectful of a borrowed item and some are not. My husband’s cousin can borrow anything we have because it will be returned promptly and in the same condition it left in. My husband’s brother? No. Things loaned to him in the past have come back broken or damaged or never come back at all. If called out about a broken or damaged tool, his response is “That old thing? Yeah, you need to buy another one. That one was crappy.” So, I ask, why would I continue loan him things and how is it selfish to not?

  15. I never loan anything out that I do not want back. Therefore I really do not loan out things to people. If you someone needs a tool that I have I will do it form them or with them.

    I use to loan things out to test to see if someone wast trust worthy. I do not do that anymore. I have found out that a vast majority of the people are not worth trusting.

  16. I have never lent tool, or money to anyone. I have, on occasion given both away. I have sold at a greatly reduced price, or traded. This is the way I was taught and how I teach my children. No one takes care of your stuff the way you do.

  17. Some of this brought a smile to my face. People of our generation tend to see things very differently than fresher generations. As an example “how does that help the one stealing the tool by taking ownership of it from the rightful owner?”
    Many people cannot think that clearly. They’ve never been taught. It’s like those scissors they give little children with the rounded ends, so they don’t hurt themselves or others. They are deliberately blunted because it’s easier to alter the tool than to educate the user. Speech and action has followed the same concept. The premise seems to be, “People won’t be responsible, accountable or conscious. They can’t be taught to be so we must change our approach.” To someone growing up in that soup there is no “other” way. When when confronted with a clear thought, a clear question, it’s like a bright light being shined in their eyes. It’s seen as harsh and cruel. They’ve not been taught to think through to a logical conclusion, so they don’t, as a rule.

  18. Fascinating to read the comments on these 3 blogs. I never really thought about this, but believe in generosity. Yet as I read I realized my generosity is targeted from trust for a quality tool (almost never loaned) and for a learner in the craft I will almost always gift a refurbished plane or a sharpened set of chisels in a roll.

    • I think this is true. I have given hundreds of tools away through the years. This is a very different issue. Giving is transferring ownership to another. If they then choose to sell it or damage or abuse it it is theirs to do that with. I have no rights to it. I believe in giving and benefitting in that way.

  19. As a working visual artist, I can’t imagine someone asking me if they could borrow my palette, easel, or brushes. If they did ask, I would absolutely say “no.” I wouldn’t say no out of trust or mistrust, but simply because I use those tools daily and need them. When hobbyists enter the equation, I think the equation changes a bit.

    • I would disagree with the idea of being a hobbyist changes the equation. The tools are an investment of your limited resources, read also as the time necessary to earn the money to purchased said tool. My time is valuable. As a hobbyist, which implies full time work elsewhere, my time for woodworking is limited. Thus, if the tool is unavailable when you require it, whether it has been lent and not returned or replaced or damaged you can not do the work you need to. It makes no difference if you earn a living with that tool or are a hobbyist.

  20. Paul,
    It’s really simple, the values that were once taught or a thing of the past, just as we will be one day. And it’s not just with tools it’s with everything.
    It can be blamed on many different things but in reality it boils down just one thing. What we learn from an early age. Even as an infant. Babies who can’t talk surely can see so that’s how they start learning. I call it the trickle down effect. Little by little with each generation certain things are lost. Take religon for example, I know bad subject right. But regardless rather you believe in Christianity or whatever there are certain aspects in general that are good to live by. Take the Ten Commandants for example. Again whether you believe in the book or not there still 10 good lessons to be taught that can’t or won’t hurt anybody to live by.
    Lying was punishable by a mean switching to my rear end when I was a kid., Therfore I was taught not to lie.
    Bottom line Paul is People like you and I who had Parents most likely were taught values that our Parents were taught by there Parents but maybe with a tad less of the really hardline stuff. And we raised our children with most of those same values but maybe without a few of the things that we thought might have been a little too much.
    But now let’s move over to a different side. Children being raised by only one Parent or even worse maybe one Parent or possibly two but since the Parents of these kids have two jobs and barely see there kids , so now what and where is being taught to these youngsters. What values are they being taught. These kids are getting most of them from the TV.
    Wow! That’s a scary thought isn’t it?
    However it’s the facts. Now, all this being said , slowly but surely little by little these type values are all but disappearing. So it doesn’t surprise me at all to see all the excuses people have these days for everything except for the right thing. And that’s another subject. They even question right from wrong.
    If a person can’t distinguish the difference from right and wrong then everything else is irrelevant.
    This is where we are today in this World.
    And I fear that it’s only going to get worse before there’s ever a chance of it getting any better.
    The upside to all this is there’s still a large amount of the Worlds population that live by these values so we owe it to the future generation to try and teach as much as we can. I can see your doing your part. So where are the rest of us .
    The Mind is like a Parachute, it only works when it’s open . The trick is getting that parachute to open.

    • Well, sitting in a cafe today I heard a young woman receive a call from her husband. She spoke to him for a while as her friend waited for her and then she said she just must go because the baby was crying and making a noise. She was lying without a glimpse of guilt or remorse in front of her friend as the baby slept quietly in the stroller. She then continued her conversation as though nothing had happened. How easy lying seemed to her.

  21. I think in this discussion different “tool collections” are being conflated.

    I maintain that we each have (at least) 4 types of tool collections:
    (1) tools that we will never ever lend to anyone.
    (2) tools that we may lend to trusted perhaps trained by us friends and family.
    (3) tools that we would rent or hire out (use for instruction).
    (4) tools that we would lend to anyone, but would prefer to just give them away or even sell them.

    It is possible that for you that one or more of these sub-collections is empty.

    Because, these categories have been conflated the discussion seems to have spiraled in odd but interesting directions. But that is fine and healthy as long as we learn from it.

    O.K. back to carving Paul’s rosette.

  22. The only man I ever asked to borrow a hand tool from was my own father. And, it was expected that that tool would be returned in short order in the same or better condition it was loaned out.
    I will gladly assist a friend fixing or building something, but no, I will not lend my tools.
    I worked to hard to gain them, to maintain them and I know when I need them, they will be ready. My friends know this, and never ask to borrow, but know that a request for help is always answered yes.

  23. I can’t help thinking of the month I worked on a house framing crew many years ago. One day the foreman asked me for my 1-1/2 inch chisel. While I watched, he used one corner as a screwdriver. Then he handed it back with a broken edge and no comment. It would have taken him maybe a one minute walk to get a screwdriver, but his time was more valuable than someone else’s tool.

    Over the years I have loaned tools to friends and family, but only tools for which I have duplicates or no longer need. If they want a tool I value, I come with the tool and I am the one who uses it.

  24. I, too, learned (the hard way) not too loan out tools; I have learned, however, that there are situations wherein you may find that you have to borrow a tool. I was taught to return that tool that I borrowed in at least, if not better, condition, than when you borrowed it.
    I also learned, from experience, not to loan out “your” tools – keep extras around (not so nice as yours, but usable) for loaning, and work that might damage your good tools….

  25. Hi Paul,

    Just in answer to some of your questions above:

    “hat I read in some of the responses over the past few days is that it is sort of, well, tolerant or something to loan out tools to someone you know will not return them. That it is somehow OK not to expect something to be returned. That is it is sort of OK to foster bad character in co workers, friends and relatives as somehow being the higher moral ground. Expect disrespect and not to get returned what you loan out and certainly don’t expect it to be returned in decent condition. I might ask why would that be? Where did such a thing come from and how does that help the one stealing the tool by taking ownership of it from the rightful owner? Just asking.”

    My take is that this attitude was taught to his disciples by Jesus. Specifically in Luke 6: 30-35 where he said:

    “Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again” and “And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.”

    I know that you give away many tools, and provide resources for free to those that can’t repay you. However, if Jesus’ words are to be taken at face value, it would seem that they extend to the loaning of tools as well.

    I wish you and your family the Happiest of Easter holidays!

    Zac.

    • I think that context can make a big difference. I think there is a moral (and a Christian?) precedent not to steal too.If someone assumes ownership of goods loaned and deprives the owner of an item loaned to them permanently then that by law becomes theft. The teaching you speak of does not diminish this element of individual culpability otherwise no one would own anything and everyone would have no moral compass or framework to work with.

      • I agree that stealing is wrong, however the morality against stealing concerns the actions of the lendee. The passage above has more to do with the attitude of the lender, which is what the original blog post was about. I do think though that there can be compassionate and thoughtful ways to lend and not lend depending on the circumstances.

  26. Everything I have loaned out has come back damaged. I have developed an policy of if I am willing to loan you something, I come along as a package deal to do it for you. I loan the tool and donate the labor. If you are not enough of a friend to loan something to, you are not friend enough to help.

  27. I’ve stopped loaning out tools and equipment to friends. I’ll loan almost anything to my sons if I am confident they know how to use and properly treat it. I was trained as a youngster to always return anything borrowed or used in the same or better condition as received. Not everyone was brought up that way, and the comment ‘Sorry, this broke…’ is a comment I don’t hear since I stopped loaning out tools. I’ve offered to help or even do the work for some people I know well, but I don’t make loans. Most people understand when I just tell them that I don’t loan out tools and equipment. I don’t think there is any malicious intent on their part, but there is a very basic difference in expectation of responsibilities. I find it is much easier for me if I just have one no-loans guideline and stick to it. I do invite people to come and work with me to share the joy of working with hand tools. I let them use many of my tools and seldom have tools damaged, although there is the occasional dropped chisel or hand tool. These problems I see as my responsibility. I choose what tools I let other people use, which do not include my inherited family antiques or very special new tools. I like sharing and teaching, but my tools do not leave my shop without me. I have refurbished many used and old tools whcih I give to people I believe will appreciate them. I hope the recipients will take good care of these gifts but I don’t have the angst of worrying if ‘my’ tool will be misused, damaged, or lost.

  28. I now do not loan out my tools. My Father was a carpenter and his tools was his lively hood as well. He taught me early on “If you ever have to borrow anything, you always return it better than when you borrowed it, No matter what it is.” Later when someone asked to borrow my anything, I assumed they had the same teaching and responsibility I had received ………. WRONG. Almost always, my tools or anything lent, was returned damaged and all most useless to use. From that I keep the damaged items and if I loan out anything it is the damaged item that was returned the last time. The loan went with warning it was miss used by last borrower and now may not perform properly and can be dangerous. As for the rest of my stuff, I don’t loan any of it, but I only loan myself to use my stuff to their need. That way I control the use and protect my stuff.

  29. An early experience cured me of lending tools. A neighbour, who was also a friend from church, asked to borrow my electric drill and drill bits. He broke nearly every small diameter bit in the case, and returned them that way without a work of explanation or thanks. At the time my wife and I were barely scraping by financially. I actually had to save over several paycheques to buy new bits.

    Later, when working in an auto glass and auto upholstery shop, I discovered that one of my co-workers was helping himself to my tools. When I confronted him about it, he threatened me. (I guess that’s not “lending”, but being the victim of theft.) Anyway – buy your own, thanks.

  30. I’ve kept up with this series on loaning and borrowing. There have been lots of interesting thoughts. I’ll suggest that this is one of those areas of moral and ethical philosophy where there simple isn’t a single right point of view. A right answer depends exactly on that- a point of view, a context. For someone like Mr. Sellers, whose tools are an extension of his very being, his statement of position makes clear sense and seems quite appropriate and right to me. As an extension of his very being his tools are a critical part of himself and critical to his livelihood as he points out. Yet a “tool” is something more than the sum of some physical parts. What makes a tool from a mere thing is the application and sense of purpose given by use and context. For a person different from Paul Seller’s an old rusty hand plane left over from a father or grandfathers kit may be serving as a doorstop to one not aware of it’s use or inclined to the discipline of using it. For such a one, when asked if the doorstop might be borrowed there might be no objection. The point I make is that the things that are our tools are so because of a context that surrounds and embeds them. Thus for myself it makes sense that the question of whether a thing can or should be loaned has many answers. Much depends on the relation of the thing to the one that possesses it.

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