Books: Former Mythbuster Co-Host Writes Creative Guide | Life

Every tool is a hammer: life is what you make of it

Have you ever picked up a book, spotted a factual error, and wondered if it was worth continuing? This happened when I opened “Every Tool is a Hammer”.

On the first page of the first chapter, Savage quotes “one of the greatest fundamentals of physics, the first law of thermodynamics: an object at rest tends to remain at rest.” Oops, this is Newton’s first law of motion, a principle of mechanics. I will leave it to the reader to google the first law of thermodynamics. A skeptical reader can only wonder what else Savage could have gone wrong.

But I was fascinated by the title (more on that later) and decided to continue. I’m glad I did.

Savage defines himself as a “maker,” a buzzword that seems to have supplanted older workhorses like the jack-of-all-trades, craftsman, or the much older term “mechanic,” which referred to anyone who worked with their hands on physical work. objects. He has worked in theater and film as a designer and props builder and also as a co-host of the TV series “Myths Out”. Basically, Savage has spent his life creating stuff, usually unique stuff.

“Every Tool is a Hammer” is both a memoir of how Savage came to be and a manual on how to be a maker. His listing of the types of glues he uses and what they are best for, for example, is almost worth the price of the entire book. This is an amazing compilation of workshop tips. I have built a sailboat before and read a lot of books on boat building, and Savage’s guide is very helpful for the hobbyist or beginner.

For example, he extols the virtues of creating checklists when taking charge of a project, both to track your progress and to maintain momentum. “The value of a list is that it allows you to think more creatively by setting the scope and scale of a project for you on the page, so your brain doesn’t have to keep as much information. ” It gives a six-step procedure for lists that begins with recording everything about the project. “This process of being able to understand everything starts with a big brain drain. I’ll sit at my desk at home or on my bench at the store and write all over my head, willy-nilly. “

Learning from others and sharing the skills you’ve learned is at the heart of Savage’s philosophy as a creator. He raved about the people who shared their knowledge, passed on advice and gave him the space to find and develop his own style of working and creating.

“Whether you’re the captain of your creative ship or the lowest swab relegated to the project’s crappy deck, the fact remains that none of us is an island. We are each part of a community, never more than when we are creators, creating new worlds from our imaginations. It’s nice to think that we can do it alone. He pushes all of our ego buttons to see us as the singular genius. But experience shows all decision makers that every success is shared success and that every shared success is an investment in the culture that produced the success in the first place. I believe the world is a better place when we are all on the same rope.

Over the years, I have learned something similar. Even working alone, there is a lot to be gained by studying what professionals do, trying to understand why they do it, and adding that knowledge to my own skills. You can learn as much by taking something apart as possible by reading the instructions.

Now back to the title, which fascinated me so much. At one point, Savage expressed his frustration with a colleague’s preference for keeping a single type of tool in one place, even if it involved frequent trips to his store to get the tool he needed, so that for Savage “every tool in my immediate vicinity has become a hammer – to great effect, I might add.

In my own years of ‘making’ I have used everything from the head of a screwdriver handle to the palm of my hand to some way of ‘hammering’.

Savage writes: “The hammer is the indispensable tool. That is to say, the first technology of primitive man. But each tool can have a multitude of uses.

“… Each tool can be used for purposes for which it was not designed, including the most basic operations, such as hammering. … Until you learn to see what tools can do beyond their stated purpose, you can’t really be a manufacturer.

There is an old aphorism that if your only tool is a hammer, every problem is a nail. While you can find a lot of talk about what this means, I take it as a warning against failure of the imagination. When you are faced with a problem, you shouldn’t always look to what has worked before; to be a creator like Savage, you have to let the problem tell you what its solution should be. Not every problem is a nail, and you need more tools than a hammer. There’s a lot of that thinking in “Every Tool is a Hammer”.

Lee Giguère is a former editor of the Journal Inquirer.