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The StartX Files: Between the Sheets With NExS
The New Hoosier Workshop
January 25, 2002
There is an interesting phenomenon on television (at least here in the US) known as the home repair and craft show. Dedicated to showing viewers everything from how to change the washer in a sink to restoring a 113-year-old Victorian mansion that's been devoured by termites, these shows pretty much epitomize the diversity of all the possible subjects you can force-feed a passive sheep-like population. The fact that there are whole cable networks dedicated to these kinds of shows only serves to solidify this fact.
Now, like everything else, when used with moderation, these shows, like any other, have some intrinsic value. After all, when my toilet overflows after my four-year-old uses half a roll of toilet paper to finish her visit to the bathroom, it helps to remember that Bob Vila once pointed out where the shut-off valve was for toilets.
I have been subjected to quite a number of these shows over the years, thanks to a wife who likes to woodwork. Her favorite show is The New Yankee Workshop, a PBS offering that builds one nifty household thing from wood every week. It is always a source of amazement to me that the host Norm Abrams makes everything looks so easy. And why shouldn't it? After all, the man is working in a huge shop that has every known power tool on the planet. Need a rabbit joint? Got a tool for it. Biscuit slot? Got that too.
Now, not to take anything away from Mr. Abrams, because I am sure he is a very good carpenter. But I always start grumbling at the television when he works his woodworking voodoo--if I had a $500K workshop in my garage, I could build a small condominium too.
This is only a petty grumble, mind you. My record with the tools I do own is hardly exemplary. In fact, the number one use of my hand tools is usually in the kitchen.
The best example of this was one Thanksgiving, many years ago, when I was the one making the turkey. Even then, I was an okay cook, but that year I made a small error: I forgot to set the frozen bird out early enough for it to completely thaw by Thanksgiving morning. So, when I woke up in the pre-dawn morning, I found myself with a partially frozen turkey. Worse yet, the little plastic bag of giblets was still frozen inside the turkey.
In hindsight, I should have just put the thing in the oven at low temperature, waited for the bag to thaw, and pulled it out. But at the time, I figured a good set of pliers and a strong tug would do the trick. It worked, too, but my mother, who was in for the holiday, came upon me in the kitchen wrestling with a 20 pound turkey and a pair of pliers. She has never let me or anyone I cook for forget that incident since.
I am a big believer, you see, of using tools for something other than they were originally intended. Thus far, I have not landed in the hospital, so my practice seems sound.
So when I came upon NExS, it felt like I had found a product that was made by kindred spirits.