Tool Foolery

When you’re first starting out as an odd-jobber, you’re unlikely to have a lot of tools. Not unless you had some money put aside to invest in new business ventures. You’re going to have to build up your arsenal a little at as time, as and when you can afford it. The type of work your getting, and the problems you find keep coming up, will help you figure out what you need to buy at the time.

Having said that, if you can afford to invest a little money into buying tools before you start though, it will definitely help avoid embarrassment when a client’s tool breaks while you’re using it. Look after client tools as well as you can, but sometimes they just break.

It might be because it was a cheaply made tool only meant for light work, and the work that needs doing is too much for it, but sometimes your client won’t share this opinion, and just sees that you broke their stuff. If at all possible, avoid working for clients that jump straight to accusing you of deliberate misuse. Keep the clients that are more worried about whether or not you hurt yourself when the tool broke.

If at all possible, have the right tool for the job before you start. If the right tools aren’t available, or you’re not sure, it’s a good idea to manage the client’s expectations beforehand. “It looks like the ground is really hard. We could use the fork and spade, but it’ll take a while. A mattock would be better if you have one.” for example.

This also helps with under-promising and over-delivering. If you tell the client that it’s going to take a while, but then do the job well in less time than they expected, they’ll be a lot happier than if you say, “No problem. I’ll have it done in a jiffy”. Chances are, you’re going to come across some issues you didn’t anticipate. Don’t be afraid to undersell yourself, then allow your actions to speak louder than your words.

Back to tools. Chances are, when you’re first starting out you’ll have very few of your own tools. You may not know enough about DIY and Gardening to know whether or not the tools provided are going to be good enough. You’ll just have to take care, and be willing to learn.

Chances are, you’ll be working for people that used to be able to maintain their home and garden themselves. They have all the tools, and the knowhow, but their body is letting them down. Make sure they know that you’re new to this work, but you are willing clay, and let them teach you.

Sometimes the client may not know much themselves, having always relied on a late partner or other handy-folk. Luckily, you can make use of the internet to search for how-to guides and videos for nearly everything you’ll be asked to do. You can also ask friends and relatives that have done Gardening and DIY themselves, including me. I’ll be happy to help anyway I can.

Don’t beat yourself up for not knowing how to do everything already, or for not having all the tools necessary for every job. I started with only the experience I’d gained from helping my parents and having (briefly) been a homeowner myself. You’ll learn a lot, very quickly, and before you know it you’ll be able to make suggestions about how best to tackle the job.


The Viking

I’ve been wondering lately if I should get back into writing. When I saw that Facebook was piloting subscription groups, I even thought about resurrection the old ‘Creative Writers’ group from the dead. If I could collect a small subscription fee from each member it would help make up for the time and effort I would put into running the group. However, I don’t really have the time.

I had another idea. A way to get back into writing without taking time and focus away from the odd-job business. Tool and equipment reviews! Ideally I’d be using a wearable camera to record a first-person view as I’m working. For right now, I’ll have to make do with using my phone. 

Also, I have a new logo!

I’m going to talk to businesses, most likely starting with the local Builders Merchant, Travis Perkins, and ask them if they have any tools they’d like me to review. Perhaps even tell them what jobs I’ve got coming up so we can pick products that would fit with what I’m doing. Even if they don’t offer to pay me from their marketing budget, having some free tools to use in exchange for a review would certainly help my bottom line.

First, I think I need to write a few sample reviews, based on equipment I get to use already, so they can see exactly what I have to offer. Hopefully you can help me get my readership numbers up by sharing this and subsequent review articles to anyone and everyone you think might be interested. Don’t just spam everyone. That’s just annoying. Be selective 🙂

So here comes my first ever non-geeky review article ever (unless you geek out about garden equipment). It’ll be shorter than future ones, since I’ve already blathered on for quite some time now just introducing you to the idea.

The Viking!

Today I got to use a Viking GE 355 wood chipper. I first tried using it in the summer to get rid of some hedge trimmings, but I hadn’t been able to figure out how to turn it on. No amount of poking the switch was working. It had been sitting in the client’s garage for quite some time and I was worried that it was in need of repair. I put it back in the garage until I could get around to tinkering with it.

Thankfully, it was only the well-used extension cord that was faulty. I plugged it in directly to the electric socket and it worked right away. There was quite a pile of garden waste built up over the summer. A lot of it had been burned, but it’s been too damp lately to get the fire to catch, so I thought I would give the Viking a try to get rid of the rest, making use of a new power extension lead.

I discovered that it dealt with the smaller twigs and sticks with no problem, but it got choked up and stopped if it was over-filled. Particularly if there was anything over an inch thick being fed through along with the lighter stuff. Luckily the two black knobs at the top of the base are bolts that allow you to easily remove the feed hopper from the base and get to the blade. Making clearing any bits of wood that are jamming up the works super easy.

I’d highly recommend making sure the blades spin freely before you put it all back together. It’s a little frustrating to think you’ve cleared the blockage, only to have the motor stall again. You can’t test the motor before you put it back together. The blades won’t turn without the bolts screwed back in. A good safety feature really, but having to take it apart again because you weren’t thorough is annoying. 

All in all it’s a good bit of kit. It will even chew up the thicker pieces if you don’t put anything else in with it, and just let it chew. I have trouble maintaining the patience for this. It’s really helpful that you can open it up so easily. 🙂