Ever smell a smell or hear a song and it brings you back to an old memory? The smell of linseed oil always brings me back to my grandfather’s cottage shed. My grandfather was a carpenter by trade and a volunteer firefighter. His relied on his tools to put food on his family’s table for decades. Long after retirement the tools all hanging in that shed he built, still looked like they came off the shelf at the hardware store. He took pride in his work and it showed in both his tools and whatever he built. I have carried that ethic into the firehouse and instilling this ethic into my crew.
The beginning of each shift, my crew does a truck check. Our first shift in for the tour we do a formalized inventory check, that check gets submitted and filed away. Each proceeding shift of that tour we preform more of an ‘‘informal” truck check. This check consist of all the normal safety checks of the rig, and additionally each riding position maintains their tools. If any pertinent intel from the off going crew or if there was a call of substance we will give special attention to the tools that were used. Every shift though, immediately after my gear is placed on the rig I check my tools: TIC, Flashlight, Spare Flashlight, Halligan and Rex Tool. It is not just a visual check, I remove them from where they are stored and if i notice rust on the metal tools the rust gets removed and i proceed to put a coat of oil over them. The oil we use is nothing special, it is just chainsaw bar oil. I have found that bar oil works pretty well for coating tools because of its viscosity. The other day, while working on another crew, the probie asked what i was doing and if I needed help or if he wanted me to finish up. I told him this was something I do in the beginning of each shift and explained to him how I like to maintain the tools. It forces me to take the tools off the rig, visually and physically inspect them. After awhile of preforming this maintenance I feel like I know these tools better than the back of my hand.
But what about the other hand tools that are not used everyday, tour, or maybe not even off the rig in a month? I would like to say that I was diligent enough to oil all the tools, but I am not and nor do I hold that expectation on my crew. Tools that rarely get removed from the compartment on jobs still get inspected but they also get a fresh coat of paint when needed. For example we have six hooks in our ladder compartment that are not protected by the elements, if we were to polish them down to the metal and just use oil, our entire winter would be spent maintaining these six tools. When tools are exposed to the elements I have no issue with painting tools so as long as we still do our job of maintaining them. Even painted tools still can rust, so the rust will need to be removed and a light coat of paint applied.
I think of a master carpenter or mechanics, do you hire the mechanic or carpenter with rusty banged up tools not kept in any order or do the opposite? What does a homeowner think when we show up with rusted tools? Don't forget their tax dollars or donations probably bought that tool. Dirty tools are not the sign of a busy company they are the sign of a lazy company.