Friday, July 5, 2019

There’s no app for that

This post is inspired, in part, by someone on a nomad forum musing about extremely portable sources of electricity for way-off-grid living. He wondered what it would require to charge the batteries for his cordless tools. My reaction was that if he really wanted extreme portability he should eliminate the electrical tools and go with good old human-powered ones.

Back in the 50’s my father finished our unfinished tract house basement—new stairs, two bedrooms with built-in cabinetry, a bathroom, a laundry room, a laundry chute, a food and supplies storage room, and a recreation room with a table that folded out of the wall—all without power tools. Not even a circular saw or drill. Here I am, sixty years later, whining to myself when I have to use an ordinary screwdriver instead of an electric one. Waaaaa! So much wrist turning! Woe is me!

We live in a time when we expect everything—including thinking—to be as labor-free and painless as possible. But being a nomad means living as lightly and as uncomplicated as we can. Those two goals are often at cross purposes.

I’m not sinless in this regard. I have a refrigerator and the solar equipment to run it. I could’ve changed my diet to only things that don’t need refrigeration, but I likes my cold beverages. A lot. And I like my computer, and my phone, and my camera. And my fan. And my cordless drill. I’m not a Luddite. I just consider the costs—monetary and otherwise—of my conveniences. Does saving labor here require more labor elsewhere? Ain’t no free lunch. Especially if you want a cold drink with it.

Besides, you can’t make sweet, spooky music with a power saw.


  1. Obviously, this sort of thing happened once-upon-a-time, but looking at what your dad did is still mind-boggling.

  2. I have a manual screwdriver with a ratchet handle so it is still easier to use than a regular one. That enough of an upgraded tool for me. It sure was great for tightening overhead screws in my van, though. (I found out they needed tightening when I found one on the floor.)

  3. There is a large segment of wood workers who choose only to use human powered tools. There are forums for it, magazines, TV shows and a number of schools as well. Of course in the USA it is an exotic way to work but in many areas of the world power tools are simply not an affordable or convenient option and off-gird is normal for many.

  4. I think saw music would be perfect if one was inclined to summon ghosts.