Gear Acquisition Syndrome
The acronym is commonly used by musicians. They are well known for always thinking that they are one piece of gear away from nirvana and that one last piece is going to fill a hole left by skill or talent. In reality no piece of gear is going to make their recordings sound better.
As a musician by trade… I hate G.A.S. It drives me nuts. I use as little gear as I can without the quality suffering. It seems like the more amateurish musicians are, the more they blame the gear.
So why am I talking about musicians? I think an alarming number of woodworkers suffer from G.A.S. You and I both know it should be Tool Acquisition Syndrome but woodworkers and musicians also share an affinity toward fart jokes.
Few of us really need every tool in the chest, have no redundancies, and nothing sitting unused collecting (saw)dust. For many of us collecting tools is an important part of the hobby, and that’s fine. Some people rarely use the tools at all. If there was a scale between “tool collector” and “tool user” I’d much rather tip it towards the “user” end.
When I first got into woodworking I had a an interesting conversation with my wife’s uncle Ray Jones. Ray’s woodwork and turning are second to none. I respect what he has to say on everything, especially woodworking. His message was simple. You don’t need all of the tools that they’d like to make you think you need. Use what you have. Figure out a way of getting it done with what you have. Many people have done more with far less.
I took the message to heart because it makes sense. I passionately feel the same way about musical gear.
I’ve tried to come up with some ground rules for buying tools.
- If the tool you have is dangerous, replace it.
- If a tool is really going to make your final product better, buy it.
- If a tool is going to open up an avenue of creativity that wasn’t open before, buy it.
- If you are making money and a tool will speed up the process and therefore cover it’s own investment, buy it.
- If all of the bloggers are using it and it’s so friggin’ cool and oh mah gawd… I gotta have it, wait awhile, then don’t buy it.
- You’ve gotta have a really good reason to have redundancies in your tool collections (how many festool sanders do you guys really need?)
If I had lots and lots of money and bought a tool when I thought I needed one I’d have a basement filled with tools that were all wrong for what I do. I went from wanting every power tool ever made, to wanting to be an all hand tool user, to being a “use what works best” woodworker. I don’t need stacks of planes the same way I don’t need five routers. I just thought I did.
I used to have a rule about musical instruments. When I was ready to buy something, money in hand I would wait three days. If after those three days I still wanted it, I bought it. I was shocked how many times I changed my mind after a few days.
These days I am more apt to wait three weeks when mulling over a tool purchase. The financial stakes are relatively the same, but my education level and justification is generally much weaker.
All of this to say… I think I’m gonna be buying a new table saw soon. My current one is dangerous, inaccurate, and even though I make very little money woodworking it is slowing down my production enough to justify the purchase. Thus begins the long process of research, accounting and getting rid of the emotional factor as much as I can.
Plus it’ll be sssoooo coooooolllll!!!!11!!1