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Thursday, September 16, 2004
Home Improvement…

…no, I’m not talking about the old show on ABC with Tim Allen. Nor am I about to divulge the plans for a complete remodel of my own 8 year old house (because there isn't such a plan). I’m going to talk about women in general doing home improvement projects and the tools they use to accomplish such tasks.

Americans spend $132 Billion on home improvement annually – women make 81% of home improvement decisions, and they’re taking on a lot of those projects themselves. According to Home Depot, in 2003, 75% more women are doing home-improvement projects than they did five years ago. In a survey of women, 45% had purchased hand tools in the last year; 29% purchased power tools.

Power tools. I like power tools. I buy power tools. I've rarely used them – I give them to DH as presents. I don't go wrong with tools. Ah, but I digress…

Women, according to the survey, want to do more projects like replacing doors and windows, painting and wallpapering, and installing lights or ceiling fans. I hope they don’t do what my HR Director did and put the blades in the fan before connecting the fan to electricity. He’s really lucky he didn’t take an appendage off – he’s also very dumb for admitting doing this to any of us because we aren’t letting him forget it. Again, I digress... I promise not to do that again.

Women are buying more tools and using them. This too, is a good thing. I’m a woman, and I’m no stranger to tools and construction. When I was little, my dad put a screwdriver in my hand and taught me how not to strip a screw by over-tightening it. First, however, he showed me what over-tightening could do. I watched (and helped) him re-wire a light switch. I learned how to handle a hammer that was way too big and heavy for my little piano-playing hands….

… now I’m a lot bigger, but I still have delicate and thin piano-playing (and stitching) hands. As do lots of other women. But someone saw an opportunity and someone else in marketing probably got involved, and thought that smaller hands need smaller tools. That’s right – there are now tools made especially for women’s hands. They’re lighter, the grips are smaller, and they’re color coordinated.

Say again? That’s right… they’re color coordinated. In black with a pretty teal highlight (even the electrical tape is teal), or light blue grips. Or lavender - they've not come up with pink grips yet, but the minute they do, I think I'll need to throw up. What, do they think we need Barbie Tools? One company packages their tools in a lovely teal case that you could stash on a pantry shelf; another in a 'stylish tote'. Another company sells a T-shirt with their company logo and the slogan “Find Your Stud” on the back.

Ah, the smell of feminism and flowers is in the air. Tra-la-la!! La. La.

A lot of these tools are simplified for easier use and they are innovations that I'd like to see in standard tools. It's a lot easier to change the blade in a utility knife when you don't have to get a screwdriver out to open it up. A built in level on a power drill is just plain smart. But one that I noticed is a tape measure that has fractions on it instead of the standard hash marks.


On a tape measure.

If you can't read a standard tape measure and count the hash marks yourself to figure out how long/tall something is, you probably have no business working with a tape measure, even *if* it has fractions. I went into the workshop here at work and picked up a tape measure. The smallest the hash marks went on it was 1/16th of an inch. 16 isn't a hard number to work with - the halfway hash mark is usually the tall one in the middle - that means its 8/16ths. 4/16ths would equal 1/4 inch. It's not difficult math people - so why would the fractions need to be spelled out? *sigh*

One company goes so far as to sell their tools via home parties, with audience participation in drilling things, using a screwdriver, and supportive encouragement. I can just hear Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor now with what he would be calling them: Tupperware Tools. He'd have a valid point - one of the companies was dreamed up after the founder attended a Pampered Chef party.

The founder of that company has been heard to say that you don't need a sledgehammer to hang a picture, and that's why her 8 oz hammer is perfect for women and those small jobs around the house. Now, I know (and I'm sure you know) that you don't use a sledgehammer to hang a picture in the house. You use sledgehammers for knocking out the crooked 2x4s that the contractors who are building your new house have put up. (Another nugget learned from my dad, as I watched him do this.)

For years upon years women have done home improvement projects by either hiring someone to do them, making them part of the "honey-do" list, or by doing it themselves, and they've been doing these jobs with the tools that you still find in the hardware stores. Yes, men have been targeted in the advertising of the tools, but they've never said that they aren't for women. And now that women have tools made specifically for them, what does that make the unisex ones?

Now you'll have to excuse me while I go take my Leatherman (ever-present in the pocket of my jeans) and wander off to do something with the Industrial Engineer of the company that involves using tools....

...non-color coordinated, heavy, power tools.