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Age-appropriate use of tools

I just found and fixed up a 1978, F-motor Lawnboy. This is nostalgic for me because that was the exact (as best I can remember) mower my dad owned when I was growing up; the first mower I personally used.

Thinking back, I must have been extremely young when I first mowed with it. (We had to be careful to buy UL gas “special” for the mower…as opposed to the TEL that went in the BMW Bavaria, so I’m guessing around 1980, give or take.) That would have made me–EGAD!–8 y.o., which would probably get CYS called today. (In fairness to my dad, I was a “gear head” in a big hurry to prove how “adult” I was, so I suspect I about held him hostage and demanded to mow.)

So, how old were you when you got to use the power tools? How old do you want your children/nephews/etc to be?

For me, I think I could trust a 15 y.o. to mow the lawn, but only after close supervision-then I’d let him use the line trimmer a half-dozen times and see if he handles that acceptably–appropriate footwear, eye protection at all times, etc. If he passes that test, then okay. I don’t think I’d let anyone <18 do second-story ladder work, however. I don’t under ANY circumstances, allow ANYONE of ANY age to come near my table saw or my hand-held cutting wheel…and I tremble a bit even when I use them!

(P.S. I used the mower, uneventfully, throughout my childhood. Eventually, familiarity bred contempt, and I broke my middle finger clearing a jam on my mower…at the age of 40. Lesson learned there!)

I remember cutting the lawn with our Sears gas mower at our first house, which means I must have been age 12 or younger. It had a “crank” starter where you would rotate the crank to tension the spring, then close the starter handle to release the spring, which would spin the engine. Parents gave me a quarter for cutting the grass. Slave labor!

I started using an assortment of power tools when I was about 13. The middle school I went to offered a shop class which ran the gamut when it came to tools so I took 2 years of that in the 8th and 9th grade. It was a mechanical Nirvana to me… :slight_smile:

That was my introduction to wood lathes, table saws, jonters, planers, welders, drill presses, assortment of large metalworking tools, along with a course in electricity.
Only one accident in 2 years and it wasn’t me. It was a good friend who ran the fingertips of his right hand underneath the 5 foot long blade of some metal shears. The docs managed to sew it all back together.

My preference, and it worked out, is that my kids be into their later teens before even using a hand drill. They’re far less interested in mechanical things than I am but that seems to be the norm anymore.

I was about 10 or 11 when I started mowing the lawn using a walk behind power mower. I worked on a ladder two stories up when I was around 14. I think I was on the roof cleaning gutters around 11 as well. My father wasn’t mechanically inclined and we did not have power tools.

I was 6 years old and just out of first grade when I started mowing with a reel type non-powered push mower. When I was 8, there were three of us about the same age that started a mowing business with that mower. We tied a rope on the front of the mower and two would push while the third boy pulled the rope. We each got a quarter for each yard we mowed. We did this for a couple of months and then our parents all got power mowers–reel type with an engine. I would mow, but it took me a while to be able to pull the rope (we wound the starter rope around the flywheel) hard enough to start the engine. I mowed with that mower for a couple of years until we got a rotary mower made by the Roto-Hoe and Sprayer company. The power unit was separate. One could bolt on the rototiller or bolt on the belt driven rotary mower. We had a big garden and I remember running the tiller. I thought it was a great invention. Before that, we had a push cultivator that I ran up and down the rows. In 1955, the summer before I went to high school, we got a 2 stroke LawnBoy mower. I learned how to replace the magneto points and condenser, put a new needle and seat in the carburetor and replace the piston rings.
I think the only power tool my dad owned was an electric drill. It came in handy. When I was in high school, it was determined that the old turn of the century house needed to be rewired. The bid from an electrician was about $350. My dad decided that we would do the work. He came home with a copy of the code and a how-to book. I had to use the drill to start pilot holes to set the junction boxes as the old house had oak beams. My dad bought me a soldering gun that I used to solder the wires. He had heard that wire nuts weren’t any good, so I had to solder each splice in the junction box, wrap the soldered splice first with rubber tape and then with plastic electrical tape.
About the only other power device we had was a 2 horsepower Sea King (Montgomery Ward) outboard motor that my dad bought at an auction sale the summer before I started 8th grade for $12. The next summer, I got it to run pretty well after taking the carburetor apart and cleaning out the gunk. It was really crude. Instead of a choke, there was a little button on the float bowl of the carburetor you pushed that raised the float. You held that button up until gasoline dripped on your finger. This allowed a rich fuel mixture into the cylinder so you could start the engine when it was cold. My brother and I thought that motor was great because we didn’t have to row when dad took us fishing.
My son doesn’t have much interest in mechanical things. However, you only have to show him how to do something once and he can take it from there. When he was in high school, I did volunteer work with a group called “Volunteer Home Maintenance”. We did repairs with donated materials for elderly people and others who couldn’t afford to hire the work done so that these people could stay in their homes. I could show my son once time how to use a tool or do a job, whether it was wiring or carpentry, and he would have it down and would get the job done.

I’ll ramble a bit . . .

Nobody in my family was very handy . . . lots of teachers, counselors, psychologists, etc.

My dad had me rotate his tires a few times a year, but he couldn’t show me anything else, as far as cars go . . . because he wasn’t a car guy

He did show me how to chop up wood for the fireplace. I never got reckless and nobody got hurt. I actually enjoyed that.

And I mowed the lawn and picked weeds. Early on, we had a manual mower, the kind that just spits out the grass. Later, we had an electric corded mower. The cord was always annoying

Took woodworking in junior high and electronics in high school. It was electronics for the house, though. But it gave me a basic understanding, and taught me how to read a wiring diagram . . . which is an invaluable skill. Not every mechanic is good at reading a wiring diagram, unfortunately

After I washed out of college, I did my 3 year auto apprenticeship. That’s when I really started becoming familiar with tools

I had to be taught everything. Nothing came naturally

Sadly, a lot of the guys in my apprenticeship who were handy or grasped a concept quickly, were also the bad apples. And all of them washed out. They were too young to realize that they were literally blowing a big opportunity. Since I had already washed out of college, I knew this was my last chance.

I learned to plow with a Allis Chalmers B at the age of 6. Made money mowing grass at 7. I had a mini bike a 8 and the tools to fix it. My kids mowed grass at 8 with a push and a rider. My oldest granddaughter (I have 5 granddaughters and 1 grandson) as been mowing grass since 8 and hunting since 7. I think it builds trust and skill. As all my kids and grandkids ask me if they can help with mowing or working on things. My grandson is 2 and tried to help his dad with a brake job. His arms were black with dirt, he was so proud. His Mom took a pic of him holding arms up and smile from ear to ear. So I think if the kids show they can do safely and you are sure they can. Let them go for it.

I became interested in electronics when I was in junior high school I bought a kit from Allied Radio (now Radio Shack) from which one could make a one tube radio, an AM transmitter, a signal tracer, and a few other circuits. I hooked up the radio following the pictorial diagram and it didn’t work. My dad looked at the instructions and saw the schematic diagram. He suggested that I trace the signal from the antenna to the earphones as best I could. When I did that, I found a cold solder joint at the coil and after re-soldering the joint, the radio worked.
I remember that I was allowed to leave the study hall in 7th grade and go to the library. I always liked the day of the month when the new Popular Science magazine arrived. I learned about automobile engines and what could go wrong by reading the “Tales from the Model Garage” --a series that appeared each month about an automotive malfunction that was diagnosed by Gus Wilson, the owner of the shop. There were also articles about electronics. One puzzler back then really caught my eye. It stated that an engineer needed a 16 1/2 ohm resistor to complete a circuit. However, when he opened his parts drawer, he only had 4 10 ohm resistors. The problem was to connect the 10 ohm resistors in such a way as to get 16 1/2 ohms. I took the problem up to the teacher who was monitoring the study hall. She said that she thought there was a way to do it, but she couldn’t remember enough of her high school physics. She took me down to the high school physics and math teacher. He explained the formulas for series and parallel resistance, but told me that I had to work out the problem. On the way back to the study hall the teacher that was monitoring the study hall told me to show her the solution when I worked it out. I had the solution by the end of the study hall period and laid the answer on her desk. I had great teachers back then that really encouraged me to think. Unfortunately, I’m afraid that today teachers are too busy helping students memorize facts so that they can pass state mandated multiple choice exams.


Was Allied Radio a decent business?

We all know Radio Shack is nearly worthless . . .

@db4690–Yes, Allied Radio was a decent business. It was a mail order business. Allied Radio had its own products it sold under the Knight and Knight kit name. That included radios, high fidelity amplifiers, turntables, record changers, tape recorders, tuners, amateur radio gear, and commercial communications equipment Allied also stocked vacuum tubes, radio parts, speakers, etc. They also sold amateur radio equipment by Hallicrafters, Hammarlund, National, Collins, etc., high fidelity equipment made by Sherwood, Grommes, Harmon-Kardon, Bell, Pilot, Rek-O-Cut, Garrard, Electrovoice, Altec-Lansing, J.B. Lansing and so on. I believe the Knight Kits offered by Allied Radio preceded the Heath kits sold by the Heath company.
As I recall, radio shack may have been in business and bought out Allied Radio and bought out Allied Radio or somehow merged with the company. Radio Shack set up retail outlets which Allied Radio didn’t have.
I bought quite a few things from Allied Radio and I couldn’t wait until the new yearly catalog arrived.

Lucky I have all the extremities I was born with, the joke in our family was if my dad could not fix it with the red screwdriver, call a repair man. So there I was 8th grade or so and my handy grandpa dies, well I needed to cut a board, and there was a buzz saw blade that fit into the hand drill. Cool I thought, well a rotary saw blade that fits into a hand drill is not a good idea. It kicked back, scared the p out of me,and luckily I was young and strong, never touched that thing again. Story from shop class, kid cut off his little finger not playing by the rules while using a joiner, a week later kids asked him how it happened, as his hand was bandaged he showed them with the other hand, lost the left hand pinkie also.

Barkydog; is that guy now a airline pilot??? Scary

I remember that my dad was extremely handy and built our own house when I was about 5years old. Auto work, electrical, plumbing, building, masonry, tiling, etc.,etc… I only remember a few times as a kid that he had to call an expert. And he tried to pass that knowledge on to me.
I think I was about 10 or 11 before I was allowed to mow the grass as a chore. My dad had an old reel type mower with a small motor mounted on it. If I remember right…when you got to the end of a row and wanted to turn, you would push down on the handle and the mower rested on a 3 inch round roller…that raised the wheels just a little off the ground so you could push and turn the thing. I do remember it was a chain drive.

I had my own hobby room in the basement and soldering or using a single edge razor blade to cut bulsa wood was common by age 7-8. I was a real model car builder and had a 4X8 plywood table where I build a raceway to show off my stock. All the buildings were balsa and lit up inside.
I would use very thin solder as conduit and they called them “wheatear” lightbulbs. With the lights off everything was lit up, and I think I had three train transformers to handle all the load.
I made wrenches by taking a piece of rosin core solder, splitting both ends with a razor blade, and then using a tweezers to bend them into open end wrenches.

I had a mini bike by 10 and was taught most of the repairs by my dad. That was the only injury as a kid with powered impliments. I thought my belt was slipping and reached down to check the tention…while going up a hill. Took the tip off my right middle finger, but a good doc sewed it back on.

My dad ran a “Bobcat” loader for a construction company. THey only let him run it because most others were too hard on it. I remember running that by age 10 at a site where we were taking the logs for firewood. THough, I do think that he made it clear “not to touch the throttle”. He ran a Batch plant where they mixed the ingredients for concrete trucks. I learned so much from him about everything. He ran a lot of big machinery

My grandson was only 8 when I let him use the electric tack gun, but I held the gun and he just pulled the trigger when I’d say.

I think it is all in the kid and what you think he/ she can handle and maybe guide them like I did with the tacker. I let him now at 10 to do a crosscut on the radial arm saw, but with real close supervision. I keep my hands on top of his. A rip cut…not quite yet!!!


I give credit for my mechanical aptitude to my grandfather, an MIT-trained architect and builder who used to let me watch and explain what he was doing when I was just a little tot. Nobody else in the family was interested, but I sat totally enthralled.

My dad was a retail business man to his core. He loved it. And he was good at it. But he couldn’t even operate a crescent wrench. I loved my dad, but I clearly didn’t get my aptitude from him.

Neither of my own kids ever developed any interest whatsoever in working with tools. I tried to expose them to it, but they just weren’t interested.

When I was 9 years old my folks decided to get me out of the city and sent me to my aunt and uncle for the summer. I was there every summer until I turned 17. 14 miles of country road to the nearest store or gas station. My aunt taught me how to drive when I was 10. At that age my duties were primarily around the house–keep the lawn mowed, garden tilled, burn the garbage every day. I got to check and add oil to the tractors and trucks in the morning before my older cousins took them out. By age 12 I was alone in the fields on a tractor, driving combine at 14. And there was always something to fix or build. I learned more in those years watching my uncle keep that place running than I have anywhere else.

My uncle taught all of us from the beginning to never be afraid of anything–machinery, snakes, whatever. Just to be careful, alert, and sensible. I think some people have that “sense” and some people don’t. I don’t know if I’m lucky or careful, but I’ve never broken a bone, required stitches (other than surgery), or had a work-related injury.

I had chores at 8 years old. They included mowing and raking the lawn, weeding the garden and small orchard. I did not mind mowing the lawn with the piece of crap Montgomery Wards mower but hated raking. When I was 10 my Dad bought a Toro reel type with grass catcher. I loved it!

Radio Shack used to be a terrific store. You could buy electronics kits that were not only useful, but top notch quality. I bought get a Dynaco integrated amplifier kit and a matching FM tuner. I still have the tuner. Unfortunately, they didn’t make good decisions along the way and aren’t particularly interesting for most things. I can find unusual batteries there, however.

Depends on the circumstances.

I had my own lawn mowing business when I was 12. I mowed 10 lawns a week ($5/lawn). Which in the mid 60’s was good pay for a 12yo. All using gas mowers.

My dad was a general contractor. I was working for him when I was 14. That includes up and down a ladder 2-3 stories high. I was using of my dads power tools (I still own a couple of them). I was supervised for a while…but before I turned 15…I was on my own most of the time…with the exception of the table-saw and radial-arm saw.

Most of the so-called ‘‘age’’ appropriate use of tools comes simply from …
– practice. –
No matter when they start, if they can practice alot before actually soloing on a repair or maintainence, then they’ll be much more able.
My young kids ( daughter included ) would assist me in disassembling anything. ( tape player, vacuum, lamp, stove, fridge, furniture, tv, vcr, game console, toys, etc. )
’’ but dad, what if we break it ? ‘’
’’ it’s already broken. Plus, we’ve already conceded to buying a new one. So, today we’re going to learn five things…; 1- how to take it apart and put it back together…2- why did it break ?..3-how NOT to break the next one…4- if maybe, just maybe we can actually fix it…and 5- you get to practice using the tools.

yeah, I worked full time in summer after I was 14 and could get permit. perdue farms paint crew, which in cluded very high climbing and all sorts of tools and for bricklayer /curb and gutter guy which is where I first hurt my back hossing around 80 lb bags on concrete when I weighed 115. the 70 lb bags of mortar were ok, the extra 10 lbs of concrete bags got me tho.

if the world ever descends back into anarchy the tool users will have an advantage.