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Thoughts on the home machinist packrat syndrome



Posted by Sean S on December 22, 00 (from the WWWMachine Shop board

Actually Forrest, that pic is the one I just sold (re-Bridgeport M head picture with boxes all around)
The new one, you can actually get a feeler guage around the perimeter of (for now).
You ask "are we sure we are living right?", which brings us to the very root.
In those quiet moments of self inspection, I think I would have to admit that for myself, I probably am not living "right". This "collecting", or "accumualting" is not uncommon. My G'pa had it, Dad had it, ol' Bill down the street who could fix my skateboard, and later, my car had it, etc.
I think it is a side effect of several positive things....
First, the desire to create, and to bave the resources to do so.
Then, the desire not to waste.
Also, the fear of being unprepared to accomplish the task at hand.
Add to this, that we have an appreciation...an almost admiration for objects that are well made and useful...even if they are not useful right now.
And finally, we can be entertained by these objects, and entertained by the potential they have.
At some point however, late at night while we sleep, these treasures that we have obtained cross the line and become counter-productive. They conspire to make you the tender of their existance instead of them the tenders of yours.
They take this brazen approach knowing full well that by our very nature, they will be safe from being discarded.
Perhaps you will recall that I made a thread about buying a Wellsaw from an old man.
This 80 year old man had a good 6k sq ft shop filled to the gills with "treasures" Most of them were ill-maintained...not because the man was a slouch, but because no human could possibly give due attention to that many things and still draw breath.
The final thing before letting us leave the place was that this gentleman asked us "What are you going to name the saw?", which led us into a long story about how his forklift was named "Alice", but in reality was him trying to relieve himself of the guilt of betraying his "duty" to that darned saw.
Sounds ridiculous, but I can recognise some of this in myself, and I will admit that my first reaction to walking into Bob's shop was envy....strangely enough. "Wow..look at all this cool stuff!!".
Well, anyway....
I'm trying to install some safequards into my workstyle..

"Will I use this in the next 2 months?"

"What could I put in that space if I got rid of what is there now?"

"Did I miss that since the last time I uncovered it?"

"Why *did* I save that anyway....can't remember RIGHT NOW?.......toss it"

"How many hands do I have?" (applies to 20 flathead screwdrivers)


Anyway, that's all for now....
I gotta run, my bandsaw "Bob" is calling me...


Posted by Brett near Portland, OR
In Reply to Sean's post-

Replaced a larger car with a geo metro to "make more room" in my already small 2 car garaage (new house, alreeady built). Have around the perimeter: 2 lathes, 1 small mill,2 drill press's, 3 grinding stations, chop saw, metal bandsaw,1/4" plate steel reinforced workbench w/vise,2 roll around toolboxes,2 machinist chests,cabinets galore, oxy-acetyline outfit, TIG outfit, AC-DC welder, air compressor, and LOTS of ETC. My "healing shelf" is always under heavy scrutiny.

I too, like Sean, inherited the "Accumulating" Gene, but get real joy tossing something out that I will never use, or supreme joy from being able to give one of my "treasures" to a fellow home shop machinist.

Spent all day yesterday re-arranging shop to make room for my Wade #94 lathe. Added cubic feet, yet gained more room. AND if I need more room, could always replace the other car with a Geo metro.....or possobly a Morris Mini.....or how about a motorcycle....or why not a moped.....Hell how about one of those little aluminum scooters .

Posted by Dave B on December 23, 00

Australian natives abound in my area,they own little and borrow constantly from my area, usually wake around noon for their toils that buy them their food, and yes I do believe they have little bags of stuff, too. Mostly all they will ever own.....As a man of the modern machine age I look at their life with disdain. I admit to being caught up in the price thing - I am frugal to a fault and wish to own everything on a discount, and sweat equity a bonus! I have retained many marginally useful items just to get the last of its use like some fine nectar, and freely admit I have too much "stuff" that I guard and protect from abuse of others, not as technical as I am....Approaching my fiftieth winter, I now answer youngsters questions with a book,and continue what I am with a smirk, having known too many that will not labor for excellence. They merely do a task. If anything, I stand accused of always making my tasks too complex. I plead guilty to making a task as good as my rescources and knowledge allow......1)I know how to have a neat garage, it is simple..Don't own anything. Borrow the broom to sweep out the dust from a neighbor and smile widely when you say thanks! He will never know he has been taken!...2) Or sit and look through the bolt buckets once more to find just the right shoulder nut for the neighbor kids coaster car and see the gleem in his eyes as he imagines another run down the hill with his buddies being left behind in his wake.............I have three buildings full of 'stuff' and almost can't get inside. It is becoming harder to do any work because stuff is in the way. The Answer is a bigger shop to move my shelves into and arrange it all for more convienience. Others come to ogle and borrow. I carp and bite. Some I teach lost tehniques, if they will spend the time. I don't think I'll trade organization for appearances, I like materials for free, wherever they are found..Like pennies in a jar, they add up. If you love what you do, It is never work, and the measure of your character is what you do......Dave B

[This message has been edited by Admin5 (edited 01-02-2001).]


New member
If you throw something away, you'll have to buy one for the next project. And it will cost 10x what you paid for the old one.


Active member
I couldn't pass up a darn good deal on carbide inserts for a boring bar that I haven't used in ten years. 100 inserts for under $20! The last time I bought inserts for this boring bar, they cost me over $7 apiece. My son's, son will be using those inserts after I'm gone!

Of course, I got the fifth degree for spending money we don't have right now by the wife!

Rick Hand

New member
I don't understand what you're talking about. My garage is simply too small. Now where did I put that....oh yeh...if I move this and maybe a couple more things I might get a glimse.....

Not exactly kidding; that is how my area is! I wish I were more disciplined in such matters but I grew up in a family without much and I can't stand to see perfectly good items "recycled" (scrapped) when they can be re-used as much more valuable items.

That's my story and I'm stickin' to it!



Active member
"What are the chances of a wind sweeping through a junkyard and assembling a Boeing 747?"
If it swept through my workshop it could hardly fail...

Uncle Ethan

New member
I sold and gave away a lot of what I accumulated over the years when I moved. Now I have a shop that is 24' x 30'- I have a old bandsaw that I will need to clean up and fix the gumed up gearbox, a Elgin table mill I will need to paint and free up the spindle, and I am looking at a 24" atlas lathe I will need to replace the lead screw on, and a WWII Turner surface grinder to assemble. I have a similar amount of wood working equipment and tons of reloading stuff. Once I am finished fixing the equipent I will probably begin to keep adding more until I can't move.


New member
I am a truffle rooting tool pig.There,I have admitted it to the World.Lately,I've been selling some stuff off,because I am too old to ever get to using some of the more esoteric things.I sold a new nichols head for half price because I knew I'd never really get around to adapting it to my harrison horizontal nor to I need to as I have a Bridgeport type,too.) but,being a tool pig,i have the stuff to convert the vertical to horizontal also. I sold a lathe center driver,because I have 3. I sold a universal Pratt and Whitney head to a guy who actually has that little mill. being exposed to this forum has been good for me,because I keep reading posts from people who really need something I've had for 30 years and never used. I'll keep looking for those younger who need help. My 30x40 2 story building,plus single car garage it was added to ,and full basement,and lawn building are just too full of stuff I've found too good to pass up. downside is I HATE packing stuff,especially heavy things that need extra strong packing. But,the forum has been good,because I can at least get satisfaction from helping others to become better tool pigs,too.

Dave Boley

New member
Hi Everyone,
Until today I never paid any attention to this particular forum. I guess I just decided to look around a bit since nothing of particular interest to me was happening on the forums I normally haunt. This thread caught my eye because I too have fought and lost the packrat war. I found it interesting that although many of the factors that motivate others are the same that drive me to be a collector. Therefore it seems that the causes and effects are universal among our type.

For as long as I can remember I have been exposed to all things mechanical and electrical. Junkyards have fascinated me for just as long. For example, I recently visited a place in Cleveland, OH known as HGR Industrial Surplus where I bought a Bridgeport mill. That place had eleven acres under roof filled with everything you could imagine being used in the world of manufacturing. In my enthusiasm to tell others of similar interest I described it as “Disney World for electro-mechanical motor head geeks.” Take a look at their site at www.hgrinc.com and you will see what I mean. If you have broadband, look at their video of their TV commercial at the bottom of their homepage. That will give you some idea of what the place is like. You simply cannot be one of us and leave that place without taking something home with you. If you go, take a big truck and or a trailer.

Now that I am retired and past the age of sixty, I too have begun to think that some of the stuff I collected with a use in mind will never actually get used. That combined with the fact that I only have so much room and so much time left in my life I have developed a personal code to follow regarding such matters. I have decided that it is inevitable that I will keep acquiring things and that other stuff needs to be discarded to make room for stuff coming in. The best rule of thumb I could come up with is this. If I have something that has been here over a year and has not been used or definitely designated for a project, I need to get rid of it. I also have decided that getting rid of something does not mean tossing it in the thrash or local landfill or selling it for scrap. Of course there are some things that there is no longer any practical use for and they have to go to one of the above places. Otherwise, I find someone who needs what I am getting rid of or sell it through eBay or at a flea market. I have had to adopt this code because I am too old to be building more buildings to keep stuff I’ll never get around to using. I was already into electronics, ham radio, welding and fabricating, and cars and trucks. In addition to all that I have acquired a real interest in machine tools that has added a Bridgeport Mill and a big old South Bend Lathe. As if that’s not enough, tonight I will probably going to get another lathe. Oh where does it end??? Answer: For our types, it never ends.

I do have one perpetuating motivation in all of this. With the advent of CNC and other modern techniques, most of the stuff I have is in danger of fading into oblivion or being pushed out of the way by all that cheap Asian crap. I know I won’t be around for much longer in the grand scale of things. I do have a son that has a lot of the same interests I do and he will acquire all of the stuff I have collected. I even have a big truck and trailer for him to haul it away with when the time comes. I’m not famous or even well known so there is little I can, or want do in the way of a legacy. I only want to be remembered as unique and interesting by those in my life I have touched in some personal way. Maybe passing all this stuff, including all my books, tools vehicles and machinery to my son, who I believe will keep it all, and ad to it is the best I can hope for. And for me that is enough.



New member
Oh, so that's what I am

"I am a truffle rooting tool pig. There, I have admitted it to the World"

LOL, I will be able to use this one for a good long while and I can't ever let SWMBO see that or it will be made known to all who come near.

G, Thanks for writing that one down, I love it. Doug

dirty old man

New member
Yall must be talking about me, "cause it fits to a "T"

Having turned 70 about a month ago, being a packrat can lead to serious problems finding stuff that I know I have somewhere, just where? Some of this stuff has come in handy at times though,examples: (1) When I installed a cabinet type blaster, I found I needed a reulator to reduce air line pressure to the cabinet. Remembering I once had one in a pile of stuff I salvaged that a shop was dumping 40 plus years ago, I rummaged around, found it, installed it, still works great 12 years later! (2) After enduring way too many GA summers sweating away in the shop, found a deal on a package 5 ton AC unit, used but not selling because it was 3 phase. That was no problem, as I have 230 volt 3 ph, but dang, I needed about 75' of 4 cond. 6 gauge to wire it, lotsa dollars! Again I rummaged around, found a 150' lenth of 2 conductor "UF" 6 gaige I had put away 30 years ago when it was given to me by a former landlord whose brother gave it to him! Anyway, cut it halfway, used colored plastic tape to color code it for 4 conductors, and still pat myself on the back every time I turn that AC on and feel the cool air rushing out into a sweltering shop on a hot day!
As long as I keep coming up with uses for this stuff, I guess I'll have to deal with the cluttered storage sheds as best I can!


New member
What!!! 5th generation collector, my lifes work!!! What Am I going to do with all the box cars I bought to be buried with?? You have given me an idea though. Maybe we can start some kind of exchange club. Your rating will be based on your age, for instance 20s=2 items, 30s=3 items 50=5 items, and so on. You list an item up for trade. I want your item, so I would have to trade you 6 items for your 1. If it was a successful venture within time I would only have to be buried with a couple of boxcars<G>.



New member
Damn Heretics

What the heck is wrong with you guys? I have NO guilt for being a packrat.I revel in it and will defend my "stuff" until the bitter end. Get over it world,I can look in the mirror and proudly say I AM A PACKRAT!!!!!
And as you know, the "T---w A--y" is not an option.


New member

Thank God I am not alone in this world......
This is great, but my thing is the cost and time to go and buy that .10 screw or bolt. Its worse today than when I put that screw away. I costs my $2.50 to go to town and one hour time, just to buy a .10 cent bolt.
will I ever quit being a pak rat, never . long live the RAT!!!!!!!!!!!

Dave Converse

New member
The worst thing that can happen to a packrat is to rummage through 5 years worth of junk and actually find something we need to fix some existing problem. That becomes license to pack away another 5 years worth of junk just in case......................


New member
I never feel bad about the things I drag home, I feel bad about the things that i didnt drag home. Tho I'm sometimes burdened by the many projects that never gets any time.

Great thread btw!


Active member
The worst thing that can happen to a packrat is to rummage through 5 years worth of junk and actually find something we need to fix some existing problem. That becomes license to pack away another 5 years worth of junk just in case......................

Naw, I think the worst thing is to keep a huge pile for 10 years or longer, then give in and discard the most useless seeming part of it, then later in the week badly need one piece in it that was thrown away and now can't be replaced at any cost. That not only gives you cause to never discard anything ever again, and hoard everything you can, it pisses you off that you made such a grevious mistake that you'll never forgive yourself for...

thanks for making me feel better i am the family joke the way i keep everything i am in the process of cleaning up my barn and all i seem to do is move things around lol you all have a nice day and KEEP SAVING THAT PRICELESS JUNK LOL JACQUES


New member
My Name is John and I am a PACK RAT.....

Used a one car garage for a shop, got too small
Moved, now have 18x32 shop, 3 car garage, 20' storage trailer out back. Still have no room.........

But, I know as soon as I throw it away........... it will be missed and needed......


New member
My wife and I built our own house 20 years ago. It was a great excuse to buy tools to do the job. It is a 2,300 sq.foot ranch with a full basement. 90% of the basement is workshop. My career training is as a Shop teacher. The home shop is now better than most high school shops.
My goal has been to have my wife come up with some idea for me to create something and I don't have to go to the local hardware store or lumber yard to get anything. I have all I need on hand. Similarly, I like to come up with my own ideas and still not have to go anywhere for supplies.
My problem is this CRS disease - I have it, it's getting worse and I can't find the stuff I know I have somewhere. Then I go looking and I forget what I am looking for...

I think we do get to a peak in our lives though - we collect and we collect some more. At some point we begin to realize that we don't have enough time to finish everything we have lined up. We have peaked. Now we begin to refine our collection, going for quality rather than quantity. We begin passing collected valuables to worthy associates, trying to slim down the collection (a painful process indeed). Sons, appropriately trained, are good recepients.
Finally, some of us have been fortunate in attending auctions of others with the same collection gene. If our wives have been along we could say "See, I'm not near as bad a collector as this guy was, I'm rather conservative actually". It helps her understand and is good for our ego as well.

And then there is the idea that we are here on earth to get a certain amount of things done before we die. This is a great theory. If it is true, I am so far behind that I will never die...