Tag: tools

Green Machine


You might recall that the answer to “What do you get when you tell the leñero (firewood seller) that you don’t want pieces longer than 40 cm?” was “an excuse to buy a chainsaw.” This does not suggest that I went chainsaw shopping. However, seeing a small gas-powered chainsaw for sale at Géant for USD 119 — and with a one-year guarantee*  — and having exactly USD 120 in my wallet … well, seemed that fate she was a-speakin’ to me. Starts right up, cuts well, even came with a replacement chain.

* typical no-name Chinese power tools typically sell here with a two-month guarantee.

The säge saga

I helped one of my son’s friends build a bookshelf unit over the weekend. At the end, he had a piece of thin plywood for the back, that proved a little tricky to cut on the table saw. No problem, I said, I’ll use the circular saw.

Except it proved to be suddenly dead.

Well, I said, I can cut it with the blade on the angle grinder. But even with a very light load, it bogged, then started smoking. So the hell with tricky. We managed to cut it on the table saw, and finished the project.

Yesterday I dismantled the circular saw and tested the switch, then remembered that when I bought it from a German guy several years ago he had given me something else, replacement brushes for the motor. After a bit of searching, I came up with one, and dismantled the saw further. Voilà! Relatively painless to replace the brush, reassemble the saw, and it’s back in action!

Walter the German handkreissäge is happy again.

Not so the angle grinder (amoladora). It addition to being more challenging to dismantle, in the end I couldn’t get to the switch, which I suspect partially melted.

And I thought Hyundai made quality stuff.

It is the only thing I’ve bought here for which I cannot find a receipt, but I’m pretty sure it’s been over a year, if it even had a guarantee that long (the cheap Chinese power tools come with a two-month guarantee: inspires confidence!).

So, this becomes another addition to the next Montevideo trip: find their service center and see if it can be repaired. It may not be worth it, but anything with electronics, a motor, or an engine costs 60-100% more here than up north.

Getting it done without heavy-duty, specialized tools


I watched, fascinated, in the local ferretería (hardware store) as Fabian manufactured an extension cord for a woman. Previously he had manufactured a 17-meter ethernet cable for me, unplugging the store’s computer to test it, and it shouldn’t be a surprise to see an extension cord made to order, as opposed to bought off the shelf, given the number of possible outlet and plug combinations in Uruguay.

What did surprise me was the tool Fabian used: a pair of scissors, to split the end of the lamp cord and then strip it for the connections. For many years, I’ve relied on linesman’s pliers and dedicated wire stripper (green, above). Early on in Uruguay, I watched an electrician and subsequently bought what he had (cheap yellow and black pliers), realizing they’re much more practical for household use: lighter and pocketable.

But I’ve never quite mastered the art of stripping wires using the pliers’ built-in cutter, which is how it’s done here (in Mexico as well). Perhaps I will have better luck with the scissors.

While others complain about high prices and lack of consumer choices here, I remain fascinated with how people get things done without the exact tool I thought they would need.