Are Power Tools Corrupting Us?
Small Craft Advisor|November - December 2020
“Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” —First Baron Acton, 1904
By John Vigor

When Lord Acton made his famous statement about power tending to corrupt, he probably wasn’t thinking of tools for boats. But I’ve been wondering lately if we aren’t all being corrupted in some way by the increasing tendency of boat owners to reach for power tools, rather than hand tools, when there’s a job to be done.

What got me thinking along these lines was a passionate discussion on a boating bulletin board. Some lost soul was pleading for help. He had a small stainless-steel pin, something about 3/16-inch in diameter, and he wanted to know how best to cut through and remove it.

The response to his plea was immediate and enthusiastic.

“Get an abrasive wheel,” was the first piece of advice, “or get a large bolt cutter with hardened steel jaws.”

“No, no,” said another responder, “get a 4 1/2-inch angle grinder.”

I couldn’t stand it. I shoved my oar in: “Use a hacksaw,” I said, “it’s simple and it’s easy.”

Big mistake. A quick rebuttal followed. Cutting 416 stainless steel with a hacksaw would be incredibly difficult, said a boat owner who had apparently invented a new grade of stainless steel. “Get a 4-inch angle grinder and some metal-cutting blades,” he advised, “and safety goggles, of course.”

“No, no,” said the next poster in line. “An angle grinder can cause a lot of collateral damage. Use bolt cutters.”

That didn’t sit well with another poster. “Bolt cutters will crush the pin and you may not be able to get it out of the hole,” he warned.

And so it went on. The collective wisdom of the bulletin board ground away, taking much longer than it would have taken me to cut the damn pin with my little hacksaw.

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