I think most of us have found ourselves in a position where we needed a tool but we didn’t have it. That means we either have to buy it or borrow it. I have done my fair share of borrowing tools as well as loaning them out and some of those transactions have went well but others, not so much. Here are six rules that you should be following if you’re borrowing tools.
Rule Number 1
Ask. This seems like a no-brainer, but you would be amazed at the amount of times when someone has been using a tool that belonged to someone else and they just simply went over to their box, reached in, took it and decided that it was cool for them to use. I’ve had countless times where I was walking through the shop and saw someone using something of mine and I knew for sure that they didn’t ask. Most of the time, it’s not going to be a big deal to borrow that tool, but simply asking makes the whole process much more pleasant for everyone.
Rule Number 2
Use the tool properly. You know me; I am all about pushing the limits of proper tool usage. When you’re borrowing someone else’s tools, it’s really important to make sure that you’re using it properly. If I mess up one of my own tools by doing something dumb with it, like using my ratchet as a hammer, then that’s my problem, but if you wreck one of my tools by using it improperly or doing something silly with it, you have just bought me a brand-new tool. So be sure you’re doing everything you possibly can to use the tool properly in the way that it was intended and try not to damage it.
Rule Number 3
Bring the tool back when you are done with it. Like I mentioned, I’ve loaned out tons of tools and there are not many more frustrating things than having to hunt down your own stuff in order to do a job when the rookie apprentice or even the journeymen threw it on their cart and left it overnight.
Not only is that costing a professional technician time, which costs money, but it’s incredibly frustrating and makes me not want to loan tools to that person anymore. A lot of technicians have their tools in a very specific place and if you put it in the wrong spot, they might get mad too. It’s always worth the ask of, “hey, Johnny, where did this ratchet go that I borrowed from you the other day?” That prevents you from having to say things like “Jordan, is that where you got that ratchet from?”
Not bringing tools back when you’re done or in a timely manner is also another one-way ticket to never being able to borrow that tool again.
Rule Number 4
Clean the tool up before you bring it back. Look, I get it, tools get dirty, they get oily, they get greasy. I’m cool with that, but while you’re using it, if it gets dirty, take a rag and wipe it off. Don’t bring it back in dirty or cruddy or anything like that. It’s such a simple gesture and it helps out so much for that loan or loan me relationship. Also if it’s something high dollar like an electric tool or a diagnostic piece of equipment, make sure you do a really good job of cleaning your dirty fingerprints off of it as well.
Rule Number 5
If you break the tool, make sure you fix it. Broken tools are part of the game and I’ve broken tools from every brand of tool company that I’ve owned, so it happens, especially in the professional world. There’s nothing worse than opening your drawer and finding a little note on a socket that says, “sorry, this broke.”
If you break a tool while you’re borrowing it, if you can fix it, fix it — as long as that tool is then going to function exactly how it was designed. If not, replace it. Call the tool truck man and say, “Hey, I broke this. I need a replacement,” or drive to the store and get a replacement or fill out one of those online forms and get it sent to you.
Whatever you have to do to get that tool replaced, get it replaced. Unfortunately, all tools do not have a lifetime warranty and if that’s the case, it looks like you’re probably going to have to buy a new one. While that does really kind of stink, that is part of the risk of borrowing someone else’s stuff, and I touched on it briefly, but please just admit it. If it broke and you come to me and say, “Hey Charles, I was using this correctly and it broke,” I’m going to be way cooler with it than when I go to use it and just find that it’s sitting in my toolbox broken or if I sit down on my mechanics chair and find that the wheels are all broken after someone else used it.
These are all real things that happened, by the way, so fess up, admit that you broke it, figure out how to make it right and move on. This is a much better solution than trying to hide it because, no doubt, the person you borrowed it from is going to find out.
Rule Number 6
If you have to borrow it more than a few times, it’s time to buy your own. My rule was always either two or three depending on what kind of tool it was. After borrowing it that number of times, I would go ahead and buy my own. Some tools cost a stupid amount of money. As professionals, we rely on these tools to make our living. If you’re borrowing a tool, it’s because you don’t have it and you need to either save time, create less work for yourself or simply get the job done. Don’t be that technician who borrows everyone else’s tools to make money. It’s your job as a professional to have the equipment that you need in order to complete the task.
All that being said, there are some cases where I understand. As apprentices would come into the shop, I would always let them use my stuff because I didn’t want them going out on a tool truck and spending $10,000 that first week, but all the rules still apply.
You need to be building a tool list so you know what you’re going to buy, as well as respecting and taking good care of the stuff that you’re borrowing from other people. You need to treat it better than you treat your own stuff. If you do that and act like a normal human adult, you should have no problem with borrowing tools from people from time to time. I promise you, if you’re that dude who just goes into someone’s box and takes whatever you think that you need, you’re going to find yourself not borrowing tools really, really fast.
Happy tool loaning, happy tool borrowing and happy holidays!