Choosing the right tool

· mumblings ·

This week, I have found myself fixing things, completing jobs that have been languishing for too long in my ’todo’ pile. In the process, I have been thinking about the importance of choosing the right tool for the job.

Weeks ago, the freewheel on my single-speed bike broke. The ratchet seems to have worn badly, so that it suddenly gives way while you are pedalling — unnerving and rather dangerous if you are pedalling hard. I consulted with our local bike repair place, who told me that the freewheel would probably be really difficult, if not impossible, to remove. Since pedalling gradually tightens it on the threads of the hub, after a while they can get really wedged on. The suggestion was that removing it would probably wreck the hub, which was disappointing, as there is nothing else wrong with my wheels or hub.

I’ve got a flip-flop hub with another freewheel on the other side (albeit with a slightly higher gearing), so while I was figuring out what to do, I just flipped over to the working freewheel and put up with the harder workout. I was determined to try and fix it myself though. I ordered a new freewheel, chain (since the old one was also rather stretched), and — reluctantly — a new wheel. Mr. Bsag uses the same type of wheel, so I figured it would be a useful spare for either of us if I ended up not needing it. I also got a Park Tool freewheel removal tool of the right type, which engages with the notches in the freewheel and provides something for your adjustable spanner to grip.

I took the wheel off and gave it a spirited go. Nope. That thing was not budging at all. After straining my rather puny muscles to their limit, it was still stuck and I was irritated. Surely it couldn’t be impossible to remove these things? I felt that what I needed was a better grip on the freewheel tool than the adjustable spanner could provide, and a lot more leverage (Archimedes knew what he was talking about). Then I found the mighty Park Tools freewheel remover wrench. That thing is over a foot long and built like a tank. It is also very expensive for a single tool, but I reckoned that it was probably not going to be the last time that I would face this battle, so it would pay for itself if it meant I didn’t have to keep buying wheels (not to mention avoiding waste).

I dragged my heels for days after getting the tool, but eventually slouched off into the garage to wrestle with the freewheel. Amazingly, it worked a treat: I applied firm pressure, but it loosened without me risking rupturing a muscle. I know that bad workmen/workwomen blame their tools, but the flip side of that is that sometimes you really do need the right tool in order to get anywhere.

The second task that I had been putting off was to try to do something with my photoblog. I had fun building my own photo site, but it was an unwieldy beast. Since I upload photos in batches rather irregularly, I would invariably find that I had forgotten how my own system works (something I do with embarrassing regularity with all my own systems), or that something had broken. As a result, it felt like a chore and I had a pile of photos that had been waiting months to get posted.

I had been playing with Blot for a while, and realised that it would probably work well, particularly as there are some new themes which are great for displaying photos. If you haven’t come across it, Blot is magical. You set up a Blot site, pick a theme from a nice selection, and then you drop Markdown or plain text files, Word documents, images and so on into a Dropbox folder, and each is posted as a blog post. It is incredibly low friction, but also quite adaptable if you want to tinker. For example, you can use the filename to specify a date for the post, a title and even a tag or category.

I used the new ‘Archive’ theme which has everything I want, and — when I finally got around to it — found that it worked perfectly to recreate my photoblog. Now all I need to do is use a process recipe in Capture One to embed the necessary info in the filename and save it to the right folder, and it instantly updates my site. I’ve switched the domain name over to this new site, so Wings Open Wide is now proudly hosted on Blot. Again, it just needed the right tool for the job.