Originally created 09/02/01

Tools of their trade

Monday marks the United States' 108th consecutive Labor Day holiday. But the tradition is a little older than that. The Central Labor Union in New York organized a nationwide "workingmen's holiday" on the first Monday of September in 1884. A decade later, after 23 states had adopted the holiday in honor of workers, President Grover Cleveland signed a bill making it law in August 1894.

The Augusta Chronicle recognizes local laborers today. We asked some of them what tool they couldn't do their jobs without.

Dave Smith, lieutenant, Augusta-Richmond County Fire Department

Most important tool: air pack

What it does: Provides fresh air to firefighters in a smoke-filled building, in much the same way a scuba diver's air tank does.

"This is my lungs in a hostile environment," Lt. Smith said.

The pack sits on a firefighter's back and supplies air to a mask covering the eyes, nose and mouth.

Lt. Smith keeps the pack in his seat of the fire truck.

"I put it on every time I go to a call," he said. "If you have to run back to the truck to get it, you've wasted valuable time."

Each pack lasts about 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the user.

"It depends on how hyper you get," Lt. Smith said. "You learn to pace yourself."

Walt Dunaway, house framer, Dale Lenard Construction

Most important tool: E-swing hammer

What it does: The E-swing hammer is made with a slender neck to maximize the effort put into each drive.

Mr. Dunaway uses a 28-ounce hammer for the heavy-duty work he does all day.

"I pull it out of my belt at least 75 times a day, if not more," he said. Swinging the hammer is very good forearm exercise, he said.

Although air guns have taken some of the effort out of driving nails all day, Mr. Dunaway prefers to drive nails manually because a hand-driven nail will stay in place better than one driven by an air gun, he said.

Lee Eddie, lineman, Georgia Power

Most important tool: protective gloves

What they do: These leather or plastic gloves lined with rubber prevent electrical shocks.

"We wear them anytime we are in reach of any energized line," Mr. Eddie said. "I probably have them on at least three-fourths of each day."

Gloves are tested and inspected every 90 days for minute holes. Each power line carries about 7,000 volts of electricity. The gloves are all that separates Mr. Eddie from that power.

Scott and Keith Anderson, landscapers, Anderson Horticultural Concepts

Most important tool: hand pruner

What it does: A pair of hand pruners allow landscapers to be more selective in their trimming. An electric trimmer cuts across everything.

"It creates a more informal appearance," said Scott Anderson. "It's almost like a little bit of art."

The Andersons keep their pruners attached to their belts, within easy reach.

"We use them in all the areas where we can," said Keith Anderson.

The Andersons prefer Felco pruners; with weekly sharpening they can last 12 years or more.

Aaron Clements, auto technician, C&C Automotive

Most important tool: scan tool

What it does: A scan tool plugs into a car's computer systems and reads ingoing and outgoing messages.

"It's a window into the car's computer," Mr. Clements said. "It's just a way of talking to the car in its language."

When car computers began getting more complex about 20 years ago, auto shops began using scan tools. Newer cars can have as many as eight computer systems.

"If it wasn't for the scan tool, we'd have no idea of where to go look for problems," he said.

The tool doesn't spell out each problem but gives a series of codes and numbers.

"I think of myself as an interpreter between a scan tool and the customer," Mr. Clements said. "The most important item in the whole shop is between the technician's ears."


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