Track Your Tool Mooching with a Basement Borrow Board


HIM: So, where are we at with the kitchen door project?*
HER:  It’s almost done, but I still need to sand it.
HIM: OK, then finish sanding it.
HER: Fine. Bring me the sander.
HIM: I can’t find it.
HER: Didn’t somebody just borrow it? I think Matt and Megan. For their kitchen. I’ll text them.
HER: Nope, they gave it back to us a month ago.
HIM: What about Tamra?
HER: Couldn’t be. Tamra moved in July. Besides, she gave it to Mindy. And then Mindy gave it back, like, a million years ago.
HIM: MICHAEL! Michael borrowed it to redo their picnic bench.
HER: Whew! Guess I’m not finishing the door today. Who wants a snack?

          (END OF SCENE)

Home ownership requires lots of tools.  Tools for the yard. Tools for the toilet. Tools for breaking plaster, and then fixing plaster. Tools for painting, thinning paint, drying paint, stirring paint and stripping paint…

img_4661Scott and I are lucky. Sure, we impulsively bought a house that’s barely standing. But so did many of our neighborhood friends, and they did it years before us, and thus already bought all the tools.

Most of our friends could be described as resourceful, know-it-all socialists: folks who proudly wear thrift store underwear, but wouldn’t be caught dead letting their friends BUY a post hole digger to just to build a fence, when they’ve got a perfectly good one in their basement.

But like other popular forms of swapping (i.e., cookies, interest rates, spouses and credit defaults) it can get complicated, possibly igniting a global economic meltdown. Just look at this corner of our basement! Whose stuff is this, anyway?!

basement-corderANSWER KEY:
1)  Gin and Michael’s iron rebar spike and sledge hammer
2)  Matt’s child seat rack attachment
3)  David’s post hole digger
4)  David’s porch-scrubbing kit

Who could possibly keep track of all that stuff borrowed and loaned? To assist in preserving your official Tool Borrowing and Lending Score (ToBALS), I’ve developed this patented two-column accounting system, The Borrow Board. 


STEP ONE: Scrounge around for some type of paintable board – scrap wood, MDF or wood paneling that fell off the ceiling of your basement.**

dsc_0252 If you found some water-stained, irregularly shaped MDF board in your basement, go ahead and cut the rotten end off with your (probably borrowed) circular saw.


Wipe off the spider webs, paying special attention to the egg sacs, because spiders get really mad when you mess with their baby sacs.  Apply one coat of latex primer, or two if your board is especially moldy or if you just made a spider egg omelette.


For those of you just skimming this blog post or only reading the captions, note that we are not painting our board with Organic Plain Whole Milk Yogurt. Though if you did, that’s what you get for not paying attention.

STEP TWO: Generously slather on at least two coats of chalkboard paint, which is available at most hardware and paint stores.

dsc_0258Now there are plenty of cutesy Pinterest™ types who may “inspire” you to make your own chalk paint by adding a chalky substance – such as tile grout, wig powder, volcanic ash or pulverized goat hooves – to regular paint.  Personally, I never question the recommendation of the American Paint Manufacturers Association™ to never tamper with their products, because they probably know what’s best for me.  Also, I’m lazy.

STEP THREE: Create T-shaped grid-lines by laying down some masking tape in a more-or-less straight line. Then fill in the negative space with an oil-based white paint.


Next, count the letters in “BORROW BOARD”, including the space, to locate the precise middle point of the phrase, and mark that on the top of your board. Grab one of your kid’s junky paintbrushes and paint the word “BOARD” first, since your letters will inevitably get bigger as you go so you may as well start at the end. Refer to one of your kid’s homemade birthday cards if you don’t believe me about the letters getting bigger.

dsc_0265Then paint “BORROW,” starting with the W and then the B and working your way towards the two “R”s so you don’t squish all the letters together. Don’t be discouraged if your sign resembles something held up by a conspiracy theorist on the the side of the highway, or that guy in front of Old Navy who told me I was going to hell for smoking cigarettes.***


Hopefully, you’ve been lending out tools as well as borrowing them, so create titles for each column to reflect the spirit of your bottomless generosity.


STEP FOUR: Wait three days for the chalk paint to fully “cure.”  Before you can write, you must then “condition” the chalkboard so that it becomes accustomed to the smell and feel of chalk and won’t reject it like a baby bird that’s been touched by curious human children with Flamin’ Hot Cheeto® dust on their fingers.  Simply rub the board with the side of the chalk, and then wipe off with an eraser.


Survey your possessions and write down whatever doesn’t belong to you, along with the name of its owner, if you still remember.  Try to recall everything you’ve borrowed out**** to others, which hopefully looks balanced.

Hang your finished borrow board in a discreet place in your basement, so visitors won’t see how much of a mooch you are, or be reminded that you still haven’t given back that sledge hammer even though you finished building the fence more than a year ago.


By the way, do any of you have my copy of “Confederacy of Dunces”?

* In our house, we are not allowed to use the question beloved by ineffective middle managers worldwide: “Sooooo… Where are we at with ___?”  Because by “WE,” you mean “ME,” otherwise you wouldn’t be asking ME, would you, Brad?
** OK, maybe that MDF panel didn’t actually “fall off” the basement ceiling. Maybe I pried it off because I couldn’t stand not knowing what was under it.
*** In his defense, that’s actually what it says on cigarette boxes in Canada. Also, I don’t even smoke.
**** In our family, we use the verb “borrow” both ways; you can borrow something FROM others or TO others.  While not grammatically correct, it’s easier than remembering the past tense of LOAN.  Loaned? Lent? Loan’t? Loanded? Leaned?


9 thoughts on “Track Your Tool Mooching with a Basement Borrow Board

  1. Now, if only I could get the Husband to remember where he put down the hammer, needle nose pliers, pack of sandpaper, spackle… We have a large storage room with multiple shelves on one side and a teetering fortress of 200 gallon storage boxes on the other. I brought a full selection of tools to the marriage: drop saw, jig saw, 5 hand saws of different types, 3 hammers, cordless drill, hammer drill, multiple screwdrivers, clamps, rolling toolchest, whippersnipper, pry bar… I could go on. Can I find a single one of those things? Can I hell… It’s actually got to the point where I’m going to go out and buy myself my own small toolkit again, which I shall hide in the sewing room to prevent mooching by the Husband.


    • Yes, I’ve often considered segregating the tools into “his” and “hers” boxes, cause that damn needle nose pliers always goes missing. We’ve gotten pretty good at dividing up our areas of expertise. I’ve got full control of the painting supplies, the sander and the jigsaw, and he’s the pro and plumbing stuff, the bike repair stuff and anything with wires. We butt heads over the screw collection. Because everybody needs screws, which I’ve obsessively organized and won’t let anybody mess with.


        • I also have mixed feelings about tools for “ladies.” Mostly, I just plain hate them, as I just plain hate any gendered product that doesn’t explicitly target my primary or secondary sex organs.

          Having said that, will someone please start producing protective gear in “ladies'” sizes? How hard is it to manufacture chemical-resistant PVC work gloves that aren’t big enough to wear on my head? They usually come in one size, which is Gargantuan, and while wearing them I have a hard time handling my tools, if I can even keep them from slipping off.

          Then I end up wearing gardening gloves, which come in all sorts of dainty sizes, but don’t quite protect against tough-guy stuff like paint stripper or petroleum distillates. What’s a girl to do?


          • I find bulldog clips taking a tuck up the back of the glove makes them slightly less unwieldy. Yes, it makes them a tad awkward, but at least I don’t fall out of them at inopportune moments. And these are the heeowge red chemical-proof jobs that even the Husband finds rather roomy. And have you noticed that the pink or floral tools are all really crappy quality? Because we ‘ladies’ won’t really need decent tools, right?


  2. Take it from someone who knows…pink tools do not deter borrowinazation by the male-gendered. Secure in their masculinity, they don’t care what color the tool is as long as it is easily located.


  3. Duluth Trading has some better options for women-sized work clothes. I got some great work gloves that are insulated for working outside in the winter; great for fall yard work, too.

    Chemical resistant gloves are tricky! Sometimes I’ve been able to find sized gloves on web sites that cater to workers—uniform supply companies or laboratory supplies.

    My mother resorted to writing her name on her tools and flashlights!


    • Your mother is a smart women. I’ve been labeling my electronics (chargers, headphones) now that we have a teenager in the house. Talk about mooching!

      It seems like there’s a business opportunity here — catering to smaller sized people. But please, no more pink! Maybe Rosie the Riveter as a mascot?

      I’ve also been scanning my local thrift stores for coveralls. They always have several pairs, but always (always!) in sizes that don’t even seem human.

      You may be on to something with the uniform stores! And my birthday IS coming up soon…. (hint hint).


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