Reprinted with permission from the WASHINGTON STAR. Article by Maurice Marsolais,3812 Bevan Drive, Fairfax, Virginia.
Submitted by R. N. McCray, 202 Wvnnbrook Drive, Hendersonville, North Carolina 28739.
I used to think this problem I have with nuts, bolts, screws, washers and nails was unique. But in talking with neighbors the past couple of years I've concluded that it probably afflicts every homeowner in the United States.
In my basement are cans and jars filled with nuts, bolts, screws, washers, and nails of every size, shape and description. How did they get there?
Gradually, that's how. One could not accumulate a magnificent assortment such as I have in a matter of weeks or months. It takes years and years.
You homeowners out there who share this problem with me know, as do I, where most of the blame lies. It's the fault of the companies who manufacture and package these things. The problem is in the packaging. You need one or two wood screws and on arriving at your local hardware store you find that the wood screws are packaged in 6's, 8's and sometimes 12's. That's how it happens.
What can be done about it?
The thing with faucet washers is particularly bad. You have a leaky faucet, so you run off to the hardware store. In every box of 15 faucet washers there may be 3 or 4 that fit a faucet somewhere in your house. I don't know what the rest of them fit--certainly nothing in the house. So, they accumulate.
A few years ago I did take one significant step. I organized my left over nuts, bolts, screws, washers and nails. I dumped everything on the dining room table and began sorting.
What a magnificent array--round-headed wood screws, flat-headed wood screws, sheet-metal screws, flat washers, lock washers, rubber washers, plastic washers, square nuts, hexagonal nuts, octagonal nuts. It was kind of fun running my fingers through all of them.
Now I have all of them in baby food jars on my basement shelves. That, of course, doesn't help in finding any use for all of the stuff, but it certainly looks neat and well organized.
I got all those baby food jars when we lived in a different neighborhood about three years ago. I mention this because I see a problem just over the horizon. Our present neighborhood is composed of 'older' families--all the kids are of junior high and high school age. Soon I'm going to need more baby food jars and to find them in our present neighborhood would mean that a couple of medical miracles would have to occur. That failing, we may have to move.
My wife doesn't understand the problem clearly. Recently when she was cleaning in the basement, she knocked one of the baby food jars off the shelf. It fell to the floor and broke. It contained about three dozen sheet metal screws, which I have never used and probably never will use but I can't just throw them away.
I glared at my wife and pointed out that her clumsiness had just cost me a baby food jar--and they're very hard to come by. As she was sweeping up the sheet metal screws, she glared back at me and said, 'When are you going to do something with all this junk?'
Isn't that just like a woman? The question is not 'when' but 'what.'
There's one thing about my collection that both intrigues and bothers me. There's one particular screw that's the strangest thing I've ever seen. It was not in the house when we moved in and I certainly never bought it.
It has a spherical head, a slot in the head and about the same degree of taper as most screws. It could not be screwed into metal and it doesn't look like any wood screw I've ever seen.
One day I took it with me on a trip to the hardware store. I pulled it out of my pocket and showed it to the clerk. He very nearly panicked. He thought I wanted more of them. 'No,' I explained, 'I'd just like to know what it is.' He had to confess he'd never seen anything like it before.
That gave me an idea. How about a show--competition--in which participants would exhibit their odd nuts, bolts, screws, washers and nails? That could become bigger than the beer can craze. Maybe I could take first prize in the Mid-Atlantic Regionals and maybe I couldn't, but I certainly would be a serious contender.
Until that time, I've got to find some more baby food jars.