Sometimes it seems like I'll be the bad guy if I don't loan out my tools. Let me share what has happened in the last week.
A journeyman walked up and asked me if he could use my dikes to cut some wire. He blew a hole in them because he cut all 3 wires at once, and they were hot. He handed them back to me and said thanks. I said "You blew them up." He played dumb. I showed him where he blew them up, and there was a hole with fresh melted plastic around it. I looked in the ceiling, and right where he cut the wire was a big black burn mark. I let him know they are his and that he can get me a new pair. His response was that they are Craftsman and that I should take them to the store to get a replacement.
Another journeyman I work with asked to borrow my DeWalt reciprocating saw, saying he would put a new blade on it when he was done. He said he had to cut some pipe, meaning EMT. He then demoed a panel and cut at 20 or 30 pipes, along with a bunch of sheetrock. He gave my DeWalt back with a wasted blade and never put another one on like he said he would.
Another journeyman needed a drill bit. I pulled out the size he needed from my case of titanium bits. Turns out he had to drill a number of 1/4" thick steel pipes with my 3/32" bit.
Somebody pulled my flathead screwdriver out of my tool pouch yesterday, and I could not find it. Today, I found it in a box.
A journeyman used my Kleins and arced them in a box, leaving a nice divot near the pivot. He did give me the common courtesy of saying thanks.
People, especially journeymen, love to borrow things that are expendable: drills with bits, saws with blades, electrical tape, flashlights...things that cost money that the company doesn't like to provide. I am tired of providing tools, blades, bits and electrical tape for the company, and even other trades on the job. People come up, "Can I use your measuring tape for a minute?" Then I don't see it for 3 hours, have to track the guy down.
Would everybody view me as the bad guy if I say no when they ask to borrow my tools? Should I care? I'm afraid the guys I work with will treat me like an unsociable outcast if I don't let them use and abuse the tools that have cost me a fortune to accumulate. Then they might ease me off the job because I might not fit in if I don't loan my tools to everybody. Comments? Advice? This is a touchy subject, it's easy to just say "Never loan your tools", but it seems to be commonplace for people to loan each other tools. I try to never borrow tools, I'll walk a long way to get my own. It's amazing how some people have no problem with bringing minimal tools to the job and then use the myriad tools I carry in my 22 pound electrician's tool belt, plus my power tools.
What do you say to journeymen who don't bring all their tools, then borrow yours? Hopefully somebody out there has some good advice. A couple of times I've asked, "You're a journeyman and you don't have the tools to do your work?" It gets aggravating.
One guy asked me if he could borrow my Sawzall a while back and I said no because I was using it. At that moment I was tired of people borrowing my tools, sapping my batteries etc. where I couldn't do my work. It came back to haunt me. 9 months later, I have to work with him on the current job and he reminded me of when I didn't loan him my Sawzall and treats me like a dummy, overexplaining how he wants things done, posturing and making it obvious that he doesn't trust me to do basic work, giving me the lowest level and hardest work, he's paying me back tenfold. It would have been a lot more pleasant to just loan him the Sawzall and endure the wrath of the boss when I didn't get my work done.
Nowadays, when they ask, "Can I borrow your Sawzall?" I ask, "Can I borrow your car keys?" Then I tell them all the tools everybody has hammered in the last week. They must endure the long story and feel guilty, feel my pain until they've heard enough. Just when they've given up and are turning to go ask somebody else, I go ahead and loan them what they want.
It would be nice if I could handle this diplomatically and get the results I want rather than alienating myself from my co-workers and losing work. Right now I get along well with everybody, and it would be nice to keep that going somehow.
I like to take the what comes around goes around approach...
Because maybe you are a guy who never forgets anything or who never needs anything from anyone else (or who can actually afford tools) but you never know when that day will come that your hammerdrill will fall from the second floor all the way to the basement or your sawzall gets hosed or you leave your ladder at the last job and you need someone elses to finish.
On the other hand, people who borrow things and treat them with disrespect are always going to be around so its bound to happen to them someitme too...
On remodel projects where there's more than one trade involved at a time, I often find myself working with the local plumber. He lives just around the corner from me, and we get on fine, sometimes borrow each other's tools, but no problems.
The GC I did work for up until he moved away last year annoyed me at times. One day he asked if he could borrow a screwdriver, and I later found him using one of my large fully-insulated flat-bladed ones as a concrete chisel!
Some folks just don't know any better, some just don't care. On the other hand, there is that balance between working well with others and allowing oneself to be taken advantage of.
I don't have an easy answer. Maybe you can save all of the dull blades, ruined drill bits, holey cutters, etc. to use as your loaners.
My dad told me that a friend of his taught him never to loan tools except to those that are known to be trustworthy, and if he does borrow a tool from a friend, to return it in better condition than when he borrowed it (clean it, oil it, etc).
P. S. How common is it for there to be so many "whoopses" with cutters (shorting wires together like that)? We all make mistakes, but why are these guys working live?!
I can fully understand your situation and the way you feel about it because it has happened to me several times. I have been willing in the past to loan out tools because of the pressures of getting the job done when it would make it so much faster and easier to loan out the needed tool. Whenever I have borrowed someone's tool in the past, if I messed it up, I have always seen to replace it or make it up one way or another. Perhaps your frustration is coming from not expressing yourself to the borrower in such a way that they understand that "yes you can borrow my tool but if you break it, you replace it because it is money out of my pocket and food off my family's table." Maybe you need to use their need to borrow your tools to your advantage in letting them know that you value your tools and aren't a pushover. My suggestion would be to express yourself in a calm and rational way in order to get your point across in a serious way and then maybe they will realize that you mean business and will at least think about it when they are screwing you over. If you don't want to loan out any of your tools, have them show you want they need done and then do the job yourself. At least you would be getting paid for it and using your tools for the purpose you bought them for. There is no easy answer but I just thought I would add a few ideas that I have thought about before.
From my mechanicing days, I have a large Snap-On tool box in my garage. It has 2 sitckers form Mac and Snap-On that say "Please don't ask to borrow my (brand) tools. Maybe one of them on your hard hat would help. Another thing would be to have a couple of those 10-for-a-dollar tools for loaners.