I know what I want to be when I come back in my next life (assuming I've earned one)–a contractor. "Why on Earth would you want to come back as something you have already been?" you might ask. Excellent question–very perceptive. Well, to be honest, contracting wasn't at the top of my list until a few months ago. And my decision still isn't completely final since I keep shuffling wishes around a bit, usually pausing on something having to do with a sports hero, more money, and a smaller nose. But at least for now, I want to come back as a smarter, more creative, and better-equipped builder. I made this most recent shift while in Baltimore at the STAFDA convention, the premier tool show in the U.S., where walking the aisles I found myself saying to one tool manufacturer after another, "You guys are making me want to get back into the business."

Rick Schwolsky, Editor-in-Chief
Rick Schwolsky, Editor-in-Chief

I can't name a single category of tool, accessory, or business technology where I don't see immense improvements and truly exciting innovations developed since I parked my truck and hung up my tool pouch 12 years ago. In my next life? You name it and I'd get it.

For starters, I'd load up with all the hand tools I could carry, everything from ergonomic hammers to ballistic-nylon nail bags. My toolbox would be full of quick-adjusting wrenches and pliers with ergonomic handles, utility knives with tough new blades and fast-and-easy blade changes, tape measures that practically shout out dimensions, and chalk lines that reel in so fast you could pull your helper off his feet. I'd line up a complete set of slick new spirit levels, because not only have these beautiful ancient truth-sticks gotten more beautiful and truthful–they're finally bulletproof, too. I'd load up with a different laser level for every application I could think of to satisfy my love of layout and cure my redline fever. And of course I'd have a field day with the pneumatic nailers that now fill every major and minor application and are loaded with technology and features that make the older models I started out with look like boat anchors. I look at these new tools and want–no, need–to start framing something on the spot!

I think I'd need a few more lifetimes to catch up with the cordless tool lines, but I'd jump in and do some damage anyway, picking up on the latest lithium-ion rage and finally loading up on some real cordless power that just wasn't available or as refined when I was burning up batteries on my jobs. And I'd love to dig in to some work with new jobsite equipment like the latest ladders and staging, portable table saws, and miter saw cutting stations, and protect everything with brand new storage and security systems. My crew would be the best-equipped construction team in the universe, with the coolest work clothes, safety gear, and boom boxes.

For 25 years my best reason for being a carpenter and builder was the undeniable excuse it gave me to buy new tools whenever I felt like it–which was usually whenever they came out. Now, from everything I've seen in the past few years, that wouldn't be a bad excuse for wanting to come back, either.