Yenra Magazine

Nepros Wooden-Handled Screwdrivers

Nepros Wooden Grip Screwdrivers, Phillips and Slotted

Luxury and strength are two of the words I think of when I think of Nepros wooden-handled screwdrivers. These tools from KTC - the Kyoto Tool Company - in Japan have heft and are works of art that feel so good in the hand and look so good to the eye that one could easily feel that they should not be used, or, if they are used, should only be on very special projects. And there is nothing wrong with that reverence. They are tool collector’s screwdrivers. In fact, the reason my set is now complete was the fear of missing out that comes from reading that a treasured item is in limited supply - the feeling that the supply may run out and not be replenished, that these screwdrivers, as amazing as they are, might become difficult to obtain at some point in future.

The feeling is that the world may not always have things as good as they do now. I never felt that way before the shortages of 2021. I always thought that everything good would inevitably become even better. But this is the year when I started believing the opposite, that there were precious treasures that if one wants them, action is needed now. For example, this is the year I began buying magical Nikkor lenses in earnest, lenses like the 300 millimeter 2.8, which when Vahography was speaking of another lens, said in passing, it is good but of course not as good as the 300mm 2.8, which made me want it even more.

Nepros tools are that kind of luxury, that kind of magic. The fit and finish, the polish, the heft, the precision. I had first heard of Nepros from Lonestar Mopar who did a Nepros tool haul and picked up the number 2 Phillips wooden handled one. I myself put together a Nepros order and picked up the same screwdriver. When it arrived, I put it next to my finest china. The feeling was that this is a work of art that is worthy of being admired. I used it a few times, but not lightly and not for long. I want it to last, not just for my lifetime, but for generations hence.

Over the past year, I have twice tried to complete my Nepros wooden handled screwdriver collection. I was slowed by my bank’s fraud department stopping payment to World Pay. The first time I called to pre-clear the transaction with my bank, it still did not go through. I took that as a sign that I should not spend the money. After all, I already was deep into screwdriver collecting and had way more than I needed. But that question of need gets to the heart of collecting, because none of it, or very little of it, is born out of need. It is as King Lear said to his daughters when they asked him why he needed a retinue: “Oh reason not the need; basest beggars are in the poorest thing superfluous.” - meaning that most of what we have, we have because we want, not because we need.

To collect tools from around the world, to seek out the uncommon best of what could easily be thought of as a common item, is to say that nothing is _necessarily_ ordinary, that the ordinary can and should be extraordinary. It is like drinking water from golden goblets. Is it needed? No, not needed. It is _wanted_ and it _does_ make the water taste better, because it elevates life and makes one feel like royalty.

When I hold a Nepros wooden-handled screwdriver, my hand wraps around the wood. The part of my hand that is the dip between thumb and forefinger has a snug place and I lift it. I see the striking cap which meets the full tang and I laugh because I can’t imagine anyone striking such a beautiful object. I see the hexagonal base at the shaft where a wrench can go in for torque and I laugh because I can’t imagine anyone marring such a polished surface. There is no screw in the world that is worth hurting this precious object over. At least, that is my first feeling.

Many of the tools I collect I wonder if I’m worthy to even possess. The reason is that I watch tool channels and I admire the hard working people for whom the use of tools is their daily bread. I feel pretentious to order tools that I will not use as much. In this light, the clearly precious nature of these Nepros screwdrivers paradoxically relieves me because no one who sees and holds them will think of putting them into hard use. They are so obviously collector’s items that I don’t feel bad in the least for putting them, as I do, by the china, on the waxed and polished cherry wood surface, to be admired there.

In graduate school, I read and wrote about 19th Century British Prose, in particular, from the 1880s and 1890s - the aesthetic movement, the Decadence - art for art’s sake - the arts and crafts movement, a time of the Flaneur, the observer, on the streets of London or Paris or the bridges of Venice appreciating moments as they pass, seeking perception of the world as a means of feeling alive, as Walter Pater wrote in his Conclusion to The Renaissance published in 1873, “To burn always with this hard gemlike flame, to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life.”

Nepros wooden-handled screwdrivers are ridiculously excellent; they seem too much for most jobs. However, there are jobs which are special enough to pull them out and put them to use - when one wishes to remember the act of building, perhaps of finishing, the last turn of a screw for a meaningful job.

Ancient standard classical theory calls for a combination of beauty and utility. It is the understanding that a poem should both please and instruct. Applied to tools, it is about feeling and looking good while also doing well. There is no doubt that in time I might allow myself to let go with these tools, to not hold off on their use, to let them become used. It may make them even more beautiful, to have them show the marks of work. It is much the same with people: our hands, our faces become worn and weathered, more unique and precious from the nicks of life - the beauty marks of time.

If that is their destiny, then this is the time before the world wipes us out; before work makes us and the works of art that are our tools worn and more exquisitely who we and they are meant to be together.

I was always appalled by the covering of living room furniture in plastic so as to protect it. The same with postage stamps that are kept mint so as to preserve their value. To me, value comes from history and use. I have books that are uncut, from the days when the pages of books were cut when they were read. I vowed to be the one to cut them as I read them, even if to keep them uncut would make them worth more money.

To own a set of Nepros wooden-handled screwdrivers puts the world of value in a tumult. Are they worth the cost? Should they be used? They would make a fine gift, but the gift would bring the same quandary to the recipient, like giving a pet that needs to be fed, more a burden than a present.

But it is the burden of beauty, the burden of awe, to be in a world with makers who made tools more beautiful than the ordinary things that I use tools for. Owning them becomes a challenge therefore, a matter of inspiration and hope for future greatness, if not by me, then by those who inherit this legacy.