Hardware Shopping

Jan 10, 2011   //   by LouBu   //   photos, taj  //  3 Comments

As it turns out, Jalal­abad has no Home Depot. Not even an ACE Hard­ware. So, when I want­ed to pur­chase an arc welder  to make fur­ni­ture and art out of old ammo cas­es and bul­let cas­ings, Mehrab took me and Peretz to the bazaar. More specif­i­cal­ly, to the hard­ware store sec­tion. Jam packed stalls nes­tled next to one anoth­er, crammed and over­flow­ing with jumper cables, machine belts, rusty bolts, and cheap Chi­nese screw dri­vers. Func­tion­ing as indi­vid­ual isles of the larg­er bazaar,  the coex­ist­ing shops all stock many tools while each spe­cial­iz­ing in a few. A cus­tomer starts a rela­tion­ship with one own­er, who then sends run­ners from their staff to oth­er shops along the way to grab any items not in stock. We choose a shop, out of acci­dent more than rea­son, and began the process of buy­ing tools.

Chickens in the Hardware Store

First, we col­lect­ed assort­ed wrench­es, ham­mers, and screw­drivers, ges­tur­ing “bigger,” “smaller” or “heavier” to suit our needs. We perused the sin­gle aisle, avoid­ing the pair of chick­ens roost­ing under the ful­ly stacked shelves. Angle grinder. Leather gloves. Weld­ing gog­gles. Check. Our shop­keep­er showed us a file and told us it was “Good qual­i­ty. Made in India.” Even Afghans have dis­re­gard for cheap Chi­nese made tools, although the store was still full of them. The qual­i­ty prod­ucts they see come from India, hop­ping over Pak­istan to com­pete with infe­ri­or goods.

Then onto the rea­son we were there: a welder. The shop sold one option, a red met­al box with 5 thick screws pro­trud­ing, announc­ing the amps they would draw, and a ground­ing screw stick­ing out the side. Instead of a pow­er cord, two bare wires extend­ed, ready to be stuck direct­ly into a sock­et, as is the local pre­ferred method of “plugging in” an appli­ance. How­ev­er, for this com­pact met­al box to be use­ful as a welder we need­ed to piece togeth­er its attach­ments. The store sold us eight meters of heavy duty wire, cut off a large yel­low spool. Next, we debat­ed the mer­its of the two options for han­dles and set­tled on a heavy duty grip. But when I inquired about a ground­ing clamp, vital­ly need­ed to com­plete a weld­ing arc, our shop­keep­er seemed per­plexed. He sent one of the boys lin­ger­ing in the shop off to find one, while he encour­aged us to drink some chai. We perched on tanks of gas and sipped steam­ing hot cups of sweet­ened, car­damom fla­vored tea until the boy returned, with a pair of jumper cable clips. Not exact­ly what I had in mind, but it’d do.

Hardware Store Purchases
The bits and bobs added up to most of what would be need­ed or use­ful for arc weld­ing and so, as we paid the shop­keep­er, our tools and sup­plies were loaded into a wheel­bar­row for trans­port. Next step: assem­bly and test­ing of the Mac­Gyver welder.

Welder and Other Tools