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Hey guys! I have been meaning all week to share with you my (two!) costumes from Halloween, but I have been so slammed with trying to keep up with other bloggy things that I’ve been unable to finish the really cool side-by-side photo I wanted to share in the post. Sigh. It may be bad timing once it’s up since every blogger is clearly already in Christmas mode, but perhaps I’ll have it done by this weekend. And then we’ll move on to me still doing outdoor projects, because I live in Georgia and it’s still going to be laughably warm for who knows how many more weeks.

Anyway, I thought tonight instead I’d provide you with something I learned while working on the stump fire this past week. I’m fairly certain some of you are going to get a kick out of my rookie mistake, but that’s okay… we’ll laugh at me together.

This is a hammer drill (here’s an affiliate link if you want to purchase a similar one online, or you can stop by your nearest Harbor Freight).

For those that missed it, I’ve been trying to burn down the remaining (and formerly underground) parts of a large tree stump in the back yard. I don’t have any firewood, but I did have a large pile of roots I dug out, tree limbs, tiny bits of unusable scrap wood, and other dried foliage from my yard that I assumed would last me through a couple of fires.


I have been using a spade bit and a hammer drill (that I borrowed from Dad) for drilling holes in the stump to help the burn go deeper and break up the roots faster (a suggestion from some Youtube videos I’d watched), and it does seem to be helping, though I can’t say by how much. After drilling, I’m pouring vegetable oil inside (also recommended via the videos) as a cheap way to help provide some fuel inside the stump to burn. I honestly didn’t realize how flammable vegetable oil is until this!


My calculations turned out to be a complete fabrication and I got through the pile in less than three hours. The next day, I came back to dig out the ash and drill deeper down into the stump. I thought I’d try to switch from the spade bit to a longer one and see if I could dig down deeper into the roots and went to change things out like normal — except the drill bit that I’d tried to use only fifteen minutes prior got hopelessly stuck inside the chuck.


It just kept turning and turning with the chuck about to twist completely off of the drill rather than the chuck loosening around the bit. I felt silly; in all the years I’ve used a drill (or an impact driver), I had never had this problem. I had also never used a more heavy duty hammer drill before, so I was used to hand tightening, and now I got the damn thing stuck because assumption. Whoops. The problem was clearly my fault.

Frustrated, I texted a friend and they asked if I knew where the “chuck key” was. Ahh. A key! Of course. A bigger drill probably has to be tightened a little more than the basic ones I’ve always used. That sounded perfectly logical in a smack-myself-in-the-forehead-for-not-thinking-of-that-on-my-own sort of way. But um… I did not have said key, because I didn’t know what the frig I was looking for. I looked around the rest of the tool expecting to see something familiar (things like jigsaws and other power tools use Allen wrenches for tightening blades, so my mind immediately went looking for the scenario that was already familiar to me — and since this was Dad’s tool, I expected to find it stuck to the tool with electrical tape, specifically). Instead, I spotted this:


Huh. Guess that’s what that is — a chuck key. Nifty. And then, I tripped over my idiocy a couple more times (imagine a baby doing the square peg, round hole thing) before realizing that I needed to match up the threads on the key to the threads along the drill chuck and rotate it like this:

One direction to tighten, the other to loosen, obviously.

And sure enough, out popped the (not-so) hopelessly stuck bit.


See? If you’ve ever felt like a beginner at this DIY stuff, you can laugh that with more than half a decade under my DIY tool belt, I still have tiny “aha!” moments like this that make me feel like a moron. Considering the frequency in which I use a new tool or learn a new technique and rarely read instruction manuals before I’m mid-project (and something’s quickly drying), I never cease to find these absurdities entertaining. I guess that’s why I like to pass the info along, too: because I may have at least spared someone else the frustration of spending twenty minutes doing something that was really, really obvious in hindsight.

With that hiccup behind me, I have been bonfiring almost every night since, which has been awesome — just me, a seasonal beer, and a campfire scent in the air. It makes me really look forward to the day when I’ll have a sizable space for more entertaining out here (and plans for that in an upcoming post!). As for the firewood supply, I solved that problem too thanks to the guy who mows my lawn.

Mom, before you say it, I’m very careful. Promise.

He’s been cutting down small trees and limbs for some of my neighbors, so I offered to take it from him so that he doesn’t have to haul it off (that looks like a LOT of brush, but the bigger chunks are underneath… and for reference, I get about that size of a pile burned in a single evening). Win-win!

What have you been up to lately? Have you been enjoying any outdoor fires?

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  1. totally would have done same thing. one of those situations where the answer is so simple it’s completely overlooked!

  2. It goes to show just how common the awesome keyless chucks have gotten. Back in Dad’s day, I remember the chuck key was always part of the deal.

  3. I too was stumped by the chuck key at one time…and kicked myself once I figured it out.

    I don’t have a stump or a burn pile, but I do have a cute chiminea and have been burning that every night over the weekend. My fire bug children even sacrificed my two spare fence boards to the fire gods last night to keep it burning until bedtime. I just love the smell of a good campfire.

  4. When I was learning to use tools, all drills had a key. I learned about keyless chucks much later. So it really wouldn’t even occur to me to teach someone about the need for the key. It looks like you figured it out pretty well, however.