I believe you need the right tools to do the job right.

More importantly, I believe the only way to have the right tools around when you need them is to hide them from your family. I don't hide all of my tools all of the time. I keep a couple of screwdrivers and hammers and ordinary pliers out on my workbench.

But I have secret spots for the tools I am especially fond of. Some of my tools-in-hiding are my Phillips screwdrivers with sharp edges, my set of small jeweler's screwdrivers, my roll of electrical tape and my flashlight.

I have found that if I don't hide my tools, bad things will happen to them. They will "go for a walk" and show up in unexpected places like in the back of a kitchen drawer, or out in the back yard.

Another likely outcome is that unprotected tools will be drafted for inappropriate household duties. I know, for example, that if I leave a sharp-edged screwdriver on top of my tool box, the screwdriver, rather than the paint can opening tool, will be used to pry the lid off a can of paint.

In addition to being bad for workshop discipline, using a screwdriver to do the work of the paint can opener dulls the head, or tip, of the screwdriver. And screwdrivers are like humans. If they have thick heads, they aren't any good at delicate work.

A roll of electrical tape is the fastest-disappearing item in my tool box. If it isn't hidden, it will be whisked away, only to show up months later under a bedroom dresser. Moreover, if the roll of tape falls into the wrong hands, it will almost certainly be used to attach posters to bedroom walls, or to wrap birthday packages. These tasks, as we all know, are jobs for less-expensive tapes.

So I stash my tools in secret places.

There are drawbacks to this practice. One is that you occasionally do such a good job of concealing them that you can't find them.

This happened to me once when I was headed to the beach for a week of vacation. I wanted to do a little tinkering with the car, so I grabbed the metric wrenches I use for this task, wrapped them in a brown paper bag, and tucked the bag underneath the spare tire in the trunk of the car. I was the only member of the family who knew the hide-out of the wrenches.

I got to the beach and promptly forgot all about my car repair plans. I didn't miss the wrenches until weeks later back home when I was trying to tighten a loose part on the bottom of the refrigerator. I opened my box of metric wrenches, and the ones I needed weren't there. I vaguely remembered I had "put them some place safe," but had no idea where that place was.

I had to make do, using the wrong tool, a pair of needle-nose pliers, to tighten the nut on the loose refrigerator part. I found my wrenches a month or so later when I was cleaning out the trunk of the car.

The incident taught me that as valuable a tool as secrecy is to the smooth operation of a household, it can sometimes make you feel stupid.

Another difficulty with secreting tools is that it can put you under considerable pressure to 'fess up and disclose your hiding spot.

That happened to me recently. One of my sons was invited to "camp out" with a friend at a farm in Harford County. But before the camper could set foot in the wilds of Harford County, he had to have a working flashlight.

There are, I would estimate, about 25 flashlights residing in our house. At any given time 24 of them have broken bulbs, broken switches, or dead batteries.

The sole surviving flashlight owes its well-being to the fact that I have kept it cloistered. I am the only member of the family who knows where this beacon of light can be found. And I was not about to go public with its whereabouts.

So the other day I could have told my son that he was wrong about the flashlight situation. I could have told him that not only was there a working flashlight in the house, but that it was sitting a few feet away from him.

But I chose not to. Instead I grabbed one of the corps of inactive flashlights from the basement and took it to the store. I bought some batteries for it.

I was tired, and I really didn't want to go on this shopping trip. But it was a small price to pay to keep my flashlight, and my other treasured tools, safe and secure.

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