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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Essential Tools: Around the Retreat

Original Article

Today we’re going to look at what a basic end of the world toolkit looks like. This is by no means an absolute list, but rather a starter kit you should have at your home or retreat. You can add to it as money and skill allows. None of these tools are particularly expensive, and most could even be picked up at yard sales if you are careful about checking for wear and quality. If you can afford the cost and storage for multiple tools, double up (or more) whenever possible. Tools do get lost or break sometimes, and they are nifty barter items.

Hammers – There are a lot of specialized hammers, but you need a minimum of two types: a claw hammer for hitting nails, and a ball peen hammer used for striking metal.

Saws – Handsaws are cheap and easy to use. For the long term, think about learning to sharpen them by hand.

Hacksaw – buy plenty of blades, they wear out. For cutting metal objects such as pipes.

Screwdrivers – A complete range of slotted, Phillips and Robertson screwdrivers would be the minimum for me. There are other specialist types such as Torx, but if you’ve got the big three, you’ll be okay in most situations.

Allen wrenches – Also known as hex keys, these are used for the recessed hexagonal headed screws/bolts seen in many applications. A good quality set with a range of sizes.

Measuring tape – at least one of 25’ or so. If you can afford a large reel tape of the sort you see surveyors use, that’s nice to have, as well.

Squares – Two types here, roofing or framing square, and a smaller combination square.

Levels – Two again, short one and at least a four footer.

Bit and Brace – what you’ll use after your electric drill doesn’t run. You might need a little practice using it, and make sure you know how to keep the bits sharp. Try to have a nice variety of lengths and sizes of bits.

Hand drill – NOT a bit and brace, but similar in use. Generally a hand cranked, geared drill, you can use it for lighter, tighter, and finer work than the bit and brace.

Socket set – ½ “ size, with a good variety of sizes and some extras like extensions and maybe a breaker bar.

Combination wrenches – A wrench with an open jaw one end and a box end on the other, in a variety of sizes.

Adjustable wrenches – At least two, and more in a variety of sizes if you can afford it. There’s always an off size bolt you’ll need these for.

Pipe wrenches – Always in pairs, and two pairs if affordable in larger and smaller sizes.

Vise grips – There probably isn’t a more abused tool out there, but it is invaluable for many jobs. Multiple sizes and styles if possible.

Pliers – The traditional style to start, then add needle nose and other types as you see fit. There are dozens of types, but have found lineman’s pliers and fencing pliers very useful. Your mileage may vary.

Pump pliers – in two sizes. These are adjustable long handled pliers that come in handy in a variety of situations.

Files – A variety of sizes and types, used for metal work/ sharpening.

Tin snips – For cutting sheet metal.

Cold chisel – Used to cut heavier metal.

Wire stripper – Self explanatory, I would think.

Side cutter pliers – Used to cut wire, you’ll find other uses the manufacturer never intended.

Wood chisels – A moderate range of sizes will keep you going in most circumstances.

Wood plane - a general purpose plane such as a jack plane. Learn how to use it.

Bolt cutter – Also known as a chain cutter, this is a specialized tool, but one I think necessary for certain uses. Buy a large one.

Crow bar – used in demolition mostly, but pretty handy to have around.

Nail puller – You can use the claw on your hammer, but the specialized tool is easier on wrists and hands if you’re salvaging a lot of lumber.

Box cutter and blades – multiple uses.

Stapler – I mean the construction type here. Great for tacking up almost everything. Buy lots of staples.

Clamps- If you have room and money, clamps make building anything easier, especially when you haven’t got someone around to ‘just hold this here’.

Bench vise – and some bolts to mount it. Even if you screw this to a log, you’ll find doing a lot of things easier when they are held securely. It is nearly indispensible when sharpening a variety of tools.

There you go, a list of the basics. You can of course add to it, but when acquiring tools keep in mind the likelihood of needing the tool (You need a six foot long pipe wrench? Really?) and your ability to use the tool.

Some tools come in a variety of weights (hammers, for example) or sizes (saws). Make sure the tools you have are tools you can use safely and without undue fatigue. If you’re not a person handy with tools, start learning now. There are lots of how-to guides out there for almost every task and project imaginable. Start simple and build your skill, confidence and toolkit. It’ll save you money, and maybe even your life someday.

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