Useful tools for any occasion – What’s in your toolbox?

This guest post is by Warmongerel  and entry in our non-fiction writing contest.

My job title is “Maintenance Technician”. I’ve fixed industrial machinery and building equipment for a living for about 25 years. I’ve probably sourced and ordered $500,000 worth of tools in the past year alone. It’s fun spending other people’s money. Unfortunately, I don’t get to keep any of the stuff that I buy.

In addition, I also went to school for carpentry, I was a cabinetmaker for about 8 years and I worked as a machinist briefly.

In other words, I know tools. I know what works and what are the most important tools to have.

In a SHTF scenario, tools are going to be very important. Not only for building/repairing things, but for barter as well.

In my job, you also need to be very good at “thinking outside the box”, so I’ll also list some things that I know would come in handy, but you may not normally think of as “tools”.

First and foremost, a multi-bit screwdriver is a must. Not the type that has 10 little bits to swap out as needed and stored in the handle. You will lose most of those bits within a month. I recommend the Klein 11-in-1 screwdriver . It has #1 and #2 Phillips bits, 1/4″ and 3/16″ straight bits, #10 and #15 Torx bits, #1 and #2 square-drive bits and 1/4″, 5/16″ and 3/8″ nutdrivers. These will cover almost any small fasteners that you may come across. I run a 90,000 square foot facility packed full of equipment, and this is the screwdriver that I use 95% of the time. If I had to choose one tool to have when tshtf, it would be this one.

A hammer will be indispensable for obvious reasons. I have a 24 oz. framing hammer in my bag, but a smaller claw-hammer would work, too. I like the framing hammer because, in addition to its functionality, it makes a hell of a weapon.

An adjustable wrench (aka a “Crescent wrench”) can almost completely replace any open end or box end wrench, saving a ton of room/weight in any kit. I found an amazing version that’s part “vise-grip” and locks on to fasteners, thus eliminating the problem of “stripping” nuts and bolts. It’s from McMaster-Carr. Search for part # 6556A8. It’s only available in a 10″ version. I really wish that they’d come out with different sizes. But this one will cover almost anything you’ll ever need.

Pliers, of course, will be mandatory. I’d recommend a pair of linesman pliers, long nose pliers (i.e.needlenose) and a pair of “Channel lock” pliers. These 3 will cover almost any need that you may have. I also have a pair of Welding pliers in my bag. They can be substituted for the long-nose pliers as they have the long jaws, and they also function as a light hammer, wire cutters and can grip cylindrical objects.

Locking-jaw pliers (i.e. Vise-grips). Duh. I have a couple of different sizes in my bag.

A pair of wire strippers/cutters may come in handy – especially if you know anything about electricity. The Klein 11045 covers most of what you’ll ever need.

Those things should cover almost any situation that you find yourself in and not take up too much space or weigh too much.

So let’s move on to some items that may not seem so obvious.

Put an ice pick in your kit. These are incredibly useful tools. They can be used for almost anything from removing snap-rings to punching holes to scraping dirt off of small parts. I have 6 of them in my toolbox.

Wood screw eye hooks/eyebolts. Can screw them into just about anything and you can run ropes through them. Throw a half-dozen in your bag. Light and don’t take up much space.

Binder clips. These are the things that you see in offices that hold papers together. The big ones have some serious holding power and can be hooked onto things. Excellent to hold tarps or to use as a miniature vise to free up your hands. The possibilities are endless.

Cable ties. Also known as zip strips or zip ties, they are the plastic ties that “ratchet” tighter as you pull on them one way and won’t loosen up if pulled the other way. They come in many different sizes. There are also some that can be reused by pushing down on a little lever to disengage the ratchet. They are used by the police to “handcuff” people when they run out of real handcuffs (although, I wouldn’t know anything about that, of course ;-). There are thousands of uses for these.

A pair of scissors is a no-brainer.

A Multi-purpose scraper will definitely come in handy. Many tools in one.

A pair of aviation snips or tin snips is also a must-have for fashioning things out of sheet metal. You will need them at some point.

It also wouldn’t hurt to throw some drywall screws and nails in there.

And that’s it. If you have these things, you will have covered about 90% of what you’ll ever need for tools. There are, of course, other things that you may want to add, but these tools will fix or build just about anything that you may need. I have them in a small tool bag apart from all of my other tools, and they are all duplicates of things that I have in the garage so that I’m not tempted to raid the bag when I need a certain tool.

In addition, any extra tools that you may have could make excellent barter items, depending on their availability. There may be millions of screwdrivers around, but that Klein 11-in-1 is going to look a lot better than carrying around 11 different tools.

Good luck and God bless, folks.

This contest will end on February 16 2013  – prizes include:

Well what are you waiting for – email your entries today. But please read the rules that are listed below first… thumbs up Useful tools for any occasion   Whats in your toolbox?

Comments

  1. Love this! I am going back through what I keep in my car and garage and get duplicates of all you have recommended! Thanks for the practical advice!

  2. good post, tool kit covers most general areas. a leatherman is always on my hip, with a tiny pair of visegrips, in a pouch that has a pen/pencil loop and a minimag light loop as well. lotta use in a tiny package. i would add a prybar of some type, i use a “wonderbar”. and duct tape, the handyman’s secret weapon:)

    • Warmongerel says:

      Riverrider,

      Until I started prepping, I didn’t own a roll of duct tape, either at work or at home. If your Maintenance guy is walking around with a roll of duct tape, that’s not a good sign. ;-)

      It does have it’s uses, though. I now have a few rolls of duct tape, canvas tape and strapping tape in my inventory.

  3. livinglife says:

    Good call. I would suggest shears instead of scissors. they can cut heavier material.
    One of my favorite do all tools is fencing pliers, they have a hammer, wire cutters, spiked end, pliers, wire crimpers, can twist different gauges of wire and are insulated. Tool and weapon.
    Spare driver bits are light and cheap enough to have on hand.
    Wonder bar or small pry bar as mentioned above are invaluable tools.

  4. georgeislearning says:

    There is always something that could be added to any kit. Black Duct tape is an essential . I would dump the plastic ties and include a roll of black duct tape. This is the best there is http://www.jendcosafety.com/nashua-357-2-black-duct-tape/

    ofc search for the best price
    opps rr beat me with the tape and naturally I liked it :-)

  5. Tactical G-Ma says:

    Warmongrel,
    Good article. I would add a second adjustable (1 for each hand), jewelers kit and tweezers, eyeglass repair kit, torch, solder, flux, teflon tape, small bottle of dish soap and a med size double ended nail puller and as always tons of 200mph tape.

  6. Just a note on cable-ties…I bought a few hundred of the biggest ones they had at Harbor Freight when they were on sale and put them away to (possibly) use as handcuffs in a SHTF situation.
    A few weeks ago, when we were putting up the Christmas lights, we were using some of the small zip ties, and my wife asked me about the big ones; I explained it to her and then decided to try it out. I had her “cuff” my hands behind my back, and 1 second later, I was free. I know that they make “flex-cuffs”, that are similar to cable ties, but don’t mistake off the rack cable ties for flex-cuffs. At the very least, try out the ones you have if you plan on using them for that.

    • Warmongerel says:

      Serfsup,

      The “flex-cuffs” aren’t hard to get out of, either. Or, so I’ve heard ;-) . There are videos on YouTube showing how to get out of cable ties, but I’ve found that Houdini’s old tricks work just fine. There were a few times in my younger/wilder days when I was pulled out of the back of a squad car and handed the cops their handcuffs back. With the appropriate smirk, of course. That was always priceless.

      And I’m only planning to use them to hold stuff together and/or in place. If anyone comes into my house that doesn’t belong here, I won’t need to handcuff them, if you know what I mean.

  7. Good list! Gonna have to order the lever locking wrench. Fencing pliers come in real handy also. Though they do bring back not-so-fond memories of stretching 5 strand barbwire fences in the Texas heat.

    I still have my roughneck tool kit from my oilfield days. 36″ stilson, 10 foot cheater pipe, 16 lb sledge, duck tape (only brand I buy) and WD-40 but it’s a little heavy to tote around….lol.

    Another big heavy that’s become indispensable is the high lift tractor jack. It’s got a million uses.

  8. I love the Klein “11″ in one tool. I just think they sell it short by limiting it to 11 uses. I’ve used it pry on things, hammer things, I even used it as a flashlight by reflecting sunlight into dark corner to read a model number on a furnace. I absolutely agree that its the best tool to have if you have to pick one.

  9. I have the same tool kit! I am forced to hide it and fight constantly to keep it safe from grown children and my husband because I am the only one in the family that has an intact tool kit all the time.
    They are all tool junkies. Always looking, searching and begging for their next tool fix.
    I have all my tool handles wrapped in hot pink duct tape, but that doens’t stop them. The fiends.
    “Touch my tools and DIE!” I tell them.
    I once bought 20 screwdrivers and 5 hammers. I put them in a box in the shop. All of them are GONE. Never to be seen again. Must have been taken by the tool monster.
    You know, the tool monster who is related to the sock monster who lives in the dryer and eats one sock of each pair you attempt to wash and dry. Then laughs at you when you end up with a entire laundry basket full of single socks.

    • Alittle2late says:

      So there really are sock monsters!!! :)

      • There is a sock monster in every home!
        Also, a underwear monster hides behind every sock monster!
        So undetected!
        UNTIL you find young sons underwear in the kitchen towel drawer! (..eeuw…) 100 bucks, new towels…..damn monsters!

  10. I would add either a Leatherman or a Swiss Army knife, but that is just my preference.

  11. Sears Craftsman in the automotive tool section(,black insulated handles) has a mini channel-lock type of tool called “ignition pliers”. they’re about the same size as a Leatherman plier, still made in the USA for only $10.
    And for the minimalist, I cut a pair shorter with a 4 inch angle grinder so they could fit in my Altoids kit. For $10 buy a few.

  12. MountainSurvivor says:

    I had a similar screwdriver to the Klein 11 in 1 and it never let me down. Thank you for the reminder and list. Great stuff!

  13. One item that I have found several interesting uses for is ” tool dip ” , you can get it at lowes and home depot . It is basically liquid plastic vinyl in a tall can . You dip your bare handled tools into it several times to get a rubberized grip on them ( sometimes they eventually wear out and your stuck with bare metal ) However , this stuff is about the consistency of water , this makes it ideal for other applications . If you use a brush , it goes on very thin and you can control how thick you want it to be . That said , It works great on fabrics , it has a memory after it is dry , paint it on areas to make them scuff resistant , or on areas that get a lot of wear . its very tough stuff and is flexible . It can also be painted on to waterproof items . I made a tomahawk sheath and painted it on the inside where the edge of the blade meets the fabric . I painted it on the bottom of my backpack for scrape and scuff protection , etc.

  14. I’m not sure it really falls in the “tools” column but, having grown up on a farm I’m not sure I could get along without “bailing wire”, the Navy version of “lock wire”, or the city version “wire coat hangers”. It can be used to fix so many things that “have came from together to apart”.

    • Warmongerel says:

      We have 22 MIG wire welders at work. When I fix them, there’s always leftover wire laying on the floor. Needless to say, I’ve taken a lot of it home with me.

      It’s perfect for “baling wire” and making snares.

  15. Alittle2late says:

    Amazon has “Stanley 85-610 10-Inch Long MaxGrip Locking Adjustable Wrench” which I believe is the wrench from master carr you referred too. I’ll be adding one to my kit asap. thanks for the heads up on this tool.

  16. Squirrelzz says:

    I have something called a Craftsman Folding Clench wrench set. while I got this as a gift this holiday break. I can tell you right now. Unless you plan on needing a large pipe wrench, or something larger, this is your tool. it comes with two, a smaller one size of a pocket knife, and a slightly bigger one. the small one accommodates 6mm to 11mm the larger one 12mm to 19mm. Also a ratchet kit is a must, especially if you plan on fixing peoples cars as a trade for shtf. A drill an a dremel, would be nice too to keep in the trunk, just encase power still exist [most likely will]

  17. Tactical G-Ma says:

    MD
    What the h*** is this?

  18. I finally just got my wife to reading this blog and she had to see this! Thanks a lot for helping to turn her off! That comment was totally uncalled for!! You’re not as cute as you think you are!
    Rex
    AKA: Parson Bull

  19. concrete termite says:

    I would also suggest a hand saw, hack saw, measuring device(tape or rule), and a good file. I have those in all of my tool boxes. Its amazing how those few simple tools can help you fix anything. You can use a file to sharpen a lot of tools. A hand saw can also be used for defense if need be. and a good hacksaw will cut metal or plastic with ease. You can also buy rolls of tie wire from Home Depot or Lowes. They weigh about 5lb and there is a lot of good strong wire on 1 roll.

  20. Southern Belle says:

    Warmongrel,

    Love, love, love this article. I have been wanting a comprehensive list for a tool bag for our emergency kit. I will definitely be using your ideas to build up our kit. Thanks for sharing your ideas. One question, would you recommend a small saw for the kit? I have a small hand saw that I got my hubby for Christmas but was wondering if I should get another one for the tool kit.

  21. I have been adding hand tools to the kitchen and tool box for a while now. One of my favorites is a drawing knife for working wood. Comes in handy a lot more than you’d think.

  22. OT I suppose, but don’t forget all the misc items to repair, replace, or otherwise keep your tools/gear/appliances running.

    Fuel/air/oil filters,spark plugs, machine nuts/bolts/washers, spare belts/hoses, starter cord, threaded rods, files, springs, cotter pins, hose clamps/steel strapping, JB Weld, multimeter, soldering pen/gun, thermocouples, electrical switches, pressure switches/regulators, copper wire/terminal connectors, coax wire, torch, solder/flux, copper tubing, water/propane fittings and valves, tire patches/plugs, plumbers putty/goop, caulk (gun), threading tape, wire brushes, sandpaper, fuses, o-rings, hinges/brackets/mending plates, wicks/mantles, siphon pumps/plastic tubing, grease (gun), and of course – cables ties and duct tape. It’s an endless list, but whenever something breaks around the house I try to buy two at the hardware store in case they aren’t open one day.

  23. Thanks for sharing this.

  24. j.r. guerra in s. tx. says:

    Those little ‘ignition’ pliers are extremely handy tools, their small jaws fit into very small spaces yet can be adjusted to handle nearly 1/2″ across the flats bolt heads. To me, indespensible for the ‘Irish Tool Box’ set.

    A glue gun tube is also handy, heating end with a lighter and using as needed.

  25. Excellent article and comments,
    Haha I’m such a tool junkie. Sad to say I have most of the ones mentioned here. After being a mechanic and tinkerer for years they just seem to accumulate. I know the garage is supposed to be for the cars but I’ve only met a couple of tools I didn’t like. The rest seem to have followed me home.

    • Warmongerel says:

      Mex,

      I have the same problem. I sometimes think that I should sell the tools and pay off the house. I could probably come pretty close.

  26. paranoid prepper says:

    Drywall screws, assorted nails, wood screws, a few random nuts and bolts, eye bolts and eye hooks, and some bailing wire is all real good.

    But the person who mentioned the fencing pliers (a VERY good tool, IMHO) made me remember to include a few (6 – 10 each) fence staples and their smaller cousins, poultry staples or poultry fencing staples.

    If you’ve never used them before, you might hit your fingers or thumb when using them the first few times, but they work VERY well for any number of things.