Posted on: January 15, 2022 Posted by: geoffreylynn Comments: 0

Can you plow a field with it? Clean a bottle? Pull a nail? A diehard SAK fan would say hell yes.

Ok, let him.

And while he’s doing that (and mansplaining all about using it to survive a shipwreck), grab yourself a cool drink, read the instructions, pull out your tool kit with just the right tools (sans plow), and get it done faster and injury free. Work smart, not hard (Advice = word tools).

Let’s go shopping for your first tool set. The hardware store can be daunting and intimidating if you know nothing. For example, there are easily more than 50 types of hammers. Ask for help. The curmudgeonly older staff at the hardware store may well be the best to ask as they’re likely to have a ton of experience knowing the nuances of the tools, materials, and circumstances. Let’s simplify Home Despot and stores like it with a simple box.

The tool box

The greatest beauty of the simple tool box is that when you open it, you open your imagination and problem solving genius (or budding genius). Everything in it is only supplemental to your ingenuity. You only have room for a few things; and that is likely all you need. Most people seem to treat their toolboxes poorly. That’s typically because they’re either unorganized, get frustrated and just shove and throw their tools around, or it’s not adequate for what they put in it.

Do this: At the hardware store, pick a toolbox and then fill it as you shop for the tools you need.

Primary basics:

  • Claw Hammer
  • Multi-head screwdriver
  • Pliers (needle nose is most versatile in my world)
  • Tape measure (20 feet)
  • Cordless drill with screwdriver bits and drill bits (Ryobi is fine for household use)
  • Razor aka Utility Knife Saw (A 20″ hand saw will do)
  • Sandpaper (keep in a folder or bag and start with a kit with a range of grits- higher grades for fine work)
  • Gloves
  • Goggles
  • Dust mask
  • Folding Step (consider how high you need to reach, like the top shelf or the ceiling)
  • Flashlight
  • Tape (Blue masking tape is most versatile for me)
  • * First Aid Kit: yet another tool box. Just make sure you have one and that you know where it is

Is this too much? As I’m writing this, I’m looking around the house asking myself really, what is she going to do with those tools? Maybe the SAK or the leatherman is ideal. Other dads would slowly shake their heads if I gave you one and said that’s all you need.

Let’s imagine a possible scenario:

A day in the life of a basic home tool box. It’s Saturday morning. Your friend is coming over for her birthday. While you were out shopping yesterday for a gift and for food and drinks, you saw the perfect large mirror to hang on that wall. And a great hanging lamp for that corner by your cozy chair. You also bought a picture frame for your friend.

The day is off to a good start with coffee and some reading. Here’s the plan for the day: finish coffee and that chapter; first stage food prep for tonight; frame the picture you made for a gift; hang the mirror; hang the new lamp; call your dad to tell him he’s the best.

Now, let’s prepare for the day. You start with some food prep, something in a large skillet and something baking in the oven. While cleaning, you drop your favorite coffee cup and break the handle. (insert colorful language here ________!)

Which glue to fix ceramics?​ Epoxy. Don’t be generous; use a nice thin layer on all necessary surfaces. Align squeeze, realign until you cannot feel the edges of the joint. The chip from the edge of the cup is crushed; you cannot glue it back. Use sandpaper to soften those edges. Smile.

Your friend will love the picture you made in this new frame you bought. Just need to trim the matte to fit the frame. While disassembling it on the table, the sharp edge of the glass scratches the table (_____color!). That’s sharp!

Fix a scratch in a wood table: Good thing you have your sandpaper out. If it’s a light scratch, use a high number grit sandpaper. Start with 200. Try to sand in the direction of the grain of the wood and make it disappear. Now, use a 320 grit sandpaper to remove the scratches of the 200 grit. Now, 400 grit. You could go higher, but it’s only necessary to match the general surface of the table. Oil or varnish, or paint may be next; but this is a good start.

Now, to frame the picture. But that glass is too sharp.

Soften sharp edged glass:​ Get a piece of cardboard, sandpaper (around 120 grit). Put on your leather work gloves. The cardboard is to protect your working surface. Take a piece of cardboard about the size of your hand; fold it in half; wrap your sandpaper around that – grit side out. Carefully, sand the edges of the glass pane without scratching the face of it. It doesn’t need to be perfect, just easier to handle.

Oh no. You forgot to buy a birthday card! Make one!

Make a birthday card . . . wait!

What’s that burning smell? (_____!____!_____!)

Make a Pot Scraper: ​Pull that empty bottle of laundry soap from recycling. Use a razor to cut a piece of the bottle about the size of your hand. Flat or curved, choose a part of the bottle that has the contours you need.

That pot scraper worked so well, you want to hang it inside the cabinet door under the sink. You have a little brass hook with a wood screw tip; but the wood is too hard to use just your fingers.

Put a hook, nail, or screw into thin hard cabinet wood:​ You’ll need your drill, ruler, masking tape on drill bit, hardware, soap on threads. Determine where you want to place the hooks (an extra one for a bottle brush). Measure the width of the cabinet door; make sure the screw you’re installing won’t poke out the other side. Now, measure half​ that width from the tip of your drill bit, and wrap a piece of tape around the bit just above that point. Drill carefully, sinking the drill bit only up to the tape mark. Easily install the hook; hang your pot scraper; and be happy.

After more prep cooking, you want to hang that mirror.

Hang a Mirror:​ Get your level, drill, screws and anchors (which may be provided with the mirror), tape measure, pencil. Measure the width of the mirror at the points of the hangers. On the edge of the mirror, measure the distance from the bottom of the frame to the hanger. Write those numbers down. After you’ve chosen where you want the mirror to go, measure the distance from the floor to the bottom center edge of where the mirror will be; and now from that point up to the height of the hangers; mark that spot. Hold the level to that spot and pivot around the point until the level is balanced; draw a light line a few inches across that point. That line will point to the height of your hang points. When you’ve measured and marked where those points will be, drill a hole just smaller than the anchors and push them into the holes; you may need to hammer lightly to sink them. Drive the screws into those anchors leaving enough space for the hangers to grab. One of the holes went straight into a stud. Great, if you caught it soon enough, you can just screw directly into the wood; it’ll be much easier if you drill a bit into the wood with the right sized bit.

Admire yourself in the mirror with great satisfaction.

Now, for the lamp in the dark corner (to better admire yourself).

Hang the Lamp:​ When you’ve determined just where you want it to hang, find that spot in the ceiling where the hook will go. Put on your goggles and dust mask. Stand on a step instead of rickety chairs, poke a hole with a screwdriver into the ceiling while holding the trashcan to catch the dust and chunks that don’t fall in your face. The hole should be just big enough for the grab to fit. Screw the ceiling hook snugly. Hang your lamp and illuminate your lovely face. Is the lamp just a little too high? Make decorative hooks with the heavier wire to lower your hang point. Good thing you didn’t use that rickety chair.

While your tool box is out . . .

Fix your rickety chairs:​ There are many different chair builds. However, you will likely only need a screwdriver or pliers. Flip the chair over onto the table or another chair. Determine which screws or nuts are loose. Tighten them! Chairs made with pegs, glue, and nails may require a lot more work. Even if it’s an easy and obvious fix, you can always call Dad just to brag.

STOP! I know, I know. You’re on a roll and want to fix more things. You’ve used almost every item in your new toolbox! Besides, your friend won’t likely notice that your chairs aren’t rickety; she won’t notice half the things you’ve done. That’s the paradoxical beauty of fixed and clean things – people notice how good and comfortable they feel more than how details of the environment invoke that feeling.

Now, take a break with a cool drink and call your dad. He’ll appreciate every detail.

Stop here?

Secondary basics:

  • Tiny screwdriver set
  • Standard Pliers
  • Level
  • Wire Cutters
  • Allen or Hex wrench set
  • File Clamp
  • Tweezers or choptsicks

Tertiary basics:

  • Paper
  • Cardboard
  • Pencil
  • Small notebook
  • Rags
  • Was (could be soap, beeswax, or a candle) – Keep it in a bag separate from everything else
  • Wire
  • String
  • Tape
  • Sacrificial wood pieces

Chemical tools:

Keep liquids separate from tool boxes. There’s nothing worse than pliers glued shut from a leaking glue bottle.

  • Vinegar
  • Solvent (mineral spirits, turpentine, etc)
  • Glues (basic wood glue, super glue, rubber cement, epoxy)


  • Nails
  • Screws
  • Wire
  • Picture hanging kit

Word tools ​(I know, I know, but I’m trying to stick with a theme)​:

-Safety first. Those who do not heed these words must include things like these handy: eye wash cup and solution for the splinters and dust, jar with distilled water for recovery of lost fingers, ice for bodily damage from falling of the unstable chair When you can, use the right tool for the right job.

-Work smart, not hard.

-Read the instructions.

-Ask for help.

Avoid these:

– Aluminum wire and fasteners (screws, nails)

– “Made in China”

– Harbor Freight. Shop there if you must; but try to buy better quality tools. And cry once.

– Buying used tools? Best to buy from a garage sale. They’re more likely not stolen.

A Day in the Life of using a basic home toolbox F%*#!!!

– You just broke the handle on your favorite cup and the edge is chipped sharp: epoxy, mineral spirits, rag, sandpaper

-Making a birthday card for a friend: square/straight edge

-Damn! Scratched the table: sandpapers

-Cut a matte: cardboard surface, straight edge, razor

-Hanging a picture: hang kit, hammer, nail, mask tape, gloves and sandpaper for sharp glass F#K! Nail is in wrong spot and is in the stud: hammer claw, pot scraper and spackle, paint brush

-Hanging a mirror: measuring tape, level, drill, screws and anchors, screwdriver, hanging cable maybe Fix a crack, fill a hole: spatula/palette knife/pot scraper

-Scratch and gouge in table: sandpaper, oil or varnish, at worst wood putty

-Better shower head: pliers and plumbers tape, maybe.

-Jewelry fix: needle nose with tape

-Hanging lamp: step, goggles, dust mask, screwdriver, hardware

-Make a hook or a few for hanging things: needle nose, heavy wire Loose standing lamp, chair leg: screwdriver, pliers

-Need a pot scraper: Laundry soap bottle and razor Put a hook inside a cabinet/door: drill, tape on drill bit, hardware, soap on threads

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