Tools make life easier in many different areas of homesteading life, from the kitchen to the garden. Setting up a traditional toolbox with the hardware necessary for construction around the homestead, though, can be intimidating, especially if you are a new homesteader with little experience in such things.
Here are nine items you need in your toolbox to get started, with tips from experienced homesteaders and bloggers.
Safety first on the homestead. No matter what you are doing around your property, it is important to protect your eyes. You never know what could fly around when you are cutting firewood or doing construction around the homestead.
Look for safety glasses with American National Safety Institute Z87.1 certification, which indicates eyewear provides protection from impact, non-ionizing radiation and liquid splash exposure. The certification is indicated with a sticker on the lens. Anti-scratch coating will improve the longevity of your safety glasses, and anti-fog coating will help.
A pocket knife, also known as a penknife or a jack-knife, is a foldable knife with one or more blades in the handle. Having a knife in your toolbox is useful, but as the name suggests it is even more useful to carry around for quick uses, like opening packages, cutting twine and opening cans.
“This one … is probably the most important,” Mark Zeiger, homesteader and blogger at the Zeiger Family Homestead Blog, said. “I carry a camp (a.k.a. Boy Scout) folder [knife] every single day,” Zeiger added. “It takes the place of any Leatherman-style multitool, which I don’t own because, duh, I have a pocket knife!”
There are many different kinds of pocket knifes, but for your first one, a single-blade, plain (as opposed to serrated) knife with a medium-sized blade, between 2 and 4 inches, is probably the best choice for easy, versatile use.
Axes are essential for cutting up fallen trees or chopping wood for fireplaces and wood-burning stoves.
For your homestead, look for a splitting ax, which cuts with the grain of the wood, rather than forest axes, which cut across the grain. The concave splitting ax cuts broader sections of wood more quickly and easily than its rounded-edged counterpart.
“I own many axes, but I chose a single one, a splitting ax, because it can do the job of just about any ax,” Zeiger added.
Set of socket wrenches
A socket wrench is a tool with a handle with a perpendicular bit attached to a “ratchet,” a mechanical device that moves in one direction that is perfect for tightening and loosening nuts and bolts. Socket wrenches generally come with a set of cylinder shaped “sockets” of various sizes that fit onto the bit, which will stay in place as you turn the handle.
A socket wrenches set is vital for maintaining electrical systems around the house, but socket wrenches also have a number of versatile uses around the homestead. Whether you are working on structures, farm equipment or your car, a socket wrench will come in handy anywhere you find nuts and bolts.
“[My socket wrench set] has a set of driver heads, and a ratcheting, interchangeable handle, so I can do almost everything from that one kit,” Zeiger said.
Hammer and nails
Using a hammer to nail something together is great when you are building structures that will be exposed to a shear, or sideways, pressure, like the joists of a deck or the frame of a structure. A hammer and nails can also used to temporarily tack something to a wall or quickly construct a simple container for your garden like a cold frame.
“When it comes to fast construction, nothing beats a hammer and nails,” Zeiger said.
For your first hammer, look for one that weighs between 16 and 20 ounces with a smooth, wide face and a steel or fiberglass handle, which will not splinter as quickly as a wood handle. Purchase an assortment of nails in varying lengths for different projects.
Screwdrivers and screws
In comparison to hammers and nails, screwdrivers and screws keep things together tightly.
“We use screwdrivers almost every day,” Zeiger said. “Everything from machines, to computers and other electronics, to boats and buildings require screwdrivers.”
A convertible screwdriver, which has both a flat head and a Phillips head, which is star-shaped, is especially handy. If you do not know what you need your screws for, purchase a varied assortment. The size and material of the screw will determine how it should be used around the homestead, so you may need to purchase them on a project-by-project basis.
Saws are extremely useful for cutting timber for building projects. The best first saw you get will depend on what you plan to do most around your homestead.
“I have and use carpenter saws, hack saws, and keyhole saws, but much more often, I use bow saws for cutting firewood,” Zeiger said.
Thornbro, meanwhile, recommended either a circular saw or a reciprocating saw to start. “You will find as a homesteader that building things out of wood just comes with the territory and having a circular saw will make the job a ton easier and quicker,” he said. “Sometimes you need to cut something in a tight spot or in a strange position and a reciprocating saw will do the job.”
Whether you are sawing, drilling or just moving musty objects, homesteading can kick up a lot of dust. These particulates may seem harmless in the moment, but the airborne particles we breathe can have a cumulative negative impact on our health over time.
“In my view, Americans simply don’t take care of their lungs enough,” Zeiger said. “Whether it be wood ash, saw dust or just plain old dust, we inhale far too many particulates without a second’s thought to how it might [affect] our health.”
Dust masks come in a variety of styles, from the simple white disposable covers to black and chrome futuristic-looking reusable apparatuses. No matter which you opt for, Zeiger recommended N95 or N99, which are designed to filter 95 percent to 99 percent of particulates in the air.
Unlike their corded counterparts, cordless drills rely on a battery pack for power instead of an electrical, which adds a bit of mobility at the expense of a little bit of power. For most of the uses for a drill around your homestead, however, a cordless drill packs just the right amount of punch.
“This is the most used tool on my homestead,” Thornbro said. “Nearly every day I’m repairing something or building something that I use my cordless drill for.”
Cordless drills can be used to create pilot holes in order to guide your screwing or nailing, or in place of a screwdriver for tasks you want to complete quicker or through thicker materials. Thornbro recommends getting a wide variety of quality bits to increase the versatility of your tool.
“The one thing I think every homesteader needs in their toolbox is a resilient, can-do attitude,” Page said. “So much of homesteading is about figuring out what works for you, and adjusting your plans when things do not work out. You can purchase tools, but unless you start with a mindset that allows you to try and fail, homesteading will be a frustrating endeavor.”