Sunday, May 30, 2010
The Tacticool Toolbag Primer (Revisited)
I make my living fixing stuff. I love it. I love what I do. If you would have asked me 15 years ago if this would be my profession, I would have told you "No way in Hell, Jack!" Honestly, it's crazy how things change.
Tools are a passion of mine. Growing up in and around my Dad's garage, especially when I was told to clean the dang thing, I looked at a lot of tools and learned about them and what they could do. By being around my dad and brother fixing stuff I learned through osmosis and sometimes instruction on how to repair or build things. These guys built skyscrapers. There is nothing they could not handle, and they always had the best tools for the job.
I may very well have become an iron worker if my dad encouraged it, or would have joined the military if I wasn't dissauded at a young age. But as life has it, the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree. The life of a preparedness-minded maintenance dude agrees with me.
Anyway, above is my emergency response bag. This is the one I have at home. I have one at work that is nearly identical with some minor differences. At either location, I can handle 85-90% of maintenance problems that arise. Everything from electrical to plumbing to carpentry to whatever. Usually, there's a tool in the bag that will do the trick.
I got the idea for the tacticool electrician style bag from our excellent HVAC guys, who have to climb on roofs and other places every day to do their job. We all have tons of tools, but the essentials are left in the bag for when duty calls. Excitedly, I put one together at work and then began building one for home about three years ago. The contents are, in my opinion, essentials listed below for your consideration:
1.) Hexnut drivers (Standard). You never know know when you'll need one of these. I keep these on hand because they are solid and keep me from running to grab the ratchet set too often.
2.) Screwdrivers. An obvious must. I prefer Klein Long Shanks. These are #2. At work I also have tiny small #2s for the occasional tight spot. And tiny regular and philips screwdrivers for opening electronics, repairing glasses, and what not. Also included above is an awl. It's the pointy thing next to the screwdrivers.
3.) Volt Tester: It tells you if an outlet or wire is hot. Above is a red GB instruments product. It works, sometimes. In the future I will purchase one by Fluke, because I simply don't trust the GB.
4.) Multimeter: Reads voltage, amps, etcs. As one electrician told me, always double check with the multimeter to see if a wire is hot, even if you've used a volt tester first. You just never know.
5.) Tape: I keep electrical tape on hand, as well as white and yellow tape for water and gas plumbing respectively. I don't carry plumbers putty in the bag, simply because if I need that, I usually need a whole bunch of other stuff, and I keep that in a seperate dedicated plumbing tool box. Also good to have if you are working with gas is some of the gas-bubbly. It's basically a liquid that you put on a fitting, and if it bubbles up, you know you have a leak.
6.) Safety glasses: The ones above are tinted. It's good to have a couple laying around. Don't risk jacking your eye if you can't find them. That's why it's good to have more than one, especially when working with wood.
7.) Wire Strippers: A necessity if you are working with wire. Mine are Kleins
8.) Drywall saw: When you need it, nothing else suffices. Similarly, I keep two box cutters in the bag, in case one gets misplaced.
9.) Extra screw driver: Just in case. Has multi-sized heads.
10.) Mini-Crow bar/nail puller: Perfect when you need to bash something. Or get out a nail you can't reach with a hammer.
11.) Hammer: An absolute must. I prefer a 16 ounce Estwing. Well-worth every penny, especially when you gotta do a lot of pounding.
12.) Spark igniter: I keep one on the bag in case I need to access a torch. I don't use it much, but it looks bad ass hanging there.
13.) Pliers: Sidecutters, Diagonal cutters, and needlenose (both long and short, if possible). I like Klein's. Channelocks are good too.
14.) Adjustable Wrench/Channelocks: I grew up just calling them Channelocks, because that's what my dad and brother owned. You need 2 different sizes. 12 inch and 8 inch. That should handle most issues related to plumbing, unfastening, or what have you.
15.) Flashlight: Duh. Sometimes you will need to see in a place where it's dark. I have a simple mag lite in the bag, although I should probably eventually switch it to an LED maglite.
16.) Metal File: Especially handy for plumbing with copper, or working with any type of metal for that matter.
17.) Adjustable mirror: These things are like two bucks at Autozone. They are very handy for inspecting unaccessible spots. This is the most recent addition to the bag.
18.) Tape Measure: Another essential. I also like to have a small level in the bag, but right now it's on my framing belt.
19.) Wood chisel: At work I also keep a metal pin/chisel as well for the unexpected, but for home it's just not practical. Has many good uses.
20.) Screw Tackle Box: This thing is great and keeps commonly used items organized. I always keep plenty of wire nuts, self-tapping metal screws, washers, and drywall screws in minel. I also have a miscellaneous section with a a hodgepodge of oddball screws, nuts and nails. You just never know when you are going to need something, and there is a special victory in not having to run to your shed or Lowe's to grab it when you find it in your bag.
One last thing: You need a good solid, 18volt cordless screw gun. I carry it seperately, as well as a small "bit" book, that contains multiple bits and drivers. Definitely a must have at some point. I am among the masses who needs to upgrade
My final advice is to not skimp on your tools. As for me, I had a few already, bought the bag, and then dedicated $20.00 from each paycheck to load it up until I was satisfied. I didn't take long before I was ready to rock.
Other tools make there way in and out of the bag as needed, but the ones listed above are the ones I view as essential to have on hand. A tool bag such as the above is also nice because it's easy to carry into battle and you can see what you've got at a glance. Stuff falls to the bottom from time to time, but if you love your tools the way I do it's refreshing and inspiring to reorganize.