Have you ever thought “I could do that if I only had …………. tool?” Not everyone that has a prepping mentality was afforded the opportunity to grow up around people who worked with their hands. I was fortunate to have had an opportunity to learn some basic carpentry from my father and grandfathers as a child. As a middle school student, I was able to choose “shop” as an elective my first couple of years and was introduced to a bit more equipment although at a less than organized pace. My real adventure into hand tools started when I turned 16 and got my first vehicle, a 1977 Chevy four wheel drive pickup. After two fairly expensive trips to the shop for repairs in the first few months, I was offered the choice of learning to repair the truck myself, or to figure out how to pay someone else to do it, so the choice was obvious. Getting some help from a friend led me working for his father’s dump truck business in the summers in high school. There I might work on a truck, repair a dozer, and fix a fence all in the same day. Other than a brief stint as an office manager, every job I have had has relied heavily on mechanical ability and tools. Some of those tools are specialized, but most are of the sort that we should all have at our disposal as preppers.
With all of the experience I have had, I have piled up a pretty good collection of tools, however, I still find myself needing some things I don’t have at times. There is no way for us to feasibly have every tool we will ever need, but a good basic starting list and some tool hacks will allow us to improvise our way through many situations. For a post on another great prepper tool/ skill, read my post on welding Here.
After working in an OSHA regulated industrial sector business for a few years now, I have become familiar with the “safety culture” that lots of folks loathe. I understand that it can be cumbersome and time consuming, and I don’t suggest that you need to have a safety department issue permits for you to work in your garage. What I have learned from all of this exposure is that it is crucial to eliminate injuries on worksites even when there is adequate medical aid available. How much more crucial is it to us in a survival situation where we may not have access to medical facilities? A common item found on most industrial sites is a Job Safety Analysis. That’s a fancy way of saying, “What are the steps of this job, what are the hazards associated with them, and what can I do to keep from getting hurt?” Imagine the worst thing that could happen when you use a tool and think of how to prevent it. Wear some protective equipment such as gloves, boots, and safety glasses. Watch what you use as a ladder or step. These may seem silly, but an injury reduces not only our individual survivability, but that of our whole group. Grab some basic safety gear by clicking the picture below:
What Hand Tools Should I Own?
If we plan to live long term in our idyllic bug out cabin deep in the woods, we have to figure on doing many tasks by hand simply because we won’t likely have constant electrical power from the grid. If we really wanted to live the off grid life to the fullest, there are some companies that specialize in hand powered devices. If we visit www.lehmans.com, we can find everything from washing machines to blenders that are hand or foot powered. It’s a great option to consider, but for now, I’d like to stick to the necessities.
Hammer: There may be no more ancient or universal tool than a hammer. As our ancestors learned the basics of physics and how attaching a handle to a striking object gave it more leverage and velocity to increase the power of the blow, the hammer was born and has since been adapted to many specialized needs. If I can only have one hammer, it would be a claw style framing hammer, but if we have the option, I believe having at least a couple of ball-peen hammers is a great addition to all tool sets. Click below for a quality claw hammer and hammer set:
Saws: Saws run almost as wide a gamut as hammers do when specialized purposes are considered, especially when fine woodwork is considered. For the majority of us, we can survive with a slightly cruder fit and finish in a survival situation, so I’ll use other posts to cover more specialized saws. Here are the basics that I would like to always have. A good sharp handsaw for cutting lumber and doing basic carpentry work. A medium to large bow saw for cutting limbs and firewood that can also double as a bone saw when butchering larger game. A hacksaw for cutting metals and plastics for fabrications and plumbing jobs. Click the pictures below for some handy saws to have:
Axe: I am ashamed to admit that my proficiency with an axe is lacking, considering the thousands of saplings that I massacred as a youngster. What I do know is that a quality axe that is cared for is an heirloom tool that can be handed down for generations. Regardless of the quality, we should try to keep our axes clean and sharp for the best performance when needed. Look for high quality axe reviews in the future here and on my YouTube Channel, but for now, I’ll link this value priced axe from Cold Steel in the picture below to get us started.
Sledge Hammer/Maul: I would rather have one of each, but most splitting mauls have a bit on one side and a flat hammer face on the other to drive wedges into logs. Using a proper splitting maul will make much shorter work of splitting a pile of firewood from heavy logs and a large 8 to 16 lb sledge hammer can make things move that otherwise would be frozen in place. Click the picture below for an 8 lb version that is a pretty good balance for most of us.
Brace and Bit: A hand operated drill is one of the many tools that the pioneers used as they moved west and moved from tents and improvised shelters into cabins with furniture. Using various size bits to auger through wood, we can anchor logs together for fences and walls by boring a hole and driving a wooden dowel or metal pin or nail through them. For frontier furniture, most pieces were assemble using drilled holes and dowels for fasteners. Click the picture below for a model with a set of smaller bits to start out with then look at adding the larger auger style bits as you have funds:
Knives: One of the tool classifications that we can readily get a variety in is cutlery. I would want to have knife designs for butchering, cooking, and utility use at hand when needed. I’ve covered pocket knives in other posts such as the one Here, so I’ll stick to a kitchen knife set for this post.
Shovel: If I only have one, I’d like to have a round nosed shovel that can dig more readily. If I have room and money to add a flat nose shovel for scraping and scooping, It will be there as well.
Pick Axe: Not all ground yields easily enough to the shovel and has to be dug out with more deliberate means. A good pick axe can break up tough earth with the sharp point and cut away at the banks with the wide blade on the opposite side.
Ladder: We have to asses our personal needs for ladder choice, but I recommend having a step ladder tall enough to reach anything inside your home but still short enough to set up as well as a taller step or extension ladder that will reach anything you may have to access outside your home. When purchasing ladders, look closely at the rated capacity. A larger person like myself can easily break an underrated ladder. Click below for a handy portable option that can reach lots of things but collapse into a small package:
Socket Set: A basic standard and metric socket set from 1/4 inch drive to 1/2 inch drive can make many tasks simpler than they would otherwise be if we are only armed with wrenches.
Wrench Set: On the flip side, there are many places that a wrench will fit that a socket never could. For wrenches I would like to have a set of standard and metrics in common small to medium large sizes, roughly matching the sockets I have. In addition, I like having a few different size adjustable wrenches for quick work on bolts and nuts that aren’t super tight. Two or three pipe wrenches are a God sent in plumbing and some equipment repair situations as well. Click below for a good set of all three types:
Pliers: If we can’t hold it still, it’s mighty hard to fix it! Pliers come in many sizes and shapes so a variety pack of quality pliers usually gives us a reasonable chance at getting the job done. I personally like to have a couple of each so grabbing two sets is great if your budget allows. Don’t overlook locking pliers like ViseGrip brand when adding to your toolbox as well.
Screw Drivers: A full set of slotted and phillips head drivers will cover a large portion of our needs, however a multi driver with a selection of specialty tips is a great tool to have for allen and torx head bolts and screws.
Chisels/Punches: Having tools that we can use to harness the power of a hammer blow makes many jobs much simpler. Chisels can be used to cut and to drive bolt heads and flanges around to loosen them and punches can help us drive out pins, bolts, and dowels to disassemble things.
Pry Bar: Leverage is one of the most used forms of mechanical advantage. A quality set of pry bars allows us to place a lot of pressure into a small area to move or secure objects.
Files: For sharpening and shaping metals, such as axes, a file is indispensable. They are available in several shapes and coarseness ranges to cut deeply or smooth to a fine edge.
Jack: While the jacks in our cars can help some, a longer lift, ratcheting style jack is extremely handy around the house or homestead. The ratcheting jacks by Hi Lift have been a staple in the off road and homesteading community for years because they can double as lifts, winches, and clamps depending on your needs. Just remember that the pins and ratcheting mechanism of these jacks need to be kept clean and lubricated to work safely. Click below for one of the most useful jacks ever designed:
Shears/Loppers: Scissor, shears, and pruning tools make basic property maintenance possible. Whether we need to cut back a fence row to fix a broken strand of barbed wire or open up a shooting lane to have a clean shot to harvest game animals for food. shears and loppers are a must. I believe that you’ll agree that a few pair of decent scissors have so many uses that we need not waste time describing them. Click the picture for a shear and lopper set:
Vise: One of the challenges of many mechanical jobs is to keep your work still while placing some sort of force against it. While I have covered pliers and vise grips to hold parts, they still don’t keep a part locked to a fixed point. A modest sized vise anchored to a post, heavy table, or even a solid stump will make it much easier to address many homestead and farm repair tasks. Click the picture for a reasonably priced model:
Tool Kits: Manufacturers and retailers do a pretty good job of putting together tool kits that have a lot of things in them. As warehouse building supply stores prepare for the holidays, we begin to see “mechanic’s tool sets” available at great prices. They are usually an excellent value and I offer only one caveat; When buying a kit, compare it to the individual tools or sets that you would purchase otherwise. I have found that many kits seem to leave out a few sizes of wrenches or sockets that we eventually need so we should pick up a few of those as individual items to have a complete set.
Final Thoughts on Hand Tools
The list compiled in this post isn’t all inclusive by any means, nor is everything on it required to survive. Most of us aren’t financially able to run down a list like this and get everything at once, so don’t panic and it’s almost guaranteed that, as a prepper group, you and those you have around you can combine resources to have most of the tools on the list already. If you happen to be out around flea markets and garage sales, or online in the various internet marketplaces, look for quality used tools such as Craftsman, Stanley, and the like and you may find some great bargains on tools that are often better quality than can be purchased new!
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