The Most Useful Tools for DIY Mechanics

The tools you need to handle just about anything you'll encounter on the homestead.

| September/October 1976

Unless you know what you're doing, shopping for tools can be a time- and money-consuming endeavor. To help you with the task, here are a few words of wisdom from Doug Richmond ... a mechanic and tool buyer of many years' experience.  

As anyone who's lived on a homestead or spent any time in the back country knows all too well, today's "built to last" mechanical contrivances break down with disconcerting regularity. And when they do, someone (guess who?) must fix them.

This holds for just about any contraption—with or without moving parts—that you can think of Coleman lanterns, corn-binder pickups, push cultivators, rototillers ... you name it, and it's a leadpipe cinch that throughout the item's useful life it'll have to be repaired and/or adjusted over and over again. And of course, most of that repairing and adjusting can only be done with the aid of mechanics' hand tools.

I started my own collection of hand tools while living in a cabin on Alaska's Gravina Island. We didn't have a whole lot of mechanical devices to contend with up there in America's "last frontier", but I was forced to tinker almost daily with the weary old outboard that powered the boat we used for running errands to Ketchikan. The experience quickly taught me that quality hand tools were (and are) embarrassingly expensive and I resolved—then and there—never to buy one for which I didn't have an immediate and specific need. Over the years, as I've worked as a heavy-duty mechanic and electrician, I've kept this vow religiously ... and never regretted it. The problem most homesteaders run up against is that it's often difficult to choose—from the bewildering variety of tools on the market—exactly the right implement for the task at hand (even if it is obvious that 99.9% of those available are unsuitable for the job to be done). Yet it is important to make the correct choice, for mistakes in tool selection can be expensive.

Of course, one way out of this quandary is to buy a ready-made assortment of tools from a dealer. Anyone who goes this route, however, soon begins to suspect that the person who made up the selection got his master's degree in fruit fly genetics and doesn't know the rust thing about how to assemble a practical collection of tools.

How do you go about buying hand tools, then? This is a tough question to answer, but—as a mechanic and inveterate tool buyer with more than two decades' experience—I feel qualified to offer some advice on the subject. Here are a few suggestions:

henry smith
9/22/2010 5:12:46 PM

has anybody got this list saved somewhere i need a copy all it has is the box

Brian Alexander
10/24/2008 4:04:41 AM

Where is the list of tools? I can't find them, either. Brian Alexander

John Reagan_1
10/9/2008 1:29:14 PM

Where is the list of the contents of the toolbox? i can find nothing after thr reference to the Snap-on toolbox. Thank you John Reagan

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