We scored a birdbath from our neighbors who moved away — it’s cast metal, but lots of the paint had flaked off and the thing was pretty oxidized. I hit it with a wire wheel on my power drill, and a couple of coats of gloss black spray paint I had on a shelf, and it looks like new.
Why do I mention this? Because it got me thinking of all the little mini-projects like this that I do with stuff that I have collected in my garage. I have the resources to do quite a few things without buying a thing. I can repair broken china, or chairs, or cars. I can refinish wood and metal. I can hang pictures and stuff — I can do quite a few things is what I’m saying, and it’s because I have a garage full of stuff that no respectable garage should be without.
So I thought I’d list the things that I find indispensable — not the weird feeler gauges or torque wrenches, but the things I go back to time and time again.
- tire pump — I’m constantly pumping up kids’ bike tires and various balls, with a sports needle
- screwdrivers — Phillips and flathead screwdrivers in several sizes are always needed for tightening things around the house and car, and for hanging things, and for almost every u-bild-it piece of furniture ever.
- crescent wrenches — I have sets of wrenches, and socket sets, but I use a pair of good, adjustable crescent wrenches for almost everything. In fact, between this and screwdrivers, I cover 80% of most in-home repairs and puttering, probably. You’ll see me walk through the house to a project with two crescent wrenches and a couple of screwdrivers all the time.
- sawhorses/workstand — nothing makes work more convenient than getting it up off the floor so you don’t have to spend the day kneeling.
- glues: crazy glue, aquarium sealant, wood glue — Kind of goes without saying. The ability to stick something to something else is indispensable. Crazy glue mends plastics, china, wood, metal…I use it all the time. Wood glue is awesome for furniture that’s starting to crack. Aquarium sealant is great for quick caulk jobs or a leaking car window seal.
- spray paints — a selection of basic spray paints lets you quick-refinish a whole host of things. I recommend having gloss black, silver and white at a minimum.
- abrasives: sandpaper and steel wool — So necessary for removing a nasty or worn finish from things, or smoothing off a rough edge.
- power drill: and drill bits — I use the drill as a power screwdriver, as a wire-wheel for stripping things, and just as a drill. And as for bits, I use high-speed drillbits (the ones that look like “normal” bits) and a selection of spade-bits from 3/16″ up to 1″ to auger holes in wood for picture hangers or door handles.
- wire brushes: for the drill, and hand-held — wire brushes are great for removing dirt, scale and loose paint, and for cleaning the threads of bolts, and for roughing up surfaces for painting. I use them all the time.
- fasteners: wood screws, nails, nuts, bolts, washers — Just like glues…the ability to attach something to something else is indispensable. If a bolt fell out of something, I can probably replace it. My best ever was when the tub of the washing machine came unattached inside. I was able to fix it with $0.06 worth of nuts, bolt and washers. Six cents, and a repairman probably would have charged us over $100.
- extension cords — All the time. For Christmas lights. For taking a radio outside. For vacuuming the car. For running a power-tool out in the yard. For the weed-wacker and edger.
- ladder — I have one of those ladders that’s either a stepladder or a straight ladder. Priceless for reaching the gutters, or painting up high, or changing smoke-detector batteries.
- utility knife — cutting, scraping, opening packages. I just seem to grab the thing several times per week.
- rags — great for wiping up oil, or wiping the dust off something I just wire-brushed and need to paint. I keep my old sweat socks and use those for rags.
- paint brushes: foam, bristled, large, small — being able to just grab a paint brush for a quick touch up or a school project is a huge time and money-saver.
That’s a list. There are probably more things that I grab all the time and don’t think about. I definitely have more tools than this list, and they all have a use — absolutely use the right tool for the job if you have it or can get it. These are the things I always seem to go to in my garage, that have 1,001 uses each, or that I’d be hamstrung without. For instance, I had to leave my set of sawhorses in Michigan when we moved to Florida because there wasn’t room in the truck. I missed them until I got a cheap workstand from Harbor Freight, and now I have something to hold my work again.