Hand Tools on the Go: Revisiting the Essential Toolkit

During my summer vacation, I always travel to see family. Inevitably, at some point during my visit, I hear the following:

Steve, while you’re here, could you please take a look at that door/table/cabinet/potato bin? It’s sticking/broken/cracked/falling apart…

Thus, I always take a small tool kit with me when I travel. However, space in my minivan is strictly limited, so I always fret over which tools to pack into my little Craftsman tool box. I don’t want to bring any unnecessary tools, but I don’t want to leave behind something essential.  Even when I ask my extended family ahead of time about anticipated repairs, they always manage to surprise me with additional tasks.

During this trip, I knew that I would be doing some spoon carving and tobacco pipe making in addition to the usual household repairs, so I assembled my “essential tool kit” for the trip.

These were some of the tools I brought. In addition to the usual pliers and screwdrivers, I brought the following:

  • – 3 chisels (1”, 5/8”, 3/8”)
  • – 2 gouges (#7 and #9 sweep, both 1”)
  • – small mallet
  • – block plane
  • – combination square
  • – marking gauge
  • – drawknife
  • – spokeshave
  • – coping saw
  • – backsaw
  • – brace and screwdriver bits
  • – a half-round rasp and two half-round files
  • – sharpening stones

For work-holding, I had installed a vise on my parents’ garage workbench, but I also brought along a small handscrew for smaller jobs.

With this very-limited tool kit, I was able to:

  • – Carve three ladles and four spoons
  • – Repair the drawer runners on a potato bin
  • – Repair the drawer on an end-table
  • – Make two tobacco pipes from a kit

Come to think of it, there isn’t a whole lot of basic furniture and household repair that couldn’t be done with that kit. I was, however, missing two essential tools. First, I should have brought my own eggbeater drill and bit set instead of relying on the cordless electric drills and partial bit sets that were already at the house. Secondly, I wanted a full-length hand saw for ripping out long strips of wood.

I am now in the process of designing a small, portable tool chest that will just hold my “essential travel kit” of hand tools.

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