Well hey there and welcome back to Hey It's a Good Life! My name is Natalie and I'm an urban homesteader in San Diego California. Hopefully... you already know that if you're here ;)
Today's post is all about tools for the homestead
As you probably already know, I build everything around here on my own. I do this for a few reasons. First, I enjoy it. Second, building things on my own helps me encourage others that whether you're female, a novice, and have no know how... well, you can build things too.
Over the last few years, I've learned a few things... Which tools are an absolute necessity and tips for using them well. And that's what I plan to share with you today.
To make things simple and easy, I made a checklist.
This top ten tools list is essentially what I wish I had known, what tools I wish we would have gotten right at the very get go of learning to grow food and build things ourselves.
I go over the list in detail in this video here:
So let's hop right into it
My Top Ten Tools for Our Modern Homestead
#1 Eye Protection & Ear protection.
As people who have tinitus, please take if from Tommy & I.... protect your ears. Loud sounds of drills and saws, which we will discuss more in just a bit, can lead to hearing loss and damage. My tinitus is most likely loud music induced (dear 13 year old Natalie, take your ear plugs with you to the concerts) but you never want to make it worse, right? So, I now protect my ears with squishy ear plugs on a string. The string makes it easier to keep the plugs away from dust and debris and keep them together.
Also, you only get one body. So let's steward it well right? We only get two eye balls, so let's protect them, yes? Please do not do projects without eye protection! It's vital to protect your eyes from harm and wearing sunglasses or some form of eye protection is so much better than nothing at all!
Tape measures are cool. I highly recommend investing in a good one. The minimalist in me wants you to make a one time purchase that will last you a life time vs. a cheap purchase leading to more cheap pruchases later.
Measuring wheels can be even cooler. If you need to measure a large space quickly, you can use a measuring wheel to cover that ground-literally-very quickly and effectively. I used this measuring wheel when planning our garden and it worked wonderfully. Click the link to see how I used it and my other tips for garden planning success!
Oh the miter saw, how I love thee. Miter saw's get their name from having the unique ability to cut at angles allowing you to cut things for a miter, aka a junction from which parts join together. Miter saws are great, but not all are created equal. We have been using our neighbor's miter saw and it's gotten the job done, but not well.
You see, if and when we get our own miter saw, we will be getting the kind of miter saw that is a) the proper height for us tall folk and b) that has a pull function.
Having a miter saw with a pull function allows you to make longer, more precise cuts. I highly recommend investing in a quality miter saw that allows you to pull on the saw and make big cuts rather than having to flip your wood like I've been doing the last few years... not a good use of time or resources.
Man... if there is one thing I have used the most, it's a drill. A cordeless drill can accomplish so much. I like ours from Porter Cable, but if I had it my way right now, I'd upgrade to a really quality drill from dewalt. And what's great about shopping for drills is somtimes you can come accross combos.
Sometimes you can find a drill and impact drill combo at a great price. Or a drill and drill bits combo at a lower price. I'd shop around and see what makes sense for you. But again, this is not one you want to skimp on... get a good drill and it will serve you well for a life time!
My last note on drills, one of my favorite features on our drill set is it's additional battery and charging port. Having an additional battery on hand at any given time is wonderful because the minute my drill battery runs out, I can just run and get a new battery and continue working. No need to wait for that battery to charge back up. It's a great!
#5 Level + Carpenter's Square
Oh... how I've underestimated the beauty of a level. Levels are a great tool for making sure your stuff is.. well... level. It's an easy way to make sure that your projects are squared up. Another really great way to make sure your projects are square (which is important to avoid warping over time) is by using a carpenter's square.
I don't often use a carpenter's square, I prefer using a level. But it's great to have one on hand if you need to square something up.
Oh... the bane of my existence. If I could not sand one more thing down for the rest of my life, I think I'd be happy! But here's the thing... sanding things down is crucial for adequate staining. I've also used our sander to remove old debris from salvaged wood and it gives the loveliest patina type finish. So, do yourself the favor and just get a good sander now. We love this orbital sander from Black and Decker.
#7 Deck Screws
Literally... I use deck screws for nearly every project. Why? Because they're strong as heck, usually self drilling (which means the additional step of pre-drilling may not be required), and rust proof!
It took one garden bed project falling apart for me to realize my foolishness and wisen up and upgrade to deck screws.
Most deck screw packages come with a special drill bit known as a star bit but heads up, if your package does not, you'll want to make sure you get one as most deck screws have a star head and require that special drill bit to work.
PS - always check to make sure the deck screws are the right size for your project, I tend to find 2.5" screws are my go to.
#8 Chicken Wire
Ok... not really a tool... I know. But guys. Chicken wire is so versatile! I have used it to make trellises, keep out pests, and this week I'm even making some super frugal tomato cages out of them. 10/10 would recommend having some chicken wire on hand.
Because I like to get the most bang for my buck... I like to buy as big a roll as possible. I purchased a 6ft by 150ft roll two years ago and we're not done using it yet.
I'll never forget the delivery man dropping off the package to our apartment doorstep... I was like... wow this is really extra for an apartment! But I was thinking long game and saving as much money as possible long term. And look at that, the chicken wire is still going strong here on the homestead.
#9 Bolt Cutters
Seriously, I wish I had gotten these sooner. These are so handy. Whether you have to cut out a bad screw or trim a cattle panel or hog panel... bolt cutters are such a handy thing to have on hand. And take it from me, don't cheap out. I bought a small pair thinking we would never need a bigger pair. I was wrong, should've gotten the bigger pair to start with so that's my encouragement to you too.
#10 Tool Belt
Last but not least, nothing is more frustrating than searching for your tools in the middle of a project. Now I have to admit, I don't actually own a tool belt yet. But I wish I did! It just never occurred to me that I could wield one around... but I totally can and probably should.
One way I've managed to survive without a tool belt is by collecting all the tools I need for the day into a growing tray and keeping that tray near by. Not as effective or convenient as a tool belt, but it's gotten the job done for now.
I hope you enjoyed this quick article on top ten tools for the homestead! Be sure to let me know what you think in the comments down below. I love hearing from you.
Until next time,