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Establishing A Basic Tool Collection

Whether you’re a seasoned farmer with a big-time operation or simply enjoying the country life on a rural acreage, odds are good that you have amassed a fair-size collection of tools required to keep things running smoothly.

As a former professional mechanic who still dabbles in classic car and motorcycle restoration, my tools are an important part of my life. In amongst the three massive red tool chests in the rear of my shop there is likely enough tools to overhaul the space shuttle, but the reality is that time and time again I find myself reaching for the same tools for a variety of different jobs.

If you’re new, however, to country living, odds are also good that you don’t have enough tools. Often when someone moves out to our rural area I ride up on my ATV and serve as the local version of the welcome wagon. In addition to being a somewhat noisy neighbour, I’m also a bit on the nosy side and like to get to know the neighbours. On the up side I make a new friend, but there is a down side; I also meet, in many cases, a new “borrower.” It seems that newcomers to country living never have a big enough hammer or pry bar to get the job done.

That small red tool box with a couple of screwdrivers and an old hammer in it may suffice for city living, but out in the sticks if you intend to maintain any level of self-sufficiency you’re going to need a much more extensive collection of tools. While you will also likely need a collection of carpentry tools for jobs around the house, the focus of this article surrounds the tools required for general repairs on your machinery.


The most important thing is a place to store them. Professional technicians buy expensive tool chests from high-end manufacturers like Snap-On or Mac. A box like this can cost thousands of dollars before even placing a single tool in it. Granted, in most cases you won’t require the quality of tool box owned by most professionals but you can purchase a reasonable facsimile that will both organize and protect your tools from department stores such as Canadian Tire, Sears, Princess Auto, or even Wal-Mart for less than $300.

With a tool chest in place the fun begins. Although I am a fan of Snap-On tools, the cost of these items can add up quickly, so I typically recommend heading back to the above-mentioned stores in search of a comprehensive tool kit complete with one-quarter-, three-eighths-and one-half-inch ratchets and sockets. These kits also usually include a set of wrenches and the larger kits include both SAE and metric tools.

If you intend to purchase an air compressor and work with air tools you will also need a good set of impact sockets. They are easy to identify as they are black in colour. You’ll also need a quality set of screwdrivers with a variety of different tips, and nut drivers with socket heads can also make quick work of smaller jobs.

A good set of pliers is also important. Again, you’d be best off to purchase them as a set with a variety of needle-nose and channel-lock pliers, as well as a few different side cutters to cut wire. When it comes to locking pliers I particularly like the Vice-Grip brand. They are especially useful for dirty jobs like removing a worn-out bolt on a mower blade. Another item that is also often overlooked is the trusty old crescent wrench. Look for at least three different sizes, a small and medium wrench, as well as the largest one you can find, which is particularly useful for removing trailer hitches.

Obviously, the sky is the limit regarding how many tools you purchase, but the lesson learned is to buy quality items, preferably with a lifetime warranty. When it comes to the big hammer and the variety of pry bars you’ll surely need at some point in your rural life, the best place to look is at farm auctions, where quality tools can often be purchased for pennies on the dollar.

There is another important addition to your new tool box; a first aid kit. Take my word for it; if you’re using those tools sooner or later you’re going to need a Band-Aid!

Paul Williamson is a member of the Automobile Journalists

Association of Canada and a lifelong lover of all things mechanical.

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