A few days ago I was thinking about the tool box that I have in my car’s trunk. Specifically, when I put it together I just took a bunch of tools that I had extra of, threw them in my spare tool-box, and dumped them in my trunk; however, odds are if I ever need to actually do something somewhere, I’m not going to have the tool I need.

That led me down the trail of putting together an essential toolbox. That is to say, a box of tools that will handle around 80-90% of the jobs I’m likely to encounter and need tools for. As it turns out, generalized needs fall into 8 basic categories:

Turning: More often than anything else, you’ll have a need to turn something. Whether you need a screwdriver, a wrench, or something else, you are trying to get something turned.  This is where screwdrivers, pliers, sockets, and wrenches all come in.

Griping: When doing repairs you’ll need to hold things in ways that your hands can’t.  You may also need to do some basic shaping by applying deforming pressure.  Here you have more pliers, as well as clamps, vice grips, and hemostats.

Cutting: Sometimes separation is the key.  Whether it’s cutting a template, a wire, or some rope, you need to have a sharp tool.  Scissors, knives, saws, and angled side-cutters are your friends when you need to cut.

Affixing: You have two things that need to stick to each other.  Glue, tape, screws, nails, zip ties, and solder will help those things get closer than they’ve ever been before.

Lubricating: If it doesn’t move, and it should, then you need lubrication.  WD-40, grease, and oil slide into this role.

Lighting: If you need to see and can’t, then you need a little bit of this.  A good flashlight is the tool of choice here.

Force:  When things get tough, you need to be tougher.  Remember, there’s always a bigger hammer when you need to apply force.  Also, using a screwdriver as a lever is the same theory.

Measurement: Whether you’re trying to find a distance, an angle, or just what’s gravitationally level, you need measurement.  Rulers, tape measures, protractors, compasses, bubble levels, and lasers help you size up any situation.

So, now that I have the 8 primary needs for the toolbox, I have to decide what tools to include.  More specifically, I need to know what I need to buy in order to flesh out my toolbox to cover these areas, but what I can also do without in order to keep this tool set within the confines of my 6x14x8″ toolbox.  Again, the idea being that it would be small, light, but extremely flexible.

At work I have a tool-bag which I call my 95% bag.  I have, over the last 5 years at my work, selected all the most common tools I’ve used to create this bag.  So, crammed into my 6x10x8″ bag, I have around 25 pounds of tools that do most of the things I need to do to repair an X-ray system when I need to run to a down system.  It’s the same theory: portable flexibility.

So far for my trunk-based tool box, I need to narrow down all the most likely jobs I’d need to do, and plan tools to handle those.  Once I figure it all out, I’ll follow up to this post with what I actually select as my essentials, provide reasoning behind the tool selection, and then leave it to you to find the gaping holes in my tool kit.

At the end of the day, it really means that I get to go to the store and buy tools.

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?