Tag Archives: Tools

Do you have the right tools for the job?

9 Nov

Steve Jobs (may he Rest In Peace) said:

“The president is very smart, but he kept explaining to us reasons why things can’t get done. It infuriates me.”

Me too.

Except I’m not “sold” on that “very smart” part…

If Obama would actually use the tools at his disposal, instead of a teleprompter, America could rebuild herself.

Instead… each of us, as Americans, are tasked with rebuilding her ourselves, one town at a time.

And that’s going to require tools.

Like the crisis situation in Haiti, New Zealand, Japan, Turkey and Thailand…

America is struggling under the load of of catastrophe.

As a result, MANY families are making hard decisions and plotting and planning…

And they’re not planning “anarchy”, they’re planting Seeds of Sustainability, as they take their families from those “places less defensible” to homes designed to safely harbor their families as we prepare to weather the storm that will surely come.

We’re not “spouting doom and gloom” here.

If you take the crisis that is the economy, inflation, rampant unemployment, and America’s housing crisis and roll them all up together… you get a pretty sizable weather event, no matter who measures it.

And many of my families are preparing to meet that storm head-on, by preparing for it.

That means they’ll need tools.

A friend of mine (Owen Geiger) recently posted a list on his Earthbag Building blog about the tools needed to build a home. That base list came from Popular Mechanics.

Right after, I started getting emails about whether or not that list (from Popular Mechanics) applied to ISBU homes as well.

So… today, we’re going to talk about “Tools as Weapons”…

I’m not talking about bashing your Brother-in-law over the head with a shovel… no matter how many times he parks his truck on your lawn.

I’m not talking about power-nailing your Mother-in-law’s lips shut, no matter how many dreams you have about doing exactly that.

I’m talking about compiling a tool box that will take you from one side of a planned building event to the other.

And on MY blog, that means building sustainable shelter.

Many new ISBU families are convinced that all you need is a welder, a metal saw and a grinder to build an ISBU home.

NO. It’s not that easy.

Building an ISBU Home is just like building any other type of home. THere are MANY similarities that go right along with a few glaring differences.

I’m not going to go into a “blow-by-blow” here,I’m just going to give you a basic overview of what you’ll need and why you’ll need it.

It all starts with a hole…

I call it “the dirt factor”.

The first thing you do when building shelter is figure out where you’re going to build it. Site selection and sun orientation are VERY important.

Once you’ve achieved this, it’s time for site prep. Yes, it’s that dreaded and backbreaking task of providing your home with roots, so it can safely tuck itself into the soil.

Here’s a list of tools to consider;
(Again… base list from Popular Mechanics)

1. Round point and square nose shovels, preferably heavy-duty variety with extra long blade socket.

2. Pick axe

3. Pulaski axe

In case you’re not sure… THIS is a Pulaski Axe…

4. Rig builder’s hatchet

5. Axe

6. Bow saw

7. 24-oz. framing hammer

8. Sledge hammer

9. Digging bars, preferably both pointed and chisel tip varieties; crow bars.

10. Leather or synthetic work gloves

11. Protective eye wear

12. Hard hats

13. Dust masks

14. Contractor-grade wheel barrows

15. Bolt cutters

16. Large-diameter heavy-duty weatherproof rope; small-diameter light-duty line

17. Rope hoist/pulley, minimum 250-lb. capacity

18. Folding knife

And if you’re planting pilings?

19. A Bobcat or something similar with a post-hole attachment/auger to “drill down” so you can drop your Sonotube casings into it.

Image Credit: Google Images

I’m sure you’re asking yourself why I prefer pilings to slabs…

Two words.

“Site Prep.”

If you drop those boxes onto pilings, you require MUCH LESS site prep. And, that tool list gets a LOT shorter.

But I digress…

Combine those tools with several hands and what do you get?

Well, around here, you get “whining and complaining” and several trips to the emergency room… but in COMPETENT hands… you get a foundation ready to pour! 🙂

Once your foundation is poured, be it a footed slab or pilings…

It’s time to drop that box.

This will require a crane, a tilt-bed trailer, a pair of stout bucket tractors or 357 of your strongest friends pulling on a pair of dragchains like “Hebrews Building Pyramids in Egypt“.

TIP: Use the technology. Ever tried to get 357 cheeseburgers off the grill at once? It makes Pyramid Building seem easy by comparison…

Once you have your boxes where you want them… it’s time to weld them into place and then start turning them into a home.

From Container to Casa…

It doesn’t matter if you’re building a cabin or a Container home, you’re going to do some conventional framing. The beauty of starting with a container is that you already have a weathered in structure to build off of, from day one.

But, unless you like pooping in public, your going to need some “separation”…


1. 8-point crosscut saw

2. Carpenter’s pencil

3. Carpenter’s square

4. Framing hammers and carpenter’s hammers—smaller sizes for various family members, in addition to the 24-ounce tool above.

5. 25-foot Metric/English tape rule

6. Bit Brace and a set of solid-center auger bits, ÂĽ inch through 1 inch

7. Utility knife, spare blades

8. High-tension hacksaw and selection of spare blades

9. Screw guns

10. Indelible Sharpies – black


1. 1/2 inch exterior-grade plywood, which has the structural stability to help frame out a building’s wall.

2. 2 x 4 x 8 lumber by the pallet

3. 8-d common nails

4. 12-d and 16-d common nails

5. blue tarps in various sizes (5 x 7, 10 x 10, 12 x 20)

6. 6-mil plastic sheet, roll

7. 5-gallon plastic buckets

8. Self-stick roll roofing

9. Metal Framing Studs (should you elect to use metal instead of lumber)

10. Screws for metal framing studs

If you’re building something “in a grand scale” you’re going to need to bring in the “big guns”…

Hey, even if you’re not, it never hurts to use technology to take the load off your back.

1. Rotary hammer and bits

2. Hammer drill and bits

3. Reciprocating saw and bi-metal blades

4. Chainsaw (with necessary tools and spare parts: gas cans, funnel, spare spark plug, bar and chain oil, gasoline, chain with carbide-tipped teeth, chainsaw chaps, chainsaw gloves).

5. Gas-engine driven welder/generator and selection of stick electrodes and accessories (welding mask, gloves, welding hammer, C clamps).

6. Right angle grinders and spare grinding wheels.

7. Portable concrete mixer, bags of ready-to-mix concrete.

8. Basic set of concrete and brick/block mason’s tools, rock-working tools: float, trowel, brick/block trowels, plumb bob, brick set, mason’s level, jointer, stone tracer, stone chisel.

9. Simple optical level, such as a builder’s level or transit.

10. Basic electrician’s tool kit:
side-cutting pliers, diagonal pliers, needle-nose pliers, electrician’s multi-tool wire stripper/screw cutter, solenoid voltage tester, fork meter and spare AA batteries.

11. Metric/SAE tap and die set

12. Kerosene and kerosene lanterns, waterproof matches

13. Charcoal and charcoal grills

14. Chlorine bleach for water disinfection, Lifestraws or similar filtration tools, and refillable water bottles

15. Anti-bacterial soap, shop towels, and toilet paper.

16. Nailgun

17. Plasma cutter – it cuts through steel like it was butter.

18. Several EXTRA clamps – to secure fabricated components together as you weld/attach them.

As you can see…

You’re not going to build a new home using tools found in a kitchen drawer.

But I’m betting that you probably have most of this stuff, or access to it, thru friends and family. If not, you can rent some of it from “big box stores”.

And with proper planning (say it with me…):

“Show me a man without a plan and I’ll show you a man whose plans will fail”

…and some dedication, you can indeed handle most of the tasks that “Modern Homebuilding” will throw at you.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll look at each of these building categories and flesh them out.

For now, I’m calling this post done.

My little boy is ill and he needs his Daddy…

Stay tuned.