And now it’s time to pull up the general bits and drabs in the bottom of the toolbag. Back when I backpacked and camped a lot when I was a kid, I learned one very valuable lesson from a book on the subject: “only take what you use several times per trip, because every ounce you have in your pack will feel like a pound when you’re on the trail.” That works for the gardening toolbox, too, especially the first time you try to pick up the blasted thing and nearly pull your shoulder out of its socket.
After a while, though, you find lots of tools that you won’t use constantly, but that make you kick yourself in the butt for not carrying with you. At this point, we’re hitting those occasional tools, which makes a trip back to the house or the shed unnecessary. These include:
- Clamps and clothespins. There’s always that gluing job, or the pruning of a climbing rose, or some other activity where you need more than two hands. Either that, or you need a hand that can stay behind while you do other things. That’s why at least two clamps will keep you from trying to weave one from your own armpit hair. In this case, I have one good plastic clamp for regular reuse, and a standard wooden clothespin for activities where you don’t mind having to sacrifice a clamp to do a job. The wood clothespins also have the advantage of taking a good coat of paint, whether it’s to give a bit of waterproofing or to leave them in neon colors so they’re more visible when dropped in the yard.
- Hand drill with bits. There’s nothing wrong with cordless drills or Dremel tools, at least so long as the batteries last. There’s nothing wrong with a standard crank hand drill or brace and bit, so long as you have clearance to get it to the item you need to pierce. In those narrow situations, having a basic hand drill handle with multiple replaceable bits saves a lot of aggravation with right-angle adaptors and other accessories. The one I own was originally a promo from a long-dead tech company, which doesn’t affect the usability of the drill but gets lots of comments from people who actually worked there at one time.
- Pencil sharpener. Sure, you already have a gardening knife or pocket knife with you, but what about those circumstances where you need a uniform point on a pointy stick? Snag a cheap pencil sharpener, with a case for retaining shavings, for those times when you need to put a sharp point on bamboo skewers, dowel rods, or plastic shafts.
- Plastic ruler. Rulers are available everywhere, but ever notice how many of them are made of wood? The one in my kit comes from Dallas-area fixture (and fixture supplier) Elliott’s Hardware, and it’s constructed of a good stout polycarbonate. This means it won’t shatter like cheap clear school rulers when bent, it won’t absorb water if used to measure the fluid in a sump pump or fountain, and it can be wiped clean if used to mix up paint or plaster. Besides, you never know when you need to measure something, especially if you’re planning to cut only once.
A few more to follow…