How To Soundproof Your Garage or Workshop

Insulated Garage Wall

It doesn’t matter if you’re a recreational DIYer or a serious garage guru, you make noise. It can’t be helped, especially with power tools. And if you’ve got close neighbors, you probably always think about that noise when you’re switching on a machine. Soundproofing your garage/workshop is the key to maximizing your freedom.  Imagine being able to cut lumber anytime–late night or early morning– without fear of wrath or reciprocity.

orange block soundproofing

There are, of course, a number of methods to soundproof. For the “whatever” DIY guy, it might be hanging moving blankets on the walls and ceiling. There’s another method called “resilient channel” which is what a lot of the nicer recording studios use, and which is great… if you’re building a nice recording studio. An approach I like a lot more is the “cleat” method, suggested by “Mobile Rik” on Instructables.com. With a lot of easy-to-follow steps and lots of pics, Rik shows us how hanging drywall panels on a pair (or more) of wooden “cleats” can contain a great deal of sound. Compared to the “resilient method, the “cleat method is:

  1. Much cheaper
  2. Much sturdier (if you decide you want shelves or other heavy things hanging from those walls)
  3. Is removable for tweaking if necessary
  4. Uses ordinary 2 x 4 lumber and not some fancy-shmantzy materials that need to be special-ordered

insulated garage wall vertical

But, be warned, the “cleat” style is based on different– even contrary– principles to conventional soundproofing methods. But this is the cornerstone of every blue-blooded DIYer: Build A Better Mousetrap! Be sure you read Rik’s “Be Willing To Break The Rules” section to understand the high-fidelity physics behind his approach and why he’s going this route.

Take a look at Mobile Rik’s “How-To” and see if this is something you could do in your garage!

cleat drywall

But first, here’s a quick (short) list of what you’re gonna need:

Tools Needed:

table saw

*If you don’t have a table saw or band saw (although this is as good an excuse as any to get one), you could skip this tool by going to the lumber store and have them rip your boards per your specifications.

Materials:

Polyurethane Tube Insulation

  • 2-1/2″ Nails
  • Drywall Screws
  • Closed-Cell Foam Tape
  • Polyethylene Pipe Insulation Tube
  • Drywall 1/2″ (you may even consider 5/8″; besides killing even more sound, it’ll add fire protection and be more gouge-proof)
  • Acoustical Caulk

Other Tips To Deaden Sound In The Garage:

rubber washers

  • Buy a pack of rubber washers and apply them to machine cabinet fasteners as long as it’s not a critical connection for precision alignment
  • Retrofit all of your tool stands to include rubber-wheeled casters, and look at using rubber grommets on the plate holes where you bolt them to the stand legs
  • Buy those square rubber vibration isolation blocks and use them to separate the tool from the mobile base or tool cart
  • Spray sound-dampening material on the insides of metal machine cabinets
  • Add sound insulation lining to machine cabinets, router table chambers
  • Use baffle-like sound shields made of sound-absorptive materials near motors and other noise sources without restricting heat dissipation for the motor. 
  • Add additional sound absorbing material (perhaps backed by sound reflecting material) directly behind noisy machines that are against the wall
  • Safety guards around blades and bits do help with both dust collection and noise isolation, so it’s not a bad idea to use them when you can, especially over the table saw blade.  Maybe make your own, and incorporate some sound-deadening strategies in addition to dust collection efficiency strategies.

Remember that a lot of little things will add up to a much quieter shop.  You’ll feel much more free knowing that you won’t get complaints about your late night or early morning dust-making activities. And remember Harbor Freight Tools when you need a quality tool at a very low price!

How To Build a Teardrop Trailer

teardrop trailer complete

In the March/April 1939 issue of Popular Homecraft an article ran– along with detailed plans– for a new, cool oddity called the “Honeymoon House Trailer.”

It was built in the late 30’s by Louis Rogers of Pasadena, California, a guy who literally saved his dimes for the little traveler so as to take his new bride on their wedding trip. The 8’x4’ floor plan had tongue-and-groove flooring on a pine chassis, a Chevy front axle with 28” wheels and 1926 rear fenders.  The mini trailer slept two and had a raise-up deck lid for a rear kitchenette, complete with ice box and stove. A curtain-enclosure outside the starboard entry served as the “dressing room.” The whole project set him back about $60 ($1,026 today). This may or may not have been the very first teardrop trailer, but it was certainly in the ballpark.

DIYers went crazy. They followed Rogers’ plans and soon added touches of their own. After World War II, subsequent models morphed even more, sporting Jeep wheels and exterior skins made from bomber wings. After the 50’s, though, their popularity waned as big RVs appeared. Then, once again, the teardrops returned with a vengeance. Today you can find a number of websites for plans (some free!), photo galleries, forums and clubs. Teardroppers believe that creating, renovating and modifying unique, personalized models are what give the little campers their timelessness—and the most rewarding way to own a teardrop!

vw teardrop

The coolest part of all this is, you don’t have to be a master builder to make your own drop-dead gorgeous teardrop trailer. If you’ve got just a basic knowledge of woodworking and some tools, you’re already ahead of the game.

First thing, how to go about it? On a recent Google hunt, I found this most EXCELLENT “HOW-TO” tutorial on building a teardrop trailer on Instructables.com with extremely detailed steps, TONS of pics (man, you gotta have pics!) and a comfortable daily planner. Building it on a Haul-Master 1720 lb-Capacity. 4’x8′ Super Duty Trailer

HF super duty trailer…the author created this beautiful camping capsule, complete with aluminum siding, wiring and lights, vent fan, sink-&-stove kitchen area, windows on the sides and front, and a roomy bed with a second kid-sized bunk, all for under two grand!

teardrop beds

Necessary Tools:

teardrop camping

While it’s not exactly a 2-weekend project, the finished product will leave you buzzed with such sublime satisfaction, and give you years of fun and memories that you just can’t buy.

Of course, most of the tools necessary to make this dream a reality can be found at Harbor Freight Tools. Make sure you check the ads for specials and coupons for even greater savings!

2015 Father’s Day Gift Guide

fathers day 2015

When you think of the best parts of your childhood, Dad is indelibly among them. The smell of his after shave and brush of his stubble. The excitement of his coming home and throwing you in the air. The weird songs he chose to sing along to when driving or working in the garage (“Love is a burning thing…“). Yup, Dad is a large part of our favorite memories, so of course we somehow want to convey that to him come Father’s Day. And since he still likes to tinker in his garage, work on his car and stay busy, here are ten excellent suggestions from Harbor Freight Tools on what to get him.

 

3 ton steel jack low profile

This best-selling 3-ton low-profile steel jack can fit in small spaces and lift big things– and it makes the job easier, ’cause it gets the vehicle up, fast and high. Embodied with strength and durability, the heavy-duty jack rolls and maneuvers easily on concrete with its wide steel wheels, and is long enough to get way under the vehicle. A winner for anyone looking for a “heavy” jack!

 

13 drawer tool cabinet

For the man who has everything… something to put it in! Finally, Dad can consolidate his multiple toolboxes into this one durable, spacious cabinet. Made of heavy-duty industrial-strength steel, this baby can hold over 2,500 lbs. of tools and roll around the garage to assist him with whatever job he’s got cooking. You’d spend hundreds more elsewhere to get the same lifelong service this favorite tool cabinet will provide.

 

12000 winch FB

If Dad’s the kind of guy who boldly goes where no man (in their right mind) has gone before, then our Badlands 12K electric winch is the ticket. Built to be tortured and come back for more, this winch will emancipate stuck vehicles, haul downed trees and load boats. Rain? Snow? Mud? Please. Throw in the Wireless Winch Remote #61474 and Dad can Snapchat his adventures while the winch does all the work!

 

90 amp flux wire welder 61849

If you’ve noticed that, from time to time, Dad’s been in need of a welder– or if he’s expressed interest to get into welding– here is the perfect unit to get him equipped, With our best-selling 90 amp flux core welder, you get the functionality of a MIG welder without the hassle of gas. Set-up and operation are way easy, and the performance is awesome! Dad will find out soon enough how invaluable this welder is, for small repairs and in the garage. Pick up one of our Auto-Darkening Helmets #61611 while you’re at it.

3 gallon pancake compressor 61615

While the old man’s still got plenty of hot air to spare, why not make life easier for him by having one of these handy, reliable units in the garage? This 3-gallon oilless air compressor is a mighty mite for inflation, stapling, nailing, sanding, buffing, spray painting and all kinds of small pneumatic projects around the house. It takes very little space and tucks out of the way until it’s needed again. A nice addition in any home, shop or garage.

 

ladder 67646

With the ability to set up in 23 different configurations, our multi-task ladder will perform for Dad like a boss, whatever his chore. Made of super-strong aircraft-grade aluminum,  this unit can transform into 4 kinds of step ladders, 6 kinds of stair ladders, 7 types of extension ladders, 2 kinds of scaffold trestles and 4 sizes of storage ladder. We wouldn’t be surprised if it’ll make him a sandwich, but don’t quote us. As the title suggests, our multi-task ladder stretches out to 17 ft. and can easily sustain 300 lbs. And, it sells for much less than the leading competitors! (*in stores only)

 

10-inch miter saw 61971

This 10″ sliding compound miter saw will easily make a home in your Dad’s shop. For it’s size and price, he will be pleasantly surprised at how big a cut it makes. Great for plywood, baseboards, trim, molding, flooring– and with the switch of a blade, can also cut masonry and metal. With its robust 15 amp motor this power saw delivers precision cross, bevel and miter cuts. A great deal and a handy addition for Dad.

 

reciprocating saw 62370

Here’s the tool Dad will grab whenever he announces, “Stand back, Junior, and prepare to be dazzled!” Our 6″ reciprocating saw is a top-rated workhorse that cuts through heavy lumber, nails, siding, branches and roots, exhaust pipe, etc., like butter. This is the go-to tool for remodeling kitchens, tearing down porches and removing a door or window. One of the features he’ll really like is how he can control direction, making it easy to get around tricky areas. The reciprocating saw could easily become his favorite tool in the garage.

 

motorcycle lift 1000 lb cropped

If Dad’s a “Wild Hog,” here’s the item on the type of every rider’s wish list. With our motorcycle lift, he can wrench and clean his bike with ease, saving his back and knees,  and making it a lot less effort to get up for another tool. With just a pump of the foot, he can lift his bike to a comfortable level, safe and secure on the stand. This motorcycle life is strong, rugged and could easily be employed for commercial use. Throw in a couple of our Magnetic Bowls, and the old man will be in hog heaven!

 

image_21577

Speaking of wrenching, may we suggest Harbor Freight’s most complete, end-all mechanic’s tool kit. At a fraction of the cost competitors’ similar sets, this professional mechanic’s tool set contains a comprehensive collection of the most-used automotive and mechanic’s tools in both SAE and metric sizes.  It’s got everything organized and clearly labeled so he won’t waste time zeroing in on the right tool or right size. Dad will not only be excited about the performance of these tools, he’ll be happy to see how many different kinds are all together in one box. As one customer put it, “Hands down, the best tool set for the money!”

Whatever you think your dad might like, chances are good you’ll find it at Harbor Freight Tools— and because of the low prices there, you’ll be able to get something really nice and look like a champ (not that you’ll ever be the champ Dad is).

 

 

 

 

Dutch Oven Mountain Man Breakfast

mountain man breakfast

Every year we go beach camping up and down the California coast with 10-12 other families, and every year our meal assignment has been the Dutch Oven Mountain Man Breakfast. Like Coke and Mentos, and the midnight grunion runs, the Mountain Man Breakfast has become a demanded tradition of us and ours. It’s got all the favorite breakfast foods in one dish: sausage, eggs, cheese, hash browns. Not only is it the most delicious, wonderful mess you’ll ever shovel in your mug, it sends torturous wafts of incredible aroma throughout the campground, causing many a family to look down miserably at their breakfast bars and weep.

So, without further ado, here’s our recipe for the quintessential Dutch Oven Mountain Man breakfast (makes 6-12 servings):

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground pork sausage (mild, medium or hot, it’s up to you)
  • 1 pound bacon (honey cured is sometimes preferred)
  • 1 sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 (2-pound) bag of shredded hash browns
  • 12 extra large eggs, beaten
  • 1 16-oz. bag shredded mild cheddar cheese
  • Add any other spices you might like: salt pepper, butt rub…

dutch oven

Directions

  1. You’ll want to get a campfire going about 90 minutes before you’re ready to eat. Let it burn until it’s accumulated a nice layer of coals.
  2. Add and stir the sausage, bacon, onion and garlic into a 12-Inch Cast Iron Dutch Oven with a lid, with the oven beside–but not directly in– the coals, so you have a nice medium-high heat. Cook and stir until the sausage and bacon are no longer raw and the onion is tender.
  3. Stir in the red and green bell peppers and hash browns until nicely blended. Keep stirring for about 15 minutes, until the potatoes are hot and the peppers are now tender.
  4. Add the beaten eggs evenly over the top of the potatoes, allowing them to sink into the mix, then cover the Dutch oven.
  5. Carefully place  8-10 hot coals under the Dutch oven and 13-15 on top. Allow your concoction to bake around 35-40 minutes, until the eggs are firm.
  6. Carefully remove the lid, keeping the coals on, and sprinkle the cheddar cheese evenly over the eggs. Cover and continue cooking for about 5 more minutes. The cheese should be melted at this point.

Adjust this recipe according to your crowd, of course. There’s nothing wring with having leftovers, though, this chow makes for GREAT leftovers!!

Clean-Up

As any Dutch Oven enthusiast can tell you, there are some “Do NOTs” when is comes to cleaning a Dutch Oven:

  • Do NOT use dish soap or detergent (it can leave a soapy taste in the oven that may transfer to the food).
  • Do NOT use a metal scrapper or scouring pad (it can remove the “hard-earned” seasoning).
  • Do NOT put cold water on a hot Dutch Oven (it can cause the oven to crack).
  • Do NOT “burn out” your Dutch Oven over the fire. (It can warp or crack the oven).

If it’s not convenient to clean the Dutch oven right away, you can pour some hot water in it and let it soak. For BEST RESULTS, though, follow these steps:

  1. With a plastic scraper, scrape out the excess food.
  2. With a little hot water and a dish cloth, wipe up the residual gunk and finish cleaning it out. Then dump out the dirty water and rinse the pan with warm water.
  3. Dry the dutch oven thoroughly with a paper towel, or leave it in close enough proximity to the campfire to dry itself.
  4. When dry, take a clean paper towel and wipe a thin coat of oil all over the Dutch oven, careful to remove any excess so it doesn’t leave a rancid puddle.
  5. Finally, fold another clean paper towel and put it  under the lid and hanging slightly out the side  to absorb any excess oil and moisture and to allow some air into the oven.

Before you even go camping, though, the best thing you could do is season your 12-Inch Cast Iron Dutch Oven  to get long-lasting, top notch performance out of it. You can read about how to season this and your other cast iron pans HERE. Also, you can pick up a Dutch oven at Harbor Freight Tools for a great, low price!

Be sure to check out other recipes you can make in your Dutch oven, like stews, chili, desserts and so much other delicious grub. It may not be pretty sometimes, but it always eats good.

 

HOW TO BUILD YOUR OWN 55-GAL. BARREL BBQ*

steak

There’s nothing better than the high octane performance of a flaming charcoal barbecue– and there’s nothing cooler than manning your own 55-gallon barrel grill, made with your own hands. Here’s a cool tutorial we found on the Super Chevy website. Hey, summer’s coming, dude. Let’s talk about how you can make this a reality.

Things You Will Need:

barrel - found

  • Find a 55 gallon drum. Sometimes you can avoid buying a new one by checking out Craigslist or other local classifieds, pet shops or weed n’ feeds. The best kind of 55-gallon drum barrel to get is food related. Try to avoid one that housed toxic chemicals, but if you’re not sure what it contained, you’re going to want to burn it clean when you cut it open. 

barrel - taped

  • Rather than cutting the barrel in half, we’re going to show a clam shell it with a quarter cut. With the masking tape and a level, set all your lines ready to cut.

barrel - cut

  • The next step is to use the trusty cut-off tool and cut down the side of the barrel along the blue tape. The cut off quarter is going to be the BBQ grill’s lid. When you’ve cut out the quarter section, build a large fire inside of the barrel to thoroughly burn out any lingering harmful substances. Then, once cool,  dump the ashes and give it one last thorough hosing.
  • Next, take some angle iron and weld a rectangular shape out of it. Then weld it into place in the middle of the drum. This will provide as a rest for the grill.

barrel - mesh

  • Find a good mesh that can be used as the grill surface, preferably a heavier gauge metal, and one where the edges are flattened so there are no sharp points sticking up. If you need to flatten the sharp edges yourself, that’s what the grinder is for. Here they welded 1/8″ metal rod all along the edges and eventually added some cross bars as well. Besides not getting gouged every time you BBQ, it also makes it easier to scrub after grilling. 

barrel - stands - relief cuts

  • Take two lengths of 1/2″ box tube and make relief cuts every two inches so you can bend them to the shape of the barrel. Then bend it around the barrel.

barrel - stand - relief welded

  • Once you’ve got the shape you desire, weld the cuts smooth with your 70 amp stick welder. This creates a sturdy cradle on which you’ll be attaching the legs.

barrel - stands welded on

  • Then weld the half moon shapes to the ends of the barrel. They should make a nice snug fit.

barrel - hinges

  • Attach hinges to the barrel and lid, and reinforce it with steel plates on the inside to ensure a long-lasting, sturdy hinge.

barrel - on legs

  • Determine how high you want your grill to be (3-ft. is good) and accordingly cut the 2×1 square tubing into legs. Cut relief marks about 6″ down the legs so you can bend them outward for greater stability. Now weld on the legs, and you have your very own, cheap and efficient 55-gal. drum grill!

barrel - complete

Of course, you’ll probably want to add handles, a couple of vents, a hole on the bottom for dripping. If you came this far, though, I trust you can take it from here.

How To Use a Magnesium Fire Starter To Make a Campfire

campfire

Here’s some good info everyone should have at their disposal, whether it be for camping or emergency situations. In fact, it’s so stinking easy, you’ll wonder why you never picked it up before.  That strange, cheap little hunk of magnesium and flint steel will save your bacon and pay for itself several times over in just one dire situation.

What’s magnesium, anyway? Magnesium is the seventh most common element in the earth’s crust. During WWII it was used to make fire bombs employed in European missions. It was also a main ingredient for flash powder in early photography. Today, magnesium is still used in fireworks and pyrotechnics. And, of course, fire starters.

magnesium firestarter

Here’s how to use your magnesium fire starter to make a fire:

  • Find an area where you can have a fire, hopefully a spot protected from any present elements like high wind and rain. Clear the area of dry grass, twigs, etc.
  • Gather up the tinder. If you’re a “Be Prepared” type of person, the best tinder would be a ziplock full of petroleum jelly-saturated cotton balls. But, if you just happend to have left those at home, dry moss, pine cones, dry pine needles, tiny twigs, dry grass and thin shreds of wood all make great tinder. Leaves can work too if they’re really dry. Even newspaper, or a paper napkin. Make sure the fuel is as dry and dead as possible.  If the leaf litter is wet from rain or dew, carefully lift the top layers to see if the lower layers are still dry — or check under thick foliage, which may have protected tinder from rain. You may also be able to find dry moss, pine needles or tiny twigs in these protected areas. Hollow logs are good, too. Or, if you’re not having much luck doing that, put the least damp tinder in your pocket for a while and let the heat dry it out. If you see any larger sticks or wood that looks useable, grab that aw well so it’ll be ready when needed.

tinder

  • Build your structure. The three go-to designs for a campfire are Teepee, Log Cabin and Lean-to (or variations of any of the three). For the sake this tutorial, we’ll be using the teepee build. Construct a teepee of twigs and small branches (like the picture below on the left), evenly distributing so it can bear additional wood after the fire takes.

campfire builds

  • Prepare the tinder. Once your structure is built, make a bundle out of your tinder that will catch the sparks from the fire starter. Place it as close to the structure as possible without going all the way in– in the “doorway” is best. On top of the tinder bundle, place a dry leaf or an old receipt to contain the magnesium shavings. In the best of worlds, you’d have some duct tape handy to keep the shavings from blowing away, but the structure and “container” (leaf or receipt) should do the trick.
  • Keep a bucket or other container of water nearby in case, for any reason, you need to put the fire out.

campfire magnesium shavings

  • Hold the magnesium block down, pointed at the tinder bundle. Then with the other hand, hold the serrated metal blade that came with your HF Magnesium Fire Starter at a slight (45º) angle against the block and shave tiny flakes downward onto the bundle. If the fire starter you have didn’t come with a blade, use the backside of a knife. Smaller shavings and pieces work best. Keep going at it until you have a pile of magnesium shavings on your tinder bundle about the size of a quarter.

campfire ignite magnesium

  • Using your serrated blade or backside of a knife, strike a spark to ignite the magnesium on the tinder bundle. But instead of sliding the blade down the flint toward the tinder, hold the blade stationary, down with the tinder bundle, and slide the flint up toward you. This keeps the spark close to the tinder. Keep scraping until a spark lands on the magnesium shaving and ignites it.
  • When a spark catches the magnesium, the shavings will burn bright, hot and fast. The generated heat will then spread to the tinder, catching it on fire as well. This is a crucial moment. You may have to urge the young flame on by very gently blowing on it and giving it additional oxygen. You may also need to adjust it a little here and there it to allow the young fire to spread.

campfire tinder goes in

  • As the tinder fire grows, you’ll need to carefully slide it– in tact–  into the campfire structure. You might want to use a couple of sticks to push the bundle under if it’s too hot to handle. Then, as you prepare for the next phase, maybe feed it some more leaves and grass to keep it stoked.
  • Another crucial moment. Fire needs a proper blend of oxygen, fuel and heat. As your structure starts catching on fire, blow on it and feed it by gradually adding slightly larger and larger twigs and sticks. Don’t get carried away, give it time. If you drop a log on it too soon, you’ll be back to square one, rummaging for dead grass. Don’t be that guy.

campfire successful

  • And while you want to be patient, you also want to keep feeding. Find larger sticks and logs to keep the fire growing and happy for the endurance you need to stay warm, dry and protected.

Practice Using The Magnesium Fire Starter

I’ve already said it before, but I’ll say it again: be prepared. It’s not enough to have your magnesium fire starter, you should be ready in an instant to know how to use it. Whether you’re stranded in the cold and wt woods or the arid, desert wilderness, knowing how to make a fire in a SHTF situation will give you life, comfort and security. So practice at home– when the need isn’t there– until you’ve got it down cold (or hot).

And, one last thing. You might want to rethink taking that baggie of petroleum jelly cotton balls.

 

4 IN. RATCHETING BAR CLAMP/ SPREADER

4 in. Ratcheting Bar Clamp Spreader

The 4 In. Ratcheting Bar Clamp/Spreader is a light duty tool that’s perfect for delicate woodwork or scale modeling. The clamp features a pistol grip for easy one-hand operation and a quick-release button that works with the touch of a finger. The bar clamp easily converts to a spreader by simply removing the fixed jaw and placing it on the opposite end of the bar. Pick up half a dozen or more for your garage or shop—you can never have enough of these clamps… and be careful who you loan them to because you’ll probably never get them back!

These clamps have been upgraded from their predecessors thanks to feedback from customers like you. Here’s what one customer had to say about the 4 In. Ratcheting Bar Clamp/Spreader:

These have been redesigned, nothing like the earlier ones, I believe these can put as much pressure as the old foot-long ones. HFT listened and corrected ALL the previous problems. Try a pair, you will be happily surprised – I was!!! I have been using these for over a year now with NO problems. – Jim, Estacada, OR

Pick up the 4 In. Ratcheting Bar Clamp/Spreader at any one of Harbor Freight’s 550+ stores nationwide or visit harborfreight.com.

4 in. Ratcheting Bar Clamp/Spreader
item #: 68974

BUILD A TREEHOUSE!

treehouse

Building a treehouse is a cool family activity and a source of lifelong memories. But it doesn’t have to cost yout a lot of dough, especially when you go to ‪#‎HarborFreight‬!

We found a simple and solid HOW-TO that we like from Instructables.com

And here’s a bare minimum list of tools you’ll need:

Hammer
Saw
Level
Square
Tape Measure
Adjustable Wrench
Cordless Drill
Jigsaw
Ladder

Some other useful tools that might make your life easier, but aren’t crucial, include:

Miter Saw
Table Saw
Router

If you want to try something different, there are plenty if ideas to find in a Google search. Most importanly, make it a fun, learning experience for the family!

This Ain’t Your Great-Granddaddy’s Ditty Bag

There are two things that you don’t need in the Navy: a wife and a car. If the Navy thought you needed them they would have put them in your Ditty Bag.” – Co. Commander Gunners Mate First Class DeLapp

ditty bag being carried

According to a 1912 issue of Field & Stream, the purpose of the ditty-bag can be summed up as follows:

In camp and when cruising about the woods, there are certain essentials, and many other small articles of constant use which one should always have handy. They aggregate about two pounds weight and if disposed about one’s clothing will not only make these garments heavy and uncomfortable but will fill them with knubly protuberances which make sitting down or lying down a matter of much struggle and remonstrance. Wherefore the ditty-bag…has the inestimable advantage of being the place for everything small and loseable– it’s there, nowhere else, and all you have to do is to go and ferret it out instead of having to do the same thing through eighteen or nineteen pockets.”

boston ship

 The original ditty bags were used by sailors in the early 18th century. They were issued canvas bags in which to store their spare clothes. A smaller pouch was sequestered in the sack which was for holding all the “implements of his housewifery”: a sewing kit (which also included supplies to repair hats and shoes), letters from home, trinkets and sundry relics from their journeys. These seafaring men were expected to make their own clothes, so the sewing kit meant more than just a way to restore a button.  The origin of the term, “ditty” has been obscured by time, though. It might have come from a cotton cloth known as ditti or a fabric called dutty which was used to make sails.

ditty bag

As for us 21st century landlubbers, we’ve got a slightly modified list of necessities for our travels. And Harbor Freight Tools carries a lot of items ideal for the ditty-minded dude in all of us.

sardines

Of course there are other things you’ll want to include in your Ditty Bag that Harbor Freight doesn’t carry, such as food (dry nut mix works), water, water purifying pills, change of clothes, small first aid kit, fishing sinker and repellant. And you might want to deviate a bit from our checklist depending on what journey you have in store, but not much. All these items listed are valuable when out in the nowhere. Also, please let someone know where you’re going when you set out for your trek. Like an uncle with dementia or something.

Finally, a word about the Ditty Bag itself. There are a few types out there, some in cloth, some nylon, some in leather and some in canvas. We prefer canvas, preferably waxed or otherwise weather-treated, the kind that slings over your shoulder like you’re in an Old Spice commercial. Your first stop should be your local Army Navy stores. Their gear is pretty rugged and ready to get dirty. Or, if you strike out and happen to have a chunk of change you can part with, the Best Made Co. in NY has formidable-looking a “Best Made Ditty Bag” available for a mere $124.

THE 12 MOST IMPORTANT TOOLS IN YOUR TOOLBOX

handy andy tool set

So, up until now you haven’t had much call to for bunch of tools (and you’re sticking to that story). But then things start happening. The bathroom faucet is dripping. The Mrs. decides it’s time to install new light fixtures. It’s the night before a birthday and you need to put a bike together. The cute divorcée next door needs a pair of big, strong hands. It’s time to be self-reliant. With just a handful of tools– and some elemental know-how that you can pick up from your dad or YouTube– believe it or not, you can personally handle most of the basic household projects that speed bump into your personal time. So, as you embark on this new journey of self-reliance, we’re here to share with you you the 12 simple-yet-powerful tools you need to have in your arsenal. No doubt, others will chime in with suggestions of their own because, well, that’s what tool guys do. The great thing about these tools is, they’re all affordable, so you can be all locked and loaded after one quick trip to Harbor freight. Here they are:

 

claw hammer

Claw Hammer

Claw Hammer

The hammer could be your favorite go-to tool. From driving in nails (or yanking them out), to starting screws and aligning holes, to full-scale demolition detail, the 16-ounce claw hammer packs just the right punch you need for the job. In fact, you’ll probably find yourself pulling it out for projects you don’t even need it for. You know, just in case. Instead of the “old school” wooden handle, we recommend you go with a fiberglass one: they absorb impact a heckuva lot better and they don’t crack or splinter. Also, when you go buy one, try a few different hammers out and feel the heft and balance in your hand. Like a bat or a bowling ball, if it feels good, it makes all the difference. Just watch out for passing patrons when you start swinging it in the store.

 

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Flathead & Phillips Screwdriver Set

Screwdriver Set

Contrary to popular belief, the slotted flathead screwdriver is not dead, not yet. Therefore, it’s inevitable that you’ll need both flathead and Phillips screwdrivers in your journeys. Start out with a basic set of both. Besides slotted screws, the flathead screwdriver is also excellent for lifting the lids off paint cans, scraping off old paint and epoxy, nudging things and emancipating personal items locked in briefcases with lost keys. The Phillips screwdriver has gained more popularity, though, because it’s designed to give a user more torque than is possible with a flathead screwdriver, so when possible, go with Phillips screws.

stripped screwAlso, the last thing you want to have in the middle of a project, is a screwdriver or a screw that starts stripping before you can loosen or tighten, so make sure the following things are true:

  • Make sure the pilot hole is approximately the same size as the inside diameter of the screw threads.
  • Make sure the screwdriver head fits the screw nicely.
  • Put some weight into it when you’re turning the screw, so that it holds its place and isn’t tempted to slip its grip.
  • Make sure the screwdriver is in line with the screw as you turn. Coming at it from an angle is a sure method of stripping.

This Pittsburgh Pro screwdriver set is an excellent starting point for your tool arsenal. As jobs come your way, you may need to acquire either a larger or smaller one, but these will tackle most household projects.

 

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Tape Measure

Tape Measure

Whether you’re building a workbench, seeing if a big screen TV will fit on a wall, verifying the diameter of a pipe, or measuring a room, a trusty 25′ retractable tape measure is a must. In fact, since they’re so inexpensive, we’d go as far as to say buy four: one for the toolbox, one for upstairs, one for downstairs, and one for the car. I mean, who likes fetching a tape measure on the other side of the house? It also goes without saying, throw a pencil in the box as well. If you’re grabbing the tape measure, you’ll probably be grabbing one of those, too.

 

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Adjustable Wrench Set

Adjustable Wrench

Of all the tools in your arsenal, besides your hammer, this baby will probably see the most action. Because one adjustable wrench can handle different sized nuts and bolts, it’s like having 50 wrenches in one. So you could literally be walking around the place, tightening your kid’s trike wheels, the BBQ’s frame, the microwave cart and the Gatling gun tripod without ever going back to the toolbox. When using an adjustable wrench, adjust the jaws to fit precisely over the nut, rocking the wrench slightly as you tighten, to help secure a firm fit. Also, for added strength, make sure the nut is positioned as deep as it will go into the throat of the adjustable wrench. As with the aforementioned screwdriver set, the crescent wrench set shown could take on most of whatever your honey-do list can throw at it. There may an occasion to get a bigger one along the way, but those kind of jobs are rare and far between.

 

socket set blog

Socket Set

 Socket Set

If you’re dealing with a lot of nut-n-bolt action– usually on an engine or other machinery– then it’s time to put aside the crescent wrench and pull out the “big guns”– the socket set. Socket sets can exponentially speed up a project like an ordinary crescent wrench never could. They’re so convenient and effective, in fact, you’ll actually get giddy over the chance to pull it out. This is because of the ratchet that comes with it, a mechanism that eliminates the need to remove and refit the socket on every stroke. Also, because the tool will turn the bolt when swinging in one direction, but won’t pull it back when returning.  A good basic household socket set with about a dozen or so sockets, a ratchet and an extension will prove almost always sufficient for household jobs, such as driving in lag bolts, tightening bolts or other occasional repairs, builds or tasks. Like all guys, you will love your ratchet, and will probably look for excuses to buy several. Which brings us to the Husband’s Litmus Test: If she says, “But, you already have a ratchet,” then you know, she doesn’t understand you.

 

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Locking Pliers

Locking Pliers

Locking pliers are designed to provide maximum locking force and come in handy when you need an extra hand to work with. Then, when the job is done, a quick release disengages the tool for the next step. Extremely versatile, you can employ this multitasking tool as pliers, a pipe wrench, an adjustable wrench, wire cutters, a ratchet, or a clamp. The three shown here can take care of most stuff around the house and garage.

 

needle nose pliers blog

Needle Nose Pliers

Needle Nose Pliers

An valuable tool for electrical work, this little guy can be a lifesaver for projects that require you to cut, bend, re-position, grip or strip wire. They’re also used for crafts, jewelry making, computer repairs, bomb defusing and other functions . Because of their long and skinny shape, they’re particularly useful for getting into tight spots. You can also use them to pinch your bratty nephew.

 

cordless drill blog

Cordless Drill

Cordless Drill

Power tools are awesome, but most are unnecessary for the garden-variety shtuff around the house. That said, a cordless drill is a must-have component in your toolbox arsenal. It can be used for drilling holes into sheet rock and driving screws into a 2×4. So, if you’re “earthquake-proofing” furniture, installing towel bars or sawing holes in the back of your entertainment center, this is the go-to tool . When choosing a cordless drill, you want one with lots of power, which is measured by the amount of voltage in its battery. An 18v is a good size for home use, and make sure it’s got variable speeds for different jobs, and is reversible. The reversible feature will come in handy if you need to take some screws out when you realize the outhouse door needs to swing out, not in.

 

toolbox saw blog

Hand Saw

Hand Saw

Now, let’s turn to Old School. A great misconception is the idea that you need an electric saw to make cuts. All you really need is a simple hand saw in your toolkit. You don’t have to run an extension cord, you don’t have to recharge a battery, and you can catch yourself alot faster if the cut’s going awry.The image of a wooden-grip hand saw has long been the iconic symbol of the DIY craftsman. A good general-purpose hand saw is the go-to tool for trimming branches or cutting lumber for a DIY project. It’s also the one tool you want to make sure you’ve got a good pair of work gloves to wear while using.

 

magnetic torpedo level blog

Magnetic Torpedo level

Level

Whether you’re hanging pictures, putting up a curtain rod,  or affixing shelves to a wall, a straight line is absolutely crucial. You don’t want to put a bunch of nails in the wall, only to step back and see your family portraits are all askew. To get the job done right the first time, you need a level. There are some hoity-toity laser levels out there, but you can’t beat the sweet satisfaction of getting that bubble in the middle. Of course, if you enjoy getting the stinkeye from certain cohabitants,  go ahead and just keep doing it by eye. ‘Cause you’re so good at it. Seriously, get this tool, you’ll be happy you did. On the level.

 

utility knife blog

Utility Knife

Utility Knife

This tool might not put out the sexy like other tools, but we bet it’ll never gather dust at the bottom of your toolbox. You’ll find the utility knife to be a stupendous sidekick with every project: Stripping wire, cutting rope, rubber hose or plastic strapping, snipping the sealed tips off epoxy tubes, scraping paint… you get the point. When nothing else in the arsenal can help, the utility knife steps up to the plate.

 

toolbox blog

Toolbox

Toolbox

Well, duh. As time goes on, you’ll probably graduate to a tool cart, then a tool cabinet, and maybe even a wall of tool chests. In the meantime, the humble shlep-around toolbox is the perfect receptacle for carrying your basic tools to any household project. Keep it simple and solid, and it’ll never leave you, even when you need more storage.

 

No doubt, some of you think we overlooked some items you think are crucial to the ensemble. Duct tape. WD-40. The InSinkErator tool. Everyone’s needs could slightly deviate based on their home situations, but we’re standing by this list. So? Go thou, get thee tools and be useless no more.