View Full Version : OT - The tools you used before setting up your shop.

09-10-2014, 02:11 PM
In another thread, VPT said:

I wasn't as lucky to have a file when I was younger. I pretty much just had a hacksaw and one of those 'stops for nothing' hand drills with some dull drill bits in a cup.

That brought back fond memories of trying to do the impossible with nothing when I was a kid. My dad had a hand brace with 2 bits, a hack saw, a few screwdrivers, a hammer and a pipe wrench. Oh, and electrical tape.

When I was a young adult, I had a hammer, the tool pouch that came with my Honda 350 bike, a vise-grip pliers, a JC Penny metric 3/8 inch socket set and baling wire. Oh, and electrical tape. With those basic tools I fixed just about everything that needed fixing.

Somehow I managed to get by. Now I have a garage full of tools; so many that I sometimes can't find what I'm looking for.

As I worked on assembling the TV stand for my new wide screen flat panel TV, I was amazed at the progress. I assembled it with the same socket set that I bought when I was 17. I even needed a bit of wire to hold a part in place while I was assembling it. Yep, the same package of baling wire that I used in the 1970s, made in Korea.

What did you start off with?


09-10-2014, 04:11 PM
I remember being 7-8yr old with a pair of ancient pliers no saw and the only way to make a hole in timber was to burn it through with a red hot poker, same poker doubled as a soldering iron and any timber cutting done with Noah's cross-cut saw and an axe with a blade that looked as though it had been used to break rocks.

Bicycle puncture repairs were completed with a couple of Mams old spoon handles and for other cycle repairs the odd butter knife forced into service as a screwdriver.

Lubricants were 3in1 oil if you were lucky if not Lard or Margerine.


09-10-2014, 04:28 PM
I don't know if it counts or not, but I as a young lad I was given a 40's car to junk. I cut it up with all the tools I had which was a hacksaw and hatchet. Oh, and about 10 pints of blood. I remember my cousin got his dad's flatbed and we loaded it up to take to the scrap yard. I got $7.00 for the load because the radiator and heater core was worth $2.00. I gave my cousin $2.00 for the truck, gas, and for helping load. So I got $5.00 for a months work, minus a dozen broken hacksaw blades, band-aids, and a few transfusions.:rolleyes:

Doc Nickel
09-10-2014, 04:29 PM
When I started doing my work as a day job, I had a Jet mill-drill (with minor issues) that was "tooled" with a drill-press vise, about half a dozen endmills, and about a dozen drill bits. The remainder of my power tools were a bench grinder (with a polishing wheel on one side) and an old Craftsman-badged import drill press. My entire 'shop' could have fit in the average bathroom.

Everybody's gotta start somewhere. :D


09-10-2014, 04:59 PM
in my mind it's not so much what you started with but how big a jump in capabilities a new tool makes. I still remember how awesome it was not too long ago to buy an electric jigsaw as it finally allowed me to cut alu tubing square (not as easy as you think with a dull hacksaw) and make complex shapes for kids toys. When I got a small benchtop bandsaw a while back it was neat to have, but it wasn't as much of a "wow" moment.

09-10-2014, 05:47 PM
I started off with rusty tools inherited from my bigger brothers and stuff off car boot sales and markets, but I always remember at the end of secondary school at 16 getting ready to leave after spending the entire two years machine shop making tools or bits for my bikes, the storesman who looked after the mechanical engineering department gave me a pair of gilbows (proper tinsnips) new in the boxes still and told me to put them in my pocket and say nothing to anyone. He was always so proper and regimented and everything had to be carefully noted down in little ledgers too, brown overcoat with pens in the top pocket type.

Charles Spencer
09-10-2014, 05:49 PM
When I was young my dad (a mechanic at a dealership) had two sets of tools. His shop tools and our house tools. If he brought any of his shop tools home for a side job they were strictly off limits. The house tools were fair game. I suppose he had about what most skilled blue collar guys did in those days (1960s).

When I got married I had, if I recall, a quarter inch drill and a saber saw from Black & Decker. A one wheel grinder made from an old refrigerator motor. A crosscut saw, a hacksaw, 2 hammers, 2 pair of pliers, an adjustable wrench, a rule, and a handful of screwdrivers. With the eventual addition of a circular saw and a vise, that served me well for some years.

09-10-2014, 06:38 PM
My Dad was an accountant, as such there were almost no tools in the house, hammer, screwdriver, tape.... That was about it. He also had a coffee can filled with screws and nuts. I can recall not one of the nuts fitting one of ther screws. I just knew that when I grew up I'd have nuts, bolt's and screws that fit together. I'm proud to say that goal has been achived.


Ohio Mike
09-10-2014, 07:28 PM
Among my first tools that got when I was about 13 were a set of Craftsman open end wrenches, vise grips and a Stanley claw hammer. I still have them, although one wrench went missing more than a decade ago. I traded my original tool box to my older brother when it got to small, and I still have the box that replaced it. The first box got crunched before I made to college. Farm life was tough on boxes.

09-10-2014, 07:35 PM
I dont ever remember not having tools. Grew up around a farm and the gas field, though Dad did start hiding the files when I went on a knife making spurt. He couldnt keep keep a sharp one.

Paul Alciatore
09-11-2014, 01:03 AM
When I was 7 or 8, my dad gave my first tool box. It had a hammer (4-6 oz), a wood saw (~12 in), a flat blade screwdriver, a pair of gas pliers, some nails, can't remember the rest. But that got me started the next day. Cut some wood scraps and banged some small nails into them. Can't remember what I made, but it was certainly crude. But I was hooked. Haven't stopped since.

He died a few years ago. God bless! Getting kinda misty here.

I bought most of my socket sets and box wrenches in my teens and twenties and still have almost every piece. Some tools in my tool box today go back to my grandfather.

09-11-2014, 01:41 AM
My dad owned his own construction company, so I had the use of a hand saw, the brace and bits, a hammer, pliers- not much more and certainly not power tools. A nail puller certainly was one, as it was important to be able to pull and save nails. At one point he decided I needed my own toolbox, so he built me one and put a few tools in it. When I got to be about six, I became interested in electronics. Dad had a soldering gun- clumsy for electronic work, but I used it. A big day for me was when I got my first soldering pencil- another was when I got my first side cutters. I had discovered a place in Winnipeg called J + J Electronics, and I started to buy parts and tools from them. I was about 10 or 11 when I built my first stereo amplifier, after designing the PC board and sending it to them to get it made.

An early tool for me was an xacto knife. I remember doing some surgery on myself at one point with it to remove a wart. Did that ever bleed-

I began to read at an early age, and one day I saw an ad for a Unimat lathe. I became quite excited because it represented a way for me to make bearings and things. It was more than 20 years later that I finally got one.

09-11-2014, 05:27 AM
I was lucky because my father had been a machinist at Martin's around WW2 and then he worked in electronics, so there were always plenty of tools at home. But his Kennedy box of machinist tools were "off-limits" except under special circumstances and close supervision. When I was growing up I enjoyed making things with erector sets, and when I was probably about 9 or 10 I got a "Handy Andy" tool kit, which had a crude hammer, saw, screwdrivers, pliers, perhaps an "egg-beater" drill, and a wooden level. I really wanted to start using these tools right away, but I couldn't find any scrap wood, and I looked at the wooden level as a possibility! But my father brought a trunkload of various wood pieces from shipping crates, and I got a bunch of scrap tongue and groove flooring from my grandmother's, and I proceeded to build a "shack". As you can see, I didn't use the level!

http://pauleschoen.com/photos/robot60a.jpg (after some paint):http://pauleschoen.com/photos/shack61a.jpg

I made the robot "Wilbur" as well, and the control box that my friend is operating drove a motor to the wheels (from an Erector set), and the eyes would flash and there were thin wooden arms connected to other motors that could be made to swing around like the "Lost in Space" robot's "Danger-Danger"! I accumulated some more cheap tools including a 1/4" hex drive socket set and some "Oxwall" screwdrivers and other goodies in the bargin bins (when most were made in Japan and NOT good quality as now). I continued to accumulate hand tools and I got my first real "Husky" 3/8" socket set and other mechanics tools in the early 70s. My father died in 1983 but my brother claimed half of his tools and the Kennedy tool box and I ended up with some machinist tools that I showed a while back. I got a Harbor Freight drill press, vise, and grinder around 1980 (actually some tools may have come from a similar company called Santa Fe Freight Salvage).

I worked mostly in electronics design and instrument repair so I mostly had small hand tools like jewelers screw drivers and pin vises for working on analog meters. I met some very highly skilled technicians who could work on extremely tiny mechanisms and close tolerances, but I still didn't do any real machining. But I knew a guy who had a good lathe and milling machine and other such tools, and when I wanted to do things like that on my own, in 2004, I used a Harbor Freight 10% off everything coupon and drove almost 100 miles to the closest store in Lancaster, and packed my Isuzu Trooper with my lathe, milling machine, welder, sander, metal bender, sand blaster, compressor, and plenty of smaller tools for over $2000 and carefully made my way back home in my (probably grossly overloaded) vehicle, cleared a place in my "other" house for the machines, took them apart to pieces I could carry myself, and reassembled them in the "shop". There are still some of those tools in their original unopened boxes, and others (like the welder) I have never used. Maybe someday!

A.K. Boomer
09-11-2014, 08:38 AM
Before I had machinery I used to just build stuff with files, hacksaw and I became a master grinder by letting things spin on something like a phillips screw driver shank and holding it on an angle so it would not over-rev yet had enough direct line so as to keep the bushing or whatever turning evenly,,,

that was only a decade or so ago,

before that I always had tools of some kind ever since I can remember, but - being the youngest of 7 boys by the time it got around to me the older "bro's" had ruined it... Pops had most all his tools in his workshop in the basement under lock and key, routine was to punch the pins out of the shop door hinge to gain access - then have everything back by the time he got back home from work, didn't always pan out that way, one time my Dad shows up after his daily commute to detroit and back in his pinto, im on the simplicity lawn mower like a good kid mowing the lawn, little did I know one of the older bro's broke into the tool room and left a rubber mallet out in the yard with tall grass,,,

Pop's drives up and im thinking "he's going to be proud of me because im doing something constructive and im not using the shoe string an older bro put on the carb to bye-pass the governor so I can ride wheelies in the ditch and show off to the other kids with a cold engine because I ran home ahead of them after the school bus dropped them off" (incidentally - that's how a connecting rod got pumped through the engine block a few months later)

Right about then - right after that thought came one of the loudest "BAM"s iv ever heard out of the lawn mower, from maybe 3,600 RPM's down to about idle in a split second - My Dad had just stepped out of the pinto, a huge chunk - about 2/3rds of the rubber mallet head fly's out of the exit chute from the mower deck violently shaking the entire structure that im sitting on, I look to see it heading right in my dads direction - still did not have a clue as to what it was yet, then it settles down -- takes a few funny bounces on the driveway and comes to rest about 5 ft in front of my Dads wingtips,,, his expression went from almost being pleasant to turning beat red, I got in trouble for not paying attention and at first nobody wanted to "fess-up" but older bro got caught in a lie and got his phat little arss spanked - actually he got the strap, we didn't get spankings we got the belt --- usually the one Pops had on at the time, did not matter they were all the same --- not too wide but thick leather...

Was one quiet dinner that night --- usually Pop's would go around the table and ask each one of us "what did you accomplish today"
that night it was just eat your grub and go to your room... he had two double shot 7&7ns that night, you could always tell when dad had a rough day, that was the recipe, older bro's also ruined it for me to drive the family car - I got to one time and that was when my Mom let me when my Dad wasn't home, I used to think he was way too strict, Now I think the guy was a saint... was really blessed to have him as my Dad... here's to ya Pops, thanks for everything...

09-11-2014, 09:15 AM
I do remember scoring a bunch of wrenches out of a creek bottom when I was around 10-12 years old with my father. I felt as though we had a fully tooled up shop after that find! I no longer had to hold the 1/2" wrench funny to try and get the 12mm bolts out. We had a socket set spilled about in a container which also held screw drivers, some random bolts, some drill bits, and such.

Most of everything I ever did was with wood because I didn't have the tools to work with metal well. I tried building a go cart once out of wood when I was young because I so badly wanted something with an engine that could push me around and have some fun. Of course I didn't get far because of the lack of wood and tools. I think I got to the point of having wheels on some wood I assembled but when I sat in it the wood broke. :(

Eventually I was old enough to start taking classes at the local tech college, actually started when I was 13 and was always the youngest person in class. Most people in the class were older folk looking to change jobs. I think the other youngest person in any of my classes was around 30 years old. Going from nothing to all of a sudden having this full shop of tools and machines to work with was overwhelming. I didn't even know what to do with myself in class because all these tools and machines were new to me. I took all the classes, wood, welding, machining, automotive, anything that had a shop and tools.

After the classes I knew I had to start getting some tools if I ever wanted to do anything around the house. One of my first purchases was a miller thunderbolt ac/dc arc welder I believe for $400 brand new. I thought I was set until I realized I would also need to run a wire out to the shop for the welder because there was only 110 in the shop. The wire, breaker, and outlet ran me another $400. This was a huge hit to me even after my parents helped out with the wire some. Luckily by this time I had a few friends that had some money that I was able to half ass weld stuff up for them to help recoup the cash spent on the welder and wire.

From that time forward it has been all uphill for me. I made some cash and sharpened my skills plugging along with my stick welder sticking stuff together. After a few years I was able to afford a chop saw which helped tremendously! I felt unstopable! Something to cut metal and weld metal, I had it all. Luckily (and the reason I bought the saw) a buddy of mine found a nitch market for "test pipes" for cars. It is what I did every week, cut pipe and weld on flanges, over and over again. That eventually paid for my TIG welder (the one I have yet to this day). Once I got my tig everything really took off, apparently people like clean looking welds. Business picked up, the jobs got to be in depth and more expensive and the rest of the story is just years of working and buyin tools.

Even today I need more tools but have enough to do pretty much anything. I am at the point now where tool/machine purchases are to just make the job easier, faster, and better looking. It has been a fun journey, I hope it stays that way.

09-11-2014, 09:41 AM
My father worked as a metallurgist for a large corp for 15 years before getting into teaching. As such, he often bought tools for work and couldnt help but buy a few extras for home. Fast forward a few years, 11 years after he went into teaching I was born and he taught by day and had a business buying/repairing/flipping machinery, trucks, tractors, and equipment of all kinds, along with a 4000ft^2 unheated shop which I helped to completely rebuild. I grew up in his shop helping the business and hanging around/working part time in others but shortly before I left home at 18 I bought a small returned 26" Cman top box from Sears for ~75% off sticker and hid it in my bedroom closet to protect its meager contents from family pilfering. When I went in the military I learned a hard lesson - I bought all manner of tools off the SO truck, found out $$$ doesnt go very far buying new, and was lucky to get ~2/3 of what I paid back when I got out in 2008. I returned home and guess what?....my once empty Cman top box was "magically" full due to my brother and father's generosity and a few Xmases away from home. When I wanted to set up "my" first shop, the 2008 bubble had hit so I hit multiple auctions every week and soon acquired more than I will likely ever use including several of my current machines. When I got my big box (Stanley Vidmar), I parked the lil Cman box on top and its now one of my precision and "delicate memento" tool boxes. The past few years my father's been passing along tools that he bought new at my age, many of which were never used, along with tools my grandfather gave him and many go into my "first" box with the red felt that my mother cut for it. Ive got others more valuable with more tools, but I'll never sell that box or anything in it.

Old Hat
09-11-2014, 10:48 AM
My Dad and my Grandpa would not allow me to do anything under power
untill I showed comprehension and capabillity doing it manually.

Notable in this thread is the mention of Dads and Mentors.
It's sad that today some boys have neither.

09-11-2014, 07:38 PM
Sometimes I feel a little guilty but proud that I never use a hacksaw anymore.

09-11-2014, 08:41 PM
Great stories here. Ya, I started out like the rest of you. I'm amazed most of you have had the same tools most of you life. They must have been acquired with hard earned money for you to take care of them and keep them organized. My step son buys a new socket set every year because little by little the sockets get lost. Then he wants to borrow my tools. Before I hand them over to him I ask him, "do you know what is special about these tools, I bought them when I was 18 years old?"

I also had a great Dad. He recognized the special skills each of us kids possessed. My Dad was a Tool & Die Maker. We often ask what Dad would say about my well tooled machine shop in my garage with my CNC and manual machines. I know he would grin, shake his head and say, "that dam Jim"


09-11-2014, 09:11 PM
Yup, pretty much my whole hand tool collection I bought with hard earned money when I was 17. Granted I lucky with a lead to a nice guy that wanted to sell off his collection (retiring) and we came to a very reasonable deal. It was all mac and snap on stuff which at the time I figured I would have forever and they are all astill here and working well for me. For tools I use every day I don't mind spending allot for to have good quality.

Really for the amount of use my hand tools get (ratchets, wrenches, and stuff) that couple grand they cost was a spit in the ocean compared to the amount I spent on stuff like the cnc plasma table which I use maybe once a week or less.

09-11-2014, 09:34 PM
When I was in my early 20's a couple of tools lifted me just barely above the rank of minimalist tools. Bear in mind that I was working at an entry level job that paid very little and I was perpetually broke. Buying a tool was a big purchase.

The first was a Craftsman VSR power drill. Stick the right things in the chuck and it becomes a grinder, a knife sharpener, a carver, a sander, a buffer and it even drills holes. Add a "portalign" and it becomes a router and a drill press too. I made a waterbed and 6 foot tall book case using just those tools and a jigsaw. Full tenon and mortise construction.

The other was a "Solidox" "welding" kit. It was billed as being able to braze, weld and solder. Knowing what I now know about welding, the oxygen+propane mix did not make an ideal welding flame. Even so, it allowed me to braze parts for my motorcycle and fix broken parts on the junkers that I drove at the time.

Surprisingly, I had more tools than most of my contemporaries and they often came to me for help.

P.S. The portalign is still being sold as the "Craftsman Drill Guide" by Sears, and for about the same as it sold for 40 years ago.

09-11-2014, 09:41 PM
I really don't remember not having tools. Everything looks like a tool to me, sticks become levers, rocks become hammers. X-mas from the time I was about 7 until I went collage expanded the collection just little. The first power tool I remember buying for myself was a Makita skill saw at about the age of 16. Things have just got more and more out of hand since then. I think I still have all but 3 pieces of my first socket set and all but 2 of my first set of wrenches that I got at about age 15. Three of the missing pieces I know exactly what happen to them and the other two I have not given up on recovering them yet. As for before I had a shop I still don't unless you include the basment, the kitchen table, or wherever I happen to be broke down at. I'm lucky dad still houses the larger stuff for me.