Building a Prepper Tool Kit the Thrifty (Aka Cheap) Way

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Editor’s Note: This post is another entry in the Prepper Writing Contest from PAD Commander. You can add the items below in his prepper tool kit to your list of prepping supplies for acquisition someday.

I thought I’d follow up on my article for the Prepper Journal about Building a Get Home Bag on a Budget with an article about building a prepper tool kit on a budget. I’ll hit up a few of the same sources from that article, with a couple more as well, while providing a list of what I think you should use to make up the tool kit.

In an off grid emergency, whether you bug in at your home or bug out to a retreat, you need to have tools that will last you for a while, tools that don’t depend on grid power either to run them or to charge the batteries.

Equally or even more important that assembling a toolkit is learning how to use it. You see preppers on some Facebook pages show their “Bug out bags” full of stuff they have never even taken out of the package, let alone tried to use. Just as it is important to learn how to use your preps before TSHTF, it is important to learn how to use hand tools before there is no choice but to use them. Personally, I find it is relaxing to use hand tools instead of power tools. If I only have a few boards to saw, it is much easier to grab a hand saw than to hunt down an extension cord, plug-in and adjust my circular saw, cut the board, then put everything away. I can cut quicker and just as accurately using a hand saw, plus I don’t need hearing protection. It does take practice. I used to rip 4 x 8 sheets of particle board into 12 inch wide planks using a hand saw back when I was making doll houses to sell as a source of added income when my kids were small. Believe me after cutting half a dozen sheets of particle board, you learn how to use a hand saw.

Today is probably one of the best times to buy quality older tools at bargain prices. The members of the generation that went through the great depression and WWII are leaving us every day, and boomers are downsizing as they move into retirement. Further, most of the Gen Xers and Millennials either don’t have a clue about how to use tools to build and repair items, or they are living in mom and dad’s basement. Additionally as farms continue to consolidate, farm auctions have become an even better source than in the past. This means that tons of high quality tools are available at unheard of low prices.

A basic tool kit should allow you to measure, cut and trim wood, remove old fasteners from salvaged lumber, and drive fasteners. You should be able to repair plumbing and run new plumbing lines. Same with electrical (in case the grid doesn’t go down, or is only down part of the time). An advanced toolkit will give you some capability to process timber into lumber or to make larger pieces of lumber into smaller ones.

Read More: Tool List for the Apocalypse

I’ll start by listing out the tools you should consider at a basic level, then at a more advanced level. Following that, I’ll give you some ideas about where and how to acquire the tools for your prepper tool kit at decent prices.

Let’s start with what you need for a basic carpentry kit. I’ll skip the tool box(es) because selecting them is a personal choice, you can buy them at low-cost from the sources listed below, or you can build them yourself.

The contents of a good prepper tool kit

Carpentry kit

For an advanced tool kit that would allow you to process timber into lumber and build or own timber-framed buildings you would want to add the following

  • Set of carpenter’s broad hatchets
  • Two man and one man cross cut (lumberjack style) saws
  • Broad axe
  • Carpenter’s or ship builder’s adze
  • Set of countersinks for the brace
  • Extra-long brace bits and bit extension
  • Commander (large wooden sledge-hammer)
  • Draw knives and spoke shaves
  • Scrub, jack and joiner planes
  • Splitting Maul and wedges
  • Lumbering tools (axes, timber jack, bucking frame, cant hook, log carrier)
  • Bark spud

Now, the question comes where to buy this stuff. First let me say that 80% of the tools listed above can be found for a dollar or two, if you are patient and persistent. I don’t think there is anything listed above that I have not been able to find for less than $10. Some of the items above are popular for “decorating” which to me is another name for hanging rusty junk from your wall, and consequently it can take a bit longer to find these at bargain prices.


Where to find tools for your prepper tool kit:

  • Garage sales, estate sales, moving sales, tag sales
  • Thrift stores (goodwill, Salvation Army, DAV, St Vincent De Paul, etc.)
  • Farm and estate auctions
  • Pawn shops
  • Craigslist and Facebook sale pages

A few thoughts about some of these sources.

Tag sales

In my area, Tag sales are sales that are put on by companies or individuals that specialize in selling stuff for others. They are usually held at the house of the person whose stuff is being sold. The tag sale operator will come in and price everything, and many times, especially in the case of an estate sale, it is everything. For example you can buy a box of partially used cleaning supplies that probably cost close to $100 new for $5. Most of these tag sale operators maintain email lists, so be sure to ask when you attend one. My guideline is that I rarely offer more than half the asking price for something I want. More often than not, we settle on about that for the sale. Small items and tools, I will ask if they will take $1 and usually they agree, or counter with $2. If the tag sale is a multi-day sale, then I will offer 25% or less the second and third day. To find your first tag sale, search Craig’s list or just look for signs as you drive around.

Farm sales

Farm sales, especially out in the country away from larger cities, are great places to gather off grid tools. Most of the attendees seem to either be local women buying nick-knacks or farmers who want to buy equipment and supplies they need to operate the farm. You will find a few antique dealers looking for merchandise, but normally the older hand tools can be picked up for next to nothing. The other great thing to buy at a farm sale is fasteners. You can buy partial nail kegs, boxes of bolts, buckets of assorted fasteners for pennies on the dollar compared to new price. While you are at it, pick up a few partial reels of barbed wire cheap to use as tangle-foot for retreat defense.

Check Craig’s list and Facebook pages not just for your location but for when you are traveling for work or vacation.

Pawn shops

Pawn shops can be great sources for tools, many times they will sell full tool boxes for $20 or so. A lot of them also have bins and boxes full of wrenches and sockets, which you can search through for the size you are missing or for higher quality tools. Again, offer the pawnbroker about half of what they are asking. The worst they can say is no.

Now I didn’t say anything about mechanics tools or other specialty tools such as leather workers tools. Again, you can find them at the sources above, however I am going to depart from my usual here and recommend that you look at Sears, Home Depot or other retail sources for their mechanics tool kits. Especially around Christmas time, you can find 200 and 300 piece tool kits for under $100. If you stick with name brand sources, many come with lifetime guarantees. Not only that, they come with fitted tool boxes so everything has a place, and you can tell when you forgot to put something away. To me, that is the way to go for mechanics tools.

Hope you enjoyed reading this and use some of these ideas to equip your retreat. Again, the important thing is to use these tools now, and not wait until TEOTWAWKI to learn.

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Now add a wooden footlocker/w top tray from surplus store to hold it all. Hand saws and rafter squares on clips inside top lid. Add 1/4″ ply dividers in top tray. Excellent list.

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