I am not a minimalist when it comes to tools, but sometimes I feel that I ought to be. Not that I have a supersized fully-equipped too box, but I certainly have more tools than I really need. This was true even before I founded ToolGuyd
Sometimes my focus on using the proper tools for the job can get in the way of my projects. And if I don’t have the proper tool for the job? That can slow my progress down even more. Which tool/accessory/add-on do I need for the project? Would a new tool or accessory make my project quicker or easier, or improve the results?
The time and effort it takes me to debate about tool selection and the purchase of new tools can and does take away from my project time. I know I am not the only one afflicted by such delays, but that doesn’t really make feel better about this.
Of course being a minimalist – one who prefers fewer tools – would not automatically improve the pace at which I work on projects. As evident by what I’ve seen on various online forums, some minimalists spend quite a bit of time researching, buying, selling and trying out new tools.
But a minimalist tool set – that might not be a bad thing to try out? I don’t really need 5 ball pein hammers, do I? 3 sets of ratcheting wrenches plus a full set of combination wrenches? Multiple ratchets of each drive size?
As I discussed previously, I’ve been working on cutting down the number of tools and accessories in my collection. It has been a slow process and far from a dramatic reduction. I’m mostly getting rid of some duplicates and unused tools.
My original intent was to write a post about how too many tools can be a hindrance and how a more minimalist or spartan tool set might be a better option at times. But now that I’m thinking about it, I’m not so sure that’s a good thing either. It is highly possible that a minimalist tool set would leave me poorly equipped to handle some projects and tasks.
I remember how it was before, when my tool collection was small and easy to manage. I didn’t have half of what I needed for any given project. I improvised the best I could, and bought more tools when my budget allowed it.
There is a good balance between an under-equipped and over-equipped tool collection, but it seems to be near-impossible to reach. At least for me.
I have seen some remarkable projects completed with few tools. As many craftsman will point out, it’s not the tools that work wonders, it’s their users. I have also seen some users use high-end tools to produce beginner projects.
But it seems rare for those with few tools to follow a slow tool acquisition path. As it was for me, an empty tool box can be so frustrating that it eventually leads to excessiveness.
And so it seems that there are two extremes – those with too few tools and those with too many. Some are at at the intermediate, possibly by choice, but probably not.
If I could have a do-over, maybe I would grow my tool set differently, maybe not. Still, I feel that a more minimalist tool set might help me focus more on using my tools. Not minimalist in the pure sense of the word, but you know what I mean.
There’s no hope for me, as running ToolGuyd has exacerbated my tool gluttony. And chances are, if you follow TG and other tool news and review sites, you’re in the same boat.
Stuart, I think it’s great that you are trying to cut down on the amount of tools your buying as there is such ideology of too much items in your life. A while back I was reading a post about this guy who cut back on everything in life just so he could buy more tools. He apparently have a tremendous amount of adjustable wrenches, even though a person truly only needs one great adjustable wrench in life unless they really do a great deal of work with them.
Years ago, I used to have neighboor whose garbage was so packed with items, he could no longer park his car or really anyone that lived in that house’s car anymore. At first I thought he was joking when he said that he owned 20 power drills and more than 20+ drill batteries, but turns out he wasn’t though.
I see a great people joke and say you can’t ever have too many tools, but when tools prohibit you from utilizing your garage or make you cut back on living expenses such as food, clothes etc, then I think there might be an issue. I like tools in general as much as the next guy, but there has to be more to life than just tools and they shouldn’t be all that a person talks about either.
That is why (as well as the fact that I need to spend my money wisely) that I ask my self “Do I really need this tool?” As well as “Is it worth the price and how often will I use this.” Now due to fact money just doesn’t grow in trees I also look at the country of origin to see if this product is quality made and worth buying.
I’ve personally cut back and have given away several of my tools, but tool area is much more neater and I rather have a few exceptional tools, than a great deal of tools that I don’t know where to store them and or really am not attached too.
I have been working this problem the second I started my tool journey. I don’t have a lot of garage space so it became almost a mathematical decision. First, buying quality is essential since backup tools are problematic, given space constraints. I started with a few rules. I have one modest sized 6 drawer tool cabinet, and a wall pegboard in a constrained space. The rule was simply that all tools need to fit in or on this limited real estate or I could not make the purchase. Interestingly this lead me down a very European approach, where hand tools and hand held power tools would substitute for bigger tools. Think track saw vs table saw, and drill stand rather than drill press. This strategy works for me as a hobbyist, and creates some interesting problem solving opportunities, which I actually quite enjoy. Efficiency is, in fact, a very satisfying pursuit. I also give tools to people if a find a more efficient solution. Think pliers wrench vs adjustable wrench. I also have a small tool bucket with lower quality tools to loan people in a pinch, without concern about theft etc. Also, having less tools means you can find the tool you need when you need it. Nothing worse than making a special trip to buy something you already have. Organization and efficiency/ minimalism are cousins. And ease of cleaning also goes in lock step here as well.
Im a big fan of having, and buying the right tool for the job. I also have a “travel/junkyard set” and a few extra of the tools that seem to misplace or spread around the house. Screwdrivers with MANY duplicates because they quickly get spread out. I simply find having the right tool easier on my nerves in the long run. Sure I don’t NEED the ratcheting flex wrenches and the ball end hex sockets, but man do things like that really make working in those difficult locations and situations easier on the nerves and time. I justify the extra tools because Im not usually paying someone else to do the work. However, I can see having 2-3+ of some tools a bit much and somewhat overkill. But having 4 or 5 #2 phillips drivers wouldn’t be as they tend to wear out over time and not having one in the middle of a job would be a pain.
This is all true… Tool addiction is a hard thing to deal with, it’s not easy to stop wanting the next new model or toy even of what you have will get the job done.
I myself rather have one or two great copies of those tools, rather than having more than I can count, as quality is more important in my opinion than quantity. For example, I have one micro Phillips #000 bit and one precision Phillips #000 screwdriver. Personally I like my screwdriver much better, but I don’t need more than two of those copies.
I keep my tools very well organized and have a system as well.
Blendo if you don’t mind me asking: what is your system?
i have several fairly complete sets of tools in large boxes and cabinets i consider a fairly complete set of tools to include 1/4, 3/8 and 1/2 drive and wrenchs in popular sae and metric sizes, hammer, punches, bars, pliers, screwdrivers and the like a couple of these sets live in or on equipment and only see use a month or so total out of the year but when i need them down time costs real money so it is worth it.
i recently put together a minimalist set of tools like you speak of in a snap-on kra-65 box ( a small box similar in size to a cash box with a lower compartment and a sliding tray on top). it lives in the house, goes camping and on car trip with me. i am amazed at what i can do with that “small” set of tools. sometimes less is more and just right. i may not be able to swap an engine or work on locomotives but that small kit is fully capable of light plumbing, appliance repair, light assembly and most minor adjustments on things.
Stuart, perhaps your issue really isn’t the quantity or diversity of tools that you own, but instead the access to those tools. The issue I am starting to have with my tool collection–which I consider to be on the spartan end of the spectrum–is being able to readily visualize, locate, and select a particular tool or set of tools for any given project.
The important word is “organized” not “minimalist”. Tool boxes are for the job site and the worst way to organized tools in a shop. I prefer drawers and pegboard.
I am self diagnosed tool “junkie” I find my self now want to be a minimalist but every time I try to a new tool pops up! I give tools away ,I sell them and then turn around and replace them with something newer or better. Who needs 20 plus cordless tools? Might be time for some professional help!! Good luck to all who suffer this fate!!
Well that guy is a bit on the eccentric side, so that is probably a isolated incident, but I only own one cordless drill and that is enough for me.
In my case, it’s a matter of storage and usage. I have yet to ever buy a tool set and don’t intend to either, as chances are, I’ll never need a complete metric set of sockets or drill bits. If I truly need it I’ll buy the item, but I am just a DIYer, not a professional tradesman, so it’s really about space.
Even if you don’t use your tools professionally, every home owner understands the need to to have basic tools. Although it may sound like rationalizing, here’s what I’ve discovered. Let’s say that you have a faulty kitchen faucet that needs replacement. Let’s also say that you purchased an $80.00 socket set for some tools to do it with. Even if the set was only used for that job, it’s still SUBSTANTIALLY cheaper than most plumbers would charge to install it. In other words, many tools pay for themselves with the very first job.
If you never did another job with some tools, that doesn’t always imply that you weren’t justified in the purchase. In addition, even if you’re not a professional tradesman, that doesn’t make inexpensive tools “cheaper.” It’s often cheaper in the long run to purchase quality tools. Let’s say that you purchased a mechanics tool set with metric sockets and used only one of them for a repair on your car. If it would’ve otherwise required an expensive trip to the dealership, you can probably consider the set payed for. When you look at it from that vantage point, there’s nothing wrong with having a decent selection of quality tools. Yes, you may never use all the sockets in that metric set. If they’ve payed for themselves in one job however, and even saved you money over going to a dealership, so what? It was still a wise purchase.
I think we all know about excessive and compulsive. As long as you understand the distinctions however, you can certainly make a case for some decent quality tools. Mine have payed for themselves. I never make apologies for them.
Having a lot of something you use often isn’t necessarily a problem, like buying drill/driving bits when they’re cheap if you know you will wear them down. A lot of difference between being well supplied and having ‘too many tools.’ And some tools get especially hard usage.
Having multiple sets of screwdrivers without any kind of specialty or added feature is just redundancy. Especially when you can get a good bit driver and all the bits you can want. Have a few good drivers for situations you need, longer, stubby, a favorite here and there. Some tools are just plain old-fashioned. Screwdrivers aren’t outdated by any means but you don’t need a ton of them like in old days; that one time you actually need a T30 just keep the bit where you can find it.
For most hand tools, if you want to have a nice set for the toolbox and a less expensive set for travel, that makes perfect sense. For the most part, the more hand tools you have the more specialized they need to be. Having a bunch of sets of carving/turning tools would only be useful if you break them often, and if you get a good set you won’t do that anyway.
Power tools are a little different. For tools you use daily, yes having a backup is definitely necessary. Downtime is more expensive than buying an extra when it’s on sale. If you’re a ‘guy who has tools’ rather than a contractor, maybe you don’t need a backup though. You have to use your own judgement.
In case you think I don’t know what I’m talking about, I have two high end routers (had 3, one finally died) and a low end that refuses to die, 4 18v drills (as well as a 12v, corded & drill press), 4 different dremel tools (plus a backup for the cordless, plus a new Trio), 10 sanders, and so forth. When I just list them, it sounds somewhere between ‘a lot’ and ‘too much’ but that depends on the person using them and for what purpose. Of all those listed, only two drills are really redundant since I’ve recently got the newer version. Except the routers, the rest get used on at least a monthly basis.
I have struggled with this concept myself for years. I would love to have one widget that does it all. But then we all know it wouldn’t to the job as well as other tools that are intended for the purpose. Tools that don’t get used often can fall into disrepair, but why have a tool you will never use? Finding a balance (the Senco drywall screwgun is really really nice but do i need it when I have a drill & dimpler?) is what we really need to do.
Thanks for being honest about something that is so often covered up in this community.
I struggle with this myself. It is so difficult to find that balance.