My toolbox weighs a shoulder-wrenching amount, yet most of the time I use the same few tools, only occasionally pulling out one of my other tools for a specialized job. From time to time, I force myself to sort through the box to remove some of the hardware that makes the box so hard to lift and carry around.


Today, as I struggled up the fifth flight of stairs with a laptop case slung over my shoulder and the toolbox dragging me backward, I resolved to stop after the job and try to find out what was causing the problem. One of my customers who needed to move the box in order to get to the photocopier dragged it toward the edge of the table and was shocked when she got to the edge and gravity took over.

“Good Heavens, Jeff, what have you got in there — a body?”

A brief investigation revealed that I was carrying:

  • 15 Phillips screwdrivers
  • nine assorted flat-bladed screwdrivers
  • a file
  • a set of socket wrenches
  • 3 assorted spring hooks
  • 2 soft-headed hammers
  • a Ball pein hammer
  • a 500 gram weight
  • 37 ball point pens
  • 6 empty inkjet cartridges
  • a bundle of cleaning rags
  • 9 USB memory sticks
  • a null modem cable (When did I last use that?)
  • a network cable tester
  • a broken modem board
  • 14 empty plastic bags
  • a half-eaten chocolate bar
  • a bundle of old delivery notes
  • a bag of cable ties
  • a PSTN line tester

I could go on. The total came to about 40 pounds. The problem is that when I finish a job, everything gets thrown into the box as I tidy up, and from time to time, it catches up with me and I suddenly realize that I have been carrying a load of rubbish around. After a while the box becomes too heavy to move easily and I find myself leaving it in the car and selecting the tools I am likely to need for the job. As you can imagine, I am not always right, which results in a lot of walking to and from to fetch things. While this is just what my doctor ordered to get my fitness up to a standard that he would find acceptable, it isn’t efficient. I had to take some time out to tip out the contents and pick out only those things that really had a right to be in there. In the process I rediscovered a number of lost treasures, including a pocketknife that I thought I had lost, my ID card, and a lifetime supply of circlips.

I know we are always being asked to do things “when we have a free moment,” but if you, like me, have a toolbox that you drag from place to place, tip it all out and start again. It will save you a lot of effort in the long run.

After a lot of such messing around, I have decided to create different toolboxes, one for lightweight general use and another for the more complicated tasks. Since not all of my work is PC based, I have to deal with modem connectivity, mechanical paper handling, weight calibration and a raft of other tasks. The idea is to configure the trunk of my car like Thunderbird 2, with different pods containing different equipment for all the various tasks.

What should each box contain and why? How do I balance weight with functionality?

I would be very interested in hearing what you think. What must-have tool do you always have on hand?