We hope your holiday and New Year was a relaxing and non-strenuous one, spent with family, friends, and way too much food.

Wendy and I spent time with our parents and Christmas with Wendy's very large extended family, and with good friends for a low key New Years. But before we headed out of Alexandria, we noticed a little holiday magic had returned to our neighborhood.

If you're a long time reader, or you've stumbled through our archives, you may have be familiar with the Old Town Llamas. These two stuffed and fuzzy creatures periodically adorned a neighbor's front window, dressed in an outfit to celebrate an upcoming holiday or event. They've been disappointingly absent for the last few years, causing great sadness among all aware of their existence.

Well, I'm very happy to report that the Llamas have returned for this holiday season, complete with Christmas lights and a shiny red nose. You've not heard of Rudolph the Red Nosed Llama? That's a shame.

Whether they're on a comeback tour or this is their swan song, we're quite happy to see them again.

Beyond the Return of the Llamas, our other blog related news has to do with a few gifts we received for Christmas.

Now that we've had our other home for a little while, Wendy and I have been starting to do some work on the rooms that were in some desperate need of a little TLC. It's nothing major so far, and I promise we'll share a bit more in a dedicated post about the work, but it's been fun tackling the little projects. However, the process of tool lugging has been a major pain.

You see, if we want to work on a project over a weekend, we need to think of all of the tools and supplies we may need, pack everything up, keep enough room in the car for the tools (even though we're probably already full of furniture or other stuff), take them out to the house, and then pack them all up and bring them back when we're all done.

We seem to need most of these tools at both houses, hence the lugging. I'm talking essentials, like screw drivers, drills, pry bars, tape measure, etc. These are not your big ticket items, but rather the stuff you're always grabbing for.

Rather than continuing to fumble around with the same stuff week after week, my idea is collect a set of "duplicate" tools that will live at the new house. I'd rather focus on bringing the specialty tools that are not frequently used and are only needed for something specific for that weekend or project. That way, if those specialty tools need to stay in one place or the other for an extended period, that's fine. The drywall pole sander is a good example of one of those tools.

To remedy this inconvenience I've begun building a list of these essential tools, and I received the first few over the Christmas holiday.

So I'm bringing back Toolbox Tuesday (or sometimes Thursday) while I put together this collection. I'll talk about the tools we're getting, why we choose the ones we choose, and what makes me view them as an essential element to my toolbox.

The goal here is to establish tools that are, in my opinion, essential to our DIY lifestyle. But more importantly, since this isn't my first DIY rodeo, I've been able to learn from past mistakes when compiling my list, so I hope this can be a guide to a future DIYer looking to either build, or round out their tool collection.

The first tool, or tools as it may be, in our Essential Tools set, is this great Dewalt case of drill and driver bits, a magnetic tray, plastic box, and organizer. I found this gem under the Christmas tree and can't be happier with it.

I'd say this fits more in the category of "complementary tool" than anything else, but certainly essential.

My first time around I ended up buying the various drill bits, screwdriver bits, hex bits, etc, all in different packages. This has led to the various bits being all over the place, in different boxes, and often lost. I mean, I've even found random drill bits in my underwear drawer! This single box approach should allow me to keep better stock of what I have and don't have at any given time, and keep important tools from ending up in storage with my under garments.

The best part of this set, the most commonly used driver bits, like the small philips, hex, and star bits, yeah, they have three of each for when I begin losing them. They must know me.

The carrying case is a bit large, so I won't be tossing it in the tool bucket, but the idea here is to keep organized and put stuff back when I'm done. In practice, we'll see how well I keep with the "put it back when you're done with it" rule I'll need to follow, but at this point I have high hopes.

The major addition to this whole thing over other bit sets I've purchased is the little magnetized tray compartment for holding screws and bits that are in use. This is something I'll have to work into my practice, as I typically just put the screws or bits I'm not using in my mouth, but I know how bad of a plan that is for so many reasons.

So this is the first of what will be many essential tools I'm going to outline. I'm not doing this is any sort of an order. This will be more of an "as they are acquired" approach. I'll be buying tools new, picking them up second hand, salvaged, reclaimed, whatever. But in each case, the Essential Tools list will contain duplicate tools so important to our projects, that we need one in each tool store.

Do you have anything you look at as a tool you absolutely must have? Maybe it's an every day item, like a ratcheting screwdriver, or a tool you never realized you needed until you used it. Would love to hear your thoughts.

Comments 11


1/5/2015 at 12:23 PM

Alex, if you want a sturdy magnetic surface for the little bits and bobs, try a quilter's magnetic pinblock. The are about 4 inches in diameter, slightly concave, heavy, with a very strong magnet in them. I have owned three or four of them over the years - the guys keep appropriating them for the shop LOL.

BTW, glad to see the "toolbox" feature come back.

1/5/2015 at 1:29 PM

I would think an assortment of paint brushes, rollers, drop cloths, basic primer and spackle and a putty knife for wallpaper removal and spackle application would be essential. Bucket(s). Garden tools. A supply of odd screws, nails, washers, etc. Some picture hanging wire and hooks. Measuring tape. Hammer. Cats paw and larger pry bars. A plunger and snake. Sandpaper assortment and sanding block, a handheld electric sander if you're going to do big jobs. I'm sure the list goes on and on, depending on the jobs you need to do in your new house.

1/5/2015 at 3:08 PM

I am a regular reader, but I rarely comment. I just want to say that I am very excited to see Toolbox Tuesday return. Your recommendations have been spot-on.

Laura C
1/5/2015 at 5:21 PM

I've been going through the very same tool-stocking process at my second home, and have found yard sales to be a fantastic and affordable source of basic tools and gardening paraphernalia.

1/5/2015 at 8:34 PM

Upon the recommendation of a friend, I recently picked up this handy tool at Sears: Craftsman autoloading multi-bit screwdriver with 2 phillips, 2 flat, 2 square (although the description on the website says 3 phillips, 3 flat). It's 6 screwdrivers in one! "A pump-action mechanism in the loader lets you change in as little as two seconds." I just used it to install more RAM in my computer and needed to use all 3 types of bits. I keep it in my desk drawer for when I need a screwdriver and don't want to dig in the toolbox. The only drawback is it's not a ratcheting screwdriver, but an additional plus is you can change out the bits for others you may like.
Have fun at the new house!

1/6/2015 at 12:52 AM

I hate to break it to you, but those extra bits may be for when the others wear out, not for when you lose the others. At least, that has been the challenge we have faced.

Franki Parde
1/6/2015 at 9:33 AM

That is JUST LIKE our "back seat" looked traveling between "two places" for thirty years.... franki

1/6/2015 at 9:33 AM

Yea! Excited to see Toolbox Tuesday return! We bought a townhouse in DC about a year and a half ago and since I started reading your blog about 6 months ago (and going through every post since the beginning) all I've wanted to do is collect tools and start projects that are way beyond my skill set (it can't be that hard to replace the cheap trim on the closet door with something that matches the original, can it? Oh, and add a transom?). Admittedly, we still have a corded drill that must be something like 3V and have thus far been using a hand saw, so we've got a long way to go and I highly anticipate your recommendations.

1/6/2015 at 10:43 PM

Happy new year! I missed the llamas. I always wondered if they had disappeared or if you just stopped posting about them. It was fun to get another peak at them.

Jack Ben
1/16/2015 at 2:50 AM

Informative post .

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