When I'm running to a volunteer job or helping out a friend, I can't take everything with me. And since I don't always know exactly what we'll be doing, I have to improvise. I need tools that can handle wood, metal, and plastic. PVC and sheet metal. I prefer cordless tools, because you never know what the power supply will be, but my heavy-duty tools are corded. After decades of refinement, this is the most versatile group of tools I've discovered. The real trick is getting it all to fit in the car.
● No matter the job, you'll always need to get something off the ground, whether it's for cutting or painting. Slide them along either side of the trunk.
● For demolition or lugging anything remotely heavy, take a hand truck. I used one to remove a full-size range from a second-floor apartment. By myself. Folding options are still quite sturdy and easier to fit in the trunk.
● These can fit in a channel outside of the sawhorses. I bring a shovel, wrecking bar, bow rake, extension pole, and a few small pieces of lumber, in case we need scrap.
FLOOR AND FIRST LAYER
● I pack two circular saws—a sidewinder and a worm drive. One has a plywood blade, and the other has a framing blade, so I can cut any variety of construction lumber or finish. For safety, these heavy things need to be on the floor in front of the front passenger seat or the rear seats. That way if you take a quick turn, only the light things on top will shift.
● Handles more than a drill driver, and doesn't take up any more space. On big jobs, I also bring a rotary hammer.
● Use it with a blade designed for nonferrous metal. It still makes a nice clean cut on wood, but will also cut through aluminum, copper pipe, PVC—everything except steel. If you have to cut any long items, instead of bringing a work surface for stability, use scrap wood to make a couple T-blocks.
● Bring as many blades as you have—demolition, metal, wood, and carbide-grit that will cut cast iron. You don't want to run into something you can't get through.
● Nesting trays allow you to fit more in less space. With these and any other heavy, hard-sided cases, put the long axis in the direction the car moves. If you stop short, the box will slide forward instead of tipping over.
● Sacks are perfect for mobility. They conform to most spaces. Use a few different bags for everything that doesn't fit in the toolbox: pliers, shears, wrenches, bits and blades, extension cords, and painting, plumbing, and electrical tools.
● Even with the trunk and floor jammed, there's still a little remaining space: the passenger seat. I strap a Duluth Trading Cab Commander to it. This vertical rucksack holds hearing protection, safety glasses, bug spray, sunscreen, a first-aid kit, water, and coffee. Necessities, no matter where you end up.
This appears in the June 2017 Seniorhelpline.