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Our friends over at Gizmodo dropped a fun post last week outlining “the 50 skills every geek should have,” and it inspired us to create a list of the 50 skills every Toolmonger should have. Think you know more about tools and DIY than most? Take our test — and don’t forget to score yourself via the poll at the end of the list. How many of these can you do?

  1. Pull an engine
  2. Own a toolbox with wheels
  3. Mend a fence (extra credit for barbed wire)
  4. Install a ceiling fan complete with remote
  5. Build furniture for inside your home
  6. Own and know when to use at least three kinds of drill bits
  7. Pull a transmission
  8. Visit a “pick ‘n pull” junkyard and actually pull your own parts
  9. Buy steel in bulk (and negotiate for a discount)
  10. Finish a wood project with stain (that’s not your own blood)
  11. Sacrifice a full garage bay to your “shop”
  12. Install dimmers in your home
  13. Patch drywall cleanly enough to fool your significant other/landlord
  14. Mix and pour your own concrete
  15. Restore a $50 junk lawnmower to life
  16. Hammer ten nails without bending them
  17. Frame a small building (without a kit)
  18. Operate a chainsaw without injury to you (or others)
  19. Install your own crown molding with compound miter cuts
  20. Start a non-fuel injected car that’s been sitting for weeks
  21. Make your own picture frame with a router and miter saw
  22. Cut accurate rabbet joints
  23. Build a desk with drawers
  24. Hang a door
  25. Winterize a motorcycle
  26. Change a tire yourself using only factory tools
  27. Build an improvised BBQ grill out of steel and shop scrap
  28. Remove dried wood stain and paint from bare concrete
  29. Spray paint a project in the dark
  30. Clean up crappy welds with a grinder
  31. Fix anything with superglue
  32. Plunge a toilet without getting crap on you
  33. Make circ saw framing cuts without a sawhorse
  34. Sharpen your own knife
  35. Install/repair a toilet
  36. Sweat copper tubing
  37. Patch a leaking roof
  38. Balance your central heat/air-conditioning system
  39. Correctly wire a 3-way light switch
  40. Fix a leaky faucet
  41. Adjust a carburetor
  42. Install a car stereo
  43. Tow another vehicle
  44. Build your own tool to get a job done
  45. Complete a brake job for a quarter the cost of taking it to a shop
  46. Tile a floor
  47. Paint a room
  48. Adjust a garage door (or repair it after you didn’t)
  49. Install a window
  50. Install a hot water heater
    How'd you rate?
    View Results
 

32 Responses to The 50 Skills Every Toolmonger Should Have

  1. rg says:

    “22. Cut accurate rabbit joints”

    Skill #51. Know how to spell rabbet joint

  2. Benjamen Johnson says:

    If I only count the things I’ve actually done I get 26. I have my work cut out for me if I want to be that neighborhood guru.

    Spray painting in the dark?

  3. Nick Carter says:

    I don’t see the word “lathe” anywhere…everyone should at least know how to do basic lathework, wood and metal…

  4. Ron says:

    Why would you pay $50 for a junk lawnmower?

  5. john bougs says:

    …. you should get a bonus for staining furniture with your own blood…

    and what happened to 31-40…

  6. kif says:

    How about extra credit if you find a way to use a Dremel tool for each task?

    As the father of a Cub Scout, I have grown accustomed to these kinds of lists, but they always seem so partial and arbitrary. How about….

    Regrade around a foundation.
    Diagnose something with a multimeter.
    Build a brick veneer.
    Tune a bicycle.
    Demo a room.
    Keep an aluminum ladder away from power lines.
    Preserve a severed appendage adequately for reattachment.

    Also, I don’t get the spray painting in the dark thing. This being a list generated in Texas I can only assume that water towers and romance are involved – kind of out-of-scope.

  7. Chuck Cage says:

    I envy all of you who manage to finish your projects in time to get them completely paint-ready while daylight still hangs about. Personally, we always seem to press through and end up painting in the dark.

  8. Chuck Cage says:

    @rg: Of course, you’re right. That’s what happens when I forget to edit carefully. You get an extra 5 points. ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Chuck Cage says:

    @ron: Because it’s $500 cheaper than the alternative. I didn’t learn how much “real” lawn mowers cost until I grew up — my father did small engine repair for spare cash when I was a kid, and we never paid more than $50 for a mower — and then I learned relatively quickly how to work on them myself.

    Hint: A jar of half-moon keys goes a long ways.

  10. PutnamEco says:

    What? No primitive/basic skills.
    Build a fire without using matches or a lighter.
    Construct a weather resistant shelter using no store bought materials(and sleep in it for a week)
    Kill, clean, and cook your dinner with weapons/traps/tools you’ve constructed yourself.

    And no tech.
    Build a computer from parts.
    Troubleshoot a modern vehicle with an electrical system malfunction.
    Rebuild an electric motor/tool.

    And not to mention jury rigging
    Secure a loose muffler with bailing wire/coat hanger.
    Fix a broken car window with duct tape and clear vinyl.
    Loosen a rusted bolt with wd-40 and or a torch.
    Remove a broken bolt.
    Start a vehicle that has been under water.

  11. Chris Farley says:

    I spray-painted in the dark once. I mounted a mini-maglite to a spray can handle with electrical tape. It worked like a charm.

    I agree with PutnamEco’s jury-rigging suggestion. Any true toolmonger should be able to jury-rig just about anything – like mounting a light to a spray-paint can (and cleaning up the flashlight so you can use it again) so it isn’t actually dark while painting.

    Should we buy you some sort of spotlight? Do you paint in the dark often? Is it a Texas thing? Silly rabbet…I mean rabbit.

  12. Jim German says:

    I think you’re confusing toolmonger with some guy who likes to work on old busted cars. Tow another vehicle? How about keep your car in good shape so it won’t need to be towed. Adjust a carb? How bout getting out of the 70’s and getting some fuel injection. “Start a non-fuel injected car thatโ€™s been sitting for weeks? Once again, keep your car in good shape and don’t worry about it.

  13. Rob says:

    @ Chuck, I think Ron meant, why wouldn’t you get a junk mower for free. I have a few lawn machines I picked up on the side of the road and got running.

  14. Chuck Cage says:

    @Jim While I certainly appreciate your desire to keep your car running well — I have a modern car (and truck) that I keep in great shape — some of us get our “play” cars via towing as opposed to the Barrett-Jackson. My ’89 944S2 came out of a guy’s front yard the hard way, though it hasn’t seen a tow strap since. And anyone can troubleshoot fuel injection. Not understanding a carb is, well, sorta like not being able to drive a stick. You could say “get out of the ’50s and get an automatic,” but it’s more fun to be able to handle what you’re thrown — especially if it’s in a sweet C3 ‘Vette that you can have for $5k instead of $12k (restored) or $50k+ (new).

    @PutnamEco We avoided tech items because Gizmodo’s list covers it handily. Look for more on that today.

    @Chris Silly rabbet! Joints are for woodworkers. (This would make a great T-shirt.)

  15. Shopmonger says:

    @PutnamEco We avoided tech items because Gizmodoโ€™s list covers it handily. Look for more on that today.

    and the list is not….. survival for the 20th century..

    Although chuck
    Make your own picture frame with a router and miter saw …

    Something you have advocated against because frames and fram parts are so cheap….

    And #1 should be to do the following 49 items with spending little or no money… King of all cheap asses.

  16. PutnamEco says:

    Re:Shopmonger Says:

    and the list is notโ€ฆ.. survival for the 20th century.
    —————————————–
    A true tool aficionado should have a broad knowledge of tools, from the stone age to the space age. How many of todays tools do we under appreciate because they are so common. Try doing with out them, and you will appreciate them that much more.

    If you want to truly understand tools (and yourself), you will know what tools you can make from the natural world and your own human ingenuity.

  17. SlowJoeCrow says:

    I’m surprised the list doesn’t include welding, brazing and soldering. Also a serious woodworker should be able to hand cut dovetails, and a car guy should know how to adjust breaker points.

  18. DocN says:

    Am I the only one that can claim 100%? ๐Ÿ™‚ I didn’t pay fifty bucks for the lawnmower, but apart from that, I’ve done it all.

    Doc.

  19. PutnamEco says:

    Re:
    DocN Says:
    Am I the only one that can claim 100%?
    ——-
    That “spray paint a project the dark” is what kept me from a perfect score, I’ve always been able to find/make light somehow. There has always been that street light or headlight or fire or pilfered household lamp to work by.

  20. Ron says:

    Rob understands

  21. Rob says:

    @ DocN, I too have 100% including painting in the dark. Plus I meet Nick’s requirement of knowing how to operate a lathe (wood and precision) and a mill.

  22. DocN says:

    I assumed that “dark” meant “insufficient” light, not “total lack of light”. Like putting on the last layer of primer on a fender repair at midnight, with only the small porch light 30 feet away. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Rob: Wood lathe, (even using a drill press as a wood lathe) metal lathe (up to 22″ swing) vertical mill, horizontal mill, shaper, surface grinder, radial drill, planer (wood and metal) plus MIG, TIG, stick, gas- gas weld, gas braze, oxyacetylene, oxyhydrogen, oxypropane- TIG braze, TIG weld copper and magnesium…

    Not, you know, that I want to brag or anything… ๐Ÿ™‚

    Doc.

  23. Rob says:

    @ DocN – You’ve got me in the welding dept for sure, I only MIG (that’s all I have access to). But tell me..can you knit? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  24. David Bryan says:

    That’s a pretty idiosyncratic list there. Nowhere on it does it say anthing about igloos. How can you overlook that?

  25. DocN says:

    Can I knit? No, but I own a sewing machine. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Hey, it’s just welding with thread! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Doc.

  26. Michael W. says:

    Can anybody else make custom boots (hiking and cowboy), shoe a horse and blow glass?

    Safely taking a down a tree should be on that list too, as should bricklaying (repairing a chimney, etc.) and the very basic jumpstarting a car.

  27. johnnyp says:

    Probably the most important skill left out, critical thinking. Making the determination of one simple question, is it worth my time and money to
    take on a project. I know a lot of guys get off on the chest thumping
    “I did it myself” yeah , but you know what, it looks like crap or you just
    spent 3 times what the object is realistically worth with mediocre results.
    Some basic questions need to be answered 1) have I done this before
    & will I use this skill again 2) what kind of specialized tooling do I need
    & will I use it again 3) Time, yes your time is worth money 4) Should it
    be done professionally 5) Liability, that three way or dimmer gets installed
    incorrectly and really tags someone

  28. paganwonder says:

    Self reliance is a dying art, and knowing when to get an expert is an under-rated skill. Long Live the Handy Man!

  29. james b says:

    Yeah, I did all that – even spraypainting in the dark. Like Joe. says, howbout soldering, crimping, and knowing the difference? Nothing about sharpening tools without destroying them?

  30. Rob says:

    @DocN – dang, I wasn’t planning on playing that card! One of my hobbies is restoring old sewing machines so I have about 8 including 2 human powered ones (a handcrank and a treadle).

  31. Michael Pendleton says:

    I got all of those, except for the car-related ones, which I completely blew. OK, I can change my tires, but I wouldn’t know where to start with pulling an engine! On the other hand, I can fix a flat bicycle tire with my eyes closed, and that skill gets enough work that I haven’t lost the knack. Which pretty much captures what kind of articles I like to read about here: Tools are great, but I’m a pure spectator when it comes to automotive stuff. (Except the shop truck project, I love bringing anything back from the dead!)

  32. Larry says:

    PutnamEco: I never started a whole vehicle that’s been underwater but I left the gas cap off a KC (Korean Cycle)70 pit bike once and it rained in it. I had to take the carb completely apart and clean. That spray alcohol stuff you get at the auto parts store worked great! That and some “maky your own” gasket material and I was done. I still have the bike and it still runs great!

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