One thing a little different about a carpenter from other workers is they get to wear a tool belt, and carry lots of “things” in their tool belt. Ok, the business person carries a laptop or ink pen and note pad. Many other trades carry different tools as well, but the tool belt is almost like the old cowboys gun belt, slung low, and loaded with the necessary items to make a quick draw.
I have always said the carpenter of today is like the Samurai of long ago, skilled in the use of their weapons (tools of the trade), faithful to their masters (boss), and become Ronan’s (master less samurai) when laid off.
The Tool Belt Design
The carpenter’s tool belt usually consists of two pouches, one on the right side with tools and trinkets, and one on the left side with nails, screws and other kinds of fasteners, unless you were left handed and then it might be the other way around.
Which tool is the most important, you ask? Everyone will have a different opinion on this, but let’s agree right here the most important thing is to have good tools. Stay away from the cheap tool bin; good quality tools will last a lifetime of working. Now what you carry will depend on what kind of carpenter you are, a finish, a framer, a drywaller, a sluff-off, and so on.
The Tools Depend on the Worker
The finish carpenter will have wood chisels and nail sets, the sluff-off will have as little as possible. The framing carpenter will have lots of different things to carry. A framer will have his hammer (an extension of his arm), which he will use to set and drive a nail, knock a stud into place, or scratch the lower part of the back were you cannot reach. He might even learn to twirl it on his index finger while waiting for the “crete” truck to arrive.
The Tape Measure
The next most important tool would be the tape measure, the old saying was “measure twice and cut once.” My tape always was in the little pouch on the right side of my belt. Now that I don’t wear my belt as much I feel almost naked without my tape and will clip it on my side just because.
Years ago we had a boss who would stop in on the job and always need to borrow your tape measure, and then he would clip the thing on his belt and take off. To cure this I took the belt clip off and one day after pulling this trick he was walking away trying to attach my tape to his belt, after several tries he look down and saw no belt clip and looked at me and said, “Oh, this must be yours.”
Another thing I always thought is if you are going to buy a toy tool set for your children get a real tape, so they can learn to measure for real. There are several good tapes out there; my choice was a thirty foot Stanley. One fellow I worked with when buying a tape would extend it all the way out then let it roll up right there in the store without slowing it at all, the tape would snap into itself and then roll across the store isle, he said if the end didn’t snap off it was a good tape.
The Square, Snips, and Nippers
The next tool a framer would carry is a square, for marking a board or laying out something, and on occasion using it as a pry bar. Mine always rested in the bigger pouch on the right side or in the left back pocket for easy use. The aviation snips were a necessary tool of metal stud framers for cutting track and studs. My right side pouch also always had several pencils for marking and signing jobs. Another useful tool I always carried was end or Lather nippers, after learning about them I always wondered how I got anything done on the farm growing up, they’re almost as important as the hammer. They rode in the right pouch or right back pocket everyday as well.
The “California” Pouches
The pouch on the left side always held screws or nails for fastening whatever job you were working on. Most pouches had two pockets in them when I first started. But about thirty years ago a guy started working with us who had four pockets in his pouch; he was from California so we started calling them California pouches. As well we had to have them, now most pouches you buy have the extra pockets in them. On the left side of our belt in those four pockets we carried nails if we were framing with wood, and screws if we were building with metal studs. The larger pocket held the blunt of the nails we used the most, such as sixteen penny nails for framing, the little pocket then would have eights. My top little pocket on the left always had my chalk line for snapping lines on the plywood or on the floor or wherever a mark was needed (a chalk line is a little box that held marking chalk and a string that could be pulled out and would mark a straight line on most anything).
The “Clayton” Pouch
The fourth pocket on that side had a Hodgepodge of nails, that was where you put cement nails or extra screws that you might need a couple of sometimes, but not regularly. I called it my “Clayton” pouch because the first time I worked with an older carpenter years ago he would always come up with the most obscure nail and it would come out of his little pouch on the left side. We would need something and he would say, “I got one of them right here.” And he would root around for a minute and he would have one.
Yes, the carpenters pouches or nail bags are some of his most important items, much like Batman’s utility belt; it could carry most everything needed to get the job done.