by Steven D. Johnson
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Make Your Own "Go-Bag"
Not to sound indelicate or crass, but handy people have more friends. Sometimes those you might
feel are just acquaintances are really friends when they are in need. The panicky calls "my washer
is overflowing!" or "I'm locked out of my house!" or "my furnace won't run!" rarely are ignored, and
are treated as true emergencies. After all, that's what friends are for, right?
When the sump pump stops running and the basement is flooding, time is critical, so I keep three
"go-bag" tool bags, ready to snatch and run at a moment's notice. Being the handy friend you are,
you should, too.
My general "go-bag" goes on every trip, and my two specialty go-bags go as the conditions
indicate. The general go-bag has some good tools that rarely, if ever, find any use in a
woodworking shop, and some not-so-good (tier two and tier three) tools that have better brethren
residing in the workshop.
A general go-bag should have at minimum a flat and Phillips screwdriver, a hammer, a couple of
handsaws (for wood and metal), pliers, an adjustable wrench or two, a tape measure, pencil, knife, a
roll of duct tape (always handy), scissors, a chisel or two, diagonal cutters, needle-nose pliers,
and a flashlight.
My go-bag also has an old block plane wrapped in an oily rag, a nail set, a pry bar, a
screwdriver with multiple interchangeable tips (many times a star drive bit saved the day), a metric
and standard set of hex wrenches, a small socket wrench set, and a set of drill bits.
One specialty go-bag is for plumbing emergencies. Pipe wrenches, solder, flux, and a torch are
critical, and Teflon tape is usually needed. Cans of PVC cleaner and cement, various fittings,
washers, and hose clamps are dumped in the plumbing go-bag, along with a pipe cutter, a tubing
cutter, and a disconnect tool for Pex fittings.
The other specialty go-bag is for electrical problems. I have always had an aversion to
electrical shocks, so a circuit tester is critical. A wire cutter, a general-purpose electrician's
tool (cuts wire, strips insulation, crimps connectors, etc.), and a couple of stubby screwdrivers
reside there, too. Electrical tape, a few twist-on connectors, and a few lengths of 10, 12, and 14
gauge wire round out the electrical go-bag.
Many folks have an emergency kit, ready to grab and go at a moment's notice, especially if they
live in a flood, earthquake, hurricane or tornado zone. I would grab my tool "go-bag" if disaster
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