I’ve discovered something that was rather surprising – that the ways we do things today aren’t necessarily the best ways to do them. As we look back in time we see that our ancestors had many ways of doing thing that have been lost to us today. While today’s methods meet today’s needs, they may not be the best ones around. There are many cases where the tools our ancestors used produced better results than what we manage today.

You can still find many of these tools, often at garage sales and flea markets. People look at them as novelties today, but if we ever had to return to a simpler way of life – such as after the destruction of our electric grid – those methods would be the only way that we could do many things. Therefore, it makes sense for us to prepare today, buying the tools and learning how to use them.

While there are still places where these tools can be bought new, they can also be found at garage sales and especially at estate sales. Often, the people who have them have no idea what it is that they have, so they are willing to let them go cheap. That gives you and I a chance to pick them up at a great price.

Workshop Tools

Since homesteading, as it is now known, unlike in times past when it was known as just getting by, is about being self-sufficient most especially in growing your own food, it only makes sense to look at tools which will help with building and maintaining things around your piece of heaven. If we’re going to be self-sufficient we need to be able to make what we need, as much as possible, rather than running out to the store to buy it. That takes knowledge, skills and the right tools for the jobs needing to be done.

Blacksmith Forge & Anvil

Back before there were hardware stores everywhere, filled with factory-made tools and hardware, you couldn’t count on just hopping on your horse and running across town to buy what you wanted. Rather, you’d go to the blacksmith and order the hinges for your door, a pair of pliers, or andirons for your fireplace. He’d make them to your order, having them for you in just a few days. Yes, times moved a little slower then, but you knew you were going to get exactly what you ordered and it was going to be of the highest quality.

This art with metal of blacksmithing is truly a rare one in our day and age. But imagine, when the supply chains and those factories that mass produced your metal trinkets stop functioning, where are you going to be able to turn to get something new, let alone repair what you already got? If you can get yourself familiar with even the basics of forging metals into functional tools or hinges, or hooks, or what-not, you could have a pretty good side gig in the era of bartering.

I’ve seen blacksmiths at work; talent and skill delivered by constant practice! It’s amazing what they can do with a forge and anvil. While the blacksmith was the expert, there’s a lot that people can do themselves if they have a forge and anvil. That was common on homesteads and ranches. Granted, we might not be able to do artistic work, but we can build a lot of basic things we need.

Wood Splitting Wedges, Mauls, and Axes

Wood doesn’t chop itself. And when we get to a time when we are relying on wood for heat, and cooking we would need to have a system of getting the wood into the fireplace or pit in useful sizes. And as we know well, with the rule of three (having three ways to accomplish that task you need done) A chainsaw, and power driven wood splitter would be the obvious choices for doing the back breaking chore.

Now, imagine that we don’t have direct access to electricity or we need to be stingy on the amount of gas we are using in a rationing scenario, then you would need to get the trusty tools that can get the essential job done.

If you don’t have a sawmill available to you, wood splitting wedges allow you to split logs, either for making split log floors and furniture, or to turn them into roughly-hewn boards. By having the right tools for your woodwork whether it is making something to sit on or just putting in the pit for warmth, The different sizes of wedges, mauls and axes can be a godsend in such times in the future.


Beyond the odd name, this is a tool that has been used throughout the ages to work with wood, and shaping it to the desired size for the purpose wanted. Native Americans used a version of this type of tool to hollow out their canoes; craftsman in the medieval times used it to get the shapes wanted for the likes of pews in a church, or a bowl for home use.

For those modern day craftsman, sure could use a plainer or a skill saw in shaping things where and how you want. However, remember we want to have more than one way to skin the proverbial cat. An adze, in various sizes can be that tool when you need to start shaping that log into the bench your wife wants in the kitchen.

Once logs are split you need to straighten and smooth the surface. This is where the adze comes in. This tool looks like a big flat scoop, mounted at right angles to the handle. Used with a swinging motion, it cuts out the high points on that split log, making it possible to flatten and smooth it.


If you have access to electricity, or a power generator, there are much easier ways to get the results of a rounded piece of wood for the legs of a chair or a table, or any over use you have for it beyond it being flat or in an odd wedge shape.

The drawknife is an incredibly useful tool for working with logs of all types. With it, you can strip bark, smooth a log, shape it into an axe handle and even make wheel spokes. This is something your wood craftsman utilized to be able to have form and function match better than the block shapes that wood tends to take.

Having on hand the manual ways of doing things can keeping them maintained well, are going to be incredibly useful, especially in the SHTF pinch.

Gimlets and Hand Drills (Carpenter’s Brace)

Another funny name for a long-used tool of the craftsman. Before the advent of electricity, and the handy drills, and drill bits in all their sizes, varieties, and lengths there were the Gimlets.

Because you want to have redundancy in the ways you can accomplish certain jobs or chores around the lil palace of yours, getting yourself a set of Gimlets and a manual hand drill with their interchangeable steel bits is a wise choice to make. Gimlets, in particular have to be the simplest way there is of drilling a small hole. They are essentially drill bits, permanently mounted to a D handle. Usually limited to a maximum size of ¼”, you can drill holes into wood faster with a gimlet than you can get your cordless drill set up and into action.

Carpenter’s Brace

For heavy-duty drilling, the carpenter’s brace is the way to go. A two-handed tool, one hand provides downward pressure, while the other hand is the “motor.” Even though you can’t drill as fast as you can with an electric drill, you don’t have to run extension cords or recharge the battery. When the power goes out, the carpenter’s brace will replace the cordless drill as the tool of choice.

Sewing Awl

The workshop is not all about metal and wood! It can be other things, like making rope or tanning and tackling leather bound items (shoes, saddles, bags, clothes and on and on). Leather along with canvas, burlap among many other materials have long been a useful materials for making a variety of things. Stitching leather in particular, can be hard,  especially if you aren’t used to it. The sewing awl makes this much easier, combining the functions of the awl and the sewing needle.You literally stitch as you make the holes. That makes it much faster to stitch leather together. This is a handy tool when you need to put a few stitches into the material to make whichever you have in mind

What Else Would You Add to this list?

Now that we have the thinking juices going for ya, what else would you add to this list of items to have at the ready? There are many specialized hand tools that have their proper use in the action that is needing to be taken. And we couldn’t hope to cover them all. But neither could your Grandpa or Grandma either! We’d love to hear our thoughts on what is missing from our list here in the comments below.