A well-organized tool belt allows you to work faster and better and climb and work from ladders more safely. Here's how to organize it efficiently.
A good tool belt has two pockets, which contain all the essential tools and fasteners for the job at hand.
Watching well-organized pros or do-it-yourselfers work in harmony with their tool belts is a study in skill, efficiency and “poetic glide.” Their tasks speed along as they intuitively reach into a pouch and grab the exact tool or fastener needed for the task. Without taking their eyes off their work, they send the tool to its pocket and the next one effortlessly appears in hand. The “dominant hand”—controlling the hammer, knife and pencil—orchestrates the operation, while the “helper hand” responds by bringing the appropriate fastener or accessory tool instantly into play. Whether you work on your house once a week or once a month, this is a logical rhythm you can learn. We'll show you the layout plan of a tool belt and the hand tools many pros carry, and explain why you should copy them.
I used to work alongside many homeowners who hated to wear tool belts. They hated the weight and resented having poorly stowed tools snag on ladders and scaffolding. The trade-off was constant interruptions to fetch what they needed from the other side of a room, rather than have the hand tools and fasteners they needed right there with them.
Habitually, these tool belt haters would:
Compared with the tool belt masters, tool belt haters invariably seem crabby and struggle with their work. Speed, performance and safety all improve with the right tool belt, loaded the right way.
You need lots of pockets, especially after you add various sized screws and/or nails. Make sure the hammer loop is on the side of your hammer hand.
Buy a tool belt With lots of pockets for carrying various fasteners and the hand tools shown. The web belt on this model fastens in the back, with the tape measure in front, available for either hand. This is a setup for a right-hand belt, meaning the tools favored by the dominant hand (the one you hammer and write with) are set up on the right-hand side of the tool belt.
Keep the tools you need most near your dominant hand.
Dominant-hand tools are the primary task drivers. A good, general-duty claw hammer should weigh 12 or 16 oz. and be a balance of comfort, control and maximum nail-driving power. A flat carpenter's pencil won't break as easily as an ordinary round one and works best for rough carpentry work. A chalk line is a must for snapping long, straight lines. It's also essential as a plumb bob or string line. A slip-joint pliers is a versatile tool for pulling nails and for simple electrical and plumbing work. The utility knife is a must for everything from cutting drywall to roofing work and should have extra blades, both straight and curved, stored in the handle.
Store fewer used tools and fasteners on the secondary side.
Helper-hand tools are accessories that work in combination with a hammer or pencil and are stored on the opposite side of the tool belt. For this right-handed tool user, these are the helper hand tools. Two nail sets, a 1/8-in. one for large nails plus a 1/16-in. one for finish nails. A cold chisel for doing plaster and concrete demolition work, bludgeoning fasteners and prying stuff. A four-in-one screwdriver, which consists of two sizes each of Phillips bits and straight blades. This tool could be used by either hand and is stored (if you choose) with the chisel. Fasteners are best carried in the pouches opposite the hammer hand so that the helper hand can smoothly feed nails as the hammer drives them. A square works in tandem with pencils for drawing saw cutting lines and other lumber layouts.
Switching the pockets to the rear allows you to bend over more easily for tasks like wall framing.
Increase comfort and efficiency when working bent over for long periods by turning the belt around and either rearranging your fasteners and hand tools or learning the new locations. Working with the tool belt in its regular front-facing position while building walls is a pain. The tape measure pouch cuts into your waist and bending makes it more difficult to grab fasteners and tools out of the pinched-shut pouches.
Carry your tools in your belt while climbing so that both hands are free to grip the ladder.
Climb ladders safely without dropping your tools by using tool belt accessories such as drill carriers. Take advantage of belt waistbands as a place to stash more tools within easy reach when working either on or off ladders.
Use suspenders to distribute the weight of your tools and fasteners. For even better back support, buy tool pouches with a padded belt that can be rigged with or without harness- type suspenders. Avoid injuries by practicing proper techniques for lifting and carrying plywood and other heavy materials.
Wearing a tool belt for a long time takes a toll on your back. Some strain prevention strategies:
Home centers and better hardware stores carry such an assortment of tool belts and accessories that it's easy to start imagining yourself as the lead carpenter on a TV home improvement show. Before you get carried away, determine which skill level you fall into:
Whichever rig you choose, decrease your “go-fer” time during the workday by visualizing your tasks in advance so you can properly load up your tool belt or nail apron. Working effectively is not a privilege reserved only for professionals.