My “everyday carry” so to speak for furniture assembly consists of a tool box for all the smaller stuff and a repurposed milk crate for the larger tools and supplies. I cut a plexiglass sheet into dividers and tie-wrapped them into place in the crate in a purpose-built design for the items I carry.
I attached an old luggage strap to it so that it’s easy to carry one-handed. It also has an old rubber sewer line fitting strapped in position to receive my cordless screwdriver like a holster.
The crate contains the following:
Knee Pad I spend a lot of time kneeling, often on hardwood or concrete floors, so I have a foam kneeling pad to save my knees. I cut it down a little to fit the crate. It’s also good padding when sitting on the floor for long periods.
Sorting Tray I use this to sort all the hardware and keep it handy. It really saves time to do all the sorting and organizing in the beginning, then you can whip through the assembly very quickly. Look for compartment lunch tray. Some kits have different hardware that is very similar and use a number/letter method to identify which piece of hardware to use. So I keep a dry-erase marker on hand to write the letter or number code of each type of hardware on each tray pocket.
Painter’s Tarp When assembling items on a hardwood or concrete floor, I lay out a heavy-duty 6′ x 9′ canvas drop cloth. This protects both the floor and the item being assembled. Plus it makes cleanup easier. The tarp has also come in handy when doing the unexpected moving job to wrap clean furniture in and to contain the mess when drilling into drywall. Available at any home improvement or paint store. Very reusable, just shake it out. Machine wash when necessary.
Drill/Driver Accessory Kit Lots of drills for wood, metal, and concrete. I use this kit mostly for the drills and hole saws. I have a very specialized set of drivers and tips that are stored in my tool box. I used the drills for anchoring to walls, TV mounts, and even “fixing” errors in furniture kits. (It does happen that someone loads the wrong bit in the machine during manufacture and nobody catches the mistake.) Hole saws are very useful when the customer wants wire routing holes in the back of furniture. Look for drill/driver accessory kit.
Booties Many homes I enter are “shoe free” homes. And even if they aren’t, I don’t want to inadvertently track in dirt. So I wear disposable slip on booties. Aside from being easier and faster than removing and putting on my shoes, they lend an air of professionalism by telling the customer that I do this a lot, and I care about their home. These are available in the paint department at your local home improvement store, but are much cheaper in bulk. Try disposable shoe covers – non-slip. The “non-slip” is important! The smooth soled booties are like ice-skates on hardwood floors. Booties are disposable, but as long as they stay clean, I can reuse them a couple of times before they start to fall apart.
Twine Cardboard is my mortal enemy. I do battle with it on every job. I have found that the best way to deal with it is to a) have a very sharp box-cutter knife and b) have some kind of rope to bundle it up. I will detail the process in another post, but the cheapest rope I’ve found that is strong enough is heavy packaging twine. It is available at your local home improvement store in rope/chain department. It is a consumable and I might use 10-50 feet on a job.
Cordless Drill Note that I have both a cordless drill and an electric screwdriver. Although they have somewhat interchangeable uses, there are good reasons to have both: The drill is better for drilling holes and tightening larger hardware like bolts and nuts, and driving bigger/longer screws such as when anchoring into a stud. But it’s heavy, and using it all day long to tighten all the screws and other fasteners of a project can be tiring. So I use the much lighter electric screwdriver most of the time. I keep the drill loaded with a Philips bit and a long drive guide sleeve. The guide sleeve is invaluable for driving long screws straight and true. As well as the Drill/Driver Accessory Kit, I have adapters for just about any size or shape fastener in my tool box. Note that I have recently upgraded my old drill to a DEWALT DCD777C2 20V Max Lithium-Ion Brushless Compact Drill Driver.
Lawn Trash Bags On most jobs, I get by using the smaller kitchen trash bags, but some jobs generate huge volumes of trash; lots of plastic sheeting and huge Styrofoam chunks are common. So I keep a couple of large heavy duty trash bags on hand. Ideally with the built-in pull-to-close strap that doubles as a handle because they are usually very light, even when filled. I don’t put the large pieces of cardboard in the trash bags, see “twine” above. Trash bags are obviously a consumable, and I keep bulk boxes of both types in the truck to replenish from.
Kitchen Trash Bags These are my “go to” trash bags. I use one or two on every job. Styrofoam, plastic sheeting, extra paperwork, and all other trash go in these bags. I like the clear plastic bags with drawstrings because the customer can see what’s in the bag. I usually offer to haul away the trash and I feel a bit funny when I have been alone in a room for hours and am now hauling away a big bag that they can’t see into! When they see a transparent bag, I think they feel a little bit better that I’m not robbing them blind. The drawstrings (and the bundled cardboard) make it easier to haul everything away in the fewest trips possible.
Electric Screwdriver & Spare Battery This is my favorite tool, and the one that I use the most. It’s light, agile, fast, and just powerful enough. When assembling flat-pack furniture it’s easy to over-tighten and strip the hardware. I find that the DEWALT DCF680N1 8V Gyroscopic Screwdriver is perfect for furniture assembly. I bought the version with a clutch but the clutch turned out not to be necessary; the tool has just enough torque to tighten hardware without stripping. For some uses, the limited torque would be a problem, but for flat-pack assembly, it is a feature! An over-powered tool can cause many problems. I carry a spare battery (that I rarely need) and can use this tool all day without my arm getting tired. The gyroscopic feature means that it’s intuitive to use and I don’t have to fumble with a forward/backward switch. I think the two-position handle is necessary because the pistol-grip mode is much easier on the wrist than the in-line position.
Brush I feel that leaving a clean workplace is important. I used to carry a brush and dustpan. But the dustpan takes up a lot of space and I find that I can use a piece of scrap paper or cardboard as a dustpan when I do need one. It would be nice to have a small handheld cordless vacuum but even a small one adds a lot of bulk and weight to my “everyday carry” so I opt for the low-tech solution.
Everything listed above fits in a 13 inch cube plastic milk case. Most items are within easy reach without removing or opening anything. It sits neatly on top of the tool box on the luggage cart for transport, or I can carry it one-handed with the attached luggage strap. I have upgraded pieces to this collection over time, but I have not added or subtracted anything for a long time.
Please check out the other articles in this Professional Flat-Pack Furniture Assembly Toolkit series:
- Tool Box
- Items On My Person
- Truck Tools & Supplies