Benefits of Homesteading
Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced homesteader, there are many benefits to homesteading. It’s a lifestyle that allows you to live in a sustainable way while protecting your family and your finances.
As a homesteader, you’ll be constantly learning new skills and developing your homesteader-mind. The journey may be difficult and challenging, but it’s also rewarding in so many ways.
An experienced homesteader offers her favorite hand tools list for smallholders who are just getting started as well as tips for how to store tools to help them last.
My “top hand tools” list is based on years of working with human-powered implements. I love their feel, their history, and the peace and quiet of using them. Plus, in my experience, they often do a superior job to power tools!
Many hand tools have been around a long time. Nearly everyone is familiar with hammers, saws, and shovels, but are you also acquainted with the following specialty hand tools list? Most are old-school favorites, and are indispensable for anyone who wants to build self-sufficiency skills.
Many different hoes are available on the market, each with a specific purpose. A grubbing hoe (also known as a “grub hoe”) has a much larger, heavier blade than a regular garden hoe. The grubbing hoe I use is about twice the size of a conventional garden hoe, and it does a superior job at chopping weeds, especially in hard or dry soil. This tool has come in handy in my gardens with heavy clay soil.
The grubbing hoe isn’t suited to delicate jobs, so this isn’t the tool for you if you want to work between plants in tight spaces. But it excels when you need to hill potatoes, grub out stubborn weeds between rows, or dig a trench.
The quality CobraHead weeding tool I wanted was rather expensive, so my husband decided to make one for me as a Christmas surprise. This tool is simply amazing, and is at the top of my hand tools list. I use it for weeding, digging planting holes and furrows, and cultivating. The angle of the end also makes it fantastic for digging a trench. You can use it to harvest new potatoes, remove small weeds, or work up an entire bed in minutes. The blade is sharpened to easily gouge out weeds by the roots.
I recommend this type of ergonomic weeding tool for raised beds, as it would be fatiguing to use in conventional gardens (unless you’re individually weeding around each plant). The design allows me to sit on a bucket beside a raised bed and weed without much bending over.
A quality multitool is a jack-of-all-trades and should be on every property owner’s hand tool list. Many of these little tools offer multiple knives, screwdrivers, and scissors, plus a saw, file, leather punch, pliers, and even can openers! Everything folds up and fits into about a 1-by-4-inch pouch. A multitool will cover many of your tool needs in one small, easily portable package. As with any tool, make sure you buy the best-quality multitool you can afford, because having an inferior tool break when you need it most is frustrating.
Useful for making bows, basket splits, wooden spoons, and much more, drawknives are great for smoothing a narrow wooden surface.
Drawknives come in different widths and thicknesses. Some are rigid, and some are flexible (like the small drawknife I use for spoon-making).
These tools are safer to use when kept razor-sharp and handled with care. If you’re wondering how to store tools, I recommend always storing drawknives in a secure location, preferably inside a leather case. Quality drawknives are available new, but they can also be found at flea markets and estate sales at reasonable prices.
Few tools are more useful or versatile than a hatchet. This superior tool is handy for everything from splitting kindling to building an emergency shelter. I use a hatchet to rough out bows, split all the kindling for the woodstove, clean up shooting lanes for deer season, and field-dress wild game.
You can choose from inexpensive production hatchets to pricier hand-forged ones. I recommend you get a high-quality tool that can be passed down for generations. Make sure the poll (the blunt face opposite the blade) is hardened if you plan to use it as a hammer, or it’ll mushroom and damage your hatchet.
Double- and single-bit axes are as indispensable as hatchets. I own several of these incredibly helpful hand tools. A single-bit axe has a blade on just one end of the head. It’s useful for splitting wood and chopping brush. Double-bit axes, with blades on both edges of the head, were designed to chop down trees. They’re also good on smaller chopping jobs for which you don’t want to use a heavy chainsaw.
I’ve found high-quality axes and axe heads at flea markets for low prices. Often, these old tools will need a new handle (a process known as “rehanging”), but for less than $30, you’ll end up with a fine tool that’ll last several lifetimes.
A froe (also spelled “frow”) is a specialty tool designed to split wood along the grain. Often used for splitting wooden shingles, a froe can also be used for any project that requires a precision split of wood, such as splitting kindling or cutting blanks for spoon-carving.
This hand tool is L-shaped, with a metal blade and a wooden handle. To use it, simply place the blade exactly where you want to split the wood and then tap the top of the blade or the handle with a wooden mallet.
An adze blade is curved and is placed atop a wooden handle; the latter may be either short or long. A few different types of adzes exist, but all are for scooping or smoothing out wood. Depending on its size, an adze might be used for making wooden bowls or for building a wooden canoe. The adze is a ubiquitous, heavy-bladed tool that’s been used for carving and even gardening, and it should be on every homesteader’s favorite hand tools list.
How to Store Tools
If you’re wondering how to store tools, I recommend you always place them in a dry location, because moisture is their enemy. Clean your tools after using and dry them carefully. If you’re storing them long-term (for example, over winter), put a thin coating of oil on the blades and handles to help prevent rust and cracking.
Sharpen hand tools as needed. A file is sufficient to sharpen a hoe, but for a hatchet or axe, you’ll need a ceramic rod, a sharpening stone, and a leather strop. Hand-sharpening is recommended over using an electric grinding stone, because the electric stone often takes off too much metal, while hand-sharpening does a finer job.
Jenny Underwood is a home-schooling mom who lives on a fifth-generation property in the Missouri Ozarks. Follow her at Our Inconvenient Family.