23+ Items You Need to Retool for Self-Reliance

by Todd Walker

Those who are paying attention are actively retooling to escape the noose of modern consumerism and become self-reliant producers.

23+ Items You Need to Retool for Self-Reliance

You can find these independent thinkers on different fronts of the preparedness movement:

  • Back-to-basics
  • Homesteading
  • Preppers
  • Off-grid living
  • Survivalists
  • Simple living
  • Bushcrafting
  • Self-reliance
  • Self-sufficiency
  • Resilience
  • Sustainability
  • DiY’ers
  • Farmsteading

Whether you’re in this movement as a hobby or a passionate pursuit, the common thread tying us together is self-reliance and breaking our dependence on our fragile system. One of the reasons we started the Doing the Stuff Network was to encourage people to learn and practice new skills. The journey we’re on will require us to retool for an uncertain future.

Hurt me with the truth but never comfort me with a lie. Here’s the truth – our fragile system of consumerism is not sustainable. Of course, you can take comfort in the lie that we can print and spend our way out of the hole we’re in – or – you can embrace the painful truth and get busy Doing the Stuff to build self-reliance.

Retool or Be a Tool

A person is a tool (blunt object) when he/she is being used without even realizing it.

You ever been used as a tool? Yes? Me too. It’s a nasty, degrading feeling when you realize a ‘friend’, coworker, or family member has you wrapped tightly in their grip. Those situations are often easily recognized.

But here’s the thing…

The vast majority of people rarely wake up to the fact that they’re a tool in the system’s matrix. That’s the ‘beauty’ of our system. We get used to being used for the good of the collective. We accept dependence and conform.

For those of you wishing to escape the system’s unsustainable human farm paradigm, if only in small ways, it’s time to retool!

Retool is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as:

1. to make changes to (something) in order to improve it

2. to reequip with tools

As #1 states, you have to make changes to something to see improvement. That “something” is you. There’s no better way to improve you than to learn new skills and enhance existing ones. New skills require new tools.

Sherpa Tip: Strive for progress, not perfection in your retooling. Buy/acquire the best tools you can afford. Cheap shiny objects from China are tempting but you’ll end up replacing them several times costing you more in the long run. Cheap tools aren’t good and good tools aren’t cheap. You can find quality, inexpensive tools at yard/estate sales and used online sites.

Get ’em, you’ll need them someday when the power fails to help rebuild. Until then, make smart use of modern power tools while building your non-powered toolbox. Like any new undertaking, there’s always a learning curve, especially with forgotten pioneer tools.

Here’s my top 23+ human-powered tools that your grandparents or great grandparents used to forge a self-reliant lifestyle. Don’t be shy about jumping in and adding to the list in the comments.

Tools for Self-Reliance

  1. Scythe – This tool was used to cut grass at a camp I ran in Siberia in 1993. An American friend with good intentions wanted to help speed up the landscaping chores and bought a combustion engine lawn mower. It threw a rod in 15 minutes. The scythe never lost power.
  2. Hoe and shovel– There will be long rows to hoe and holes to dig.
  3. Posthole diggers – Job specific tool that is indispensable for setting fence posts and digging round, vertical holes.

    23+ Items You Need to Retool for Self-Reliance

    Scary looking fencing pliers

  4. Fencing pliers – A nasty looking tool no homestead should be without.
  5. Come-Along and block and tackle – Use mechanical advantage to lift carcasses for cleaning or persuade leaning trees to fall away from your cabin. 23+ Items You Need to Retool for Self-Reliance
  6. Wheeled carts – Based on a simple machine: lever. Give me a long enough lever and I can move the world.
  7. 4 pronged garden fork – Turns compost and sod.
  8. Containers – The most overlooked of all tools is the humble container. Collect metal, cast iron, plastic, glass, large barrels, stainless steel (milk pails), rubber, and clay containers. Animals have to be fed, water hauled, crops canned, food cooked, water stored, etc., etc.
  9. Carpentry – Hand saws (rip and cross cut), screw drivers, chisels, draw knives, shaving horse, brace and bits, spoke shave, froe, mallet, miter box, framing square, levels (4′, 2′, torpedo), hammer, pencils, and plenty of hardware.
  10. Handyman tools – Channel Lock pliers, socket set, adjustable wrenches, hand saws (cross and rip), hacks saw and blades, clamps, claw hammers (sledge, ball peen, claw), pry bars, pipe wrenches, measuring devices, heavy-duty vise, and files (all shapes and sizes).
  11. Cutting tools – Knives (fixed blade, folding, and everything in between paring to butcher), axes, hatchets, bush hook,two man saw,adz, broad ax, sharpening stones, and a butcher’s steel. I prefer high carbon steel over stainless steel for achieving razor-sharp edges. Plus, high carbon steel knives all you to create sparks with flint, chert, or other hard rock. Redundancy!

    DiY Sawbuck: Work Smarter in the Woodpile

    Buck sawing on the Sawbuck

  12. Blacksmithing – Forge, billow, anvil, hammers, tongs, post vice, files, and quench bucket. After acquiring these, you can make your own tools and needed items. Stock up on salvaged steel.
  13. Cordage – Natural and synthetic rope, twine, tarred bank line, and paracord of all sizes. Making your own takes time, resources, and skill. Stock up now. Don’t forget sewing thread as cordage.
  14. Food prep – Wood cook stove, cast iron cookware, utensils, pressure canner (relatively new tool), crocks, and churn.
  15. Personal care – Straight razor, strop, and sharpening stones.
  16. Weaponry –  Modern to primitive. Modern: At a minimum, a common caliber (for your area) shotgun (12 or 20 gauge), side arm (.45, .357, .38, 9mm, .22), high-powered center fire (30-06, .308,  30-30, .223) and rim fire (.22 cal) rifle. When you run out of cartridges… Traditional muzzleloaders: Black powder rifle, shotgun, and pistols. Primitive: bow and arrows, atlatl, slings.
  17. Music – Forgotten but important culturally and entertainment wise.
  18. Education – Books – lots of hard bound books from all genres. Writing utensils and reams of paper. Reading glasses.
  19. Trapping – Foothold,  bodygrip (Conibear), snares, and live traps. Check local laws and regulations.
  20. Beekeeping – Because we all love honey, right!? Bee hives, hive tool, smoker, hat and veil, gloves, and protective clothing.
  21. Leather work – Down and Dirty Basics: Cutting tool, punch, awl (ice pick works), needle, glue and clamps.
  22. Medical – Surgical kit that covers minor and major needs. Of course, if you don’t have the skill to use these tools, someone in your tribe may. Collect ’em!

    23+ Items You Need to Retool for Self-Reliance

    Surgical tools a good friend gave us but I have no experience using – yet

  23. Animal husbandry – This list of tools can get long really quickly. Take care of your animals and your animals will take care of you. So here goes… Species specific halters, leads, and restraints; wound care, hoof care, syringes, oral dose syringe, etc., etc.

Some of these tools and the skills to use them were common in earlier generations. After a reset, you’ll be proud you retooled with a collection of human-powered pioneer tools. Think muscle over motor to rebuild a strong, self-reliant future for your family.

Even if you never learn how to use all these tools, they’d make great barter items for stuff you do need at your local SHTF swap meet.

What would you add to the retool list?

Retool and Keep Doing the Stuff,


P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, and our Facebook pageReady to trade theory for action? Join us in the Doing the Stuff Network on these social media sites: PinterestGoogle +, and Facebook.

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Categories: Gear, Homesteading, Lost Skills, Preparedness, Self-reliance | Tags: , , , , | 18 Comments

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18 thoughts on “23+ Items You Need to Retool for Self-Reliance

  1. Chuck Findlay

    Your list assumes there will be no electricity at all. I have numerous cordless tools and more then enough solar panels to recharge them.

    Power tools turn days of work with hand tools into hours )or less) of work. And there are things power tools can do that hand tools simply can’t do.

    I think anyone that wants to be ready for hard times should invest in a solar panel (with associated hardware) and a quality set of power tools.


    • You’re right, Chuck. Power tools are the way to go time wise if you have an energy source (solar). I remember reading an article on SurvivalBlog years ago about a solar array for charging 18v hand tools. I use and prefer Mikita hand power tools (impact driver, etc.). That’s one of my projects – solar charger for these tools. I love to get some tips on how you set yours up.

      Thanks for your comment, Chuck. Keep Doing the Stuff!


  2. highdesertlivin

    Ever sense I saw alone in the wilderness, I have been collecting old handtools. My brother and I have grand plan’s of building a cabin on our Montana property. I have no illusions about us using some power, but we are going to strive to use much in the way of the old way’s. As a result most of your list is in my garage. good post.


    • The old tools, if salvageable, are probably better made than most new junk in box stores. I’ve got a couple of axes that I’ve restored I wouldn’t trade for 15 from HD.

      Totally off grid in the wilderness is a tall order. People do it for sure. I think about it but haven’t got a complete plan yet.

      If you pull the trigger on your cabin build, we’d really like to follow along, brother!!


  3. People cannot go naked. All manner of sewing paraphernalia will be needed. A simple electric machine instead of a computerized machine would be wise if one wants an electric sewing machine. But, a treadle machine needs no electricity. There is the capability to turn the treadle into electric powered and vice versa. A supply of needles, bobbins, thread, a book on adjusting and repair, hand sewing needles and pins plus material. Someone needs to know how to sew and how to repair or resize clothing.


    • Have you seen Naked and Afraid? Just kidding.

      Sewing is up there with all the other important self-reliance skills. Thanks for adding it to the list, Practical! And the treadle machine would fill the need without grid power.


  4. Wyzyrd

    You can use an icepick as a leatherworking awl as is. It will work an awful lot better if you take 5 minutes to ‘customize’ it. Use a file to cut the tip into a triangular cross-section, for at least an inch or so. Then, use some emery cloth or a sharpening stone to polish the cut edges smooth.
    Less work for you to push through the leather, and your holes won’t ‘shrink’ before you get your stitches put in place.


  5. Papa "J"

    I agree with Chuck to a degree. I too am set up the same, however, batteries don’t last forever. I just had to toss one of the Lithium Ion batteries last weekend. Same thing has been happening to my old Dewalt batteries. It always will come down to the degree of SHTF scenario. I actually have many of these tools that are still in working order on the ceiling in my garage. I just didn’t want to get rid of them and I haven’t been using them.


  6. Vincent Reynolds

    Love Site.


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  12. Dale W. Miller

    Fortunately, I grew up on a farm and used many of these items. Since then, I have inherited many of the items listed, and have slowly been acquiring others over the years. Yard/rummage sales are a good place to look, as many nowadays don’t want or know how to use “old – fashioned” tools. Hammers, and bits and braces often go for a song. My wife wonders why I keep all that stuff – Like many scoffers, she doesn’t buy into SHTF. Good thing she’s got me!


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