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One of the many hats I wear is the hat of Bagheera, assistant cub scout leader.

I'd like to introduce a project where we build a wooden tool box. But I'd also like to provide the cub scouts with a minimal set of tools they can take home.

What would you suggest I shop for to make it actually useful?

closed as primarily opinion-based by Chris Cudmore, Tester101 Nov 7 '14 at 16:20

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    I am assuming that you are leaving info for their created SE account. – DMoore Oct 29 '14 at 20:46
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    Duct-tape is good in any tool box. – Mast Oct 30 '14 at 12:40
  • @DMoore They can't have an account until they're 13. Blame the US Congress... – Dan Neely Oct 30 '14 at 12:56
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If I recall my time in the scouts well enough, I'd suggest the following:

  1. a set of screw drivers
  2. an 8-10oz hammer
  3. a set of pliers
  4. a small chunk from a bar of cheap soap for coating screw threads
  5. a piece of chalk- both to use for marking things, but also to absorb moisture and prevent rust.
  6. a small framing square
  7. a retractable tape rule

If you shop around and hit discount stores, it's not an expensive proposition (in the US, I'd recommend Big Lots and Harbor Freight.)

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    I would add a small hand saw and a carpenter pencil. – Alexandre Vaillancourt Oct 29 '14 at 14:17
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    I'd swap the soap for wax, such as beeswax - and you know where to find beeswax - in the plumbing section ;-) While soap will also get screws in, wax won't promote corrosion over time, which soap can. small framing square - speed square (the plastic ones are quite affordable and hold up better than I'd have expected) – Ecnerwal Oct 29 '14 at 15:28
  • @AlexandreVaillancourt While the saw is a good idea, there is a higher level of proof-of-skill-level necessary than with the other tools, especially if the lower age is 8. – bib Oct 29 '14 at 15:55
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    @alt These are cub scouts. A little young for knife work. – Chris Cudmore Oct 29 '14 at 17:17
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    Be very picky if shopping horrible fright, et al - if your first set of inexpensive tools is also "cheap" in the "not actually inexpensive, since they don't work as they should" sense, it can have a lasting impression other than what you seek here. It need not be Lee Valley (et al) hoighty-toighty, but it needs to be functional, or you should skip it. "Bad tools for children" are a terrible idea, and "an empty box to fill up yourself" is actually preferable to that. – Ecnerwal Oct 29 '14 at 18:11
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I would suggest - to go along with TX's answer:

  • Magnetic stud finder (many uses and kids love playing with it - and educational)
  • gloves
  • safety glasses
  • set of little screw drivers with mini plier (computer grade). Kids have toys they can try to fix and they will need smaller tools to start there and work their way to houses.
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    Getting kids used to appropriate safety equipment early is a great idea! – Dancrumb Oct 29 '14 at 21:23
  • @Dancrumb - kids just think its cool to wear gloves and glasses! – DMoore Oct 29 '14 at 21:36
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At around that age I got a premade toolbox at everybody's favorite radio parts / cell phone store (for $8 on clearance, when I came home with it my mom gave me $16 and had me buy one for my brother), here's what was (going from memory) was in it:

  • Hammer
  • Combo wire cutter/wire stripper/crimper
  • Level
  • Ratcheting screwdriver with a fairly wide assortment of bits (philips/flathead/torx/hex)
  • Miniature screwdriver set (two different sizes each of philips and flathead)
  • Adjustable wrench
  • Assorted wire connectors (included crimp-style and the twist-on style)
  • Wire cutter
  • Exacto knife

I think that's everything, and was almost every tool I needed at that age (besides a soldering iron and related equipment)

  • I'm not to sure I want 8 year olds playing with electrical work. – Chris Cudmore Oct 30 '14 at 12:33
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    @ChrisCudmore Why not? I was 10 years old when I started. Yeah, them working on 120V is probably a no-no, but there's nothing wrong with hooking whoever is interested up with a couple of AA batteries, some wire, and some motors. Seriously, if any of them show interest in robotics or stuff like that, hit me up and I can recommend some kits or stuff which may be worthwhile. – Ross Aiken Oct 30 '14 at 16:42
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I would add a small spirit level and maybe a cheap adjustable wrench too.

2

Echoing @DMoore, Safety glasses! And don't forget to wear yours! And get some spares/loners so that no one isn't wearing them. Nails hardly ever hit the hammerer but often "squirt" sideways and get the kid sharing the work bench.

If this is just for carpentry

  • Pencil. (Carpenter's pencils are hard to sharpen. I use "kids" pencils. And they have erasers!)

  • Ruler. Consider making it. Just a stick with marks on it.

  • Square. Make two; right-hand and left-hand. Just two sticks and some glue. Good intro to technique, too.

  • Short saw. (A Japanese pull saw has both crosscut and rip blades, makes thinner kerfs, and cuts straighter.)

  • Hammer. (Light hammers require higher speed and accuracy to sink the nail. Heavy hammers are easier to use.)

  • Some nails!

  • Little (9mm) LOCKING utility knife.

Make sure what ever you get will all fit in the toolbox and you can build anything.

2

Actually useful tools are the ones that are (expensive) well made. It's not very fun when the handle breaks; cheap tools can be dangerous. If they are responsible, they may own some of these tools for the rest of their lives. I'd suggest a minimalist approach to mitigate budget concerns.

  • They need a hammer that the head won't fly-off of, needle nose and slip-joint pliers, a quality tape measure and screwdrivers; not a bit kit. Though it would be a great addition that could add some random hex, torx, sockets, ect. An adjustable wrench would be nice but not crucial if you have pliers.

A bit kit may actually be the most useful thing to them at this time, for taking toys apart, changing batteries and whatnot; kid stuff. As a child I received a cheap tool box, mostly geared towards woodworking; it was (and would still be) useless to me. Focus on items that will stand the test of time and be useful for the duration.

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My 7 yr old grandson helped me put together a new bball goal. and he had no problem, and enjoyed, using a socket wrench set.

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