Tools, Equipment, and Tips for an Ideal Prepper’s Workshop

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The intention of this article is to provide a valid approach to some special considerations we may have for long-term use of our gear that arose when I was advising someone about using power tools.

We are going to be in deep need of tools and knowledge for some maintenance and repairmen work in our equipment. Therefore, special care must be addressed before setting up a workshop for the long term. Meaning with this a post-apocalypse stage, as long as you believe it could be, just remember how we prepared and the collapse was so large that we had to leave the country. Miscalculations are on you.

Assess what equipment you have already to figure out what you need.

This said, we should already have a general idea about the direction we want/need our homestead or compound must be directed in the future, regardless if we are there or not.

We should already have an inventory of all of our equipment and the more used spare parts, repairmen and maintenance manuals, and a workshop as small or as big as you need it, able to accomplish most of such tasks, with a proper set of tools that would last a lifetime.

If you decided to build a biodiesel small scale facility, complete with an alcohol distillery, you should be ready to maintain it without too much hassle. Or if you have a wood gas genset (something that I like a LOT by the way) running with a small, simple, reliable and efficient engine with a huge flywheel to minimize the wasted kinetic energy, everything should be in place to service that setup. Windmills? A recumbent bicycle? A cart with sprockets and bike chain that can be ridden by 4 people pedaling? Whatever you have, you´re going to need your workshop, and make it as capable and sustainable in the long run as you can, and perhaps something to leave behind for your beloved ones to use.

Here’s what you need to know about circuits and breakers.

First, any workshop needs overload protection. A short circuit in a tool, and it could draw a lot of current, overheating things that we need to keep cool, like wiring. Modern breakers, that protection device inside your electric box in everyone´s houses, are made of a plastic called baquelite. Parameters like power consumption, cable length, installation method, and ambient conditions must be addressed before, or at least a general estimation so you can know what level of protection you need. (40 amps? 70 amps?)

However, unless you invest some good money on these protectors (in Venezuela they became a commodity, expensive as gold) to have them available in the future, I would say to go with low tech. Remember those old ceramic switches with a large handle that have to be pulled up or down to close the circuit? Widely used in science fiction movies for dramatic effects? “Pull.The.Switch!”

Well, it happens to be that these switches have the very same function, and unlike disposable circuit breakers made of plastic, that after some time stop working (trust me, I know about this) the switch is provided with two (or more) fuses, that can be calculated and hand-made if the need arises, to be protective, cheap, and readily available. A fuse is (for those who are reading and don´t know what it is) in its most simple version just a small, calibrated length of wire with a specific diameter that will melt or vaporize if current over a certain amount is suddenly going through it. And this will protect our entire wiring to melt and avoid a possible fire hazard.

Why do I like those switches? Because back at home we have some of them that have been working flawlessly the last…70 years, give or take. Once lightning hit the transformer on our block, and our neighbor´s home got his entire electric intake box burned up. Even the mountings of the circuit breakers had to be replaced. At home, just a small piece of wire had to be replaced. I know because I was there when my dad did it.

Of course, these can´t be in any place where damp or weather can affect it. But it is simple, reliable and so cheap that you want to laugh. Check your local regulations and install under your own risk, always by a professional if you decide for this before a collapse. (smile)

My intention is not to unleash a debate about the modern circuit breakers; these can be mandatory in many places, and have LOTS of security features: spring-loaded levers, isolation everywhere so you don´t get a shock when resetting the power…stuff like that. It´s quite comprehensible to use them, and perhaps even illegal to bypass them (and it should be!)

But you have an alternative you should be aware of, just in case. Low tech, cheap, and affordable.

A good idea I consider to be analyzed in your particular case is if you are going to bury your electricity conductors. If you do it, do it properly. Use a good quality conduit, and go to the needed depth. This will avoid lots of problems in the future when perhaps finding wire is an almost impossible task.

Air-powered tools and air hoses are useful when the grid is down.

And as I have arrived at this point, perhaps some of you wonderful readers can provide some useful insight. Given the spectacular performance of air powered tools, and the low energy they consume, for a workshop and certain tasks, these would be a very good choice in the long run, given the case that power grid is entirely down and your batteries are not large enough to power the tools the time you need to. If you think this can´t happen in your area, then you´re reading the wrong website.

OK, one of my concerns that I would like you to comment about is the shelf life of brand new, unused, top-quality…air hoses. Electricity for the long term is the best obvious choice; chances are that a top quality extension cord should last a lifetime if properly taken care of. With a cable roll, say 100 meters or so, and some cheap parts we can make our own of the needed length. There are lots of options of hardened, heavy-duty wire these days, and if we are serious about it, investing on this should not be a problem. We don´t know if someday our workshop can save our sorry backsides. In that case, we need to have good quality, proven, heavy-duty and durable gear. Taking care of it like precious items (30 years of post-economic collapse will make them valuable, trust me).

Hardened, braided air hoses, overrated for the pressures we use, are the way to go. Air tools are not that expensive, and they are low maintenance too. Saws, grinders, drills, that sort of stuff. With the electric tools being more complicated (a failed armature is going to render the tool useless unless you have a spare one) to maintain, there is a risk that sooner or later these will arrive at the end of its lifespan if we use it constantly. A good low rev air compressor, on the other hand, if properly cared for with a good tank, is amazingly durable. I have seen some of these working in tire repairmen shops since I was a kid, and the last time I was there (3 years maybe) they were still using the same compressor. Service parts like O-rings, valves, seals, and stuff are cheap and plentiful; getting good quality equipment can be a good idea if your labor is such that you need compressed air. Hey, is useful even if all you do with air is inflating tires, or perhaps some blowing apart for drying or cleaning the dust!

Being as self-sufficient as possible is ideal.

I would love to embed this idea in some of the readers: we should be as self-sufficient as we could, and arrive at the extreme of being able to synthesize biopolymers to process and manufacture a braided hose. With this capability, sustainability would be greatly enhanced, and our workshop lifespan would be extended a lot. This is the kind of stuff I think about when someone says sustainability. Melting aluminum with solar energy (this is possible in Venezuela, indeed, and there are already designs that prove it) and everything your ingenuity could develop. It´s a shame that I am in such a harsh stage in my life. Under different conditions perhaps I could have already made a couple of patents that would result very useful for the prepper of the future. But that costs money, as usual, a commodity that is not abundant these days.

I see a very synergic mix in this kind of air pressure powered equipment when mixed with electric. For small works compressed air should be more than enough, and won´t abuse your battery rack. Need more power? Start your biodiesel genset for a while (it should charge your rack too) and use the juice for your tool. Consumption of a modern power tool is so low, that other equipment could be connected to the genset. Unless it is a massive tool, perhaps laundry can be done while you are grinding apart you just welded that needs a good finishing; or cutting steel with the circular saw. If your laundry machine is not something that looks and talks like something out of the Millenium Falcon, it will deal fairly enough with the current peaks that the power tool will generate, and that is good.

What do you think?

Please let me know in your comments, as usual, what you think, and more importantly, what you NEED to be elaborated and I will work on it. Things in Venezuela are reaching…post war levels, and I continuously try to preserve my sanity by organizing some stuff that is under my control, in order to minimize the impact of our return.

Thank you!

Thanks for your donations, buddies. Much appreciated, and I pray every day for health and prosperity for all of those wonderful people that have assisted us.

God Bless you, and see you in the Club 😉


About Jose

Jose is an upper middle class professional. He is a former worker of the oil state company with a Bachelor’s degree from one of the best national Universities. He has a small 4 members family, plus two cats and a dog. An old but in good shape SUV, a good 150 square meters house in a nice neighborhood, in a small but (formerly) prosperous city with two middle size malls. Jose is a prepper and shares his eyewitness accounts and survival stories from the collapse of his beloved Venezuela. Thanks to your help Jose has gotten his family out of Venezuela. They are currently setting up a new life in another country.

J.G. Martinez D

J.G. Martinez D

About Jose Jose is an upper middle class professional. He is a former worker of the oil state company with a Bachelor’s degree from one of the best national Universities. He has a small 4 members family, plus two cats and a dog. An old but in good shape SUV, a good 150 square meters house in a nice neighborhood, in a small but (formerly) prosperous city with two middle size malls. Jose is a prepper and shares his eyewitness accounts and survival stories from the collapse of his beloved Venezuela. Thanks to your help Jose has gotten his family out of Venezuela. They are currently setting up a new life in another country. Follow Jose on YouTube and gain access to his exclusive content on Patreon. Donations:

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  • Jose, we here in Daisy’s community are most grateful for your writings and knowledgeable descriptions of the tragedies befalling the peoples of Venezuela. Those catastrophes are almost unimaginable for so many people here accustomed to the extreme division of labor that has made possible such comfortable lifestyles. The downside is that the skills of using hand tools that were in common use up through the 1930s or so are now almost unknown to those growing up in apartments or suburbia without shop access or knowledgeable parents about such skills.

    I grew up on a small farm with no electric power to my father’s workshop, so I learned all about using a brace and bit, hand saws, hand-powered yankee drills, hand-cranked grinders, etc, and even learned how to use my grandfather’s foot-pedal operated sandstone tool sharpener / grinder. He was a young man in the 1890s long before rural electrification came along, and when much complex machinery was either human powered or animal powered. A reprint of a Sears catalog from that era is highly instructional today about tools for a non-electric world.

    It seems to me that in recommending air tools and a genset to power the motor that operates the air pump to supply air pressure to a tank that air tools can draw from … is assuming fairly short term power outages. In a country that’s addicted to “just in time” supply systems of everything from groceries to gasoline, a long term power outage, such as President Trump has recently assigned a top priority to researching and defending against, would make relying on fuel for the genset (that makes possible using such air tools) impractical — even though a short term power outage could be overcome.

    There are lots of ways to use human or animal power for tools, with a little advance planning. There were once hand and foot-powered Singer sewing machines. There were all kinds of foot treadle-driven machine tools, and today some that could be converted back to foot power with a treadle, pulleys and v-belts. There are clothes washing gadgets that are completely human-powered, as there are of clothes wringers and old-fashioned clothes lines, etc. The suppliers of products to the Amish community, like Lehman’s, are full of such equipment. It was heartbreaking a couple of decades ago to read a survivor’s account of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, and how one lady described being able to eat because she had a foot-treadle powered Singer sewing machine to mend or make clothing for customers.

    Anyway, that’s my perspective on the difference between short term and long term power outages, and when manual or animal power might be all that’s available.

    A couple of notes: for the benefit of native English speakers who might not understand what baquelite is, this wiki article on Bakelite explains:

    and, Jose, you will appreciate a wonderful quote from the great Scottish writer, teacher, and philosopher Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881) who wrote:

    “Man is a tool-using animal. Without tools he is nothing, with tools he is all.”


    • That answer is an sub-article by itself. 🙂

      I love the interaction that today’s tools allow between people. The information provided by Lewis is so valuable for city dwellers starting to prep that I am amazed. My advice comes from experience about what is happening there. Our societies are much more similar (or they used to be, once upon a time) because we use to have in the 90s a strong USA influence in the corporate culture of our companies, and that is what has helped to many of us growing up professionally those years to find job overseas.

      I dedicated some time to sort around this kind of genset/fuel availability and I came with a solution that could be practical for some homesteaders. Please read my next article and you will notice.

      Thanks for your valuable collaboration!

  • For some that might not have heard of Lister engines I would spend a few minutes on you tube. They are usually single cylinder diesel engines. 650 to 850 rpm. Bullet proof and last a life time. At 600+ lbs not portable nor should they get stolen.

    • This is my next project indeed. A small facility for producing biodiesel/wood gas, and run a very old piece of lister engine my dad collected somewhere and took it home. It may look as a piece of junk but for me is priceless. I know once that thing starts to work, it will keep running until my grandsons spread my ashes in the corn field there in the mountains.

      And yes, I don’t want to leave Venezuela unless I go on vacation to some other nice place, like the French Riviera, or some very exotic place, like BoraBora.

  • Jose there is a cultural difference between your country and Americans under the age of around 60. When you buy a cheap Chinese motorcycle you are ok with fixing it when cheap parts are readily available. But far too many Americans under the age of 60 years old have no inclination or frankly talent in figuring out how things work and then fixing them. Thus we don’t buy cheap Chinese Motorcycles accepting that we would need to fix or repair them often.

    There ARE exceptions to my statement but they are folks often called Rednecks (and made fun of by “Normal” people) or folks raised by older parents who were very handy. The Average age of REAL Auto Mechanics (instead of by the book replace parts until it works “Mechanic”) and or Plumbers and Electricians in America is around 60 years old. They are actively seeking apprentices but almost nobody wants a “get their hands dirty” job like that. In your country Jose, I suspect it’s pretty normal to cut out rust damage on a vehicle and weld or rivet in new metal nice and strong. In America only Rednecks do things like that.

    BTW I am a proud High Tech Redneck, I get folks looking down at me while I take their money for simple (to me) repairs around their homes.

    These too proud to dirty their hands Americans will be totally screwed when the Just in Time system fails them. Makes me sad but the highest paid folks tend to be Athletes, Hollywood types and Politicians not those that perform surgery and keep important systems going like plumbers.

    • Yes I know what you talk about, buddy. There was a lot of useless proud Venezuelans around here too. I had to hire some people several times for special works, mostly masonry in bathrooms, fixing roofs and such. But I had to work, so time was a commodity that was scarce for me and that was a work for I never was trained. With some time and someone to help or teach me, I would have done it. Knowledge is always useful because you never know when you are going to need it.

      Working on my car and bike, though, was a different fur animal. 🙂

      Yes, you’re very accurate in your comments. There is no such thing like real mechanics. Not anymore. One of the best things I am doing is suggesting my kids to learn to use their hands in some useful, and uncommon chores that could be useful for them in the future.

  • Jose, I goofed. I overlooked something you wrote when I composed from memory. You said “WOOD GAS genset” and I overlooked the “wood gas” part of that. That changes everything. A lot of people have no idea what that is all about. Here goes:

    A wood gas burner, whether in a camping cookstove or a large engine powered by the heat of burning wood (where an air blast is either force fed or sucked into the rising stream of hot burning flames) has long been used as a source of cooking energy or motive power for much larger projects. I have a tiny ultralight backpacking stove that operates on that principle. During World War II there were many Germans who is desperation for lack of petroleum, converted vehicle motors to run via the wood gas principle.

    Today, I’ve seen articles where people have similarly motorized bicycles via wood gas powered motors. So knowledge of the principle has not been lost, although it’s not widespread.

    There is another twist to this. In the decade before Prohibition was ruled in in 1919, Henry Ford’s Model-T cars and trucks were all flex-fuel. That is, they could be switched back and forth by the driver to run on either gasoline (which was then only available in the larger cities) or ethanol alcohol, which was widely homemade out in rural areas for fuel, as well as for personal consumption. (I still have an ancient radiator cap from a Model-T of that flex-fuel era.)

    (A side issue to that era was the Rockefeller donation of $4 million dollars to the Women’s Christian Temperance Union to kick off a nationwide morals crusade against alcohol — as the national cover story to whitewash over the real motive to wipe out enough alcohol production to force Henry Ford’s flex-fuel vehicles off the market, to kill mass production of alcohol as motor fuel, and artificially kill the alcohol competition that greatly slowed the expansion of Rockefeller owned gasoline stations across America. By 1933, the Prohibition scam had achieved its goal, and a Rockefeller decendant announced to the New York press that “we no longer need Prohibition” but without discussing the real and sleazy reason underneath. That deception continued even through a TV series of the 1950s with Robert Stack in “The Untouchables” which never ever mentioned the alcohol fuels destruction issue.

    So either wood gas stoves, wood gas generators of electric power, converted engines to wood gas power, OR even engines converted to run on pure alcohol (homemade or purchased) are very possible, and potential solutions for a very long term power outage — IF there is a sufficient supply of bio-mass available where the user lives, or where the maker lives to sell to customers in cities without sufficient bio-mass supplies.

    See what a huge difference overlooking that one tiny phrase “wood gas” makes. Big oops.

    Hope this helps.


  • I couldn’t resist running a search on both and on YouTube for WOOD GAS GENERATOR to see what might be found. Here’s just a fraction of the relevant hits:



    in this 7:24 minute video, from “7 TRUMPETS PREPPER” on Jun 14, 2012:


    How to Make a Generator that Runs on Wood!!! (wood gas gasifier) Experiment

    in this 11:39 minute video, from “Experimental Fun” on Oct 7, 2017:


    #1 Wood Gas Generator. Ultimate Wood Gasifier Plans. Free Fuel for Life.

    in this 20:13 minute video, from “VictoryGasworks” on Aug 19, 2014:

    A similar search on HOW TO DISTILL ALCOHOL should be equally productive. [hint, hint]. Just be alert to present-day regulatory restrictions per ATF (which is the acronym for Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms, just one of the nanny state’s enduring predatory agencies).


    • I do know (remember I used to be a maintenance engineer of fixed equipment) that wood gas leaves in the ducts some goo that could make extensive damage to the engine, depending on the type of wood being used, because of the resin content.

      Be aware that anything running on wood gas will need a lot of maintenance. But at the end of the day, I believe it will be the best option for a tracked vehicle, indeed. Remember, tires need an entire industry behind that won’t be there. That’s why I love tracks. The all steel kind, rubber tracks are for P**ies.

  • Thanks for all of your contributions, Jose. Your articles are always interesting and thought provoking.
    A question – If a person has access to ample supplies of coal or wood, what about the possibility of a steam-powered generator? Or a steam engine for some applications?

    • Dear Miss Kitty,

      That is exactly the main topic of my next article 🙂

      Disadvantages could (and I empathize “Could”) be water scarcity, not a real problem if you live near a river or have snow, and in this particular case a steam engine generates tons of heat “excess” that can be used.
      Other disadvantage is that you would need a lot of combustible to run it. But if you can transform something of that energy stored in the combustible materials to electricity and heat, and maybe operating a saw to cut logs, or even getting water out of a well and pumping it to an elevated tank, it is a good compromise.

      Please, people, stay tuned and look for the next article, ok?. Perhaps I would elaborate a little bit more about arranging a setup of different stuff to take advantage of the byproducts of a steam engine.

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