| INTERMEDIATE TECHNOLOGY GROUP
ITDG 7: A joiner’s carrying equipment
In Britain there are two types of joiners, the tradesmen (or
occasionally women) who make things out of wood. ‘Shop
joiners’ work in a workshop, where they make windows,
doors and doorframes, staircases, custom-designed units for
kitchens, bathrooms etc. They have their own hand tools in
the workshop, as well as machinery. ‘Site joiners’ work
on building sites, where they build anything from floors, walls
to roofs, make shuttering for forming concrete, and install
the doors, staircases and windows etc. that are put together
in a workshop. There is also a separate but related trade, ‘cabinet
makers’. These tend to specialise in making furniture.
In the course of a day a site joiner might need to use a wide
variety of tools.
Edge tools (those with a sharp edge that has to be protected)
This includes saws, chisels, bradawls, planes, and axes.
Hammers, screwdrivers, files, tape measure, pencils, squares,
pincers, pliers etc. Some of these can be quite heavy - such
as a lump-hammer, nail-bars (crowbars), and spirit levels.
Most joiners will use a variety of electric tools - screwdriver,
drill, jigsaw, circular saw, planer and possibly a Hilti gun
(for fixing nails into concrete). Normally these are carried
in plastic boxes that are supplied with the tool. On a larger
site where they might have to do a lot of cutting, they will
take a circular saw fixed to a metal table. They usually have
to carry a transformer to reduce the power supply to 110V (for
safety reasons) and electric cables.
Nails and screws
Most joiners also take with them a nail box, which is an open ‘tray’ with
partitions, for carrying different sorts of nails. They also
take a variety of screws and other fittings.
Many joiners also carry heavy-duty gloves, safety goggles and
face masks. Another popular item is a leather belt with a
loop to sling a hammer and various partitions for nails etc.
Lots of tools
Typically a joiner will carry more than one size of most tools - they
might have three or four saws, three hammers of different weights
and designs, three planes (jack, smoothing and block) and so
Most joiners use a van or pick-up truck to get themselves,
their tools and materials to the site. (There is an interesting
possible design context here for a customised rickshaw or
bicycle trailer for joiners.) Sometimes they can park the
van on the site and get tools and materials, as they need
them during the day. But more often the van is needed for
other purposes during they day, so the joiners have to unload
everything and carry it to where they are working. If they
are working upstairs they will have to carry everything up,
and down again at the end of the day.
The main problem stems from the fact that joiners might not
know in advance which tools they are likely to need, so they
tend to bring everything with them onto the site. Since the
tools are made mainly from steel, with plastic handles, this
means they have to carry large loads. A second problem is
how to protect the edge tools. If a saw rubs against a hammer
the teeth can be bent or blunted. A third problem is finding
the tool that you actually need. If you have a joiner’s
bag or box, you sometimes have to root around in it to locate
smaller tools. At the end of the day you need to make sure
that you have collected up all your tools. There is an overriding
health and safety issue: the tool boxes not only have to
be carried; they have to be lifted on and off vans or trucks.
It is easy to twist and hurt one’s back if the load
is too heavy.
In the past joiners used a bag and a toolbox. The joiner’s
bag had no partitions. It was usually made from hessian or
canvas with a rope handle, and tended to wear out fairly quickly.
The toolbox was large and cumbersome, and was made of wood.
|Joiner’s hessian bag
|Joiner’s wooden toolbox
More recently joiners used large, canvas bags with two handles
and a zip on top. The problem here was that they were hard
to carry, especially if all the tools went to one end. Again
the edge tools would get blunted and / or make holes, so
that the smaller tools fell out.
The Zag box that joiners use today
The most widely used current solution is the ‘Zag’ box.
These are moulded from heavy duty plastics (usually HDPE or
PP). There is a hinge along one side, a recessed handle and
two clips to hold the lid down. Inside there is a removable
tray with partitions for small items. Larger tools are carried
underneath. One advantage of the Zag box is that you can sit
on it during tea breaks and lunch.
But none of these is the ideal solution. Boxes still have
to be carried, sometimes up ladders or through trap doors.
Edge tools still get damaged, and in the normal 26” box
there is not room for larger saws. Small tools can be hard
to find. And when they go, the Zag boxes tend to break on the
hinge or clips, rendering them useless, although the actual
shell is still sound.
|Old Zag box with clips broken off
||Zag box, tools and nail/screw box
Is there a better solution? Is it possible to redesign the
joiner’s carrying equipment so that there is a place
for everything? This will make it easier to find things, and
to check that everything has been gathered up. How can edge
tools, especially saws, be protected? Since boxes are not easy
to carry: might it be possible for a joiner to have two or
even three containers that can be carried rucksack style? Can
anything be done to design something with more sustainable
materials, or which is more durable?
How do you carry it up a ladder?
Finding a client
There are joiners in every town. You might find a company or
individual joiner who is willing to act as your client by
looking in the Yellow Pages. Discuss with them their needs,
and how their activities or products could be made more efficient
and more sustainable. You can find out from the joiner the
exact nature of the tools they carry every day (types of
tool, sizes and weights, and whether they need to be protected).