A Drywall Contractor’s Bag [Bucket]

August 28, 2013 — 18 Comments

A few days ago I thought it would be a good idea to take the contents of my “architect’s” bag and lay them out OCD style on a table and show everyone what an architect like me carries around. What I didn’t realize at the time is that that was the start of a new series I am going to have on Life of an Architect where I get professionals from different areas of the architectural, design, and construction industries to follow suit. Today is the first entry in that series and it came to me courtesy of Jonathan Kathol – an architectural designer I worked with years ago in another life – that is now a professional residential drywall contractor in Omaha, Nebraska and his company is Kathol Drywall. If any of you like my sketching style, you have Jonathan to thank – he’s the one who taught me how to sketch in the style that I currently use. Despite the fact that Jonathan isn’t currently practicing architecture, I used to shadow his every move when we were co-workers and I would do just about anything to hire him should he ever decide he’s ready to leave the field and come back into the office. 

I hope you enjoy this series as much as I think I’m going to enjoy it. Taking a look at the tools the pro’s use can teach us a lot, not to mention that it’s voyeuristic fun at the same time. So … what is in a professional drywall contractor’s bucket? Let’s take a look (if you click the photo, it will open up at a larger size):


drywall rocking tools from Jonathan Kathol

Jonathan Kathol: I’m a drywall contractor.  We don’t carry bags because they tend to get destroyed after about 3 seconds on the job.  We put our stuff in empty 5-gallon buckets and everything in the bucket serves a purpose, including the bucket itself.  This particular bucket contains almost all the tools necessary to hang a basic drywall project and I carry this bucket around several times every workday.  This bucket does not contain taping tools – there is another bucket for that.

drywall rocking tools from Jonathan Kathol

  1. Five Gallon Bucket – Used to carry stuff.  Can also be flipped over and can be used as a seat while on lunch break. See?  Buckets are already way better than bags and it’s only a matter of time until this trend shows up in architecture studios.
  2. 12” Wonder Bar – Used for prying old screws, nails, etc. in remodel work and sometimes used as a lever to fit sheets of wallboard together.
  3. Extra Large 6” Slotted Screwdriver – Not used for screws at all, but for tapping nailheads in different directions to fine-tune metal cornerbead installation.
  4. 6” Wallboard Saw – Used for sawing wallboard. Not recommended for cutting lumber or metal.  On larger projects or when lots of special cuts are needed you would use a RotoZip.
  5. Tin snips – For cutting metal corner bead, plastic bead and trim pieces, and light gauge metal
  6. Chalk Line – For marking longer wallboard cuts.  Can also be used as a plumb bob to demonstrate to the general contractor that his framing crew doesn’t know what a plumb bob is.
  7. Channel Lock Pliers – To grab hold of finish nails in demo work and also pinch objects and rip them out during demo work (rarely used to actually turn nuts & bolts)
  8. Construction Pencils – No they are not flat so companies have a nice place to put their marketing slogans and logos, they are flat so they don’t roll around.  Also any pencil you have to sharpen with a KNIFE is inherently awesome.
  9. Cordless Drill – An obvious necessity on a jobsite when electrical isn’t hooked up yet or you don’t want to monkey around with extension cords.  However if you are hanging anything more than a couple sheets you will want to find yourself some electricity and use a dedicated screw gun.
  10. 25-Foot Tape Measure – These tend to disappear a lot so I only buy really cheap ones
  11. Drywall Rasp – Used to file down a rough cut so the sheets fit together nice and tight
  12. ½” Staple Gun – Used in combination with spray adhesives to install plastic trims and corners.
  13. Fixed Blade Utility Knife – I like using the fixed blade knives because they have a more solid feel and the folding & sliding ones tend to break or jamb more often.
  14. Leather Tool Belt – This belt has two separate side pouches to hold more stuff and also to balance out the weight when buckled around your waist.
  15. Job site Spanish Dictionary – No, there aren’t any dirty words printed in this book.
  16. 1-1/4” Drywall Screws – These are for ½” drywall on wood.
  17. 1-1/4” Ring Shank Nails – Used mainly for installing metal bead or tacking up a sheet before screwing it off
  18. 1-5/8” Drywall Screws – These are for 5/8” drywall on wood.
  19. 2” Nails – Used to hang wall board in tricky spots where backing is questionable
  20. ½” Staples – Used in the staple gun to install plastic corners and trims
  21. 16” Drywall Hammer – The most used tool in the bucket.  Drywall hammers are unique in that the face of the head is a bit wider to minimize “dimpling” the wallboard when hammering in nails.  Another unique aspect of a drywall hammer is the hatchet shaped flange on the back side.  The flange is often used as a chisel to chop away debris or as a lever to force sheets together as tight as possible.  Also used to pound wood framing into place that may be misaligned.

Editor’s Note – since I know people will ask, the shoes in the picture are: Red Wing #875 6-inch Boot

Bob: I would like to thank Jonathan for playing along – he’s a good sport and I loved seeing what tools he needs to have in order to go about doing his job.

If you think you would like to participate in this project, just send me an email bob [at] lifeofanarchitect [dot] com

Bob AIA signature


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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  • Nik

    Great post Bob! I really like the idea behind this series.
    Believe it or not there’s actually a name for organizing stuff like this: Knolling; to knoll the contents of ones bag for display. I agree, it’s fun!
    Looking forward to more posts in this series!

  • Blair Stackaruk

    Great blog Bob! Would like to see some samples of your work.
    Cheers, Blair

  • Benjamin Carlson

    The other handy thing I have found about construction pencils is their dimensions–1/2″x1/4″. It’s a very quick tool to set gaps, reveals, overhangs, etc.

  • Mark Mc Swain

    WooHoo! A Challenge. Ah, but the choices, the choices.
    Most obvious would be my electrician’s bucket-bag. This would be the most full, too–from basic items to Telco, CoAx, and RJ-45 stuff.
    Then, there’s my “handy bag” which has everything not in another bag or tool box. The contents of that one are always in a state of flux, as I vary them to the task at hand. Like all of my most successful tool-carrying solutions, it has a sholder strap.
    Or, perhaps the tool belt (which also has shoulder straps).
    Will likely depend upon how my labors over the Labour Day weekend.
    This could be quite fun.

    • I have no doubt that you are up to the challenge!

  • Ryan Hansanuwat

    Interested in the Job Site Spanish book. I’ve never seen it before, but certainly could be useful to have when I make site visits to see what contractors might be saying about that #!@$% Architect. Where did you pickup the book?

    It doesn’t need the bad words, I know those ones by now.

    • Jwkathol

      Ryan I believe the book can be ordered from Amazon. Although hardly comprehensive it is surprisingly relevant and covers things one would say from almost every phase of construction.

    • Mark Mc Swain

      Check at the commercial sales counter for your local building supply place–Sheppler’s; Grainger’s; Fastenal; HOPE Lumber, etc.

      Also, check the app store for your version of your phone–there are trade-specific translators as well as general ones. These can be spiffy. The translate-everything app on my Droid also has an OCR feature to help read foriegn text. Most importantly, it has a voice, so it can ‘speak’ the phrase you have cobbled together. This is especiaoly handy when the message changes if you have poor pronunciation–consider how a simple message in English changes is one confuses “char” and “chair.”

      That being said, one of the handiest Spanish/spanglish phrases is “Como dice?” (koh mow DEE say). So, “Como dice en espanil “door” por facor?” will get you “Portal.”

      Also good to note that Construction Spanish is a specific argot, despite having a great deal of pidgin-like spanglish diction and phrasing. So, a “joist” which would strictly be a “viga” (VEE gah) is actually “hoist” or “hoista” in actual use. Viga tends to be used for girts. Note that the structural member supposting joists or girts is often a “beeh MA.” This is somewhat regional, too, as is “pieds y incas” (pe yeds EE een KAHs) for “feet and inches.”

  • Kira Fujiwa

    What is the minimum dimension of a balcony,master’s bedroom,living room,dining room,laundry area,maids room,carport,guest room,family hall,kitchen,entrance porch,and service area??Please answer my question..I’m designing..

  • Bill Reeves

    but, but, but, all I had was a hole in the wall to repair. I gotta buy all that stuff? LOL. Doing drywall work is too much like work. I’ve seen two guy knock out a whole office in a few day. They all work their butts off. I would rather draw them.

    • Jwkathol

      I agree it is hard work!

  • Marcia Kellogg

    Don’t forget to include us Marketing and B/D professionals in your future posts 😉

    • Now that you see how the series is set up, send me your photos and write up your list. I hope to build a worthwhile series out of this, I have about 12 architects who have already sent in their bags and now I need other design related professionals, contractors, sub-contractors, graphic artists – etc.

  • Jennifer ‘Morris’ Lofton

    I love that everything is so nicely displayed in the photo. Shows attention to detail (aka: ocd tendencies) which I appreciate in a Contractor! Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment Jennifer – glad you liked the post!

    • Jwkathol

      Thanks for noticing, Jennifer. I also get regular comments about how over-organized my work van is.

  • Jody Keisner

    I had no idea drywall-folks came loaded with all of this equipment. It really is a science, isn’t it? Thanks for the interesting read!

    • drywall-folks are bucket intensive.

      Having done a few weekend warrior drywall projects on my own, I can attest to the value of a skilled (and properly tooled) drywaller.