Building and Construction, Feature, Operations, V6I5

Tools of the Trade

(Photo courtesy of James Goneaux from FreeImages)

Every industry or trade has its own identifiable set of tools. The chef has knives, the plumber wrenches, and the barber a pair of scissors. Some industries require a few more tools than others, and the shed business is no exception. From the sales department to construction and delivery, each one requires a different set. And everyone has a favorite.

“The thing is, you don’t need $50,000 in tools to make everything work,” says Anthony Taylor-Weber, owner of Outdoor Office in Sherwood, Oregon. “Start with the basics and build your set over time” 

He says that many builders waste money on tools they rarely use. 

“Spend your money on items that make the biggest impact first,” he says. 

Those tools often turn out to be favorites, too, because they become indispensable on the job. They become the go-to in the toolbox.

Shed Builder Magazine wanted to know what those go-to tools are for shed builders around the country. So we asked, and you answered. If you’re thinking of adding to your toolbox, keep reading to find out what others in the field feel they can’t live without.


Dale Conklin, production manager at Atlas Backyard Sheds in Tyler, Texas, loves his Makita 5007F 7 ¼-inch circular saw more than any other tool for building sheds. After 31 years in the business, Conklin believes his saw is critical. 

“You can’t build much without it,” he says. “It’s tough and accurate.”

Compared to him, Taylor-Weber is a shed-building rookie, with three years in the industry. But he quickly learned his favorite tool is also a circular saw, except he prefers the cordless variety.

Why a circular saw?

“While some people may say a nail gun or some other power tool, we can literally build an entire studio with a cordless circular saw,” Taylor-Weber says. “We have built studios with only a  hammer and nails, but without the circular saw we would have to hand saw every board.”

And why cordless? 

“If the power is out, or you’re at a location that doesn’t have power, your options are either a generator or cordless,” he says. 

They use several different brands of circular saws at Outdoor Office—Dewalt, Milwaukee, and Ryobi. For Taylor-Weber, it’s not the brand that matters, but the quality.

“Quality can’t be replaced on the job site when speed, accuracy, and dependability are vital to your success … spending a little extra up front will pay dividends down the road,” he says.

Brian Saito, carpenter with MyKabin in Bellevue, Washington, also appreciates his cordless circular saw. 

Preferring the Dewalt brand, he says, “It’s often necessary if there’s not adequate power at the worksite.” 


Nate Ulrich, operations manager with Golden State Buildings of Sanger, California, prefers a different power tool. With over six years in the business, Ulrich has come to appreciate his battery-powered router. His Dewalt cordless brushless router, coupled with a Flexvolt 60-volt battery gives a nice, smooth cut.

“We don’t have to find a source of power when working on-site,” he says. “And no more tripping over extension cords!” 

He says this particular router outperforms their corded model.


Deviating from the power department, Rich James, production manager at Reeds Ferry Sheds in Hudson, New Hampshire, loves his Stanley FATMAX tape measure. 

“Measuring is the start and end to everything involved in building,” he says, “from cutting raw materials to length, to making sure panels and openings are square, to verifying distance on a site.”

What makes the FATMAX special? 

“It has the perfect complement of features, from a strong “stand out” to being easily readable and it’s a perfect weight,” James says. 

This toolbox essential is always on his hip.


They say the difference between men and boys is the size of their toys. And for this lot, the toys just seem to be getting bigger and bigger. After all, you do have to have a few things to help you move and set buildings. 

One of those must-have tools, according to Shane Simpson, is The Mule.

“It’s the greatest invention ever made for the shed industry,” says Simpson,  transportation manager at Eason Manufacturing in West Monroe, Louisiana, for over three years. “It can get a building into any spot, no matter how tight.”

Developed by brothers Steve and James Borntrager of Cardinal Manufacturing in 2006, The Mule can lift, maneuver, and set a building where large delivery rigs dare not go. And if you have an exceptionally long building, two Mules will do the job effortlessly.


There’s no doubt about it, you can’t deliver sheds without the truck. And plenty of you love your trucks. Sam Byler, a Carolina-area dealer with SmartPay Rentals even named his Bessie. 

“She gets us up and down the hills better when we call her by name,” he says.

In addition to delivering sheds, Byler’s 2018 Ram 2500 Longhorn with a mega cab takes his wife on dates and his kids on vacation, serves as both office and prayer room, and hauls his friends around when their Fords break down. 

“Which is all the time,” he says.

Jason Kauffman, owner of Kauffman Builders in Eureka, Montana, loves his whole rig. 

“Without it, my business is simply another carpenter crew building outbuildings,” he says.

The delivery rig is paramount for builders who want the protection of constructing their products undercover, rather than on-site. 

“The ability to build sheds in a controlled environment and deliver in one piece is what sets shed manufacturing apart from plain old carpenter crews,” he says.

Kauffman, who’s worked in the shed industry since 1990, drives a 2003 International 9100-I with a 2017 fully-outfitted Pine Hill trailer.


In the marketing department, another tool comes up as a favorite. Rob and Tara Powell, owners of Carolina Yard Barns in Raleigh, North Carolina, felt the pain of their business struggling to survive when they invested in Google Adwords.

“We put just a small amount of money into it with very low bids just to see what would happen,” says Tara, marketing manager for the business. 

Because she had to learn about keywords, metatags, and targeting, it was trial and error at the beginning. But then, she says, “very quickly business picked up and we were getting regular leads.” 

She says that at that time, they believed they were the only local site-built shed builder using Google Adwords.

“Without Google Adwords, I am not sure if our business would have succeeded,” shares Tara. 

Whether Adwords or email, Google anything may not be a traditional tool for your toolbox, but none-the-less essential for marketing in the 21st century.

Other entries for this round-up—a website, great employees, a level, the brain, and builder creativity—add to the variety of favorites. 

No matter how large or small, whether tangible or virtual, and for some, even human, your favorite tools get the job done.     


Shop Talk, October 31, 2018

The Market’s Most Portable Tools, June 1, 2017

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