The Walt Kowalski Toolbox

“Take these three items right here. You can have this. WD-40, vise grips, and some duct tape. Any man worth his salt can do half the household chores with just those three things.” ~ Walt Kowalski

The other day I sat down to watch Gran Torino for the first time, and boy was it awesome. While there are plenty of great lessons in manliness that I took away from the film (look for a post on that hopefully in the near future) one scene that stuck out to me was when Clint Eastwood’s character, Walt Kowalski, showed his young neighbor and protege, Thao, his workshop. When Thao lamented that he’d never be able to put together such an impressive collection of tools, the grizzled Korean War vet introduced the young man to what I’m calling the “Walt Kowalski Toolbox.”

The Walt Kowalski Toolbox consists of just three things: WD-40, vise grips, and a roll of duct tape. According to old Walt, “Any man worth his salt can do half the household chores with just those three things.”

To showcase the power and utility of the Walt Kowalski Toolbox, below we give a short primer on each item and highlight a few of the many things you can do with them.


The different uses for WD-40 are legion, and its versatility has made it a DIY legend. Created in 1953 by the Rocket Chemical Company to prevent corrosion on metals, its development was a task so difficult it took chemist Norm Larsen several dozen attempts to get the formula just right. If you’ve ever wondered what WD-40 stands for, it’s “Water Displacement, 40th attempt,” indicating that the formula we know and love today was Larsen’s 40th try at creating a water-displacing fluid. Aerospace engineers found the final product so handy, they started sneaking the stuff home, and the Rocket Chemical Company soon saw the wisdom in selling it in stores to the general population.

In the decades since WD-40 hit shelves in 1958, consumers have found a myriad of uses for it; WD-40′s official website has a list of over 2,000 uses for the stuff. Such as:

  • Removes and protects rust from metal tools like saws, hammers, and wrenches
  • Loosens rusty nuts and screws
  • Lubricates rusty hinges, chains, and bearings. Basically, if something squeaks, apply WD-40.
  • Cleans lawnmower blades and the bottoms of cast iron skillets
  • Removes splattered bugs from the front of your car
  • Drives the moisture out of just about anything – electrical wiring, locks, bearings, bike chains
  • Cleans the gunk out of pistons and bearings

Vise Grip

Vise grips are adjustable pliers that you can lock in place, and they come in handy when you need an extra hand but only have your own two mitts to work with. Vise grips work great for removing stubborn nuts and screws, and are an incredibly versatile tool that can be employed as:

  • Pliers
  • Pipe wrench
  • Adjustable wrench
  • Wire cutters
  • Ratchet
  • Clamp
  • Hammer (in a pinch!)

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