Owner Building a Strawbale House
Here is an area to highlight tools that we have used, whether they were useful, whether they were financially worthwhile, and just how much fun they are.
We bought an old Chamberlain Mk3 Backhoe. It certainly is old (built in 1972), and with that comes a cheap purchase price (all units we were looking at were under $10k), plus general wear and tear all over. It does, however, dig. We use earmuffs (it is a bit noisy), and within an hours use you feel much better about digging out the dirt and driving it around. It also leaks hydraulic oil from a hose, and needs jump-starting (ie: needs re-wiring - the electrics have seen 30 plus years of quick repairs).
I was given a dumpy level as a farewell gift from work (thanks very much !) - a Futura FT-x26. This enables us to quite accurately measure up the house site, do our own contour maps, etc. You should be able to get a good new unit (with the keyword "automatic" - it self-levels after you do the course adjustments) with tripod and staff for well under $1k. If you want to go up market (or need to operate alone), get a laser level.
We bought an Iseki T6000 4wd tractor. We really wanted one with a Front End Loader (FEL), but getting the right horsepower and a 4WD was more important (seeing as we already had the backhoe), but it comes at a price - 4WD tractors can be found under $20K, but 2WD tractors with a FEL can be found around $10K (all over 50HP). It was built in 1985/1986, has four wheel drive (safer, heavier on the front wheels and better traction), a creeper greabox (so it can travel really, really slow) – end up with 16 forward gears and 4 reverse gears. As for attachments, a 5 cubic foot mixer (for concrete and mud render), a slasher (for munching up the dead blackberry and keeping the grass under control), a carry-all, and a dozer blade (to fix the driveway and do minor earthworks).
Triton saw table, plus triton saw (2400 watts), triton router (ditto) and router table. Collecting the triton bits can be addictive, but they work and don't cost too much.
We have a second hand 4wd ute. The basic requirements were: a tray back (use and abuse a lot easier than a standard ute body); 4wd (to get around the property); towbar; builders bars (to pick up 6 metre lengths of "things" such as pipe). The ute we have is quite old, a Toyota Hilux petrol.
Read all about how to make your own mobile scaffold tower, or buy one (second hand or new). really good, safe, structure to work a couple of metres above the ground.
John likes rope and lots of it. We have two lengths in every vehicle, half a dozen lengths in use somewhere, and more for the next task. Liz's current favourite is the humble $19.95 trolley - why risk another sore back when you belong to the species that invented both the lever and the wheel?