The Building Bucket


The Idea

Any theatre teacher who has ever taught a technical theatre or stagecraft class has at one time or another likely asked the question, “How do I deal with keeping our tools organized while having students use them?!” I tried to find a good solution to this question for 10 years, but no more! Enter, the “Building Bucket”.

Late this past summer I was walking the aisles of Home Depot in search of ideas for things I may be able to use to make life more easy and organized in my stagecraft class. As I was searching, I came across a bucket topper that I hadn’t seen before and the idea started to roll. I saw these lids as a great way to give each student group a way to be responsible for keeping their own set of screws to work from organized. From there I hunted down a bucket jockey for the students to store their tools in. I was delighted to find that these two accessories worked great together allowing me a way to give the students their hardware and tools and be able to store them all within a bucket with a top on it to keep it all in.

Quickly, I began to compile a shopping list of things that would be useful to have in the buckets. I place my students into groups of 4 whenever possible on set projects. This is mostly out of financial consideration as I cannot afford to purchase the number of building buckets fully equipped with the tools that it would take to place them in groups of 2.

The “Bucket List”

Here is a list of equipment & tools that I have found useful for the creation of each Building Bucket. Obviously this is a very fluid list and the tools needed for each class/department will vary so please feel free to adapt it to your needs! Next to each item I have placed an approximate price. Each of these items can be bought at your local Home Depot or Lowe’s:

  • 1-5 Gallon Paint Bucket  ($2.60 each or a package of 3 for $7.02) [singlepic id=55 w=320 h=240 float=right]
  • 1-Bucket Seat Organizer ($7.97 each)
  • 4-Safety Goggles ($2.75 each or $2.00 each at
  • 1-Bucket Jockey ($6.98 each)
  • 2-Pre-Drill Bits 7/32 Diameter ($2-$3 for a package of 2)
  • 1-Phillips & 1-Standard Screwdriver ($1 for a package with each at Dollar Tree)
  • 2-Screw Bit Guides ($4.97 each. See example)
  • 2-25′ Tape Measures ($5.96 each)
  • 2-Carpenters Pencils ($.19 each)
  • 1-Jumbo Pencil Sharpener ($1.99 each)
  • 1-Hammer ($4.96 each)
  • 1-Adjustable Wrench ($4.88 for a package of 2 which can be divided)
  • 1-Pair of Scissors ($1 each at Dollar Tree)
  • 1-Short Level ($4.47 each)
  • 1-Pair of Pliers ($3.49 each)
  • 1-Utility Knife ($1.98 each)
  • 1-Mini Ratchet Set ($9.88 each)
  • 1-Square ($3.97 each)
  • 1-Chalk Line ($6.97 each)

Total Approximate Cost Per Bucket: $85.00

While I found the cost of each bucket worth its weight in gold, it can get pricey. After all, this is not including any drills. I do put 1 drill in each bucket and leave the rest in a larger community tool cabinet where the higher dollar items that we can’t buy multiples of are located.

Keeping the Cost Down

There are ways you may be able to knock the price per bucket down. Here are a few ideas! If you have more please add them to the comment section below!

  • Utilize tools you already have to help get the numbers of items you need per bucket! You may find you don’t need to purchase any of certain items. This can greatly decrease your price.
  • Black Friday! Yes, that dreaded shopping holiday is a GREAT chance to pick up tools on the cheap! Don’t pass this one up.
  • Look for package deals and promotions. Often you can get multiples of an item in a package and break them apart to separate buckets which allows you to buy each item at a cheaper per item price.
  • Don’t buy top of the line, or even mid-line. After all, who is using these tools? Students! And I know from the abuse I’ve seen our tools go through with them I’d rather them tear up a cheap tool that will get the job done than a more expensive one that’s probably gonna have to be replaced every bit as soon as the other…
  • Limit your list. If you don’t use everything in the list, don’t put it in your bucket! The given list suits what we do great. But your needs may vary greatly so vary the list! If you don’t need it, don’t put it in there to look pretty!
  • Garage Sales. If you can purchase at garage sales and be reimbursed, this is an excellent way to get tools for your shop and buckets!

So there it is! I have found this Building Bucket technique to save us invaluable time in class. No more time spent hunting down tools or waiting on them, each has their own to be responsible and accountable for. They lose it, they pay to replace it! You can also work this in as part of their grade. Throw in a weekly bucket supply check and make sure all tools are accounted for and that the screws are organized and not mixed. If an item is left out you can know who’s it is if you have each item from each bucket marked with a color. Personally I have found spike tape to work great. Just a small strip wrapped around it quickly identifies which bucket it belongs to and who loses points for the day.

There are so many ways this can be used to your benefit! Attached you will find additional materials that you can feel free to use, adapt, or personalize to fit your needs. I hope you find this as useful as I have! Have additional ideas that this can work with? Let us know in the comments!

Tool Bucket Checklist-Word Document

Tool Bucket Checklist-Word Document