If you ask 10 people what tools are necessary for properly equipping a toolbox, chances are you’ll get 10 lists with some overlap and some inclusions that will ensure debate. The fact is, it’s impossible to create a definitive list of the tools every man needs (or woman needs, of course) because the needs of every person differ. I use my reciprocating saw all the time, for example, for everything from pruning trees to sawing lumber or PVC pipes to cutting drywall, but plenty of people of perfectly handy people may never have laid a finger on this type of tool (also often called a Sawzall. Get it? “Saws all”). So while for me that’s an essential, it’s not going on this list. What is going in the list of the tools you truly need? Think a hammer. Pliers. A screwdriver. Basic and truly essential stuff, in other words.
This list is the bare bones of what you need in your toolbox — without these tools, your kit is simply incomplete. And it all starts with a toolbox, because without a place to store your gear and a way to tote it from place to place, it’s only a matter of time before you misplace a screwdriver, wrench, or 15-amp carbide blade table saw. Actually, you can probably skip that last one …
A hard case with a removable top insert is the gold standard for a tool box. It protects your hardware, makes it easy to keep tools sorted, and even offers you a handy seat or step stool in a pinch. That said, if you prefer a, you do you: You just need a place you will put your tools when you’re not DIY-ing away.
A one-pound claw hammer is the most basic and essential tool you can own. You’ll use it to hang pictures, fix furniture, raise barns, you name it. A good solid hammer is also essential for demo work, such as removing old tiles along with some of the day’s frustrations.
If you’re only going to get one screwdriver, make it a #2 Phillips screwdriver with a six-inch shaft. You won’t be able to repair iPhones or eyeglasses, but for just about every other screwing need, you’ll be set.
Ultimately, you should probably get torx, hex, and Robertson screwdriver sets, but for now, that #2 Phillips and this 5/16″ slotted (AKA flathead) will do. This screwdriver is precise enough for most smaller hardware, tough enough for larger screws, and also doubles as a mean paint can opener.
From pulling brad nails to snipping wire to holding a nail in place so you spare your fingers during an errant hammer swing, needle nose pliers are essential; you will use them even more than standard pliers, though often two pairs of pliers working in tandem is the true force multiplier. G… get it?
Not only can a pair of adjustable locking pliers work like standard non-locking pliers, but as they can stay squeezed tight even when you let go, they essentially give you a spare hand.
You can’t measure twice, cut once if you don’t have a tape measure. From simple projects like hanging a shower rod to more involved work like renovating an entire 3,500-square foot mini mansion, you must have a tape measure. And for the latter, ideally a construction company, too.
You need a level if you want to hang pictures, tile a wall, or build cabinets properly. You may only be interested in the first activity there and think a laser level is overkill, but when you can get one for well under $20, why not upgrade beyond the basic spirit level?
You might have heard of a Crescent wrench and just assumed that was the name of the tool, but in fact it’s the name of the toolmaker. Crescent is to adjustable wrench what Kleenex is to tissue or Q-tip is to cotton swab, so why not go with the OG that developed this type of tool more than a century back?
Often called a box cutter, in fact a good utility knife can slice through so much more. You can cut out sections of drywall, strip or slice wires, and even cut through thinner pieces of wood or laminate such as you might use for a veneer. And yeah, you can make short work of boxes and other packaging.
You probably already have a drawer full of 1/8-inch Allen wrenches thanks to Ikea furniture, but you should have a full set of Allen wrenches, a.k.a. hex wrenches, for everything from working on electronics to bikes to, well, Ikea furniture. And other furniture, too.
The only power tool on the list and quite possibly the only power tool many people will ever need, a good drill can help make holes, sink screws, remove screws, and quite a bit more, as it happens. You can buy attachments that turn it into a power sander, a buffer for waxing the car, a tool to snake out a clogged drain, and so much more.
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