Professionals typically have essential tools which are required to get the job done, but the main hand tools list for general purposes is something to consider for do-it-yourselfers and home mechanics alike. While there is quite a variety available to us nowadays, let's focus on the main tools we should all have in our personal toolboxes.
1. It's Hammer Time
This may seem like a given to most of us but I assure you that I have been without this simplest and basic of basics on more than a few occasions. Hammers not only allow us to pop in some nails here and there, they also give us some other uses, such as prying and pulling, remodeling (otherwise known as destroying), and even killing icky bugs.
Tip: I preferred to keep both a curved-end hammer AND a claw hammer handy, as both have their bonuses depending on the application. Also, be sure to get a nice, sturdy hammer that won't break when you begin pulling on stuff—cheap hammers may cost you some money AND pain!
2. Be a Little Screwy
Yes, it seems obvious that we need a good screwdriver set but I've noticed many who just have a few random sizes in a kitchen drawer somewhere. My favorite true story is when I visited my ex-parents-in-law one day to put together something for them (they weren't “ex” at the time) and when I found their randomly assorted tools in the drawer, they said “Oh! What are those doing there? You can have them.” Well, it was a nice thought but they were so disorganized I didn't know where to begin to arrange them.
Tip: The two basic types of screwdriver you'll need are called Phillips and Flathead. H
3. A Real High Plier
You should get a few different types of pliers, not just one. For starters, pick up a pair of standard pliers that can be adjusted into a couple of different sizes—these will often be your simple go-to pair. To get a bit nicer and high-end, pick up a pair of Vice-Grips, which can lock into place and hold things down when you need it. I loved my V-Grips and used the snot out of them!
Tip: Think about what you do the most before you visit the hardware store to pick up your pliers. There are several different types that are available now and getting just the right size and style can really make your tasks more efficient. I picked up a large pair of Vice-Grips that have a type of “C” shape, rather than just the standard
4. A Crescentwich? Yum!
Okay, so you know this site is all about the wrenches, but here we mean that you should sink your teeth into a nice hand wrench. Our favorite? Well, it's not the pipe wrench, though we do recommend you have one if you are even at least a little interested in plumbing work. However, our go-to wrench is the crescent wrench! This adjustable and easy-to-use tool comes in various sizes and can be used for so many applications that it isn't even funny. I believe that my crescent wrenches were the most commonly grabbed tool back before I had any decent power tools to speak of.
Tip: Get a small set of crescents, not just one. They make several sizes so grab a nice set with a storage bag if possible. Having a few different sizes will really help you out by giving more options for whatever comes up.
5. Measuring Up
Tape measures are just more obvious tools, you say? Well, maybe not to some. As mentioned earlier about the hammer, tape measures are oft left to the dark and dreary realm of assumption city. When I think about the tape measure, I'm also instantly reminded of a pencil—another “tool” that is so common and assumed that it is often forgotten and difficult to locate when you need it most. Just remember: a tape measure is a MUST for many applications, so get a couple of them to improve your hand tools list!
Tip: consider having your tape measures in a few different locations, such as in the car/truck, in your toolbox, at work,
6. Maximum Impact
Tip: Read our awesome, helpful, interesting, and free cordless impact wrench guide for more!
7. Level The Playing Field
An often-overlooked but necessary tool—for a good finished product, that is—is the level. They come in various sizes and materials and can be used for a variety of applications. Small levels are both light and easy to store, not to mention use. This is another tool that's gender-free, as it doesn't require brute strength or manly tasks for use. Hang a picture, draw a straight line, line up that entertainment center, level out that shelf—this simple and affordable tool separates the lazy and wannabees from the real players.
Tip: Keep in mind that a level can be purchased with a magnet on the side, making it easier to use, much like the tape measure mentioned. Furthermore, the levels come in various sizes so consider getting yourself at least two—a small one and a larger one. For the bigger sized level, it's recommended to get a sturdy one rather than a plastic one—they'll keep their shape better and longer. If you want to look cool and don't mind spending the dough, then pick up a nice wooden one with metal corners!
8. Cut Me, Mick!
Actually this isn't Rocky and don't cut me, but please do get yourself a knife or, even better, some knives. A utility knife, a pen knife, a pocket knife, and a Rambo knife. Well, maybe not the Rambo knife, unless you're just into it. Having a few different types of knife will add some options to your toolbox and that's always a good thing, especially for the DIY peeps and creative types. I often use my utility knife but when I was younger this alone just wasn't always good enough. Suddenly, I have the urge to watch a Stallone film.
Tip: As with the tape measure, you could keep a few small knives and extra blades in a few different places to ensure you have one available when you need it. Additionally, hardware stores often have some utility blade and knife combos that could just become so handy in your pocket that you'll remember it more often than you do your keys!
9. What a Hack!
Having a hacksaw and wood saw nearby is a great thing for many reasons. The hacksaw can make short work of metal and plastic pipes and the wood saw can eat lumber for breakfast. It's quite possible to use your hacksaw for wood but I never cared for this, personally. Still, being able to cut stuff off/up or just cut up is fun in itself and never gets old!
Tip: Be sure to pick up a GOOD quality hacksaw and don't skimp! Even a nice saw won't break the bank and will be worth it when you begin to cut. If you get a cheap one, you'll become frustrated quick while your hacksaw shows you what a hack it really is. Next, pick up a few spare blades for the hacksaw, as you'll definitely need them—these blades don't last very long! Finally, invest a few bucks in a miter box, as well as a few C-Clamps (certain Vice-Grips can be used as well). The miter box will enable you to hold down what you're cutting and make a straight, clean cut. If you want a straight cut and don't use one, then good luck to you and yours.
10. A Bright Idea
How can you see the light if you don't get one? If your shop or work area isn't equipped or fitted with the proper lighting, then having a nice headlamp in your toolbox is the way to go. It's hands-free and perfect for giving you just the right amount of help when you need it. Furthermore, the handheld flashlights available today are quite amazing, to say the least. If you happen to need it in a roadside emergency, it can give quite a bit more light than you might expect!
Tip: If you pick up the right impact wrench, it will come equipped with a light by the trigger that will illuminate when the drill is activated. This is awesome and not only eliminates the need for a headlamp but also puts the light exactly where you need it without any extra effort! Additionally, it's also a good idea to keep a few around.
11. Hand Tools List Bonus Item: Tri-Vise Lumber Lok
This little, ingenious item...arrggh! Where was it when I was back in that hot shop, sawing and chopping up wood all day? Well, at least it's here now for us, right? The Tri-Vise is what you could call a multi-tool as it can be used for several applications, including holding up materials securely for cutting and making straight lines on materials like a speed square. The Lumber Lok, made by the same company, also securely holds up wood materials so they can be cut easily and safely.
Because it fits many different sizes, eliminates the need for sawhorses, is safe, easy-to-use, affordable, and has other useful applications, we recommend it as an 11th bonus addition to any hand tools list.