Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Essential Toolbox List

One year when I was growing up, my dad had the great idea to help us start building a tool collection. That Christmas, all four of us little tykes (my sisters included) got a hefty, Craftsman tool box. Every year since, we get a little something to add to our box and by the time I moved out on my own I had tool boxes with enough tools to tackle most household chores. So if you find yourself using a butter knife to screw in hooks for a picture frame it might be time for a trip to one of men's favorite shopping grounds.

I've organized this list by priority, so that if you're on a budget you can draw it out. This list is optimized for guys who are just getting started. You won't need Bob Villa's workshop to store all this either, so it's great for guys in an apartment or small house. This list will be your bread and butter, even after you get shop space of your own. With these tools you'll be able to conquer most Mr. Fix it jobs in your home and vehicle, you'll even be prepared to build a deck or frame a house.

My number one rule on tools is this: buy it once. Don't take this and run down to Harbor Freight and walk out with a full shopping cart that cost you $15. Buy quality tools from companies with solid reputations and you'll be glad you spent the money upfront for a piece of equipment that will last a long time. I tend to be a brand loyal customer, but when it comes to tools and the age of reviews I look for the best. Magazines like Popular Mechanics and Family Handyman regularly run reviews on a whole gamut of power tools and Amazon can usually give you good data from the user reviews.

  1. Toolbox- you need a central location to keep all your tools. Otherwise, you'll spend twice the amount of time it takes to complete a project to find the tool. It's true in a manufacturing plant and it's true in your house. Check Sears Outlet for good deals on some of their scratch and dent tool boxes. You might even find one with roller drawers for a great price.
  2. Screwdriver Set- at least 4, 2 Phillips and 2 flathead large and small.
  3. Flashlight- Look for an LED light 4-6" long to fit in tight spaces
  4. Safety Glasses- Don't worry, you can still look cool.
  5. Work Gloves- I'll use leather, Mechanix, or welding gloves depending on the job.
  6. Utility Knife- You'd better get a few. Also be sure to have fresh blades ready.
  7. Cordless Drill- Mine came in a kit from DeWalt with a reciprocating saw, a circular saw, and work light that run on an 18v battery. The kit was refurbished and works and looks like it was brand new. I get a ton of use out of it.
  8. Hammer- Great for beating on walls to annoy neighbors or straightening out wayward 2x4's.
  9. Tape Measure- The measure twice cut once rule is only as good as the measuring device. For accuracy and rugged durability go with the Stanley Fat Max.
  10. Box Wrenches (Imperial and Metric)- Chances are you'll need the set you haven't bought yet. Go with Craftsman.
  11. Socket Wrench- Remember in math class when they taught you the hard way first? Well that's why the socket wrench comes after the box wrenches. Sometimes one makes more sense than the other, but socket wrenches make quick work of nuts and bots.
  12. Jeweler's Screwdrivers- Great for electronics, watches, glasses and other tiny objects.
  13. Allen Wrench Set- Like a Swiss Army Knife for hex keys, this is a convenient way to keep track of all the sizes you need. Available in both Imperial and Metric. (pictured above)
  14. 12" Level- Ending the debate over whether or not the picture frame is level.
  15. Plumber's Tape- Fix leaky faucets or install an upgraded shower head.
  16. Stud Finder- Now that's a change, a tool that looks for you... oh wait... This one is great for finding 2x4's behind drywall so you can hang your 60" flatscreen from the wall. Advanced models have wire detection if you're a serious DIYer
  17. Multimeter- Great for testing circuits during electrical work.
  18. Speed Square- Essential for any construction work.
  19. Adjustable Wrench- When you can't find the right tool, use one that works.
  20. Clamps- You'll never have enough. Irwin makes great bar clamps that I use whenever I get an opportunity.
  21. Pencil- For making marks on boards so it looks like you know what you're doing.
  22. Sandpaper- Uses: removing varnishes, finishing wood, preparing surfaces for paint, etc...
  23. 12" Miter Saw- Here's a place you won't want to skimp. The 12" blade handles most boards you throw at it, a sliding miter saw is even better if you have the extra cash.
  24. Reciprocating Saw- cut through rebar or demolish an old deck. When it doesn't need to look pretty this is your saw.
  25. Circular Saw- It can act like a mini table saw or miter saw. The corded ones are far better than the battery driven versions.
  26. Jigsaw- for curved cuts or more intricate saw work.
  27. Router- to clean up wooden edges and to give a pro look to your projects.
So put your toolbox together one piece at a time as your projects need it. Or send some of the missing pieces out on your Christmas and Birthday lists. Happy Building. 

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