Stocking up your toolbox
How can you expect to create miracles without a magic wand’ Of course, you can’t. And by the same token, you can’t expect to do projects around the house without reliable tools.
People take different approaches to owning tools. Tool-obsessed individuals look for an excuse to add to their collection — these folks simply can’t own too many tools. More practical do-it-yourselfers want to own only what’s required to do the job. Both approaches have their place, but whichever your persuasion, you need a stockpile of core tools — the essentials that you never want to be caught without.
If you think of every tool you buy as a long-term investment, you’ll gradually acquire a reliable stash that can get you through most home repairs and improvements. In this article, we walk you through the basic tools that are essential to any toolbox, but we can’t resist also tempting you with some of our favorite gadgets and gizmos designed to delight any do-it-yourselfer.
Sure, every one dreams of a workshop like Norm’s. But in the real world, most people arc hard- pressed for the space. At a bare minimum, find room for a workbench somewhere in your house, garage, basement, or shed. Designate this space as a work area, where you can take a door lock apart or stir a can of paint, lay out a window frame that needs new screening or stow your tool tote and rechargeable power tools. Your workspace doesn’t have to be fancy; anywhere with good lighting and electrical power will do. Lay a flat work surface across two saw horses or, if space is at a premium, get a portable bench that you can fold up and store out of the way.
Shop for the tools you need in home centers, hardware stores, or any large mart. Don’t try to bus all the tools that you’ll ever need at one time: instead, buy tools as you need them. Focus on quality rather than quantity and buy the best-quality tool you can afford.
The tool-buying experience can be daunting for a first-timer. As you roam the aisles of megastores, don’t let the overwhelming selection intimidate you. Ask a salesperson for help and explain that you’re new to the do-it-yourself scene. A knowledgeable salesperson can help you make your decision b explaining how the wide range of prices reflects the quality, features, and materials of various tools.
So here it is, our list of the basic tools you need to get on the road to home improvement adventures:
- 3/8-inch variable speed reversible drill: This tool, available as a plug-in or cordless, uses steel blades called bits to drive in or remove screws, drill holes, cordless drill, sand wood, mix pina coladas, and do other important home improvement tasks.
- Claw hammer: We recommend a 16-ounce hammer with a fiberglass handle to cushion the blow to sour hand. Watch out for carpal tunnel syndrome, an injury that can occur from repetitive motions, such as constantly hilling our thumb and then hopping around the room.
- Pliers: Slip-joint pliers have toothed jaws that enable you to grip various sited objects, like a water pipe, the top of a gallon of mineral spirits, or the tape measure that you accidentally dropped into the toilet. Because the jaws are adjustable, pliers give you leverage to open and firmly grip an object.
- Toolbox saw: A small, easy-to-use handsaw is useful for cutting such materials as paneling or shelving.
- Assorted pack of screwdrivers: Be sure that you have both slotted (flat-head) and Phillips screwdrivers in a variety of sizes. The slotted type has a straight, flat blade; the Phillips blade has a cross or plus-sign that fits into the grooves of Phillips-head screws.
- Utility knife: Choose a compact knife with replaceable blades that’s strong enough to open heavy cardboard boxes and precise enough for trimming wallpaper. Buy the type with a retractable blade: you’ll appreciate it the first time that you squat down with the knife in our pocket. (Ouch!)
- Staple gun: You can use this tool for a variety of jobs, like securing insulation, ceiling tile, plastic sheeting, and fabrics,
- Carpenter’s level: A straightedge tool that has a series of glass tubes containing liquid with a bubble of air. When the bubble in a single tube is framed between marks on the glass, it shows that the surface is level (horizontal) or plumb (vertical).
- Metal file: Filing tools are flat metal bars with shallow grooves that form teeth. Metal files are useful for sharpening the edges of scrapers, putty knives, and even shovels and garden trowels,
- Allen wrenches: These L-shaped metal bars, often sold in sets are designed for turning screws or bolts that have hexagonal sockets in their heads. This tool also goes by the name hex-key or setscrew wrench. Used to assemble everything from knock-down furniture to bicycles to gas grills, this tool as invented b a man named, umm, let’s see …we’ll have to get back to you on that one.