Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Essential Hand Tools for Every Homeowner and DIY'er

Hi there PORC fans.

I was just asked the other day if I have "A Huge Truck" full of tools that goes with me to every job.  The short answer is no, I do not.  In fact, I am able to fit all of my essentials into one small tool box.

Keep reading to see what's inside
Over the years, I've come up with a selection of hand-tools that keep me in business.  Seldom do I not have something for any given situation.  Keep reading for the full breakdown that EVERY homeowner and DIY'er should have.

I have 3 'bags' that go with me at all times.  I've got one for hand tools, one for 4 cordless tools, and one box of assorted fasteners.  These three tool totes keeps me out of trouble.  By adding a little something here or there, I can pretty much build a house with what is in these bags.  Today, I'm just going to focus on the hand-tools.  Do I really need an entire blog post describing all the fasteners I use and why?  REALLY?  Us woodworkers are boring enough.  No need to drive the point home.

Here's an inventory of my bag.  Every item here has a story and reason for being in the bag.  Got a question as to why it's in the bag?  Then hit me up in comments.

Super Organized Mess, minus the organization

As much as I would LOVE to call myself a "Custom Furniture Maker Extraordinaire," I don't get to do that.  I make lots of furniture, but I also build some crazy cool cabinets.  I've also been known to throw up a few pieces of molding, hang a piece of art, swap out a fixture, and rip out walls from time to time.

I never take on full on "demo" jobs.  Nor do I paint much of anything.  I generally hate putting up base, and I loath the thought of getting near anything that has water as a key component.

That being said, from time to time, I need to make an "adjustment" to a wall in order to fit a cabinet in place.  Well guess what.  When I "adjust" that wall, frequently, it involves modifying a sink, or working around an electrical outlet.  Somehow, my clumsy self seems to find finished painted walls as well.  As in, a sharp metal tool I've got in my back pocket smacks into a freshly finished wall.

When these things happen, I need to be prepared to solve the issue at hand.  The tools in my bag do this.  I will go so far as to say that every homeowner would benefit from owning just about everything in this bag.

I like well made tools.  They work well.  They last a long time, and they are more enjoyable to use.  From time to time I take the inexpensive route when buying tools.  I always regret it.  My suggestion.  Buy good tools!  Buy them one at a time as you need them.  Buying kits of tools is pointless for most.  If you buy a tool set that has "everything" you need, your likely buying a bunch of junk you don't need.  Buy the single best tool you can afford.  When you need another tool.  Go buy it.  And buy a good one.

All of the tools also in my case, STAY in this case.  In several examples, they are duplicates of regularly used tools in the shop.  I love my Starrett 6" square.  However, I would never take a $50.00 piece of gold and throw it in a tool bag.  I've got a decent, inexpensive BUT ACCURATE square that does the job on site.  I save the nice one for the shop.

Click to enlarge

So here is the list:  From top to bottom, left to right.

1.  Putty knife
2.  Japanese Pull Saw.
3.  3 to 2 prong outlet do-hickey (don't need to yank the ground off my chords anymore)
4.  Plug in voltage tester. (quick and easy way to see if an outlet is hot)
5.  Pocket Hole jig.  (DIY'er don't need this one.)
6.  Voltmeter (for more complicated electric work)
7.  Extra set of Safety Glasses
8.  Finish Hammer  (I got this from my wedding registry.  Man, I have a great wife)
9.  Tack Hammer
10-13. 3 Different bars for demo, nails, and prying
14.  Mongo Cutting Pliers (best tool on the planet for pulling and cutting nails)
15.  Cable Strippers
16.  Tin Snips (any color is fine)
17.  Needle Nose Pliers
18.  Linesman Pliers
19.  Side Cutters
20.  Needle Nose Vice Grips
21.  Teeny-weeny hacksaw with a MIA blade.
22.  6" & 12" Adjustable Square (The 12" belonged to my great grandfather)
23.  Small Strait Jaw Locking Pliers (My go-to tool for most work)
24.  Torpedo Level
25.  Ridiculously huge flat headed screwdriver for self defense and bottle opener
26.  Assortment of Flat and Phillips head screwdrivers
27.  2 Adjustable 'Crescent' Wrenches
28.  3 folding chisels (These things ROCK!!!!!!!)
29.  Folding Allen (hex) and Torx (star) wrenches
30.  2 Files, and 1 Rasp
31.  Electrical tape
32.  Double Sided Carpet Tape
33.  3 color coded nail sets
34.  Utility knife with never enough extra blades.

I am a guy who identifies with colors, and that is another reason I don't buy a big kits of tools.  They all look alike.  I know that the red handled screwdriver is a P2, and the Yellow set of Hex wrenches is SAE.  Down and dirty easy to find in the mess.  As tools disapear from time to time, I always replace with one that fits into my color coding.  :)  I currently have a bit too much blue in the bag.  But I'll manage because they are great tools. 

I'd love to hear your thoughts about my choices.  Have I missed one that saves you a ton of time of headaches???  If so, let me know.  I LOVE comments.

As always... Thanks for reading.


  1. I would have to put my iPod on this list as essential, but seriously every time I thought of something to include, I looked at your photo and it was already there.

    I am going to bookmark this post for future reference.

  2. First, I'd like to say, in regards to the beginning of the post....you may not have a "big huge truck" full of tools, but you do have a "big huge truck!" :)

    I'm guessing your next post will be what your four power tools are? I'll see if I can guess before next week! (hmmm, we'll have to come up with a prize if I'm right!)

  3. Jeff: Great minds think alike. Glad to know I didn't leave too much out.

    Joanna: Guess away. I'm sure I can come up with a prize of some sort for you. :)