Tools You Should Have
The simple beauty of screwdrivers makes them the ideal tools to tighten cabinet hardware, install light switches, and crack open the lids on metal paint cans. This 10-piece set includes all the common slotted and Phillips-head sizes, as well as stubby versions to get into tight spots.
Keep it on hand to measure anything from the wall area for a paint project to the thickness of lumber at the home center—where you'll learn that a 2x4 is not exactly 2 by 4 inches. The tough composite case's bright green color makes this Stanley Hi-Vis 12-foot tape measure easy to find.
Keeping your collection of drivers, screws, and bolts in an easy-to-haul toolbox keeps things organized and handy. The large-capacity plastic box has a single metal latch that closes securely. A removable tray is great for assorted fasteners.
A 16-ounce smooth-faced claw hammer has a nice mix of heft and versatility for driving nails into walls to hang pictures, knocking together ready-to-assemble furniture, and building birdhouses. The curved claw is useful for pulling out the nails that inevitably get bent. This Plumb model has a fiberglass handle that's nearly unbreakable.
For quick fixes around the house, this supersticky tape adheres to just about anything and has a thick, woven backing that is thicker than most rolls, yet easy rip to length. Use it to repair torn tarps, broken buckets, and just about everything except ducts.
With a rechargeable worklight that you leave plugged in, you won't have to go looking for fresh batteries the next time the breaker trips or when you have work to do inside a dark sink cabinet. The 25 LEDs are rated to last for 100,000 hours and deliver up to 8 hours of light per charge.
Set of Pliers
Use them to straighten bent power-cord plugs, replace old showerheads, slice wiring, and get a good grip on just about anything. This well-made kit from Channellock includes tongue-and-groove, side-cutting, needle-nose, and slip-joint pliers.
You'll be reaching for this tool again and again to open boxes, sharpen pencils, mark mortises, and shave wood. Spend a little more upfront for one with a comfortable rubber-covered handle and built-in blade storage. Then you're more likely to pop in a fresh blade rather than forcing a dull one, which isn't safe.
Just the tool you need to spread a smidgen of spackling compound, reglaze a window, or scrape off paint or wallpaper. This one has a flexible 2-inch-wide blade.
Less intimidating than a power saw and faster to set up, this handsaw is good for trimming lumber or molding stock because it cuts on the pull and push strokes.
Store all the bits you'll need in the handle. Its ratcheting-action handle drives screws home quickly with less fatigue than a regular screwdriver; the bit holder does double duty as a nut driver.
35-Foot Tape Measure
A longer tape helps mark off bigger projects. This one has a beefier end hook that grips corners better than smaller tapes.
Bucket-Liner Tool Organizer
Keep your growing collection of tools organized around an inexpensive 5-gallon bucket where everything is in view. Stash smaller items in the fabric pockets and one or two larger power tools in the bucket.
18-Volt Nickel-Cadmium Drill/Driver and Circular Saw
You need these tools to drill lots of pilot holes, drive lots of screws, and cut up lots of lumber for your projects, and because they're cordless, you can take them anywhere. While lithium-ion batteries would weigh less than these nickel-cadmium ones, they often raise the cost of NiCd kits of the same voltage by nearly 50 percent. This Porter-Cable combo kit offers two popular tools at a rock-bottom price.
A must-have for hanging pictures, installing cabinets, or laying a patio. A sturdy metal one like this is less prone to dings than a plastic one.
Come fall or spring, you'll appreciate its help hauling yard debris. Bigger tubs hold more, but are also ungainly when full. The 4-cubic-foot steel tub on this wheelbarrow will carry compost, soil, or bags of mulch with ease.
Until you're seasoned enough to knock on the wall to determine the location of the stud, use this bit of technology to avoid surprises. The rechargeable 4-volt lithium-ion battery in the Tek 4 stud finder works in a host of other Ryobi products.
A good socket set with a ratcheting handle speeds the assembly process of anything held together with nuts and bolts, including decks and play sets, and lets you get them nice and tight. This kit includes eighteen ¼-inch-deep sockets, with an extension bar, ratchet, a case to keep all the pieces in order, and a lifetime warranty.
Strapped to your hip or tossed into your glove box, a good multitool puts a knife, pliers, and screwdrivers close at hand, saving you from multiple runs back to the toolbox. Packed inside the 5-ounce stainless-steel body are 12 different tools.
18-Gauge Brad Nailer
Installing crown molding is much easier when you can shoot nails rather than hammer them, and when you don't have to drag a hose and compressor around. This gas-powered nailer is reliable and a cinch to stash on your tool belt while you're on a ladder.
From deck-building to finish carpentry, the key to neat finish work is accurate cuts. That's what a miter saw delivers. This dual-bevel, sliding compound miter saw has built-in lights that illuminate the cutting table, and a large chute evacuates dust and chips around back.
Leave behind the chalk-line dust. When installing kitchen cabinets and bookcases, set plumb and level lines instantly with the push of a button.
The workhorse of any garage workshop is an accurate table saw that can handle all the lengthwise rip cuts. This one folds up and out of the way so that you can pull the car in.
If you're going to have one corded tool, make it a circular saw with the power to cut through stone, concrete, and, of course, wood. Worm drives weigh a bit more than sidewinder saws but can handle heavy-duty jobs. This 7¼-inch saw has a magnesium housing to keep the weight just under 14 pounds.
Whether you're painting a room or laying some sod, the job goes easier with tunes playing in the background. Ridgid's durable radio keeps your MP3 player safe from dust and moisture and is the only one you can control with a remote.
Rolling Tool Storage
With all the tools in your collection, you need a rolling tool chest to haul them around. This one expands into four storage sections, including a large base toolbox, while a telescoping handle and beefy wheels make it easier to haul around.
Multifunction Oscillating Tool
Depending on the attachment, this tool can sand, cut, slice, and grind with safe, easy-to-control, super-fast back-and-forth oscillations. The 9-foot cord allows for plenty of freedom, and starter kits include two cutting blades and a detail sanding pad with sandpaper.
There's no better tool for smoothing out mill marks and getting projects ready to finish fast. Tool reviewers say this sander has good dust collection and vibration control.
1. Get ready for some intense grossness! When you stick a Zip-it down your drain to get rid of a clog, you never know what might come up.
Just kidding, you do know: probably some hair and other assorted sludge.
Let the Zip-it venture down into your pipes for you (just like the basilisk at Hogwarts) and soon all the clogs will be gone and your bath water will drain quickly once more.
2. An extension ladder? Too tall. A step ladder? Too short. This is the Baby Bear of ladders, because it’s juuuuuuuuust right.
Plus it has two “landing areas” (wider steps so you won’t topple over) and it’s lightweight so you can easily haul it around wherever you may need it.
3. No, this isn’t Play-Doh, it’s Sugru Hacking Putty and it fixes EVERYTHING.
Well, maybe not everything, but it sure fixes a lot. The putty will stick to aluminum, steel, ceramic, glass, wood, and even some fabrics and plastics.
Desk drawer falling apart? Sugru. Laptop cord littered with cracks? Sugru. The thumb of your porcelain doll fell off? Sugru.
You get the idea.
4. This set may look extravagant, but it has every screwdriver and precision bit you could possibly need.
It doesn’t take up a lot of space and it doesn’t cost a lot of money, so buy it and you’ll never encounter a screw you can’t remove again (even the itty bitty little ones you find in toys and other electronic devices).
Still think it’s too much? Fine, go and check out this all-in-one screwdriver and this precision screwdriver set instead.
5. Anyone who drives should invest in a portable jump starter to keep in the trunk of their car.
Having a dead battery is miserable enough; who wants to add to the misery by waiting around for AAA (or wandering around the parking lot, searching for someone who isn’t sketchy to ask for a jump)?
This device will allow you to get your car started again ALL ON YOUR OWN in *most* dead battery situations. It’s also impossible to use incorrectly (an alarm will go off if you don’t hook the clamps to the right spots).
6. If you live somewhere that gets a lot of snow (like, say… Boston), you should purchase a lightweight shovel that’s easy on your back.
This one is as strong as it is light: your dream shovel.
7. An X-Acto Knife set (for when you need to be precise with your cutting.
“BE CAREFUL, PLEASE!” - your fingertip.
8. Snips (for when you need to be less precise with your cutting).
“BE CAREFUL, PLEASE!” - your entire finger.
9. Wrap-Fix Tape is incredibly useful to keep around the house for plumbing emergencies.
Have a leaky shower head? Wrap some of this watertight tape around it until you want to deal with replacing it. Or just leave the tape there—it works REALLY well (unless you have a more high-pressure problem, then you need to dial up your favorite plumber).
Another awesome option: X-Treme Tape (you can attach it to mufflers and other things that get hot).
10. This is the anaconda of cords (not because it will uncoil and eat you, but because it’s very long—50 feet to be exact).
Not long enough? Try 100 feet.
11. As useful as buckets may be, they sure take up a lot of space… unless they’re collapsible (like this guy).
Wash whatever foul surface you may have, then fold the bucket up, and stick it under your sink until you need it again.
12. This is a no-frills tape measure that will do its job well (and never rust: it’s made from stainless steel).
Don’t buy a couch only to find out it won’t even fit into your living room! Measure first. Always measure first.
13. Here’s a compact wrench to keep around the house for general repair tasks (plumbing, car stuff, etc.).
Keep one in your bag if you ride a bike and need to adjust things on the go.
14. These pliers will help you get a grip on even the most slippery of surfaces.
You can adjust the gap to a variety of widths (depending on what you’re working on).
15. Here’s a hammer. A classic, well-made hammer that will probably hang around on this earth longer than you do.
Enjoy your time with it.
16. A sleek, compact box-cutter with an easy to change blade.
This particular model is inexpensive enough to allow you to buy it in multiples: one for the kitchen, one for the garage, and so on.
17. This Micro Vacuum Attachment Kit is useful for anyone with electronic devices… so, everyone, pretty much.
Dust can cause computers, TVs, and other electronics to overheat. Most people use compressed air dusters to clean them out, but that just spreads the dust to other areas of the room! Absurd.
This kit is filled with micro attachments that allow your vacuum to clean even the smallest areas—sucking up the dust, not just displacing it.
Beyond electronics, the attachments are useful for cleaning bookshelves, vehicles, and “between” spaces (between your fridge and the wall, between your oven and the floor, etc.).
18. Save your breath! From tires to air mattresses, this portable compressor will inflate them all.
It will also inflate things that are a little more fun (like bouncy houses and giant pool toys).
19. Plungers: most of the time they sit around collecting dust, but when you need one… you NEED one.
The ridges on this model help it to get a tight seal on a variety of different drain sizes.
20. Drop something into a small space? Fingers too large to get it out? Needle nose pliers to the rescue!
They’ll also help you twist, cut, and grip.
21. The Nifty Nabber Pick-Up Tool = a short person’s new best friend.
Especially if you live alone.
You may feel silly at first, but you’ll be celebrating once you discover how easy it makes getting things off shelves (no matter how big or how small—it can pick up pennies or something that weighs 8 pounds).
These would be good for securing things to the roof of your car, while these would be good to attach things to your backpack or suitcase.
23. For $4.99, why WOULDN’T you buy a tarp? You never know when you may need to protect something from the rain.
This one is weather-resistant and won’t crack (no matter how freezing it may get outside).
24. This flashlight may be small, but it provides an enormous amount of light.
Beyond being bright and conveniently small, it’s also water-resistant, shock-proof, and equipped with a magnetic clip (so you can hook it to something to free up your hands).
25. The #1 tool you should keep in your car, this emergency escape device can cut through a seat belt and break a window.
Here’s hoping you never have to use it.
26. A saw is undoubtedly a tool kit necessity, but the average person will never need an especially large one: the CircSaw Folding HandSaw is a perfect, compact choice.
The ability to fold it up when it’s not in use protects the teeth (as well as your precious fingers).
Can’t sew? Bish’s Original Tear Mender will fix any fabric or leather rips, while the “stubbornly strong” Sticky Ass Glue will allow you to reattach things made from almost any other material: wood, metal, stone, fiberglass, plastic, concrete… the list goes on and on.
28. “Oh shit, the check engine light just came on”: with this gadget, you’ll be able to figure out exactly what the problem is.
In most cases, at least.
Plug it into your car and it will allow you to read diagnostic trouble codes, giving you an idea of how bad (or not-so-bad) the situation is.
29. You’ve probably received a Leatherman Multi-Toolin your Christmas stocking at one point or another, but if you don’t already have one, go get one. Now.
If you want a multi-tool that’s even more compact, check out the PocketMonkey.
30. The glue gun is a constant companion for all crafters, but everyone should have one to call their own.
You’ll eventually burn your fingers…there’s just no getting around it. Swear loudly and move on.
31. Use the Magna Cart Hand Truck whenever you have boxes that need moving, and when you’re done you can just fold it up and tuck it away.
Your weary muscles will thank you for the help when the time comes to transport things.
32. WD-40 is one of most useful substances on earth.
Squeaks: BE GONE! Grime: LEAVE THE PREMISES! Rust: GET OUTTA TOWN!