How many times have you been frustrated, when starting a project, to find that you don’t have, or can’t find the tools needed? This can de-rail even the simplest projects. I have found that the best way to avoid this frustration is to have my own tools kept together in a convenient place that will make quick work of getting the tools necessary for the job. It also makes putting them away a snap, because you no longer need to think about where they belong. Here is a list of my 15 must have tools for your DIY projects, and some ideas for storing them.
A 16 ounce, hammer with a smooth head is your best bet for all around hammering. Get one that has a curved claw. This makes it easier to extract nails that need to come out. Handles are made of wood or fiberglass. The choice all comes down to personal choice. I love the way certain hammers feel in my hand…. I know, I am a total tool nerd!
2 Set of Screwdrivers
You will want to get a set that has a small, medium, and large of both flat head (straight) and Philips. Don’t go to the discount store for these. A good name brand set is not that much more than the cheap ones, and is made of harder metal, which means that the working end will last much longer. Nothing is more frustrating than trying to get a screw out, only to have the tip of the screwdriver twist and bend.
3 Set of pliers
I have a set that I purchased at a discount store. They have lasted over 10 years and they still work great. Make sure your set has a pair of regular pliers, long nose pliers, and grove joint pliers. You can get great sets on Amazon for less than $15.
4 Wire Cutters
Skip the discount store for these also. For a little extra money, you can buy one that is harder metal, so it won’t dent or get gouged when you cut a hard wire. You can buy ironworker’s pliers that are a combination of plier and wire cutter that are very handy. Irwin tools sells an electrical wire cutter that also strips and crimps wire. These are found in the electrical tool section, and they come in really handy when doing things like rewiring lamps and other electrical projects.
5 Set of Wrenches
I have found that an inexpensive set of both standard and metric do just fine for most DIY projects. I you can only get one, get the metric, because it seems like most things now days come with metric fastenings.
6 Utility Knife
Even the inexpensive ones seem to do the job. Grab yourself a package of blades to go with it. Having plenty of blades on hand, so you can always have a sharp one. It is amazing how a dull blade can make a simple job much harder.
7 Set of Allen Wrenches
Mine is a one-piece gismo that has many sizes attached to a central holder. It makes it handy to keep them all together. If you are feeling rich, buy a set that has bigger sizes, and one that has the small sizes.
8 Socket Set
For most jobs, a small set with a 3/8” driver will do. Find one with both standard and metric so you will always have the right size available. I don’t know how many times I have tried to turn a ½” bolt with a metric socket, and have rounded off the bolt so bad that I have to cut the silly thing to get it out!
9 Tape measure
I prefer a 25 foot one that is at least 1 inch wide. It stays where you want it when you are measuring, instead of bending like the narrow ones tend to do. Make sure you get one that you can read easily. There are some that have the fractions written instead of just marks, which some people prefer. Some have both standard and metric measurements, which is really handy.
10 Small Saw
I have found that a small saw, often called dovetail, detail, or Japanese saw, works for many projects and can fit nicely in your tool kit. If you do lots of wood working you will probably want a bigger saw or even a power one, but this small saw gives a lot of use for the small amount of space it takes up.
11 Speed Square
This is an inexpensive tool that I would not do without. It is made of either plastic or metal, and It helps you draw straight line and make sure things are square. You can also find what the angle of something is with this tool.
12 Torpedo Level
This level may be small, but works on many projects. It’s a must have for hanging pictures straight. I prefer a magnetic one, but even a plastic one will do.
I really appreciate my chisels most when I don’t have them around! There is nothing worse than trying to cut out a small, precise area for a door hinge to fit in with a flat head screwdriver, because you forgot your chisel! You may not use these very often, but when you do need them they make the job so much easier and professional looking. I like to have ¼”, ½”, and 1” in my tool basket. A dull chisel can be as frustrating as using a screwdriver to do the job, so it is a good idea to have a sharpener for them also.
14 Nail Punch
Having a nail punch or two available to put those finish nails below the surface is a very inexpensive, but must have for your collection. They come in many sizes, from very small to large. You will realize how handy these are when you go to sand something and the nail sticking out just so slightly tears your sand paper.
15 Small Pry Bar
If you’ve ever tried to get trim work off with a hammer, you can really appreciate this small, but useful tool. It doesn’t take up much room, but is invaluable when something needs to be pried apart. I like the smaller, thinner ones for most DIY projects. You can get a set of 3 made by Stanley for less than $10 on Amazon.
Now that you have gathered your tools, you need something to put them in. I have found that using a basket with a lid (check out your local thrift stores, you will be amazed at what you can get for a small price), or a decorative box works great, because it can sit any room and look good. I have mine in my dining room. It looks good, is convenient to get to, and biggest plus of all, is that my family does not think to look there and “borrow” my tools! I found a wicker picnic basket that I use that is handy to grab and take to the place where I’m working on my project.
This also makes it a breeze to put away my tools when I am done with them, instead of setting them on the counter, waiting until I go down to the basement. Even though I have a dedicated wood shop there, I have found that having these basic tools together and easy to get to saves me time. I keep a small divided container of nails and screws, a small bottle of glue and a small roll of wire with my tools, that way, the small quick jobs, such a hanging pictures, or replacing screw, actually get done because my tools are close by, ready to use.