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Acme's Recommendation for a Basic Set of Tools
(or the Tools Everybody Should Have in Their Toolbox)

Whether you want to give someone a gift or you are rounding out your tool set, here is what we think every do-it-yourselfer must have in their toolbox and why. Mind you, this is a basic set of tools, the core of any collection. Depending upon the projects you do, there are many, many, general and specialty tools to add to your list.

A basic set of hand tools is a necessity for anyone. You never know when you might have an emergency and can't wait for a service person to arrive. You have to be able to turn off the gas, pry open a door or stop a leak.

Beyond emergencies, a good set of tools will make any job easier. The right tool too, will make your work go more smoothly.

Tool quality is important. Sure you can buy a screwdriver for 99¢. But you don't want it to mar your work or worse, cause an injury because of poor quality. Quality tools last longer, do their job better and are safer. You don't have to spend a fortune to purchase quality tools. In the long run you will save money by not having to replace them when they break.

  • Hammer - 12 to 16 ounce claw hammer. Wood handles are fine, fiberglass reduces wrist strain.

  • Phillips head screwdrivers - #1 and #3 both with about a 4 inch blade (7 inches long overall) will cover most needs. A set of six with #0 thru #4 is better. Quality here gets you a hardened tip that won't bend or chip easily.

  • Flat head screwdrivers - 1/8" cabinet screwdriver (narrow tip) and a 5/16" standard tip both about 7 inches long overall. An assortment is better. Quality here gets you a hardened tip that won't easily bend or crumble.

  • Tongue and groove pliers - 6" and 10" pliers. These adjustable pliers allow you to grip a wide range of sizes. Quality is important here. Cheap models will slip under pressure.

  • Needle nose pliers - 7 inch, long nose pliers. Look for padded handles for comfort and insulation from electric shock.

  • Pry Bar - A small, 7 inch pry bar is very handy. We like the flat pry bar made by Stanley.

This is by no means a complete toolbox. But if I was stranded on an island somewhere, these are the bare minimum tools I'd want to be stranded with. A saw would be nice too I suppose; for cutting bamboo to build a hut.

Power Tools Everybody Should Have

When it comes to power tools, not everyone needs them, but avid do-it-yourselfers probably should. The more work you do around the home, the larger the set of tools you will need. In this list we are just suggesting the basics; what we think are must haves.

Just like with hand tools, tool quality is important. You can save money on bargain equipment. What you will find with cheap tools is they tend to be less accurate, less powerful and shorter lived. You may be able to get the job done with low cost power tools, but you get the job done better and faster when you buy quality.

How to determine quality? If you have friends who are do-it-yourselfers, ask them for recommendations. Otherwise, prices tend to reflect quality. The cheapest model on the shelf tends not to be of adequate quality. We also tend to avoid the manufacturers who make mostly the lowest priced products on the shelf. But that isn't always a fair test. Some manufacturers have entry level products that perform well. What we want you to avoid is buying a tool that is so much cheaper than comparable models that it can't possibly live up to reasonable standards. There are plenty of excellent manufacturers, but all of their tools are not necessarily equal. Just because one manufacturer makes a good circular saw, doesn't guarantee they make a good drill.

Corded or Cordless? Corded tools have more power and run as long as you need. Cordless are very convenient, the 14v and 18v models tend to have plenty of power and you can use them when you've turned off the electricity. Obviously the down side is that the batteries run down. We find we can get through medium size jobs with no problem. It is worthwhile to invest in an extra back-up battery so you waste time while your battery recharges. If you are trying to build a deck or some other large project, you'll probably want corded power tools.

  • Poseable flashlight - A flashlight is often handy for work around the home. Being able to set it down and have it point at your work area is invaluable.

  • Drill - A drill doubles as a power screwdriver. Two very useful features. While a corded drill provides more torque, we really like the convenience of a cordless drill.

  • Power Miter Saw - We thought maybe a circular saw, because it is more versatile. But most people tend to cross cut boards and then move them to the work space. The miter saw makes cutting angles so much easier and cuts are so much more precise than cutting by hand. If you need to cut plywood sheets, then a circular saw is the better choice.

Bonus Tool

  • Reciprocating Saw - You really need this one if you are doing demolition work. I've saved hours with this tool when removing old steel pipes, cutting out old countertops, opening up a wall for a door or window. But you only need this one if you will be taking stuff out. It lacks finesse and usually won't be helpful for construction, just demolition.

There are lots of other important tools. But they tend to be job specific. For instance biscuit tools are great, but they are specific to one type of wood joinery. Routers are nifty for putting decorative edges on wood and various shaping tasks. Jigsaws are the right tool for cutting curves in wood, but that only comes up for specific projects. The absolute basics are lighting, drilling, driving and cross cutting. These are the tasks nearly any do-it-yourselfer will be called on to do. Avid DIYers will have plenty of uses for other tools too, but the list above is what we consider the essentials for everyone. On occassion you may need other tools for a job, where purchasing them would be cost prohibitive. In such cases tool rental can help you gain access the tools you need without having to purchase them.

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