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
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.
- 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.