A handy-dandy checklist of basic household tools
Some wag once claimed that we need only two tools: WD-40 to make things go and duct tape to make things stop. While both of these are useful to have on hand, I, for one, do not want to hang pictures with duct tape. If you would like to equip your domicile with the most essential tools, read on.
But before we get to our handy-dandy checklist, there is one age-old truism about tools: buy the best that you can afford. Quality tools can last a lifetime. I know because I have some that have outlasted their previous owners. On the flip side, cheap tools may ruin what you’re trying to accomplish, and worse, may hurt you in the process.
Finally, using the proper tool for the job will help you accomplish tasks more efficiently – as opposed to using a butter knife as a screwdriver. Remember what Archimedes said, “Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I will move the world.” You may not want to move the world, but having the right tool for the job indicates intelligence in our species. Don’t use the heel of your shoe as a hammer. Now, onto the list.
Claw Hammer. Instead of your shoe, the head of the hammer drives nails, and the claw pulls out nails that you bent or nailed in the wrong place. Hammers come in a range of weights, but 16 ounces or less is best for household use. Some people recommend fiberglass handles, but the wooden handle on my long-time friend, “The Wizard”, has lasted very well.
Screwdrivers. You’ll need a set of these, or at least one with interchangeable tips. The slots in screws come in a variety of sizes, so it’s important to have a screwdriver that fits the slot. Also, because so many household items are small, it’s good to have a set of jeweler’s screwdrivers.
Pliers. I recommend having four pliers: the standard slip-jaw type, a needle-nose pair for small, precision jobs, a large tongue-and-groove pair that can open wide enough to unfasten the trap from under a sink, and a pair of locking pliers – commonly called Vice-Grips.
Adjustable wrench. These are often called crescent wrenches or spanners, but Crescent is a brand-name and spanner is most common in England. Whatever you choose to call them, they are used for removing or tightening nuts of different sizes.
Utility knife. In paint and wallpaper departments, you’ll find those small plastic knives with the snap-off blades. They are inexpensive and useful to have on hand, but a true utility knife is a more substantial tool with a solid handle and heavier gauge blades.
Saw. There are so many kinds of saws that I have puzzled over what type to recommend. A power saw isn’t really necessary unless someone is going to build something, though a hand-held circular saw is a great tool to have. The single most versatile hand-saw is probably a hacksaw with an assortment of blades for cutting metal, wood and plastic.
Cordless drill/driver. The most costly tool on this list, a cordless drill/driver also may be the most indispensable tool around the house. For greatest versatility, get a variable speed, reversible model with a spare battery. You’ll love it for assembling modular furniture and a million other uses.
Staple gun. There are powered staple guns, but all you really need for household use is a hand-operated model and staples of various lengths.
Putty knife. When you decide to re-hang all your pictures, you’ll need to spackle all the nail holes. It’s easiest with a putty knife. Putty or spackle and paint can hide a multitude of sins, or as the saying goes, “A little putty and a little paint, make a carpenter what he ain’t.”
Measuring tape. Metal, retractable, lockable. Don’t even think of trying to manage your household without one. What the heck, get two. One of 15 or 20 feet, and one of 50 feet.
Scissors. Scissors? Yes! Since nearly everything comes packaged in plastic these days, you need scissors in practically every room in the house.
Combination square. Although this sounds very professional carpenterish, a combination square is not an expensive tool and frequently comes in handy. Get one with a built-in level.
Clamps. When you’ve broken something and need to glue it back together, there’s nothing like a few clamps to hold the something together while the glue dries. In my mind, the old-style screw type are often preferable to spring-loaded ones that look like giant clothespins, as you can control the pressure with the screw-type.
Toolbox. Now you need someplace to put all these great tools. Some people use a kitchen drawer, but they aren’t noted for their portability. A heavy gauge plastic toolbox with a divider tray for small items of hardware is just the ticket.
With these tools alone, you won’t be able to remodel your house, build a deck or make heirloom furniture, but you should be able to take care of the day-to-day problems, repairs and dagnabits that come along. And you’ll feel a whole lot more self-reliant.
Ed. Lange writes “Guy Stuff” monthly for Capital Region Living. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.