After we ran the post Creating a multi-tasking wedding registry for your kitchen, I was asked by a reader about what essential tools a person might keep in his or her collection. Minutes later, I received an e-mail from another reader offering to write us a post on that exact subject. Planets must have been aligned! Here are Reader Dustin Boston’s terrific suggestions for an uncluttered tool box.
I know people who probably own every tool known to man. Sometimes a gleaming 800 piece tool set is a necessity, but for most people 11 tools will get the job done the majority of the time. If you’re looking to start a toolbox, or just clean one up a bit, this list should help:
An adjustable wrench–or crescent wrench–is used for loosening or tightening a nut or bolt. I prefer the 10″ version because it can be used on larger bolts if necessary.
For most people, a handsaw is clutter. First, nobody wants to work that hard. Second, most household projects are big enough to warrant the use of something more efficient. A circular saw will make quick work out of non-precision woodworking projects like cutting a 2×4 or plywood.
Drill and drill bits
Everyone will tell you to get a cordless drill. Don’t. The batteries will die and you won’t replace them. If you just get a drill with a cord you’ll be much happier and there will be less clutter filling your toolbox.
A lot of hammers these days are made with plastic and rubber, but any old hammer will do. I use a claw type hammer with a nail puller on one end. A ball-peen hammer with the rounded head is useless for most household projects.
There is very little art to choosing a level. Plastic, metal, and wood are all fine, just get something that works for you. You don’t need one that’s 5′ in length, but at the bare minimum you’ll want one at least a foot long. I’m not sure if the 45 degree angle vial actually has a use so just stick to one that has horizontal and vertical.
There are probably 1,000 different kinds of pliers, most of which can be used in the home. However, you can get by with just two: a slip joint plier and a needle nose plier. That’s it.
You need two types of screwdrivers: a Phillips head screwdriver (which looks like a cross) and a slotted screwdriver. I like the Master Mechanic screwdrivers from True Value because they have a lifetime warranty. Get a 1 pt. an 2 pt. Phillips, a 4″ and 6″ slotted, and an eyeglass screwdriver kit with one Phillips and one slotted. Don’t mess with stubby screwdrivers, battery powered screwdrivers, or the 4 in 1 screwdrivers.
Although tin snips are intended for cutting sheet metal, they’re actually really good for cutting wire and plastic without any problem. And, they’ll last forever. Sometimes the little latch will break, but you can manage without it. I recommend tin snips over diagonal pliers because they are more versatile.
You’ll get the most use out of a 3/8″ socket wrench with a Standard measurement, 6-point socket set. A metric set will really only be useful if you have an Asian car that you plan to rebuild.
A stud finder is indispensable for hanging pictures and shelves. Don’t get fancy, their only purpose is to locate a board in the wall.
A 12 or 16 foot metal retractable tape measure will do for most household jobs. They come in a vast array of colors, shapes and sizes, so go crazy. But remember, you only need one. One note of caution: if you can fit it in the palm of your hand it’s probably too small to be useful.
For starters, don’t be foolish when using this item and end up in the hospital. Simply use it for things like safely cutting cardboard or rope, and you should be fine.
Make sure you have a classic toolbox with a nice strong latch. If you can fit all of your tools into it (minus the power tools and level) you’re in good shape.
Put your toolbox, level, and drill into a big bucket or basket with handles or wheels. When you have a project, just pick it up and carry the whole thing wherever you’re working.
Over the past five or six years I’ve managed to hobble together a coffee table, heavy duty garage shelves, a planter box, and a chicken coop. I’ve hung countless pictures, secured unsafe dressers, installed ceiling fans and more with just the tools listed here.