or most people, home ownership is a source of pride. Your home is a reflection of your family and lifestyle, and can be a place of great joy.
It can also be a source of great frustration, especially when things break down. But since Shari and I tend to be optimists, we like to look at home maintenance issues as opportunities rather than problems.
Whether you are unclogging a sink, or installing a new light fixture, the right tools will ensure that you embrace your home improvement opportunity and finish the job with a smile on your face. So what exactly are the “right” tools for a home tool box?
et’s start with the basics. First, you’ll need a container to hold your tools. A wide variety of plastic and metal tool boxes are available, but I actually prefer using a five gallon bucket with a canvas bucket organizer. The organizers have pockets for your tools, keeping them both visible and easily accessible.
A claw hammer is a tool box essential. The head is used to drive nails, while the claw is used to pull them out. I like the 12 ounce size. Although light weight, it can handle most home maintenance tasks.
Another great tool for fastening materials is a staple gun. Hand held staple guns work well for small projects, but the electric models are faster and easier to use for bigger tasks.
Another tool box mainstay is the cordless drill. Although slightly more expensive than the electric model, the added convenience more than makes up for the additional cost. A cordless drill is one of the most versatile tools you’ll ever own. It can be used to drill holes, drive screws, stir paint, and sand, and grind. For adequate power, your drill should have at least an 8.5 volt battery. It’s also helpful to have an additional battery on hand.
Screwdrivers are another important component of a well stocked home tool box. It is a good idea to include at least one long handled and one short handled of both a slotted head (flat) and Phillips head (crossed slots).
In addition to screw drivers, consider the purchase of a hex wrench set, also known as Allen wrenches. Hex wrenches are small L-shaped wrenches used for tightening hexagonal bolts in towel bars, faucet handles, and pieces of furniture which require assembly.
For gripping nuts and bolts, a self adjusting multipurpose pliers is just the ticket. Pliers are useful as a hand held vise or clamp. Eight to ten inch pliers are a good size for most home projects.
If you really enjoy woodworking you’ll probably want to invest in power saws, but for a “once in a while” project, a hand saw is sufficient. Hand saws are portable, easy to use, and generally safe, even for a novice woodworker. A 22” crosscut saw is a good choice.
You’ve heard the famous woodworking rule, “Measure twice, and cut once.” For accurate measuring, you’ll need to add a tape measure to your tool box. The basic tape measure is called a push-pull tape because the tape retracts back into its case when not in use. The tape, which is called a blade, comes in widths ranging from ½ to one inch wide. In general, the wider the blade, the longer the tape measure.
A torpedo level makes another great addition to your tool box. Torpedo levels are usually about 9” long and contain three not quite full vials of liquid, causing a visible air bubble in each. When the bubbles are aligned between two markings, the torpedo is level, ensuring that the picture you’ve been trying to straighten is level, too. Laser levels have become popular in the past few years, and might be worth investigating if you are planning to take on any major home improvement projects.
Speaking of hanging pictures, don’t forget to include wall anchors and a picture hanging kit in your tool box. And if you’re like Shari, and enjoy changing artwork with the seasons, be sure to have spackle compound and a 5-in-1 tool on hand to fill in all those extra nail holes.
s any homeowner will tell you, home maintenance is a never ending task. With your newly equipped tool box, however, you can take on these repair challenges with confidence.
Matt’s Tool Bucket
or my tool bucket, I use a 5-gallon bucket with a tool liner called a Bucket Boss. It's open at the top and has a million pockets on it that all my tools fit into. I like being able to see everything at once and this type of bucket is perfect.
Inside the bucket are my larger tools, which include:
• 16 oz. claw hammer for nailing and removing nails
• Japanese hand saw, for cutting trim and small pieces of nails. (Best hand saw I ever bought) and comes in many sizes; my toolbox saw is about 12" in length
• pairs of pliers, I like Robo Grips by Sears, but everyone has their own brand
• My 5-in-1, usually two of these
• 2 types of putty knives, a flex blade for applying spackle compound and a stiff blade for glazing windows and scraping
Scissors, usually replaced every week because Shari's always borrowing mine
• Stud finder, can't live without, great for hanging stuff
• Screwdrivers; I prefer a single driver with bits stored in the handle, an all-in-one tool, but I do keep a larger slotted and Phillips head in the bucket for tough jobs
• A set of chisels from 1 inch to 1/4 inch, wrapped in a cloth to keep them sharp
• Chain spreaders for putting up fans and chandeliers, found in most lighting stores
• Box of drill bits
• A can of WD40, for loosening screws and general purpose
• An old paintbrush to use for dusting
• Carpenters square, for building on the site
• Assorted cases of screws and nails in the bottom of the bucket
Around the inside of the bucket, you will find:
• A small torpedo level - a great tool
• Carpenters ruler, the kind that folds like an accordion; what a cool tool, one my granddad used all the time, I'm sure
• ire cutter and wire splices
• A Crescent wrench, in case I have to do a little plumbing
• electrical tape, in a plastic case for protection
• circuit tester, a plug in model and a wire model
• An assortment of spade bits and larger drill bits, the Bucket Boss has a pocket for those
• A 4.5-volt cordless drill, also a holster on the bucket for that. I always have extra batteries charging at home that I grab in the morning
• An awl, which looks like an ice pick. I use this to start holes for drilling and for marking locations of things - my next best favorite tool!
• Assorted pencils and black markers and of course, a sharpener
• An assortment of nail sets, for setting nails of course
• Small flashlight, which I use more times than you would think
Utility knife called a Husky that has a cartridge of blades in the handle, when you need a new blade, just spin the handle.
The bucket has a couple of straps where things can be attached. On these, I have:
• A speed square for laying out measurements and a guide for cutting lumber
• A roll of painter's blue tape, great tape, not as sticky as regular masking tape, will not damage woodwork
• A couple of carabineer clips for getting overhead lamps out of the way while working
Well that's about it, minus a plug or two, I constantly clean my tool bucket to make sure things are back in order. Over the years, I have memorized the location of each tool, so if its not in its original slot I feel lost.
Adding Juice to Your Tool bucket
Okay, you finally bought all the hammers, screwdrivers and other essential elements that make up your first toolbox. Now there isn't a drain you can't fix, a picture you can't hang, or a piece of wood you can't cut. You feel it's time to graduated from the "puttering around the house" to the "I'm ready to have my own remodeling show."
There are two unmistakable signs you're ready to add power tools to your collection. The first sign is that you begin making more and more space in your house for tools; the other is when you start contemplating the purchase of a workbench. At the root of these two acts is a growing confidence in your skills as a do-it-yourselfer. The more self-assured you become, the more apt you are to move up to power tools. As your skills develop, so does your desire to tackle more difficult projects. So, it's only natural to add power tools to your set.
For those who are making their first foray into power tools, I suggest the following "must-haves" for any tool-toting handyman/handywoman:
• Circular saw
• Cordless drill
• Variable speed jig saw
• Palm sander
• Electric miter saw
I believe the circular saw is the most important power tool you can own. And, with a standard combination blade, you can cut everything from plywood to pressure treated lumber. Also, don't be tempted to throw away old blades, dull ones can be re-sharpened for as little as $6.
To a carpenter, not having a cordless drill is like not having a telephone. Everyday I use my cordless drill - in fact, I have a variety of drills with different voltage for different tasks. For my household chores I have an 8-volt drill that will tackle small tasks and on my work bench I grab my 14-volt for more torque and power. Go to the local home improvement store and try a bunch of models out, most stores have a display where you can drive a few screws in to give you hands-on knowledge. While you're there, buy a tool belt with a holster for your drill. The old west is still alive when you strap on your 14-volt drill.
Additions to Your Charged-up Toolbox:
Make sure you have two batteries with your cordless drill; one is always charging while the other one is in use. And try to buy a drill with a keyless chuck. It makes changing bits easier.
For convenience, buy a palm sander that enables you to affix adhesive-backed sandpaper directly to a rubber pad on the sander.
When selecting an electric miter saw, choose a 10" compound saw because it's faster and easier than the traditional ones.
I caution that one should avoid temptation of buying tools for the sake of having them. Often it makes more sense to rent than to buy. The more gadgets you buy, the less you use them. And using them is what it's all about. You want to own tools that provide you with enjoyment and help you get the job done. Always ask yourself, "do I really need this?" If the answer is "yes" then go ahead, plug in, and put it to work!
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