Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Basic tools

I've previously used the phrase "a measure of skill and a modicum of tools."  A set of decent tools will help you stare the unexpected in the eye and tell it where to go, from repairing minor leaks before they cause damage, to keeping the car running a little longer, to securing your home against whatever Mother Nature can throw at you. Today, we're going to look at some of those tools.

You don't have to have a NASCAR toolbox or a carpenter's truck of tools to accomplish most tasks. If you have the budget and desire, by all means go nuts, but if you're living like we do around here, you need to pick and choose a bit. Here's where basic homeowner's tools start.

Hammer: A basic 16oz claw hammer will cover the vast majority of your hammering needs. Go with a smooth face. Heavier hammers are great for professional work, but they're overkill for around the house.

Screwdrivers: I'm a bit torn here. I'm a fan of multi-drivers for their functionality, but I'll instead recommend a four-driver set as a starter. Individual drivers are stronger and less fiddly, the initial cost outlay is nearly identical, and when you break one (and you will), replacing just one driver is far cheaper. To start, you want a #1 and #2 Phillips, and a 1/4" and 3/16" slotted driver, all 4 inches long.

Wrenches: If you're running on a single wrench, look for an 8 inch adjustable wrench as your starter.  There are a wide variety of wrenches to expand to after that one, but that one single wrench can be used to accomplish so very much.

Pliers: A minimum of two pairs covers most of the bill.  One set of needle nose for delicate and general purpose work, and a set of groove joint pliers, colloquially called "Channel Locks" (which is actually a name brand).  I like the 8" needle nose pliers, as they give me a bit more reach and can grab a bit harder.  For a single set of groove pliers, the 10" set offers a nice compromise of capacity and usability.  They actually work better in pairs if you find yourself working on plumbing, just as something to keep in mind.

Drill: I'm partial to cordless drills, particularly for light projects.  They work great in awkward areas, they don't require dragging an extension cord with you, and they have plenty of power for most tasks.  This unit should be plenty for any task the average homeowner runs into.  As a caveat, I wouldn't haul it onto a jobsite with me (mostly due to the 3/8" chuck not handling some of the larger work I do), but I wouldn't feel bad at all about having it in my own home.  Bits, tips, and other accessories are obviously needed, but the last link in this article covers that fully.

In case you're curious about how and why I came up with the items on this list as what I consider the essential basics, they're the items I put in my wife's "around the house" toolbox, as well as the most common items I reach for in my own tool bags at work, all day every day.  When I say that this list covers the vast majority of "tool tasks," I'm not exaggerating in the slightest.

Of course, while bumping around Amazon finding links for all this, I ran into this kit, which covers something like 2/3 of this list in one purchase, for quite a decent price, and includes a good array of accessories.

What other tools would you put in your bags?


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