Are You Ready To Fill Your Toolbox?

Are you looking to build your toolbox supplies but don't have a load of money to buy anything but the most common and important tools that you need to do most things?  I'm here to help.

If you are like me, when you visit the local hardware store and check out the tool section, you'd like the option to spend about $1,000.  That's before I start to browse the section of free standing tools that have a plug.  But if you want to make sure you have the basics covered, or if you are looking for gift ideas for a new college graduate or new homeowner who is tool challenged, read on.  These 10 tools should be the start of everyone's collection.

The Top 10 Tools to Own

Here are the 10 tools that you should buy first:

  1. Hammer - Need I say more?  This one is a given.  Even the least handy among us wants to hang a picture on the wall once in a while, so the hammer is just the ticket.  A quick word about hammers, many like the feel of real wood on the handle and others like a one piece like all steel.  I like the feel of wood but the all steel hammers are solid.
  2. Screwdriver - I could get greedy here and suggest all sorts of shapes and sizes, and you will appreciate them if you have them, but at the least you need a medium-sized plain and Phillips head screwdriver.  Remember something with screwdrivers, you get what you pay for.  This is one item that you can find cheap but you will be much happier if you go up a price level.
  3. Tape Measure - A tape measure is a staple of your collection.  Don't skimp here and buy a plastic or soft tape measure.  What you want is the heavy-duty steel tape measure that retracts automatically.  The common size and one you should choose is 25 feet.  Don't worry.  It's not that long when you buy it.
  4. Cordless Drill - Now that we can hammer, screw and measure, it's time to have some fun.  The very first tool that I would get that uses electricity is a cordless drill.  Don't get the little one either.  It should be at least 18 or 19 volts.  The bonus to a drill is that it probably came with various bits like different sized screwdriver bits so you just expanded your screwdriver collection.  I won't count these as tools, but a small drill bit set would be great here and hopefully your drill included some so you can wait and upgrade them later.  Also, if I had some more money in my pocket a spare battery is a lifesaver when you're working on a project.
  5. Level - The first 4 were what I would consider absolute essentials.  Now we get to the second group.  You will use a level often, both as a level (seems obvious) but also as a straight edge.  Make sure you pick a level of significant strength.  There should be no way it can bend on you.  It should also have three level bubbles, one up, one down, one at a 45 degree angle.
  6. Circular Saw - The circular saw is a very versatile tool.  You can use it to cut pretty much everything that is not too thick.  Honorable mention here would go to a compound mitre saw, especially if you are about to finish the basement, in which case I would swap these, but a circular saw would be the one to start with generally.  Using your level as a straight edge, you can cut full sheets of plywood all the say down to 2x4 lumber.
  7. Needle Nose Pliers - I'm being specific here because I want the 10 things to be only 10 things.  If I could afford only 1 pliers, it would be a medium-sized needle nose.  It is amazing how often you appreciate the needle nose shape more than you appreciate the available width of a regular pliers.  Now, if you want to cheat and make this two things, get 1 needle nose and 1 regular pliers.  I won't tell.
  8. Socket Set - One reason I can live without a regular pliers is that I must have a socket set.  With this you will be able to tighten and loosen almost every nut you come across with ease.  This is another tool that you should buy only once if your life, so do it right.  Make sure your set has a case that will last and include the extenders (usually and inch or two) so that you can get into the more difficult places.
  9. Utility Knife - A good utility knife is great to have.  A bad one is horrific.  Get yourself a good knife made of steel that holds the spare blades hidden away in the handle.  You need this to score wood, recycle cardboard, work with drywall, you name it.  I bet if you don't have one now you'll be reaching for it often after you do.
  10. Stud Finder - I honestly don't use this too much but when you need it, you really need it.  Of course you can find studs without it and, with a little experience you can be right 90% of the time, but this little gadget makes hitting the studs a breeze.  Like the other things, don't buy the cheapest one you see.  You should buy this only once.

A Few Helpful Tips

It's pretty hard to limit the list to 10 but I think we got it right.  Having said that, here are a few tips that I want to leave you with as you fill up your toolbox:

  • Safety Goggles - These are a must but I don't consider them a tool so I left them off the list.  You can't go wrong just wearing them when working with tools but at a minimum you should wear them when things are moving quickly, like drills or electric saws.  Protect your eyes.
  • Ear Protection - These are another must that I didn't include as a tool.  Get the heavy-duty kind that go over your head and have big huge ear muffs on them.  You won't be sorry since you can wear them around your neck in between cuts on your saw without feeling like they will bend.  A saw through wood can screech really loud!  Protect your ears.
  • Cleaning - Keep your tools clean.  Imagine that they are your kitchen dishes.  After you eat, you would return them to the cupboard spotless right?  I'm not saying you should wash your tools but keep the sawdust off them and put them away properly each time.  Nothing stops a project faster than when you can't find your hammer.
  • Kids - Kids love tools and almost every tool can be very dangerous if it falls into the wrong hands.  Alway unplug electric tools when you leave the room and keep your toolbox closed and in a safe place when you're not on a project. 
  • Quality - I said it several time, but dont' go for the cheap tools.  One of the few things you can buy in life only once is a good tool.  Do that.  The medium to high priced tools are built to last and will save you money and be easier to work with in the long run.

There you go.  Start with these tools and you're off to the races.