I'm not a construction professional, handyman, or even much of a do-it-yourself enthusiast. I am a homeowner, though, and from time to time I have to do stuff that requires tools. Having the appropriate, good quality tools makes doing any job a lot easier (and often safer), and frankly, makes me a lot more likely to want to do it!
I've already written about My Digital Toolkit, and as I've been building up my set of hardware tools, it occured to me that it might be useful for others if I share the list of what's in my physical toolkit and why. I'm not going to list every tool, just the ones I think are especially cool or useful. Rather than duplicate what the vendor lists as the benefits of each, I'll try to focus on talking about why I like each tool.
They're not listed in any particular order, though I've loosely grouped them by powered/not powered and put them into two major categories. I've also purposely linked to the manufacturers' websites, rather than to any particular vendor, since part of the reason for putting this list together is to show my appreciation for the tools and the manufacturers that created them, not the resellers.
A List of My Cool Hardware Tools
- Pry Bar
- Retractable Utility Knife
- Staple Gun
- Pliers: Tongue and Groove
- Flashlight/Utility Light
- Voltage Tester
- Stud Sensor
- Rotary Tool
- Cordless Screwdriver
Husky Pro Tool Bag (Model: 45121) - Jan 2007
Since we own a home that's not new and tend to do a lot of projects/updates/etc., we found ourselves keeping more and more tools inside, as opposed to in the garage. I had a toolbox, but I quickly learned why it cost only $5 — it was small, and actually unpleasant to use. It was just too much work; I had to open it, remove the top shelf, get a tool, put the shelf back, close it if I wanted to carry it somewhere, etc.
So, we started just keeping a few frequently-used tools in a Sterilite storage box. That worked okay, but wasn't ideal — it provided good visibility, but required two hands to carry, didn't allow organization, and wasn't very safe, given that many tools have sharp edges, which are less visible as their numbers increase in a disorganized box.
I'd been casually on the lookout for a better solution, when my parents recently gave me The Husky Pro Tool Bag, which solved all those problems. It's a large, rigid, open container, with a metal handlebar that allows one-handed carrying (it even comes with a shoulder strap!) and provides plenty of clearance. It has:
- 19 storage pockets on the inside and outside of the main storage bin
- A sheath for a handsaw, with a strap to secure it in place
- All kinds of straps & hooks, even a carabiner
I don't know that I could have imagined a better toolbox; thanks, Mom & Dad!
I've been wanting this since I first saw it, just because it's so badass! I don't even have plans for any demolition projects, but the moment I need to destroy or break something, this is the tool I'm reaching for. In fact, I couldn't really even justify gettng this, but if you get a chance to check out one of these in real life, you'll see why it's irresistible for any tool junkie. Fortunately, my wife understands (and agrees!) ;)
- Super-strong, one-piece forged steel.
- Heavyweight hammer.
- Pry bar.
- Nail puller.
- Board bender/breaker.
- Comfortable, slip-resistant, rubberized grip.
If any tool can justify being called "Xtreme", this is it; the Fubar ("Functional Utility Bar") is an all-around super destruction tool!
A full-sized hammer is a staple (no pun intended!) of any toolkit. This one's fairly basic, but feels good in my hand, and I don't think I'll ever have to replace it; it's got a graphite core, so it's not likely to break -- something I don't think one should have to stress about when hammering!
- Strong, graphite core.
- Comfortable, slip-resistant, rubberized grip with flared end.
A retractable utility knife comes in handy so often, I think it's reasonable to have more than one. Sometimes, you need to be able to cut something without worrying about damaging or dulling a nice knife blade. Being able to retract the blade does a lot to increase safety. Our standard is to always retract it before putting it down, even if it's "just for a second". That's easy to do since it's got a mechanism that locks the blade into three positions, and has a positive feel even when wearing gloves.
- Rubberized upper grip and thumb rest reduce the chance of slipping.
- Blades stored in the handle.
- No tools required to change blade.
- Integrated string cutter.
A staple gun is generally useful to have if you own a home, but also good for projects and repair jobs. This one is designed really well; if you've used a "normal" staple gun and try this, you'll see why the PowerShot makes sense.
- "Forward Action® " system applies & maximizes force in the place you're trying to put the staple.
- Staples remaining window.
- Easy to load staples.
- Rubber non-slip handle.
When we bought our first house, a friend who knows his tools told me to "just get a pair" of these because I'd need them, and he was right! They seem to be able to do almost anything, and really came in handy when changing a rusted toilet handle.
- Wide, adjustable jaw.
- Enable you to exert a lot of force.
I've loved flashlights since I was a kid, and have been eyeing this one for several months; after all, it doubles as a work-utility light! It was actually my wife that prompted this purchase though; I didn't know it, but she'd been coveting it too! It has some really good features, and a very high cool factor. Check out the TV commercial!
- Tripod and movable head provide hands-free light right where you need it.
- Can run on 3, 6, or 9 batteries, which are housed inside the tripod legs. Provides the same illumination/brightness regardless of how many batteries, but the more you add, the longer it lasts (200+ hours on 9 batteries).
- Three levels of brightness.
- Low-battery indicator - Lets you know batteries are low before you pack it for a trip!
We had one of those cheap, combination screwdriver/voltage testers, and if you have one, I recommend you throw it away now and go get one of these non-contact ones that has no exposed metal. This tester isn't cheap (nor is it expensive), but this is one case in which you really get what you pay for, and when you're dealing with electricity, safety is especially important.
I went to go buy the Fluke VoltAlert that was recommended on Cool Tools, but the salesman practically laughed me out of the store. They didn't carry the Fluke, but even if they did, I don't think he would have let me buy it; I was half expecting him to accompany me to the register to make sure I got this one! He said it's much higher quality and more durable. I'm not an electrician, and he claimed to work as one, so I figured with such a strong opinion, I'd take his word for it. After all, how many people are emphatic about voltage testers?
- All plastic; no exposed metal.
- No contact required for detection.
- Bright red, visible and audible alert when voltage is detected; no wondering if you saw the dim light on the cheap models.
- On/off switch to preserve battery.
- Batteries are included!
A must for hanging pictures (or anything else) on the wall, mounting towel racks, etc.
Detects wood or metal studs.
- Normal mode: scans 3/4 inches deep with 1/8 inch accuracy.
- Deep Scan mode: scans 1-1/2 inches deep with 3/16 inch accuracy using the dual scan and mark procedure.
- Visual and audible alert.
- Projects a beam of light on the surface when it detects a stud.
- Incremental detection, so you know when you're close.
- Belt/pocket clip; easy to put aside while marking wall or using other tools.
You can buy the 10.8V Cordless Dremel separately, but the kit comes with a lot of accessories you'll need, and a nice hard plastic storage case.
I've wanted a Dremel for years, but waited until I had a good excuse before I got one: I had to expand the size of the wooden frame of our HVAC air return to accomodate a custom filter that was a tiny bit too large; the Dremel worked great! It's really come in handy since we got it, and I expect it will do so many times in the future.
It's got a very high-speed motor -- up to 35,000 rpm, which is impressive when you're holding it -- because it's effectiveness isn't about applying force; in most cases, you don't have to exert much at all, you just let the speed do the work.
- Grinds, sands, cuts almost anything.
- Cordless, which removes what often becomes an impediment to using a tool; dealing with the cord! Also, I reasoned that I might need to use it where stringing a cord would be difficult.
- Battery level indicator.
Another basic must-have tool, a cordless screwdriver takes the tedium out of most routine household tasks. There's still definitely room for a standard non-powered screwdriver, but this is usually the one I reach for first, and this Black & Decker does its job well and retains its charge a remarkably long time.
- Handle can be adjusted from straight to pistol grip; useful for smaller spaces and applying force.
- Adjustable torque, with decent maximum.
- Forward/reverse switch is well-positioned and easy to operate.
- Really good battery life and exceptional charge retention!
As a homeowner, I've come to understand that it's conceivable to actually need more than one ladder. This one is configurable, so it can serve many purposes, and we've used it in several of it's 18 possible configurations. If you're going to get a ladder, this is a great one to start with; you may not need another. It even worked great while painting on our curved staircase!
- Configurable to 18 positions, including step, stand-off, straight, and scaffold.
- Lightweight aluminum.
- 16 feet tall, but foldable and fits in a car trunk!
- Includes a bolt-on stability-enhancing base.
If you have a yard, chances are, you're going to need a lopper to do minor pruning of trees and bushes. This one has an ingenious gear that doubles your cutting power. We have yet to find a branch that can challenge this lopper; it slices through most with minimal effort, even when we ask it to bite off a bit more than it can chew.
- Force amplifying gear.
- Super strong handles - I hate worrying about breaking tools, so I really appreciate when they're built to take a lot of force.
- Replacable blade - I wish more tools were built with this kind of thinking!
It's clear that as homeowners, we're going to need more than one saw, but this was our first, and it's impressive! A branch fell off a tree in the backyard, and it took no time to cut it up using this saw. It's long, curved blade and 3-sided teeth (which facilitate cutting in both directions) make this a very efficient cutting tool.
- Long, very sharp, curved blade makes it easy to cut effectively when pulling as well as pushing.
- Very comfortable, secure, pistol grip, and good overall ergonomic design.
- Replaceable the blade, handle, and connecting nuts & bolts.
- Did I mention that it's extremely sharp?
I do have one of those orange, heavy-duty extension cords, and I almost never use it. When I was younger & doing yardwork with my dad, I always dreaded getting it out, unrolling it, managing it during use, and rolling it back up. All I have to do to use this trimmer is pick it up. It's got decent power, good reach, and a comfortable holding position.
- Cordless; no extra effort required before (or after) use.
- Secure, two-handed grip with hand guard.
- 50 minute run time.
- Interchangeable battery, so you can swap in a fresh one.