I checked Amazon this morning and I found a new deal of the day, featuring a whole lot of hand tools from a brand I’ve never heard about before. Those generic tools are entry-priced and have basic designs that I’m sure are at least usable.
You can do better than those basic entry-level tools – a lot better.
When I first expanded my tool kit, I focused on increasing functionality, which meant spending my small budget on more entry-level tools. I eventually started upgrading the tools I used often.
Following are some of my favorites. Most of these tools aren’t easy on the wallet, but they’re high quality tools that offer long-lasting and improved-performance.
Back when I had a more modest budget, these are the types of tools I would have gifted to myself or requested from others.
Do you think other hand tool upgrades belong on this list? Please let us know in comments!
Knipex Pliers Wrench
If you don’t already own one of these fantastic tools, you probably don’t need one. Maybe you can make do with “parallel jaw” pliers from another brand. I’ve tried other brands’ pliers, and the Knipex Pliers Wrench is simply better.
It’s pricey, but I’ve used mine enough to have more than justified their expense. I started off with the 7″ size and then followed with the 10″. Or it could have been the other way around – I forget.
They’re great for turning fasteners, squeezing parts together, and gripping things. Don’t let the smooth jaws fool you – these tools have incredible clamping and gripping power, thanks to the high leverage design.
You can – and should – shop around, but the pricing never really gets better than ~$45 and up per tool.
Irwin (NWS-Made) Diagonal Cutters
Ooh, I love these cutters. I believe these PowerSlot cutters are the last NWS-made pliers or cutters in Irwin’s hand tool lineup.
They cut even hard wire materials remarkably well and are comfortable to use. The question isn’t about whether you should buy these (assuming you do need or want higher-leverage diagonal cutters), but about which size you should buy – 7″ or 8″?
NWS and Felo Fantastico pliers are also available, but cost a little more. Irwin’s specially-made-for-them handles are quite comfy too.
These are a great addition to any tool box.
Estwing Claw Hammer
I really love Estwing’s made in the USA hammers. Sure, you can find better and more-featured hammers, but not at this price. The 16 oz size is a good general around-the-home hammer for use on smaller nails.
I prefer the curved claw hammer over the rip claw hammer, but the rip claw version is less expensive, enough so that you could put the difference of a couple of dollars towards a separate cat’s paw nail puller.
Need a harder-hitting hammer? Go for the 20 oz.
Amazon’s user reviews give it an 89% 5-star rating – how often do you see that?
If you’re not convinced, give the handle a squeeze at the home center, and no it’s not at all silly to carefully swing it around a little to feel the balance.
Klein Long-Nose Pliers
There are so very many long-nose pliers you could choose from. Klein is a strong brand, and I’ve had good experiences with their pliers. If you’re looking for something that’s strong, durable, and well-sized, these are a good choice. This model, D203-7, has a built-in side-cutter, which I usually find useful in long nose pliers.
See Also: Let’s Talk About Long Nose Pliers
Irwin Demo Screwdriver Set
Everybody needs at least one pair of demo screwdrivers. This Irwin set of a Phillips #2 and 5/16″ driver isn’t remarkable in many ways. In fact, it’s quite similar than most of the other demo screwdriver sets I’ve used or come across.
So why buy this particular set for $10, when others can be found for around the same price? That’s easy – the handles are exceptionally grippy.
These Irwin screwdrivers are up for whatever demanding tasks you can throw at them, while also being an easy match for everyday fastening applications.