I recently posted my recommendations for a Basic Tool Kit for Beginners. While the tool selection might change a little from user to user, and one might add another tool or two to the mix, there is a limit as to how much a DIYer can get done with a basic starter set.
I set out to put together a list of tool kit add-ons, hand tools that can elevate a DIYer’s work and broaden their capabilities.
(Thank you to Home Depot for sponsoring this exploration!)
Husky Dead Blow Hammer ($19.41) – I have posted about this Husky 27 oz dead-blow hammer before, and you’ll see me posting about it again. A dead-blow hammer provides a much different experience than a rubber mallet, delivering a nearly recoil-free strike with greater comfort and control.
This hammer has a very balanced feel to it, and is a good addition to any tool kit. It’s also backed by Husky’s Lifetime Warranty with no questions asked or receipt needed.
Bessey Hand Clamps ($7-9) – Home Depot has a wide selection of C-clamps, bar clamps, and specialty clamps to choose from. I think these Bessey hand clamps, with 4-inch capacity and 3-inch throat depth, are great to start out with, as they’re large enough to hold wood boards and sheet materials to a table or workbench.
That is one of the biggest upgrades a DIYer can make – adding the ability to clamp down wood boards or other materials for easier, safer, and more precise cutting, sanding, or other work.
Dewalt Flush-Cutting Saw ($13.97) – Home Depot carries a large selection of hand saws, such as wood saws, jab saws, hacksaws, and coping saws just to name a few styles. As a fine-tooth pull saw, this Dewalt saw is the ideal choice for cutting smaller-sized wood materials, such as dowel rods. And, whether you’re using dowel pins for a woodworking project or repairing a stripped-out hinge, its flexibility allows you to trim things down flush.
While perhaps not as much of a must-have compared to the other tools here, a flush-cutting saw can sometimes make the difference between a fine-finished project and a DIY hack-job.
Husky Precision Screwdriver Set ($14.97) – A good precision screwdriver bit kit is useful for kids’ toys, battery compartments, and DIY electronics repairs. This Husky set far exceeded my expectations, giving you a solid metal-body driver with fantastic feel, a good selection of everyday, security, and electronics bits, and a compact case to keep it all nice and tidy.
What especially impressed me is that the miniature screwdriver bits are well organized, with clear depictions as to their tip shapes, and they’re also retained magnetically. Pushing down on the bit tips lifts them up for easy retrieval, and bumping the case won’t knock all the bits around.
Klein 4-in-1 Electronics Screwdriver ($9.97) – With Phillips #0 and #00, and slotted 1/8″ and 3/32″ bit styles, this Klein precision electronics screwdriver is a good fit for various household tasks.
If you want something different and less expensive, the Stanley 4-way pen screwdriver ($1.97) has the same slotted bit sizes but swaps a Phillips #1 for the #00.
Mayhew Scratch Awl ($6.97) – If you can only buy one tool on this list, make it this scratch awl. This awl can be used for marking layout lines on different surfaces, and it is also a great way to pierce softer materials or poke small starter holes for screws and drill bits. Don’t underestimate the effect precision screw placements can have on outcome of a project.
The StudBuddy Magnetic Stud Finder ($9.97) – The StudBuddy, made in the USA, is one of the simplest ways of finding wood stud locations behind drywall surfaces. Basically, what it does is locate the screws that secure drywall panels to wood framing, and it points up and down along the stud. The StudBuddy is fairly easy to align by eye, allowing you to track a stud up or down to where you want to mount something.
Even if you upgrade to a more sophisticated stud finder or detector in the future, the StudBuddy never needs batteries and can still be used for layout purposes.
Empire 9″ Polycast Torpedo Level ($2.97) – Leveling things by eye is a good way to end up with a crooked shelf or similar types of imperfections. This one is very inexpensive and is good to throw in your kit for infrequent use.
If you’d like an upgrade, Home Depot also has an Empire True Blue 9-inch level 2-pack for $8.97.
What else would you add to this kit? Maybe a 7-inch rafter square? Combination square? Woodworking chisels?
With this post I sought to focus on a limited selection of tools that offer expanded capabilities and improved results. An awl, for instance, isn’t an essential, but can absolutely have a noticeable impact on many types of projects.
More From This Series
- The Best Utility Knives at Home Depot
- The Best Basic Tool Kit for Beginner DIYers
- 5 Must-Have Tools for New Parents
- 5 DIY Tool & Workshop Upgrades Everyone Will Love
See More: Home Depot DIY Tool Kit Buying Guides
Good choices! Those tools aren’t just very useful, but good bargains in their category.
I could make a couple alternative suggestions, but that doesn’t mean I disagree with the ones you chose.
For an awl, I like my Dasco one-piece steel awl. It’s “heavy duty” as far as awls go. It could double as an alignment punch. I believe Klien’s awl is the same thing but re-branded. Not expensive either. No quibbles with the Mayhew though – they make good stuff. I didn’t realize it was that cheap!
For a precision screwdriver set, I’m liking the Wiha/Xiaomi set you recommended in a previous article. That Husky set actually looks quite similar. Maybe the Husky is the better bargain. The Wiha bits have held up nicely for me though.
That Dewalt flush-cutting saw is also sold under Stanley branding. I have what is clearly the exact same thing with a different name. Handy little saw. Lee Valley has some good upgrade options, but if you need to upgrade from the Dewalt/Stanley, you probably use it often.
Clamps – I would probably go with Irwin quick-grips first. They seem more versatile to me. I have one-handed spring clamps but use the Irwin (and similar styles from other brands) way more often.
I’ve never heard of the Stud Buddy before – neat idea. There’s one that’s somewhat similar in function called the “Pop Socket” I think. That one is also magnetic.
I’m thinking of where the kit might go next.
For additions, I’m thinking if not this round of expansion to the “basic tool kit”, then the next one it might be time to mention dedicated screwdrivers and a small socket set.
Adjustable pliers were included in the previous kit, but it would also probably soon make sense to add side cutters and needle-nose too.
I should mention an adjustable wrench too – I thought that was in the previous round until I looked back at it.
Assuming you had an adjustable wrench, I’d want a socket set soon after and before a combination wrench set.
You’re thinking of the StudPop – https://toolguyd.com/studpop-inexpensive-magnetic-stud-finder/ .
The two tools take different approaches. One thing I like about the StudBuddy is that you can align it vertically and then sight up or down to mark stud locations away from the drywall screw placement.
Ha! I was. Didn’t realize you wrote about that one too.
Well here’s one more:
Canada-specific (sorry), but an interesting take on the same concept – complete with a rotatable level vial!
I should mention the store selling that is well-know for inflating regular prices and offering big sale discounts. I expect it will be about $6 in the semi-regular sales cycle.
StudPop also makes this one that include level and plumb spirit vials:
Just FYI, the Dasco Pro 7″ one-piece all steel awl (USA made) is only $6 at Home Depot: https://www.homedepot.com/p/Dasco-Pro-7-in-Scratch-Awl-431-0/100192459
I honestly thought it was the Wiha/Xiaomi set until I read your comment, I started reading the post, went to do something else, then came back and skipped the part where he talks about it I guess. The are suspiciously similar in aesthetics (obviously not the same when you look at the details).
Menards has nice 32oz dead blow hammer for under $10.
Had to go back to the other thread and read some comments.
like the addition of the level, I’d drop the Klein driver for the husky multi-bit. Since it doubles on functions. and the other kit had a larger multi-bit.
So I might consider as an add some basic main driver set. 1 2 3 philps and 3 size slotted. Again going on the basic home repair.
Don’t know if you wanted a dollar limit but again I’d consider as a tack onto the previous set some wrench set.
If going down specific paths – might be worth getting someone a hand saw or 2 and maybe an old time miter box. And I would throw on a small rafter square first.
might kick in a socket tester so a person could work a socket replacement or something.
Assuming this is an add-on to the previous beginner kit – I’d add an adjustable wrench.
Next I’d add a set of hex keys. Hex keys are going to be heavily used by any DIYer working with house hardware or furniture from the last 20 years.
Finally, a set of needlenose pliers. Probably the pliers I use the most on random DIY projects.
At some point any DIYer is going to want an electric drill. In the past, I have gifted people a corded Ryobi drill as a starting point. Perhaps cordless is worth it now, but lots of folks needs something they can use a few times a year with minimal hassle.
Completely agree with pee-dubs that hex keys would be the next purchase. I might even put them in the basic set.
I’m always amazed at how infrequent my use of hex keys is, especially given the urgency others relate about them.
I’m in the same boat. Not fond of hex keys. I much prefer a bit driver or bit ratchet with the allen bits or whatever you call them.
To be fair, I think we’re talking about a very basic kit.
Someone starting off their household maybe?
If that’s true then there’s gonna be a heck of a lot of flat pack furniture building. A decent set of Allen keys is a godsend when your other option is IKEA’s own.
In the kingdom of the blind, the one eye’d man is king and all that 😉
I do think that it’s important to consider what Boyd mentions (this is for a basic tool kit) but I also really like hex keys for a lot of homeowner/DIY applications even compared to other options.
I’m not a mechanic or contractor, so if I’m working on a project the time it takes is (within reason) less important than the quality of the result. I like the feel you get from a one piece hex key for assembly work, and the slimmer profile makes it easier to get into smaller spaces.
I’m super surprised that Wayne and Stacey have so little use for hex keys, I use mine all the time!
My favorite thing to do when putting flat-pack furniture together; is to take the cheap hex key it comes with and cut the short end off with a hack saw. Then chuck it into a drill and go to work. I use my own hex keys (Wiha ball-end sets) if I get into a spot I can’t use the drill. Then just throw away the cheap hex pieces when I’m done. Not only does this make putting together cheap furniture faster and easier, but I’m also spared the anguish of figuring out what to do with the cheap hex key afterwards- because my obsessive brain can’t handle the idea of throwing away a perfectly good tool, even if it’s just a cheap metric hex key.
Having a hex key for the set screws on your door handles can come in handy and the long-pattern one that fits the set screw can also be used to pop the passage lock when your toddler accidentally locks themselves in the loo.
again without a cost target might be good to look at sanding items. Like a sanding pad or maybe even a cheap reasonable 1/4 sheet
For homeowners, a toilet auger might save a call to the plumber. There are much better ones available from Ridgid, Cobra and General but here’s an inexpensive Husky (I think Olympia Tools is the OEM):
A plunger (aka plumber’s force cup) is another useful item – which can work on sinks and toilets. Here’s an inexpensive HDX brand (from Masco/Brasscraft/PlumbShop) one:
Most of the list looks great to me.
My nitpicking: I think the Klein electronics screwdriver is made redundant by the Husky set. Honestly I’d think that most beginners could probably get by with just the electronics driver but the Husky set does everything the Klein does and more.
I’m also not sure I’d throw an awl into a beginner’s tool kit this early. Yes, it can be used for layout and whatnot but so can a pencil, pen, marker, knife, etc. And while they can be handy for starting screws you can also do that with a nail. I’d leave the awl out from a general recommendation list. I’m on the fence about the saw. On the one hand I totally agree that a simple pull-style saw is a great tool to have around, they are surprisingly useful, and a good one is surprisingly capable. It belongs on the list. What I am on the fence about is exactly which model. The dewalt you listed isn’t bad, but it could be better. There are several good Japanese Ryoba saws available for about 20 bucks from a variety of makers. These have a longer cutting edge, and have both rip and crosscut teeth on the same tool so you aren’t just limited to small things. You can cut a 2×4 easily with a Ryoba. Another excellent choice, though a bit more expensive, would be a Silky Pocketboy 170mm or a Gomboy, those should be about $30-45 depending on exactly what model and where you buy it from.
I say ditch the electronics driver and the awl, replace with a pair of tweezers and consider upgrading the saw.
I think you convinced me about the saw.
I have the same one recommended here and it’s useful and inexpensive; however, when I consider this is the only saw in the kit so far (presuming this theoretical “DIYer” bought the contents from round 1 first), the utility seems a little too narrow.
That saw produces a very fine cut, but it’s slow and small – I can’t imagine trying to cut 2x material with it, for example.
There’s a much larger Dewalt/Stanley double-sided pull saw (I have that one too) that would make more sense for tasks like that. It could maybe be an alternative if the DIY leaned more towards construction-type projects as opposed to fine woodworking. Still pretty precise though – if compared to a traditional construction push saw.
It’s actually really tricky to recommend a single saw! A saw that’s good for one thing is awkward for other tasks.
I think the Silky you mentioned is better suited as an upgrade option later on. If you’re going with a folding saw like that I would suggest the 7-inch folding Husky saw – it’s cheap and sturdy.
OR Maybe the Milwaukee folding jab saw? It uses reciprocating saw blades. That way you could use it to cut metal, wood, plastic etc. Except it is a do-it-all saw that is not that great at any one thing.
I know what you mean regarding “the only saw in the kit”. That’s what made me think of a ryoba-style saw: it’s one tool that can do quite a lot of different work. If I could only have one wood saw that’s what I would want. And these days good ones are pretty easy to find, like you mention even Dewalt/Stanley have them now. I saw a Marples branded one at Lowes a while back too. There are many options at a reasonable price point, and I think they’re a great choice for a beginner since they cover everything from cutting small dowels up through cutting fence or shelf boards, 2×4’s, etc.
The folding jab saw is an interesting thought. It certainly is flexible, but I find them a real chore to work with. I have a Snap-on version, I’ve had it for 20 years but I use it very very rarely. Most recip saw blades are not very effective when used by hand. The metal cutting ones have too wide of a kerf, a traditional hacksaw blade cuts much easier. The blades with set teeth tend to grab in the material. The blades with fleam filed teeth, like a pruning blade, can cut well but are often too aggressive for the work. That tool is my last-ditch option when no other saw that I have will fit where I need to cut.
Good suggestion. I’m on board.
There’s even this Irwin pull saw Stuart wrote about before that I would likely choose before the flush cut saw:
Not quite as multi-purpose as your double-sided Ryoba suggestion, but it would be more compact – and still very cheap!
You know, I was about to make a similar reply regarding the Saw… and then saw you beat me to the punch!
I agree, though. A good Ryoba type saw is a great first saw in a budding DIY’ers toolkit… And they are not particularly expensive. They are incredibly flexible in what they can do, and easy to use. A good very basic one that comes to mind is the Irwin / Marples one sold in most local Lowes. Is about a 10″ blade, if I recall correctly.
Koko The Talking Ape
Silkies (Silkys?) are great saws, but there are only a few in their line that I’d consider for woodworking. They are mostly designed for pruning limbs and such, so they have large coarse teeth, good for fast cutting on green wood.
Ryobas are double-sided, with rip teeth on one side and crosscut teeth on the other. But if they’re properly taper-ground, the blade is thickest at the teeth, gets thinner in the middle, then gets thick again at the other side. That can make the blade bind in the cut a little, especially on longer cuts. So for a next-level kit, I would have two dozukis, one rip and one crosscut, both without spine reinforcements, and a fine-toothed saw for joinery. Woodcraft has a good selection.
Silkys are available in a variety of different designs. Some are curved, which is great for pruning but lousy for woodworking. The specific models I mentioned have straight edges and are available in several different choices of TPI. Of course the very coarse ones would be a bad choice for general purpose DIY or woodworking but you can get those models as fine as 22 tpi. In fact there are special models specifically made for craft or construction use as opposed to pruning.
I fully agree that two separate saws would be preferable but this is still very much a beginner tier list hence my suggestion for just one.
Koko The Talking Ape
22 tpi would be fine, but most Silkys aren’t available in that, even the “fine” toothed blades. As far as I can see, there’s only one model that offers more than 22 tpi.
Meanwhile, there are plenty of other manufacturers that make saws suited for woodworking. Even if you stick with a ryoba, they would be better than nearly all Silkys.
Right, I completely agree that most are too coarse but that’s why I chose to limit my suggestions to models which are available with fine teeth.
They have two very interesting DIY oriented variants of the Pocketboy 170. Part nos 338-17 and 336-17. The former is named the “DIY” and has a pink handle, the latter is called the “大工” which means “carpenter” and it has a light grey (almost white) handle. Both have identical specs on paper (22 tpi, 0.9mm kerf), and a special blade shape that’s wider than that of a typical folding saw which helps make nice straight cuts. There’s also special teeth at the tip of the blade for plunge cutting drywall cutouts. I’ve been trying to figure out the difference between the two. The specs look identical which makes me think they are the same just different color handles but then again they do have different part numbers for replacement blades so I assume there must be some difference?
I do concur that for general woodworking a Ryoba would be preferable, but I just wanted to suggest another option for people to consider.
The Silky Mini-Mini is what I think your are talking about. I believe that they come in 20TPI and 36TPI with 150mm long blades.
There are two 20TPI models – one for wood (162-15) and one for plastic cutting (164-15) . The 36TPI model (166-15) is supposedly for metal cutting. Here’e a link to the wood cutting model
I’m not sure if they are anything special. But the Silkiy pruning saws – that my wife (she has training as an arborist) use – perform superbly. When needed – I get to use (a bit too long and heavy for her) the larger pole saw that we have:
I actually had not seen the Mini-Minis before so thank you for sharing. I was referring specifically to the pocketboy and the gomboy models. The mini-minis look like a great choice if someone were doing mostly fine work but I’m envisioning that “DIY” implies occasional larger projects for which a small saw like that would be frustratingly slow to use.
My general DIY suggestion, if we’re talking the folding route, would be a 338-17, 336-17, or 342-18.
Now that I think about it, it’s worth mentioning that silky blades are replaceable, so one could buy a coarse model and a spare fine blade (or vice versa), and then be set for everything from pruning in the yard to doing delicate trim projects. Take any of those suggestions and add a 471-17 10 tpi curved blade for the big stuff.
If you want a larger saw the Gomboy series ranges up to 300mm blade length, from 20tpi to 8 tpi. Likewise one could get coarse model saw and a swappable fine blade.
I’d have to throw a basic 6-8ft step ladder in here somewhere.
I think the Kreg Pocket Hole Jig took my projects to the next level, everything looks much more professional. I use decking screws instead of the more expensive Kreg brand.
Another, slightly smaller, made-in-USA awl:
In some situations this works better than the one shown in the article.
Along the lines of the Awl, I think my personal recommendation along those lines wouldn’t be specifically an awl, but a simple spring type center punch (which can be had for the $10 price territory). In my experience, with a high hardness tip, it can be used for basic scribing and some soft piercing… but most importantly, it excels at its intended purpose as a center punch; as you said, the importance of precise hole placement is not to be underestimated! Especially when one is not completely comfortable drilling nice straight holes in work surfaces, that little dimple can really help prevent wandering, etc, when your technique is not exactly spot-on.
Not a bad suggestion Tim. I lived a surprisingly long time sans awl.
On the other hand, if you can get a Mayhew awl for $7 – why not! 😋
I work as a professional remodeler, and im always in search of a great work knife. I just bought the toughbuilt 2 in 1 knife/scraper and i can say that it is awesome. I dont regularly like retractable knives, i tend to gravitate more towards folding knives, but this knife is the exception. The extending/retracting mechanism is super smooth, almost addictive. I highly recommend it for anyone who is looking for a good knife, whether they are DIYers, apprentices or professionals
I very strongly support the functions behind the awl recommendation as there are few other changes you can make that will so greatly improve your accuracy vs pencil marking alone. I would however steer folks away from this style compromise awl. I own it and it’s ok for softwood and other soft materials. Effectiveness diminishes in harder materials and I can’t always get the steep point right up against a reference or keep it from wandering as in following wood grain.
Rather, since they are usually cheap, I would recommend a pair of the more specialized tools as appropriate to the function.
Function: Scribing and transferring thin but physically index-able layout lines –
* Option1: Scratch awl (long thin tapered point instead of the steep secondary bevel on the Mayhew)
* Option2 (better): Marking knife (double bevel woodworking style, exacto/swann morton blade holder, single bevel marking knife, slim folding utility knife)
Function2: Accurately start a hole for drilling (or bore small hole entirely)
Pyramid pointed Square (aka Birdcage) Awl – Advantage over the round pointed awl is that you can rotate it back and forth to ream/cut rather than split or compress material, which keeps it in place better when you apply pressure, cleaner hole, won’t split wood.
C.S. Osborne (of Harrison NJ) is the maker of all sorts of straight and bent awls, fids and hafts – for sewing, leatherwork, metalwork, racquet stringing etc.
Koko The Talking Ape
For marking wood cuts, I prefer a small, light snap knife, the kind you can get 10 for $7. In fact I prefer them to any dedicated marking knife or folding knife, because they are safer or faster to deploy, or both. You can pull one out of your pocket and have the blade out and locked nearly instantly. Dropping one won’t put your feet at risk.
On wood, an awl can leave a splintery line. A thin blade, sharpened on the long side like in snap knives, leaves a crisp, deep, indelible mark. A few swipes on a strop will often restore an edge, but if you don’t feel like it, a fresh tip is always available. Replacement blades are super-cheap.
For marking holes for mounting hinges and such, I either use a Phillips head screwdriver (because it’s self-centering in a hinge hole) or a self-centering drill bit. Sometimes I use double-sided tape to hold the hinge in place while I drill the hole, but I suppose a drop of hot glue would work too.
I agree that a knife is a superior marking tool to the awl. That’s why I think the awl is skippable for a beginner: the original tool list included a utility knife. While not as ergonomic as a proper marking knife it is certainly adequate for a beginner’s marking needs.
And of course if our “DIY Beginner” gets into woodworking more seriously then they can pick up their choice of awl and/or marking knife at that time.
I think a torpedo level should be in a basic tool kit so you can level your appliances, hang up pictures, level your monitor etc. The next one up should be a 4 foot level for when you want to put up a post, gate, or plumb a door. You can get a good one for about $25. Next would be some self centering drill bits for that door install or gate repair or your kitchen cabinet project. I got a Bosch set made in USA from Amazon also for less than $25. I assume there is already a drill in the tool kit. If not a corded drill, yes corded, is great for the basic tool kit. Corded drills are inexpensive so you can put more money towards bits and accessories. You don’t have to worry about buying batteries or what format to get 12v/18v or what vendor you commit to. That can be decided later on after more experience. Finally, a next level tool would be a good multimeter. You can always find a use around the house or your car. Fluke, Amprobe, Klein, and Extech all make good multimeters for about $50. (Of course the Fluke has slightly less features than the others for a similar price but the point is that $50 can get you a meter from a reputable vendor).
Having a longer level can come in handy for both garden and indoor projects. If you are hanging a picture or mirror that is better supported off of 2 hooks – you can measure up from the floor or down from the ceiling hoping they are level. But using a 48 inch level – you can mark your hook positions precisely and faster. The level will also be useful for landscape and edging work.
While I’m a fan of Stabila – serviceable plastic levels can be had for around $10:
Gordon R. Brown
Why isn’t there a Home Depot link for the Dewalt Flush-Cutting Saw?
When I put that item in the Home Depot search box, the search produced 758 results.
A search for flush-cutting saw yielded five results for Dremel, Milwaukee, and Genesis single blades for Sawzall-type tools.
This look like the one : https://www.amazon.com/DEWALT-DWHT20541-Flush-Cut-Pull/dp/B0051QIDOI
I couldn’t find it. I found it at both stores I’ve been shopping at, but couldn’t find it on the website.
I can find it on the Canadian site: https://www.homedepot.ca/product/dewalt-flush-cut-pull-saw/1000708639
Here’s a (USA) link to the Dewalt pull saw of the style MM mentioned:
I absolutely hate Home Depot’s search tool. Even if you type in the exact part number or sku for the item you want to buy the site will still bury it among hundreds of other items.
I search HD’s website via google, like this for example:
site:www.homedepot.com Dewalt Flush-cutting saw
I do that too – nothing came up for this or Stanley model numbers or THD store SKU for the Dewalt.
Maybe a jimmy or jakemy pry tool to complement the precision bit drivers. The prying tool is really helpful for opening battery covers (and for when you have really short fingernails) it also allow you to open electronic devices without breaking the small clips that hold the shell together.
Some long/needle nose pliers with side cutters.
since this is basically about what you can buy only at Home Depot or that seems to be the minor focus.
Is there a spudger or minim pry kit that you can buy to go with the driver kit. That would be a needed add.
cost of additions – I’d also second the add of a socket kit or a combo wrench kit. probably for more general home repair
also like the first thread – in today’s flat pack and other uses I’d get a ball end hex key set in here. probably go ahead and get 2 SAE and Metric.
Metric hex keys or drivers are very useful if you have bicycles to look after.
last 3 diy kit furniture devices I’ve bought all required a 5mm hex. pulling out my ratcheting bit holder and my ball end hex key – made quicker work of it; power screw driver with hex bit and the needed philips for other parts cuts down the time quickly.
Koko The Talking Ape
I got that Husky precision driver set when you mentioned it last year, and I like it a lot. The case is particularly good, as you say. My only quibbles are that the handle is pretty smooth. I would like some knurling or texture on it, and if I can figure out a way to do add that without destroying it, I might try. The other is that the case won’t close if the handle is oriented the wrong way in its slot. It has to have a flat side facing upward, or else a rib in the lid will contact the handle. But that’s an easy fix. It doesn’t seem to be widely available though; it’s not in any Home Depots in Denver, and it isn’t available for mail-order.
Instead of that flush-cut saw, I would’ve included either a folding ryoba for woodworking (maybe a Silky like MM suggests) or a hacksaw, depending on the kind of work you do.
Spring clamps are useful, but you also need at least a few bar clamps with screws, for greater strength and capacity.
And for a DIYer, I’d throw in a combination square, or at least a rafter square. If you want to build even the simplest project, they’re essential.
Gonna pick on you a bit, Stuart… Fair warning…
Engineer EDC Scissors, the Pentel Graphgear 1000 series Mechanical Pencil, and the PicoPen-Dry or Black Fine Point, Pencil and Marker respectively. And it can’t hurt, if you can stretch the budget a bit, to get a Leatherman Wave/Wave+ in the mix. If you’re really not hurting for cash, a Streamlight Microstream (Make sure it has the tow-way pocket clip/lanyard ring.) or its equivalent OLight.
Why these things? The Leatherman Wave is self-evident, especially with the bit extender and bit kit. The rest? Well… I’d explain, but, Stuart talked me into getting them, and all I have left for an explanation is that I needed them, whether I liked it or not… And now I can no longer do 90% of my daily routine without them, so… Pros and Cons of said items are in Stuart’s many, many posts promoting them. They are awesome, and you need them if you’re doing DIY.
…And I’m thinking I need to remember a Mallet at some point… Hammers are not always what I want… and either a Deadblow or just a Soft-Faced something-or-other will let me work with my punches and leather working supplies with less ringing in my ears.
*Two-Way Pocket Clip/Lanyard Ring… Correction Gremlin just caught me on that one… Oops.
I absolutely agree that a sturdy set of scissors is a must-have.
Basic flashlights of some sort are also an essential.
I do keep a leatherman in my kitchen junk drawer and in every vehicle, though there are a lot of other tools I’d buy for a beginner before one of those. These lists have yet to include such important things as hex keys or bits, a square of some sort, needlenose pliers, adjustable wrench, pry bar…the wave is what, about a hundred bucks? You could buy solid versions of all those tools I just listed and still have cash left over
IMHO that is a much better investment than the wave.
I just pulled some random stuff off Home Depot for right about the same budget:
Husky 8″ needle-nose pliers $12
Empire rafter square $8
Stanley Wonder Bar $12
Milwaukee Jobsite scissors $15
Crescent adjustable wrench set, 6 & 10 inch $23
Tekton Long-arm Hex Key set combo, Standard & Metric, $15
Ryobi impact-rated driver bit kit 50-pc, $16
I feel that list would be far more useful to a beginner than a Leatherman.
Probably. I’m just… A ‘Leatherman Kind of Guy’ in this case, that’s all.
I tend to stop looking at the price of Leatherman tools at this point. I know that’s stupid, and I should get a firm smack in the head for such a thing. I have a wish list for models I want to buy still. And for me, there’s no “Kitchen Drawer” kind of thing… I carry all of mine together. So by the time I’m done I will probably need to carry a bandoleer of them or something like that.
Plus… Due to some issues with violence happening in my general area lately, I’m starting to consider a Benchmade Crooked Creek knife, all blacked out, with Carbon Fibre Scales, as a defensive knife.
We all have that… “How do you DIY?” kind of mindset of our own. For the most part, I was posting to pick on Stuart, since he is the one that recommended everything else to me, and now I can’t live without them. Plus, without knowing exactly what kinds of specializations an individual will prefer to tackle on the fly… You do kinda wanna go EDC style, so they have as much covered as possible, without having to carry a toolbox. That way, as they go along, they start to specialize in whatever they’re most comfortable with, and they get the correct full-sized tools as time goes by, replacing the all-in-one items.
The EDC scissors, for example… Them and the Pentel Graphgear are a bit of a running joke between Stuart and I… I wouldn’t even own them at all, if Stuart hadn’t done his recommendation voodoo on me, where I suddenly felt an uncontrollable need for them. Am I happy with them? Definitely. But, if you had a gun to my head, asking me to choose which Scissors to go to in general… Those EDC scissors have a lot of competition, including precision scissors on my Leatherman Style CS, and Leatherman Raptor emergency response scissors. That’s pretty steep competition that the Engineers aren’t quite designed to go against. But, they are significantly less expensive options, for extremely high quality EDC.
Joke or not I do think a stout pair of “shop scissors”, EMT shears aka “penny cutters”, or similar heavy duty scissors are a must-have tool. The engineer are a fine choice as are many others. The Raptors are nice but expensive, Fiskars have served me well in the past, Milwaukees are great, there are many good choices.
I’m a huge fan of this little Gearwrench Microdriver set. I think I saw it on here first. Sometimes dips down to 13-15, usually at $20. I have several of them.
That’s not my favorite bit driver, but it would be a decent toe in the water – and could solve the “hex bit” recommendation that keeps coming up in the comments (I personally don’t like L-keys at all and would much rather use this).
P.s. I’m not a fan because I find it a bit large. However, perhaps I could endorse it as a decent budget option. Husky makes one that’s nearly identical too.
My rathet came apart the first time I used it 🙁
I’d definitely get a VIM Socket/Bit Ratchet or if you want to splurge one of the flex head models that are pricier. Get some more bits, a bit extension, bit holder, sockets, and a wiha precision adapter and there’s not much you can’t get to… I use this type of setup a lot.
Home Depot Link: https://thd.co/3Bg1Qme
VIM Tools just came out with the Flex head version:
It’s just like these versions:
Mister Worker Link for the Facom.
Facom and Wurth sell the same thing. I’ve got the Wurth. I’ll definitely pick up a couple of these VIM versions if they go on sale. I’m not sure who is making these for everyone.
Vim (Durston Mfg.) make cool looking (I haven’t tried them) tin (2 inch long) ratchets in 1/4 and 3/8 inch drive sizes. They don’t seem to be widely available:
I saw those. They look cool but still trying to figure out how to use those? Is it for getting into deep recesses?
the one in the autobody link is a special tool for some body fasteners that use a 10mm hex shank.
The first post is showing a device that is 1/4 hex on one side and 1/4 square on the other. This is becoming a commonly used auto tool. interior work – other stuff where you might encounter a screw (philips, hex,etc) for a bit set and also nuts/bolts that are small in the 1/4 drive range. one tool spins both.
EZ Red makes one that I sort of lust after and will buy one day.
Level, clamps, and either precision screwdriver option would make my list. Beyond that, I’d go more down a basic plumbing (channel lock, another adjustable wrench, Teflon tape, etc) and electrical (stripper, outlet tester, etc) kit route. Maybe keyhole saw and taping knife too.
I never understood magnetic stud finders. Don’t they require the nail or screw to be perfectly centered in order to locate the center of the stud? If the person that attached the drywall placed a nail near the edge of the stud, wouldn’t the magnet just find that, and at best you will drill into the edge of the stud and a worse into the void just past the edge? I have a few Zircons and a Franklin and contend that neither of them are that great, but I don’t see how a magnet would be better.
A magnet is simply cheaper. You’re exactly right, all they can do is find the screws or nails so if the fastener is off-center then so is the “location” of the stud.
Here are some things I would consider essentials as a step-up for the intermediate-stage homeowner or DIYer based on my experiences:
1. Adjustable Wrenches – A pair of 10″ wrenches or an 8″ & 12″ are the perfect combination for 95% of home tasks, and are versatile and useful for other projects in lieu of owning multiple wrenches of the same type.
2. Pipe Wrench – At least one, with a jaw capacity of 2″ or greater, is almost a requirement if you have to do any light plumbing work. They’re also super useful if you do any sort of iron pipe modernist furniture or shelving in your house.
3. Vise Grips (or locking pliers) – These are incredibly useful for dealing with things like stuck fasteners (getting that stripped screw out), gripping stems on plumbing appliances, or used as a lever to prevent something from rotating (grip it and lock against something so the pliers can’t turn). Also useful for automotive applications. I think the basic 3-piece set of Husky works fine.
4. Klein Non-Contact Voltage Tester – If you do ANYTHING with electrical, even low voltage DC stuff, the voltage tester is invaluable.
5. Trend Diamond Stones – If you own ANYTHING with an edge, Trend diamond stones (or cards) are the best way to sharpen that edge. I have several ranging from 180 grit to 1000 grit for various tools. They last WAY longer than conventional stones when used properly (and can be used to lap a conventional stone flat).
6. Cheap Contractor Grade Chisels – 99% of people will never chop a mortise, or chisel a curve by hand, or do anything beyond maybe chiseling a strike plate or small hinge inset; the people who do more than that are a very niche group within the woodworking world that like hand tools for crafting. Most people will get by just fine with a set of Stanley/Buck Bros/DeWalt/Irwin/whatever from HD/Lowes as long as they know how to properly sharpen them.
7. Nail Sets – Really this is a basic tool almost everyone using nails should have.
8. Countersink Bits – If you’re using any kind of screws in hardwood or screws that aren’t self-seating, you should have a set of countersink bits.
9. Indexed set of Drill Bits – If you’re past the beginner stage, you’ve probably encountered the need for drill bits in sizes that aren’t included in the basic 4-pc or 6-pc branded home center set. You don’t need a fancy 100+ bit set with metric, imperial, and letter bits (although if you own a drill press, this is a useful set to have). Most people can get away with the 15-29 piece set of imperial bits sold at your local big box.
10. Set of Auger Bits or Spade Bits – These are just useful for making holes from 1/2″ up to 1-1/4″.
11. Hole Saw – Don’t go buy a huge set, 75% of those saws will never get used. Buy a mandrel and individual saw sizes as needed. I’m partial to the Milwaukee HoleDozer simply because they come in a huge variety of sizes and only have like 2 mandrel sizes.
12. Speed Square – I have several, in various sizes. I currently prefer the Empire aluminum ones. Useful for crosscuts, marking, layouts, and several other tasks. Any DIYer who is building something will likely need one, especially if using dimensional stock from the home center.
13. Good Scissors – At a minimum, you should have one pair of super nice, comfortable scissors that are SHARP. Keep the old dull pair for cutting garbage that will abuse them.
14. Hacksaw – A good hacksaw is super useful. Not quite as capable as an angle grinder with a cutoff wheel, but definitely safer!
15. Steel Punch Set – Useful for things larger than nails (or really big nails) that need precision strikes.
16. Wire Strippers & Side Nips – If you do anything electrical or use wire as a visual aspect of your DIY projects, you will likely encounter the need for these.
I’m sure I could keep thinking of things, but at this point I feel like I’ve covered most of the useful things that a homeowner or intermediate DIY’er would be looking to add to their collection.
I’m curious about the pipe wrench. Maybe I’m weird, but I have a pretty expansive tool collection and my own shop – but I don’t own one. Is that something you think a non-plumber would benefit from?
I’m not a plumber and don’t do a lot of plumbing (obviously). I also own a substantial variety of pliers, including all the Channellock tongue and groove pliers from 4 to 16 inches and all the V-jaw pliers they make (I’m a fan of Channellock 😄). I’m thinking that basically covers anything I would need a pipe wrench for – but maybe not.
Someone school me – what’s a pipe wrench do special?
So some “schooling” from someone who started out in the plumbing business:
The trade “plumber” derives from the Latin for the metal lead. At one time lead pipes were the norm – and didn’t kill us all because they usually didn’t dissolve or leach out into our drinking water very quickly. But small changes in water chemistry can change all that – so you can’t tell the folks in Flint Michigan (or anywhere else for that matter – as an example) that lead pipes are still OK – or that small amounts of lead will not harm them or their children. Anyway lead pipes aside – the world has changed – technology advances and we moved from lead pipes to other materials.
Getting back to pipe wrenches (often best used in pairs – one to hold – one to turn) – they are a good choice for piping systems that employ screwed connections. When lead piping was abandoned for water services – metallic piping systems moved to pipes with screwed fittings. In the US the standard screw thread connection for things like water, gas and steam piping has a tapered thread pattern that is referred to a NPT. The taper helps insure a water or gas tight seal when the connection is properly made up.
In some older homes – one might find galvanized steel threaded pipe for water service – or perhaps what was called red brass (copper alloy) pipe with screwed fittings. You also might see black iron pipe with screwed fittings for natural gas services and steel pipe for steam heating. These sorts of systems are where the classic pipe (sometimes called Stillson) wrench come in – to make up or break piping connections. A pipe wrench might also be used on drain line fittings (e.g. trap nuts) or drain plugs – but their teeth (designed to grip heavy-walled pipe) will undoubtedly mar those items – and as such are not the tool of choice.
So if your home has mostly sweat-fit copper or PEX tubing for water service – no natural gas – and no steam boiler – you might never encounter much need for a classic pipe wrench
They’re really sort of a one-trick-pony. They’re absolutely fantastic for working with pipes. For anything else? Not really. Like Fred said some people use them on under-sink drain fittings but the aggressive teeth on the pipe wrenches quickly mar or sometimes even ruin the nuts. You can use them on other objects but they had better be strong enough to withstand the teeth biting into them and you need to be willing to accept the marring, so that really limits where they can be used. I have a few but I very rarely use them.
A strange story though, I once had an important seal blow out in my old CAT V80 forklift’s main lift cylinder. I had a spare seal but no real way to get the gland nut off. I couldn’t wait for a hydraulic shop to service it. So I ended up running to the local MRO supply and buying a 48″ Rigid pipe wrench. Came back, clamped the cylinder in a pipe vise bolted to a big steel table, and was then able to get the gland nut off, seals replaced, and the nut back on again leak-free. Expensive wrench, but it was by far the best option at the time.
Ha! Interesting anecdote, because I was just repacking some gland nuts on my old Case 580CK.
On one cylinder the holes for the pin spanner were all ovalled out and I couldn’t get my tool to bite. Someone had obviously been in there before (or possible a few times) because it was all chewed up. In my case though I grabbed my 16″ Channellocks and used them to spin it out – pipe wrench averted!
We did some steamfitting work – requiring quite a bit of brawn as well as skill. A pair of Ridgid #60 wrenches weigh in at over 100 lbs- so just getting them up and into position is a task. But then they can provide some leverage on 6 to 8 inch pipe – and break free really old connections. Sometimes its easier to just cut away the old work – but other times its better to use a big set of wrenches and save what you can
You ever use those special compound-leverage pipe wrenches? I managed to snag a small one at a garage sale for $5 but I’ve only used it once. It looked brand new, I couldn’t resist!
We tried the compound leverage wrenches back in the 1970’s – and the guys did not like them – did not think that they were any more effective than a straight-pattern wrench
From my limited experience I’d think they only way they’d be useful is if you had to work in a really tight spot and didn’t have room for a full-size wrench.
Ridgid (Emerson) and others make wrenches that look a bit like their pipe-wrench cousins – but have smooth (not serrated) jaws. These come in several lengths and are meant for use on unions. They also make a small angled one for use on traps
Outside of what Fred as eloquently stated, they’re useful for joining pipes & fittings if you build modernist pipe shelving and such, they can be used here and there for galvanized pipe (fencing, playground sets, etc) and also for removing balls from a trailer hitch. Seriously, that last one is probably what 90% of my pipe wrench use entails. But two pipe wrenches are easier and cheaper than two large spanners to fit the ball, and they have more potential uses so they don’t live in my truck toolbox.
No ideas, but I would like help with next level combination wrenches – preferably polished chrome for easy cleanup and 6 points at the closed end.
Gearwrench sets seem cheap enough and get decent reviews:
Interesting. Thank you for the response. I’m surprised that GearWrench even makes 6-point combination wrenches. GearWrench quality has unfortunately taken a turn for the worse and most of their tools are now low-grade, Chinese stuff. The SAE wrenches even look terrible in the photos like the sheet moved while the laser was cutting out the open end of the wrenches. I’ll have to research these a little more.
I’m not in the market for these so I did not look closely at the Amazon reviews – which were 80% #5 and 14% #4 out of a supposed 985 ratings. On closer look – some of the newer ratings are #1 complaining about poor fit and finish and other oddities.
Since the idea of going to a 6-point wrench is to provide better grip on the fastener – if the fit is imprecise that negates the whole benefit.
One of the reviews on Amazon compared 6-Point Gearwrench, SK and Proto. The reviewer did not like either the Gearwrench or SK wrenches – but reommended the Proto. This may be a case of you get what you pay for.
BTW – I should have mentioned that Zoro seems to have decent prices on Proto tools. We used Proto and Williams in our Metal/Pipe fabrication plant and our toolroom guy would collect a list waiting on a promo code from Zoro. Back then they would often send you a 20 or 25% off promo code – sometimes even a 30% off. They’d often have restrictions – but we bought a diesel Miller welder using one – and Proto and Williams were usually not restricted – but some brands like Baileigh were. It might be worth getting on their email list
Cats bar and flat bar would be on my list right after hammer. Need to be able to pull incorrect nails or pop trim etc..
Also, not cheap but the Milwaukee demo screwdrivers have done a great job performing multiple functions for me so I would add to the list
suggestion for the next thread. Maybe put a dollar figure on the kit extension, and perhaps make a guide a direction.
Like 100 dollars to spend on expanding general home repair, or on plumbing work, etc.
there is just so many things to add to even general home repair is too open ended as I type this.
sorry meant to add – love the discussion idea though
A 3/4″ through tang chisel.
Very good suggestion.
If it’s time to expand into bar clamps. A magazine pointed out how Harbor Freight has some bargain priced bar clamps. 36’ for$12, 60’ for $18-$19.
That dewalt flush cut saw is garbage. The teeth have too much set and mar the adjacent surface, and they are also exceedingly fragile and break off easily.
Z saw makes a much nicer flush cut saw that doesn’t have these problems for about the same price.
I guess I have a different take. I tend to think of “next level DIYers” as sort of the extremists. This is the guy that builds a kit plane or the guys building backyard roller coasters, or garden steam trains. It probably includes lawn tractor pulls and Punkin Chunkin air cannons and all kinds of other extreme Mark Rober and Destin Rube Goldberg devices as well. They are the hobbyists that basically go from weekender to extreme limits if what you can do in your backyard. They are often “pros” that take their trade work home and blow it out in a spectacular way, if you own a 3D printer or a CNC you are probably a “next level” DIYer.
I think that Stuart used the term “Next Level” to imply that these were the tools that people should buy after his earlier list of the absolute basics, not that we’re talking about advanced hobbyists. We’re obviously not talking about extremists if the lists haven’t included a square or a drill yet.
Stuart did say “Next Level Tools for DIYers”
What Paul seems to be talking about is “Tools for Next-Level DIYers” which might also be an interesting topic for a post.