12 Tools Every Man Should Have in His Toolbox

by Brett on February 17, 2009 · 200 comments

in Manly Skills, Toolmanship


Your girlfriend needs help putting some furniture together. Your wife asks you to install a ceiling fan. Your kid needs her bike fixed. Of course you have the tools to take on these jobs, right? For many younger men these days, owning a well equipped toolbox is something that only their dads do. Often when these men have a project, they have to go to someone else to take care of their handyman needs. But a man should be self-reliant. He should have the tools and know-how to tackle basic projects around the house.

If you’re one of those younger gents who just never got around to stocking a toolbox, below we’ve included a list 12 basic tools that we think every toolbox should have.

Before You Buy

A few things to remember before you head over to the hardware store and go on a shopping spree:

Fork over the money for quality tools. You can easily go to Wal-Mart and buy an entire 102 piece, Made in China, piece of crap tool set for $30. Fight the temptation. These chintzy tools will probably last you a few uses before they snap or break on you. Invest your money in quality, durable tools that will last a lifetime. If you have no clue about which brand to go for, Craftsman tools are a pretty safe bet. They’re durable and tough, and their hand tools come with a lifetime warranty.

One at a time. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither are great tool boxes. You don’t need to buy your complete set of tools all at once (unless of course you have the scratch to do so). Spread your acquisitions out so you don’t break the bank. Another good way to build your toolbox arsenal is to ask for specific tools for presents on different occasions. If you’re a young man just graduating high school, ask for some tools instead of money. That’s when I started my tool collection. I also know of a couple of (lucky) guys whose friends threw them a “Man Shower” before they got hitched. All of their buddies brought a tool or piece of camping gear to bestow upon the groom-to-be. Also, Christmas, your birthday, and Father’s Day are all great times to acquire tools.

Claw Hammer

hammer1Image from 1exile08

A good, solid hammer can be used for driving nails into wood as well as small demolition jobs. My old man would use his hammer for damn near everything, much to the chagrin of my mother. Go for the classic 16 ounce hammer. It’s heavy enough for most basic home repair needs, but light enough for you to carry around without it being a nuisance. While your grandpa probably used a hammer with a wooden handle, you shouldn’t. Wood handles break easily. Go with something that has a long-lasting synthetic handle. Also, when picking out a hammer, you want one that has a good balance in your hand and isn’t head heavy. It’s a lot like picking out a golf club or a baseball bat. So go to the hardware store and try a few out before making your selection.

Flathead Screwdriver


Image by CBJason

A flathead screwdriver has a single blade that fits into the single slot of a flathead screw. Flathead screws have been around for a l o n g time, so it’s likely your great-great grandpa had a few flathead screwdrivers in his tool chest. While the Phillips screw has quickly taken the place of flathead screws in most projects, it’s still a good idea to have a few flathead drivers in your tool arsenal. In addition to driving in screws, flatheads can also be improvised for different uses like light prying, scrapping, and nudging. Quick tip: make sure the electricity is turned off BEFORE you start sticking a screwdriver in a light socket to pry out a broken bulb. Trust me.

Phillips Screwdriver


Image by milliped

Invented by Henry F. Phillips in 1936, the Phillips head screw has quickly replaced the flathead screw in most projects. A Phillips head screwdriver has a four star point at the end that fits into the corresponding screw’s shallow, cross-shaped depression. This design allows a user to apply more torque than is possible with a flathead screwdriver. The depression forces the blades of the Phillips screwdriver to slip out before any damaging over-torquing can occur. As mentioned above, Phillips screws have pretty much replaced flathead screws, so make sure you have a good set of Phillips screwdrivers in varying sizes.

Tape Measure


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Whether you’re building a gun cabinet or measuring to see if that flat screen TV will fit in your den, a dependable 25′ retractable metal measuring tape is a must. Plus, they’re fun for your kids. I remember my brother and I would take my dad’s measuring tape and extend the tape all the way out, lock it, and then watch it retract. It was double fun when the end would accidently pinch my brother’s finger, and he would start crying.

Crescent Wrench


Image by treedork

Of all your tools, this baby will probably see the most action. It’s like having 50 wrenches in one. The crescent wrench is an adjustable wrench with a sliding jaw that changes the width of the wrench. So you can use the same tool on different size nuts and bolts. Remember, when you’re using a crescent wrench, the movable jaw is located on the side towards which the rotation is to be performed. This reduces the chance of backlash.

Socket Wrench (aka the ratchet)


Image by john4kc

When you have a large project that requires you to tighten and loosen a bunch of nuts and bolts, it’s time to put aside the crescent wrench and reach for its more efficient brother. The socket wrench’s ratcheting mechanism allows you to tighten a nut without having to remove and refit the wrench after each and every turn. This can make your life a whole lot easier when you’re taking on larger projects. A 3/8-inch socket wrench with a couple of extenders and a set of sockets should do the trick.

Vise Grip (locking) Pliers


Image by jon m ryan

Vise grip pliers come in handy when you need an extra hand but only have your own two mitts to work with. Vise grip pliers are pliers that can lock in place. Some locking pliers use a mechanism that allows one- handed release of the locking mechanism; others require two hands to disengage. They are versatile tools that can be used as pliers, a pipe wrench, an adjustable wrench, wire cutters, a ratchet, or a clamp. Standard 5-10WR pliers are good for most stuff around the house and garage.

Needle Nose Pliers


Image by Oh my gil

An essential electrician’s tool, needle nose pliers are good for any household project which requires you to cut, bend, grip, or strip wire. Because of their long and skinny shape, they’re particularly useful for getting into small cavities. You can also use them to pinch your younger brother with.

Cordless Drill and Bits


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A good cordless drill is an essential tool to have in your toolbox. It can be used for drilling holes into sheetrock or driving screws into a 2×4. When choosing a cordless drill, you want one with lots of power, which is measured by the amount of voltage in its battery. You can get drills that have batteries that go up to 18v. But when you increase voltage, you increase weight. That 18 volt bad boy weighs 10 pounds. 12 volts is a good size. It’s enough power to do most stuff around the house but isn’t too heavy. Also, make sure the drill you get has multiple speeds and is reversible. The reversible feature will come in handy if you need to take some screws out when your treehouse goes awry.

Crosscut Saw


Image by wick

The image of a fine handsaw has long been the emblem of a craftsman at work. A good general purpose handsaw is useful for trimming branches off your tree or cutting lumber for a project around the house. Crosscut saws are used to cut against the grain on a piece of wood. That’s exactly what you do when you trim a branch or shorten a 2×4. If you think you’ll be doing work that requires you to cut along the wood’s grain, get a rip saw as well.



Image by jkdigitalservices

Whether you’re hanging up pictures or putting a mantle over your fireplace, a straight line is absolutely crucial. You don’t want to put a bunch of nails in the wall, only to step back and see that’s it’s crooked. To get the job done right the first time, you need to use a level. There are some sophisticated laser levels available these days, but you can’t beat the satisfaction of finally nudging that bubble into place. Of course if you have the iphone level app, you’re all set.

Utility Knife


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While it may not be the most exciting of the tools, your utility knife will never be found gathering dust at the bottom of your toolbox. Every project always provides plenty of things to cut and scrape, hundreds of tasks that cry out for the utility knife’s super sharp blade.

Alright. Now it’s your turn. Did we leave any tools off the list that you think should be in every man’s toolbox? Disagree with the ones that made it on the list? Drop a line in the comment box and offer your suggestions.

{ 198 comments… read them below or add one }

101 Sashkela March 21, 2009 at 1:54 pm

Can I translate your article into Russian and published on my blog?

102 NickJ April 6, 2009 at 12:41 am

While I’ve seen mention of pry-bars, and crowbars, breaker-bars and lead pipes (creative I’ll say) I haven’t seen mentioned a cats paw. Sure, they’re on the small side, but when trying to pry boards loose in your little girls playhouse, the smallness of it really lends itself to the close quarters.

103 Banjeau April 18, 2009 at 12:06 am

You forget the stud finder, and I don’t mean my wife. Every man has to hang stuff on the walls from flat screen TV’s to art, and these really help locate the supporting lumber behind the drywall. Other’s have mentioned the handyman’s secret weapons, duct tape and WD-40. By the way, WD-40 sprayed on your fishing lure will catch more fish— it’s primarily fish oil.

104 Browny April 18, 2009 at 11:37 am

@ Steve Maslin “This is Rubish, If you live in a community with people you don’t need to own a tool kit per male. Living in community is a manly thing, sharing what you own etc, The art of manliness has gone down hill. Most of the blogs don’t help me one bit and are just trivial like this one.”

its not very manly to mooch off your fellow man… grow up- man up- buy your own damn tools!

and too all the canadians in the house… i love the robertson screws / drivers but please stop crying about it whenever a driver is mentioned. philips- robertson- torx- nut driver- there are plenty of drivers out there know what ya need and get the appropriate tool…

105 bon April 24, 2009 at 3:17 am

Growing up in Tasmania we reckoned if you can’t fix it with fencing wire and/or an old stocking (use ‘em as fan belts for instance) then it couldn’t be fixed. these days you’d have to add “and a milk crate” because every tradesman in the country uses a milk crate for something.

106 bon April 24, 2009 at 3:21 am

about made in china tools etc. i agree with Ben that even when they’re “made to spec” etc. they ain’t as good. i get most of my tools from the “trash & treasure” “car-boot” junk sales – there I can find genuine Made in Germany/Australia/Sweden/USA/England quality tools . . . damn good they are too.

107 W Shepherd May 25, 2009 at 11:00 pm

- Am reviewing the ’10 essential tools’ list in May and had to go back to mid -February to find any mention of safety goggles/specs – these are well recognised as ‘Basic’ by experienced DIYers- and may perhaps be even MORE important for the in-experienced to avoid dust+grit -and chemical splashes.

-I think perhaps you should seriously consider re-vamping the list as the ’20 essential tools’ as most of the comments on omissions are extremely valid.

108 label applicator June 22, 2009 at 2:10 am

The Avery Dennison line of labelers allows for a wide variety of different applications. Speeds of 30 meters (ALS206) or 40 meters per minute (ALS204) are standard but much higher speed models can be selected.

109 Randy T June 25, 2009 at 6:10 pm

WD 40 is an oily solvent. Pretty good for cleaning if an oily residue is OK. Its a poor lubricant unless you want an extremely light lubricant….like clock mechanism light. If you need lubricatiion then 3 n1 or a teflon lube is far superior to WD 40.

110 Mark T June 26, 2009 at 7:27 pm

Find the best Selection on Tool cases, Rolling Tool Cases, Tool Chest, Rolling Cabinets, Tool Boxes, Hard Shell Cases and Metal Tool Storage at http://www.alltimetools.com

111 Howard July 6, 2009 at 12:32 pm

As long as you’re going to include a screwgun, I think the circular saw (battery powered or not) deserves a mention. A handsaw has its undeniable uses, but hard work can be made a bit easier with a circular saw, which can go against or with the grain of the wood.

112 Ed F July 9, 2009 at 10:53 pm

The tool selection is right on. Now let me add a suggestion.

- Multi-tool. This baby doesn’t belong in the tool box, it belongs on your hip or in your pocket! (The problem with tool boxes is that they are a bit awkward and are not often there when you need them.)

I personally carry a Gerber 400 needle nose every day. (Just an example-I don’t want to get involved in the Gerber/Leatherman/other discussion) I carry it in a belt holster, except dress up times, then it goes in a pocket. (FYI It has gone through several metal detectors successfully. Even though it has a knife blade, it still looks like a tool.) I can’t think of a day that I have not used it at least once. The needle nose pliers are particularly useful for dealing with small objects. The only item I have not used for its intended purpose is the cork screw. Just a long shot, but I suspect that most Model 400 users are beer drinkers.

113 Machines July 30, 2009 at 1:05 pm

Radial drills are designed to drill a hole in a part that is too big to fit on a regular drill press. Radial drills have size designations that incorporate the arm length and the column diameter. The arm length of a radial drill typically ranges from about 2′ to 12′ or more. The arm measurement is not the arm length (even though it is called that), it is actually the distance from the face of the column to the center line of the spindle when the head is all the way out to the end of the arm. This means, a 6′ radial drill can drill a hole in the center of a 12′ diameter part.

114 Old Car Buff August 4, 2009 at 8:26 pm

Look at your local farmer’s market or flea market for vintage tools. At least here in the midwest, the farmer’s markets that I hit always have someone selling reconditioned tools. The local guy will also rehalf your hammer, maul, hoes, shovels, etc for a VERY resonable price. Drop it off one Saturday, pick it up the next.

115 senatorrosewater August 9, 2009 at 7:18 pm

Channel Locks.


116 ejsilver26 August 16, 2009 at 12:11 am

I have pretty much all of the tools listed in the article and the subsequant comments. I keep a fairly stocked toolkit and tool bench. I use foldking tool benches due to space limitations and portability, and have a small tool belt. However, with all that I have, I must say that the worst tool I ever had was my Cordless drill. It was an 18-volt, variable speed, wonder to look at and a marvel to hold.. untill the batteries died. I could buy a brand new drill for the same price. Forget it. I got a realy nice corded drill with a case of bits to be reconded with for less than the cordless model. More power, longer lasting and it’s even a “hammer drill”.

I’d say, if you were going to start from scratch an buy a set of tools, go for all the items in the list and the comments, except get a chorded drill. Go get the best you can afford and only buy what you need for the job you’re doing. Next time, get some more tools for the next job. After a while, you’ll only need a few here and there and the ones that you have will last forever.

(Except screwdrivers… buy lots and medium quality… keep them everywhere… for later, “You’re welcome”)


117 Nik August 23, 2009 at 7:17 pm

Just read through the article and all the comments.

The “Robertson” discussion interested me the most. In America, at least, pretty much anything requiring a hand screwdriver is going to be Phillips and occasionally flat-head. However, if you’re driving screws into lumber (probably 2.5″ or longer), you can’t do better than with square-drive (what I’ve always heard them called). So, yeah, you should have square-drive/Robertson drill bits, but in America at least, getting a regular old Robertson screwdriver would be a waste.

118 elena October 3, 2009 at 4:56 pm

SAFETY GLASSES! holy moly! sure, these aren’t technically a tool, but they are definitely essential.

119 Reed November 3, 2009 at 10:20 pm

If you get a ‘standard’ vice grip, be sure to pick up a needle-nose version as well. That tool has saved me countless times. Great for unscrewing stripped screws and pulling carpet staples, etc.

120 David December 15, 2009 at 1:17 am

I’m 24 and have been working for Sears (tools department) since I was 16. I have been collecting my tool arsenal since then and I have had all those tools way before the time I was 18. It’s sad that most young men my age don’t have the basics. Most of my friends still don’t have a decent screwdriver!

My suggestion is what about the standard rubber mallet? This tool has been one of the most used in my toolbox especially when I have to assemble things that require me not to scratch/mar a surface.

121 C December 16, 2009 at 5:45 pm

I am a 15 year old girl and keep at least half that list either in my purse or on my bedside table.

122 Doug December 21, 2009 at 10:45 pm

I can’t imagine any woodworking or tile projects where a simple framing square or speed square or tri-square wouldn’t be necessary.

123 greg h January 29, 2010 at 4:24 pm

speed square

124 Daniel February 19, 2010 at 6:59 am

Excellent list. Great idea about the first aid kit, and I’d like to reiterate about having a multimeter – it’s fantastic for many things. In the past few days, I’ve used it on two family members’ cars to diagnose various stuff (is the alternator charging the battery?)

Other than that, perhaps a portable 12v light… the kind that’s just a flourescent tube inside a clear plastic tube which has a hook on one end for hanging, and both a car cigarette lighter plug and alligator clips for directly hooking onto a battery.

Also having a head lamp (like cyclists wear) has been absolutely wonderful. Hands-free light wherever you look. Otherwise, if you wear a baseball cap, there are small ones to clip onto the brim. Make sure you choose a light with both red and white LEDs that you can switch between. Red light is great for use at night if you are a passenger in a car, going hunting, or otherwise need to keep your night vision ability working without waiting several minutes after using a white light.

Sunscreen – I live in Australia, so it’s critical here. You never know when you get a call from a gorgeous neighbour who needs something fixed and pronto – you won’t be thinking of your skin when you race out the door with your tool box in hand. You can smear it on if working outdoors, and even offer her some if she’s helping. I’ve helped women before and they’ve been very impressed that I’m prepared, I walk onto the scene, take charge of it and get it done – all while being efficient and safe. Even just checking the brake lights if you are hauling their trailer somewhere is enough to impress (seriously, this made one woman visibly hot under the collar for some reason! Hehehe).

Oh, and RAGS!!! Old t-shirts, towels, etc. Something to wipe your hands on, something to wipe a dip stick on, something to mop up small spills, etc.

125 Mike March 2, 2010 at 10:15 pm

When it comes to utility knives and blades, I would go with stanley.
The blades are thick and the “steel” knives can take a beating.
DO NOT buy cheap blades!
I even have a few of those cheap plastic utility knives with the snap off blades. Ok for light work.

A 3/8″ socket wrench is an overall good bet. Buy the 3/8″ first.
If you have the cash, get a 1/4″ and a 1/2″ as well.
Do not use a 1/4″ on anything that requires alot of strength. Even the best 1/4″ socket wrenches shaft can twist off.
1/2″ for the more heavy duty car bolts.

6″ pair diagonal cutters.
6″ pair plyers.
6″ pair needle nose

Pair of lineman plyers. Not a must have.

Don’t forget superglue along with the duct tape.
A good brand of super glue is loctite. Keep it in the fridge.

Wood glue.

Small bag of wood golf tees for repairing striped out screw holes.

Zip ties, never know when you may need one to keep somethig in place temporarily.

Small medium ball peen hammer has many uses. Not a must have.

One of those flat prybars. In most cases, they can easily be fit into a toolbox.

Hacksaw and extra blades. Easy to collapse the saw without blade and the blades theselves take tille room. Not a must have.

A good heavy duty canvas tool bag is a must have. They hold a good deal of tools and tend to be easier to carry.

Not for the toolbox:
Heatgun for heat shrink tubing, removal of window glazing etc.

Most of what I own is Stanley, except for my tourqe wrench which happens to be a Craftsman.
You can never go wrong by buying Stanley or Craftsman.

I have a smaller metal toolbox that holds my socket wrenches and ratchets.
That goes into a large plastic toolbox that holds the rest of my tools.
Heavy, but easy to keep the tools seperated.
I also have a medium sized Stanley bag that I use when I know that I will not need my socket wrenches and ratchets.

Daniel “Oh, and RAGS!!!” I could not agree more. Especially if you are working on an automoblie.

Oh, speaking of automobiles, a 5 quart drip pan for oil changes, radiator flushes, brake bleeding, transmission fluid changes etc. Not for a tollbox of course.

The most imoprtant are safety equipement and commom sense.

Put anything in your toolbox only if it makes sense to you.
If you will never use it, your toolboxe does not need it.

126 Sean March 9, 2010 at 5:00 am

I noticed an earlier poster mentioned that a wooden handled hammer will offer the best shock relief over time. This is true, and why Vaughn still makes their California framing hammer with one, but most wooden handle hammers nowadays are garbage.

The one thing I would add to the list is a decent combination square.

127 Flora April 18, 2010 at 4:03 am

Let’s not forget – women like a man with a full tool box, who’s good with his hands and keeps his tools in good, clean working order x

128 Alan May 1, 2010 at 2:50 am

As a writer, my primary tool is a keyboard… However one tool which has only had a single mention, is awesome…

The Angle Grinder.

Nothing, but nothing, resists this bad boy.

Wood, any metal, concrete, it cuts like butter.

I once spent 2 days and 5 blades trying to saw off a fiberglass boat roof. Finally bought an angle grinder and it ripped through that sucker in 20 minutes.

Got a bolt too long? Something sticking out where it shouldn’t? Excessive sanding to do? You’ll be amazed how often you’ll be reaching for an angle grinder once you have one, On top of which, they’re dirt cheap. Just remember eye protection.

Seriously, you aint a man till you have your own ANGLE GRINDER!

129 Edward May 1, 2010 at 6:24 am

Need a chainsaw.

130 Doug May 1, 2010 at 7:20 am

I liked Chris’s suggestion about duct tape and WD40. Reminds me of a time I was describing the emergency kit in my car (jumper cables, flashlight, etc.). A woman then told me: “My emergency kit consists of a cellphone and an Auto Club card.” I couldn’t argue with that.

131 Matt May 1, 2010 at 9:15 am

Allan wrenches, set of standard and metric, think IKEA furniture.

132 Brian S May 1, 2010 at 9:37 am

Agree with the Allen Key set(s) and the hacksaw. As to what type of toolbox you want to tote all of those around in…your basic criteria are: enough volume to hold your basic toolset, enough internal divisions for a minimal level of organization, and it ought to be strong enough to stand on, if necessary. With 4 socket sets, 3 driver sets, 3 wrench sets, and specialty automotive, electrical, bicycle, AND woodworking tools; I’m ready to move up to a cabinet in the near future. I just went out to the garage and I’ve got ten separate tool boxes. Plus the drill, circular saw, jigsaw and grinder that each have their own cases. I might also mention that this collection was in part inherited from my Wife’s Grandfather, and those parts of the collection I obtained myself were purchased over the past 25 years. I look forward to passing on my tools to my son…and helping him start his own collection.

133 doug May 1, 2010 at 10:02 am

interesting lists here.

1. don’t buy a battery operated flashlight, get the crank type led ones. you will never be in the crawl space with dead batteries. about $12.

2. claw vs framing hammer? go with the framing. and remember when pulling nails that you get more leverage when you pull “sideways” . when you pull inline with the claw the fulcrum point is the center of the handle and the nail is about 1-1/4 away so the leverage with a say 12″ handle is 12/ 1.25 or 9.6 to one. when you pull sideways the fulcrum is the edge of the head so the nail is about a 1/2 inch from the fulcrum point so with the same 12″ handle your factor is 12/.5 or 24 to one.

3. can’t beat pipe wrenches, and you can not beat having a small one too. I have a 4″ one that is the “cat’s meow ” when you shear off the head of a rusted bolt, if a 1/4″ of the bolt is left that little baby will grab and back it out.

134 william Borgstrom May 1, 2010 at 10:43 am

Go to the PAWN SHOP FIRST. Tools galore–usually cheap-

135 BBinKC May 1, 2010 at 11:00 am

Good list. Instead of a toolbox I prefer a tool bucket. Just a 5 gallon pail with one of those bucket organizers. Everything is out and handy in the pockets around the outside and I can drop my cordless drill and other stuff for a project in the bucket.

One really handy item I have in my bucket is a folding handsaw made by Stanley. It uses Sawzall interchangeable blades and has a place to store them in the handle. It’s far more useful than a hacksaw and only costs about $10 plus a variety pack of blades.http://www.amazon.com/Stanley-15-333-8-Inch-Folding-Pocket/dp/B00002X21U/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&s=hi&qid=1272725955&sr=1-6

Costco has the Crescent 211 piece toolset for $100 (in store not on their website). It’s this one http://www.amazon.com/Crescent-211-Piece-Tool-Set/dp/B002YEH47M. Add a hammer,saw,level, tape measure, and a drill and you’ll be ready to take on a lifetime of projects. You’ll never be intimidated by the words,”some assembly required” again.

136 john May 1, 2010 at 11:44 am

A couple of additions: Get a set of metric sockets to go with your socket wrench if you intend to work on any imported car.

Get a wire-stripper if you intend to replace the occasional wall-switch.

Buy screw-drivers, both flat-bladed or Phillips, in sets with various sizes. Nothing assures ruined screw-heads like incorrect driver sizes.

Last, get a small bench vice for your basement or garage work bench.

Maker sure at least one of you pliers incorporates a wire-cutter.

137 BigJohn May 1, 2010 at 12:18 pm

I can’t believe what I am reading here about Craftsman tools. They were once a standard for quality, that is no longer true.

When they moved production to China, they also cheapened up on the metallurgy and heat treat. The result?

Ratchets used to be virtually unbreakable, truly lifetime tools. Now, Craftsman ratchets are no better than the Walmart knock-offs. What good is a lifetime warranty if you have to keep taking them back, only to get another inferior one? When I bought my last set and started having to take them back, the counter person would just drop the ratchet into an overflowing box of them under the counter and tell me to go get another one off the shelf. It’s just not worth it.

Craftsman screwdrivers are another example. They used to be the best you could get for daily use. When they moved production to China, again they cheapened up the metallurgy and heat treatment. The excellent design of the handle with the ball on the end was developed for the best ergonomic application of force with the best chance of preventing blisters on the palm. Unfortunately, Craftsman screwdrivers with this feature are total junk. The first time you try to tighten or loosen a stuck screw, the flathead screwdriver will literally twist at the end. The phillips screwdrivers are even worse. Once a phillips driver is ruined, it will thereafter slip in every screw it touches, ruining the screw so that even a quality driver won’t work. Craftsman sells stronger screwdrivers for more money, but not with the good handles on them. Once I even turned the handle down in a lathe to put the ball on the end after getting blisters.

Craftsman is a brand that was ruined by cubicle-dwelling corporate empty suits. The chinese products at Harbor Freight are better than Craftsman (Chinese manufacturers are bringing their quality up).

Always buy Crescent brand Crescent wrenches, Vise-Grip brand vise grips, and ChannelLock brand slip joint pliers. Anything else is almost guaranteed to be made of inferior steel, with geometry designed by someone that never uses tools. Like the guy who wrote the article. He doesn’t make a living using tools, that is obvious.

138 JCrowe May 1, 2010 at 12:33 pm

A couple of things in response to previous posts. WD-40 was originated as a water displacement formula, hence the WD…..if you are looking for the best penetrating oil, have a look at Kroil, the oil that creeps. It’s a great penetrating oil and good for cleaning gun barrels. On tool quality, my experience with Chinese made tools has been pretty dismal, but I have a friend who only buys them because he loses stuff so rapidly. For my money, have a look at Snap-on….very pricy and very well made. My philosophy on tool buying is to buy for life so I am currently buying Festool power tools. They will last longer than my body hopefully. That said, I still have my original Craftsman tools from the early 70s and some from the early 90s. I can’t speak for more modern stuff. Avoid the big box stores unless you want a choice between different brands of Chinese made tools. There are some good sources of other than Chinese made hand tools like Lee Valley out of Canada. Fun article.

139 kalidas May 1, 2010 at 1:02 pm

First of all, a sink wrench. Though you might not need it often, it is very very handy.
I worked maint. for 30 years and rarely was seen without one of my personal favorites, the small Channellock. The # 412 ( 6.5″). Those baby’s are great, and if you have either the # 463 or # 483 as a companion, you’re one bad hombre.
Also, a tiger saw is perhaps the king of “luxury” tools.

140 J.B. May 1, 2010 at 3:26 pm

Save yourself money and space by buying a Greenlee or Kline all in one screwdriver, square driver, nut drivers. They have models that are hardened bits and you’ll have 1/4″, 5/16″, and 3/8″ nutdrivers, a #1 and #2 flat and phillips bits along with a #1 and 2 square bit. in the same space it takes to hold one screwdriver. I’d stay as far away from Craftsman battery powered drill/drivers as possible. There are good ones out there but that’s not the brand. The now have sorry gears(just saw a new one last less than six months). When you buy screws these days, almost anything you want comes in dual drive for using phillips or square drivers on. I prefer them to everything on the market. Nothing beats a square driver. Safety knives, get a folding knife like the Shefields that have much sharper blades than the old Stanley type. Keep a look out for a set of battery powered tools. I often see good buys on good brands of these that come with a rotary saw, reciprocating saw, drill/driver with or without hammer feature with built in level, impact driver, and light, all using the same batteries, generally 2-3 to a set. I don’t often remove my screw holder from my drill since it will allow you to drive 6″ screws without needing to hold them. I keep a1/4″ hexX3/8″ square drive converter to run in hex bolts and screws with my driver. Keep a tri-square(some are aluminum one piece and very inexpensive or an adjustable tri-square with level. A wonderbar that you’ll use for almost everything. Grab a multi-allen wrench set in standard and metric. I keep cheap ones I buy at Harbor-Freight for non-professional jobs and professional models for well, professional work. One tool I’d hate to be without that can do what no other tool can do is a Dremel tool. Too many uses to name. For those who drive a pick-up, remember, a good tool box or two can turn that vehicle into a rolling workshop. I could literally rebuild my engine on the side of the road if I had to. I keep a puller in my pickup that will take off everything from the steering wheel to the harmonic balancer. I always have a coffee can full of this and that, nuts, bolts screws that I can take the bottom out, cut down the side and use that and a 4″ hose clamp for a piston installer. I can remove the knick knack holders on either side of the seat in the ext. cab and have room under them for spare belts, electrical fastener and fuse kits, and just about anything else that isn’t heavy so it won’t dent the metal from the inside out although my GM pickup has a heavy rubberized insulation that keeps that from happening. Look around on your vehicle and you’ll probably find there are all sort of dead spaces in your console and rear compartments. When buying needlenose pliers, get some from an electrical supply and they even have #12 gauge wire strippers in them. Get a good pair of diagonal cutters, again, from an electrical supply and they’ll cut most anything including pulling nails and screws. Throw in one of those tool kits with sockets of both types, end wrenches, pliers and screwdrivers and whatever else might be in them and you’re never without tools. You can move them from one vehicle to another. My wife depends on these things as we live in a very rural area and you can’t count on someone coming down the road to help. A good .45 ACP is another tool that’s good to have in the console. I keep a 400 watt inverter in what ever vehicle I’m driving so I can operate practically any power tool. Magnetic torpedo levels are cheap and accurate and life-savers in a small package. I have found the new armored tape measures last longer and are easier to hold. Before cellphones, my wife was late and I was about to go looking for her when she drove in. She’d had a blowout on a front tire doing about 80 and went off into a pasture, miraculously avoiding hitting a tree or rock or hole. She said she’d would have still been there had it not been for the 4 way lug wrench I throw into every vehicle. It allowed her to hold on end and stomp on the other to break loose over-tightened lug nuts. It was a new car to her or that wouldn’t have happened since I use pure nickel anti-seize on exposed lug nuts and install them with a torque wrench. I use cap nuts on my pickups. Since I’ve been speaking of vehicles, I want everyone to know that there are new styles of batteries that do not cause corrosion on the cable, battery connection. Last year I replace a set of Optima spiral wound batteries on my diesel pickup that were 8 years old and one was still good. I never had to clean the connections since they don’t corrode. I also buy batteries with top and side posts so using jumper cables is an easy chore. Don’t buy jumper cables. Make your own. You can find insulated replacement ends for just this purpose. Use #4 or better yet #2 welding lead wire(very flexible and will last your lifetime). Use welding terminals to attach them to the ends and you can have as long a cable as you need. I got hemmed in by a vehicle with a dead battery and vowed It would never happen again. I bought 60′ of wire to make a set of 30′ cables I can boost off a vehicle behind mine with and they’ll roll into a small space since they’re made of very flexible wire. Just keep one thing in mind. When you see an exceptional price on a good tool you don’t have but have needed, buy it, you won’t regret it and tools are always good barter.

141 Lewis R. May 1, 2010 at 4:42 pm

Glock 17. The only tool you will ever REALLY miss if you go without.

142 Joe Bob May 1, 2010 at 8:39 pm

Hey all peeps, this is a great article on TOP TEN tools. Love the article! Yes, I have my next 5-10 fav tools – but remember, this is top ten: i.e. what I will get for my fatherless neighbor kid who keeps barrowing my tools. After the top ten, THEN we can add the next most handy tools, such as gator wrench ratchet, flatbar, wire stripers, et al.

keep up the good work

Joe Bob

143 Eugene "A manly man" May 1, 2010 at 8:48 pm

Real men have a ratcheting screwdriver with assorted bits, an S&K 1/4 ratchet (very fine gears), thread files, dead blow hammer, pin and punch set, wire brushes (steel and brass), and a ratcheting wrench set.

144 Remington Phillips May 1, 2010 at 8:49 pm

I have found that a small prybar/crowbar is invaluable for remodeling projects around the home. From removing old tile and cabinets to replacing windows, having the leverage of a prybar is an energy saver. Not to mention saving wear on other tools which might otherwise look tempting to use for prying.

145 glacierman May 2, 2010 at 12:27 am

Roll of electrical tape…a must have. 1)Obviously to fix broken wires. 2)Most importantly, to tape up deep cuts to stop bleeding, and almost eliminate the need for stitches….while you finish the project!!

146 Smitty May 2, 2010 at 2:25 pm

A crowbar/prybar, and Sawsall

Funny article, one of the best performing Western companies in Communist China last year was Snap On tools, one of our most EXPENSIVE brands-while they export to us junk tools. .

147 Granny Miller May 2, 2010 at 2:50 pm

Where’s the WD-40?

148 Jive Dadson May 2, 2010 at 5:04 pm

I worked at a high tech robotics company where the chief engineer, a bona fide genius and all-round good guy, called WD-40 “slow drying glue.”

More tools… Diagonal pliers and a good pair of sheers.

149 CoinMine May 2, 2010 at 8:59 pm

This is a great list, well a start…
…for beginners, anyway.

AND some very wise posts in this thread.

Please allow me to note:

Only one person mentioned a welder!! (semi-genius)
Only one person mentioned a puller!! (semi-genius)
Only one person mentioned solder !! (semi-genius)
[Solder now in the US cannot have lead. The new stuff doesn't really work]

NOBODY mentioned:
Basin wrench
Tap and Die set!!!
Drill bit sharpener
Hand Drill!!! (what will you do without power, eh?)
Drill bit extender
Pipe cutter
Metal detector
Metal (paint) scrapers
hydraulic or scissors (or both) Jack
Block, tackle and pulley OR
House jack (seriously, you may need to lift a wall, or portion thereof, to repair a foundation)

…and I won’t even start on about machine shop tools.

I have been gathering up tools for about seven years now at auctions, garage sales and estate sales. (I started basic house rehab as a side project). Above are really rather basic and essential tools, nothing fancy.

Essentially, there is very little quality stuff made in north america anymore. Almost anything I have bought from Asia in the past 10 years has been absolute garbage in fancy plastic packaging and a colorful label.

Thankfully for me I live in a town where the very old military base shut down. The government workers would often steal tools, entire shops actually, and bring them home. As the old men die off their foolish heirs sell the tools at a song.

Most of these tools made in Chicago, Cleveland and Detroit in the 1920s – 1940s STILL work (though many are long worn). I literally have broken ‘tools’ recently bought at Home Depot, Harbor Freight, Sears etc upon first usage!

Some of the older tools I have I don’t know their usage, and I still can’t find anyone who knows. I have PERSONALLY witnessed, moreover, 10 different men try to repair a (semi-large) boiler made in the 1960s; nobody could fix it. Not only are decent tools getting scarce, but the *industrial knowledge base* is now fading.

Wish I had better news here. The bright side is some industrial arts co-ops are starting to form, to teach these lost crafts/arts.

Bottom line: Stock up NOW. Get prepared. Some of these tools are starting to become rare, and even basic tools of high quality are getting scarce in some series.

150 Al Sledge May 2, 2010 at 10:02 pm

I’ve been spoiled after collecting tools for over 40 years. The basic ones suggested are good except for the battery drill. The batteries will last maybe two years but replacement batteries are about the price of a new tool. A corded drill is better, but even better yet a corded hammer drill. Unless you use tools for a living (which you likely do not if you are reading this) but a cheap Chinese hammer drill. Then buy your extra tools as you need them. Wrenches should be quality, but the Chinese are getting better. Today I have a metal lathe, miling adapter, drill press, heavy welder and literally tons of tools. My neighbors call my house “man land”, but my lady friends aso come over to use or borrow tools. I eventually bought my wife, daughters, and sons their own tools so they would stop misplacing mine!

But the best tool we have is the one between our ears.

151 kit May 3, 2010 at 12:53 am

For good quality made in usa or uk, germany or even japan these days, get ‘m at a flea market or garage sales.
Also, a full roll of duct tape is a good substitute for a rubber mallet.

152 Lyn May 3, 2010 at 1:11 am

Well, fellas I’m a woman with a tool box and I definitely would add a sawzall., aka reciprocal saw. You can cut wood or metal with it, cut the screws with the stripped threads you can’t get out, cut holes in the wall, even prune trees with it. (There are cordless and corded models)

You manly men might prefer hand tools, but having the bulk of my strength between my ears, I prefer to let the motor do the heavy lifting. And speaking of lifting, a set of pipe clamps and pieces of pipe of various length and some ratchet straps. With the pipe clamps, the clamp pieces are bought separately; you slide them onto regular metal pipe from the plumbing section of your hardware store. These are powerful and can be used to hold pieces of wood together or apart – some types can be flipped around so they push outward instead of press inward and keep things in place until you can screw or nail it – works great to force warped wood to flatten. The ratchet straps are sold as tie downs for moving loads, and of course you’ll have to get your supplies home from the lumberyard. But they have another great function, as a gluing clamp for furniture repairs where you need strong pressure on irregularly shaped objects. For example, the other night I was lying on my old arts and crafts style sofa when I heard a crack! One of the doweled rails had popped out of the side frame. I got my carpenters glue and ratchet strap, and wrapped that puppy around the frame so that everything would pull together and dry in the right place and left it overnight. Voila! The nylon webbing didn’t harm the pretty oak finish.

Everyone should have a toolbox and know how to use it, manly or not.

153 Erich May 3, 2010 at 1:22 am

A plumb-bob. If you’re getting a level, you may as well have this too.

154 DeeDee May 3, 2010 at 4:13 pm

Geez, what happened to the pipe wrench, tin snips, pry bar/wrecking bar and allen wrenches???

155 Kirbush May 3, 2010 at 9:52 pm

I agree with the pipe wrench. A friend once told me, if you have to borrow a tool more than once a year, you should buy your own. Tools make a great investment. Personally my favorite tool is my backhoe.

156 Ben Gedalecia May 4, 2010 at 12:35 am

You can get all the tools mentioned for about 30 bucks in any of the weekend flea markets. Craftsman tools should always be bought on sight used, as they will last forever

157 J.E.Chapman May 14, 2010 at 11:47 am

Those of us who own fire arms also should have a good set of hollowed growned screw drivers,my spelling may be wrong,but these screw drivers are a must when working on guns as the screws are different from your average standard screw.

158 Doug May 16, 2010 at 5:31 pm

Disclaimer: I am spoiled – I grew up in and now I own a hardware store – I have used more tools than most people will ever see – After over 50 years using various tools for various purposes I have an advantage over all but a very small percent of the population.

That stated, the pictures in this article are with only two exceptions the worst examples of tools I can imagine. They look like used things you would find in some third world country.

Good grief! A claw hammer from a kiddie tool set? Screwdrivers so worn out you can hurt yourself? A tape measure that looks like the blade was run through a stove pipe crimper? An adjustable wrench that obviously was damaged by the use of a “cheater bar”? Needle junk pliers? Older clunky cordless drill? An assortment of obsolete utility knives?

There are literally thousands of tools in the modern world. To select only a dozen as the correct or basic set is pretty narrow thinking.

Then all the yardsale experts weigh in on when, where, what and how to buy tools…That’s real comedy!

I maintain that tools and the ability to use them are an indication of how any given society is doing. Ours is in a race to the bottom with the WD-40 & duct tape doofuses leading the way.

159 JG August 3, 2010 at 3:23 pm

You need a brace and bit. this is like a cordless screwdriver, but without the battery. It uses pure manliness to bore holes.

You need a hacksaw. You may want to cut some metal.

You need a square or maybe two. I use one with the sliding metal ruler and the level vial.

You need a vise. this holds your work still. while youre at it, a set of clamps is a good investment.

You will need files, rasps, and a plane. these are for shaping wood and metal.

160 Matthew October 10, 2012 at 2:15 pm

Nobody mentioned a pencil. Monumentally useful for accuracy.

161 Jeff October 19, 2012 at 7:35 pm

How about a pen sized flashlight when you need both hands to fix something in the dark or where light doesn’t reach.

162 Tarzan October 28, 2012 at 7:44 pm

Excellent list. Ear plugs and a respirator with changeable filters (for dust and fumes) is a good thing to have too. An oscillating saw is good for trim work, and a powered orbital sander will also come in handy. Cordless stuff is nice, but all it takes is a dead battery to put you behind schedule.

163 Jim K. November 2, 2012 at 3:26 pm

Anybody have any suggestions on a good toolbox to hold all these tools? Something basic and bombproof like the old metal Craftsman toolbox my Dad has owned forever –padlocking hasp, one metal removable tray, no drawers, no plastic. i want to give my 12-year-old son his first toolbox for Christmas. Not impressed with what I’ve seen online so far.

164 Bill November 8, 2012 at 2:48 pm

@Jim K Just bought a Stack-On toolbox from Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/Stack-On-R-420-20-Inch-General-Purpose/dp/B000I0ZX3Q/

20 in., steel construction. Best of all, still made in the USA. A bit pricier than the cheap plastic stuff but this box should hold up well.

165 DeLeon November 20, 2012 at 12:18 pm

I’m shocked I haven’t seen it yet. An old (Stanley or Older) Yankee driver of the 130-A spring return ilk, with a flat, phillips, 1/4 socket, 1/2 drive tip. I still use mine almost every day. I have bigger (131) and smaller ones. I can get it in areas a cordless will get bogged down in, and never needs recharged. They are made to such a standard, you just don’e realize that most are over 50 years old. They are real pieces of quality craftmanship. You can get these at Yard Sales and/or Flea Markets for under 10 dollars, the bits harder so to find, but e-bay always has a list, and some sights have tutorials on how to make your own. Millers Falls made one for Sears which will take the same bits.

166 Mike November 25, 2012 at 12:58 pm

You forgot duc-tape and WD40

167 Dan December 30, 2012 at 9:02 am

An often overlooked tool is the square. If you don’t want to lug around a full-sized one, they also make speed squares that are about 1/4 of the size and cost about $3. Very rarely do I work on a project in which a square doesn’t come in handy.

168 mc January 7, 2013 at 8:40 pm

16 lb sledge hammer (Council Tool) – who needs a jack hammer when you have this bad boy…
Wheelbarrow (Sterling), shovel, garden hose, bag of lime, bag of washed sand, bag of portland cement…make your own mortar; while you’re at it, you’ll need a masonry trowel and a slicker…ahh masonry, the lost art…

169 MItch February 15, 2013 at 10:09 am

You can still buy the old “Yankee” type drivers here: http://www.garrettwade.com/garrettwade-push-drill/p/69P01.01/

I EDC a Leatherman CORE and an Energizer 1-watt LED (1-AA) flashlite (added a leather loop to my Leatherman pouch) EVERYWHERE except to bed or in the shower.

Gotta have cable ties / tywraps in various sizes.

A 50/50 blend of acetone and ATF (automatic transmission fluid) is the BEST penetrating solution currently known to man.

170 Layne March 5, 2013 at 9:47 pm

Line Pliers. Carry mine with me every where I go. A guy can do a lot with just a pair of jimmy’s.

171 Chris March 9, 2013 at 2:37 am

WD-40 does not contain fish oil. Go to their website, here is a quote from the FAQ:

Myth: WD-40 contains fish oil.
Consumers have told us over the years that they have caught some of the biggest fish ever after protecting their fish hooks and lures with WD-40. We believe this legend came from folks assuming that the product must contain fish oil since it appears to attract fish. Sorry Charlie®, it just ain’t so.

WD-40 Company has taken steps to respect and conserve the environment, and encourages its users to do the same. While WD-40 can be used to help protect fishing equipment from rust and corrosion, WD-40 Company does not recommend using WD-40 to attract fish.

172 Kaylynn March 19, 2013 at 12:07 pm

It is very good! When i was looking for stuff in here for my school project i used this for it!
Kaylynn Billie

173 Chris March 24, 2013 at 2:07 pm

All of these tools are great and essential for any workshop, but I don’t carry around a socket set and screw gun in my toolbox. They are too damn big and heavy to carry everywhere. May I suggest a list of essential tools that can be carried in one small box.

Paring down to the necessary is a very manly skill, indeed.

174 Narin C April 12, 2013 at 8:15 am

Really great list, I’ve got most of these tools in my box already. Nowadays, I would have to add torx bits for socket wrenches since they seem to be everywhere now. That and a quality Cordless Dremel would let you tackle any work imaginable.

175 Jeremy Harkless April 12, 2013 at 11:48 pm

Black & Decker, Stanley, Milwaukee, Ryobi, DeWalt, Makita, Robt. Bosch,… What about a regular carpenter’s pencil?

176 julia April 13, 2013 at 4:36 pm

Great list… I’m not a guy, but I have most of that in my toolbox. Love the suggestions in the comments too! Need to work on getting the rest of it, and then hide it from my dad :)

177 Michael S. April 25, 2013 at 3:52 pm

Everyone missed a pair of side cutters.

178 E.A. Burt June 4, 2013 at 9:47 pm

I’m a younger guy getting into the world and I got myself a Leatherman wave a little while ago to start off my tool collection as the flagship tool, along with a can of WD-40 and a roll of duct tape for a little ceremonial effect with a Stanley tool bag. It feels like officially entering manhood when you begin your tool collection. This list is a good help for my next targets. Thanks much Brett.

179 Mike June 19, 2013 at 12:23 pm

Did someone already say ‘Junior Hacksaw’? A simple inexpensive tool that can sort a lot of problems. Get the old style bent metal type you have to spring the blade into, not the ones like a scaled down standard hacksaw.

180 Eli June 26, 2013 at 12:19 am

No hacksaw and no bastard file? C’mon!

181 Troy July 4, 2013 at 8:21 pm

I keep a pair of mechanics gloves and foam knee pads in my tool kit and automobile just in case I need to change a tire. The gloves also protect my hands from my sander and helps with my grip on certain items.

182 Chris H July 28, 2013 at 10:38 pm

I just bought a really nice rolling tool chest because my boxes of tools have finally got out of hand. I liked your article, but was wondering if there was any particular order to what drawer gets what tools?

183 Adam August 6, 2013 at 11:21 am

The single most valuable tool? A prybar… get enough leverage and you can rotate Earth.

184 Adam August 6, 2013 at 11:23 am

Also, who needs multitools? Get yourself a badass, well made folding knife. I got myself a Cold Steel Recon 1 tanto blade that I carry with me everywhere I go. I use that for damn near everything. Hell, I use it as a little pry bar when needed.

185 SCRRR August 13, 2013 at 1:10 pm

wd40, ductape, a small hand whisk broom, sharpie or carpenters pencil

186 lightnin' September 18, 2013 at 2:22 am

bic lighter, good multitool, flashlight.

187 j veenstra October 21, 2013 at 6:47 pm

Thanks for the info! Excellent ideas—-will get my tools that are now scattered everywhere, into one toolbox / area.

Also, girls have toolboxes too!!!!!

188 David October 22, 2013 at 9:43 am

trigger clamps to hold things (I have Irwin brand)
a half-round file(or set)
a torch (such as burnz-o-matic) when you need to get a ton of heat very fast in a very controllable way
a stack of various grits of sandpaper
A stapler
wood chisels
masonry chisel

189 Minh Vu November 5, 2013 at 1:10 am

Hi Brett, thanks for putting up this list. I totally agree with you on the Chinese made tools. At the end of the day, you get what you’ve paid for. I had some bad experience with them and they add up to be too expensive. Like some rich man said “I can’t afford to pay for cheap – low quality- things”

190 Declan Kreitmayer December 5, 2013 at 12:45 am

It’s just a nice idea about tool box. Your information is extremely well. Thanks for sharing this with us.

191 Jakub December 7, 2013 at 7:25 pm

No mention of the humble awl. What a shame.

192 Matt January 20, 2014 at 12:08 am

What? No pocketknife? OK, I see the utility knife, but it’s not the same. This list needs a good folding knife on it. I recommend one of these: http://www.kniferating.com/blog/five-of-the-best-folding-knives/

The only thing I use a utility knife for is cutting cardboard. I use a pocket knife for pretty much every other cutting task short of sawing.

193 OWen February 26, 2014 at 12:58 pm

You are not a man unless you own a Sawzall.

194 John March 10, 2014 at 6:30 pm

A good scribe for picking at things, lining up screw holes, and removing painted-on washers is something that has helped me for years.

195 Scott March 17, 2014 at 10:46 pm

The iPhone has a level app??? Not sure why I am surprised. There is an app for everything. Good to know though – thanks! I’ll check it out.

196 James B. March 30, 2014 at 9:30 am

I’m partial to a Dremel tool. That’s the one item that I don’t think I’d want missing from my tool box. Also, I would add metric Allen wrenches. I was a bit surprised by the mention of a utility knife, though.

197 Charlie March 31, 2014 at 6:47 am

Good list! This is pretty much how my tool collection started out. Beyond this I added more power tools, like a circular saw, miter saw, and even an angle grinder.

198 Dianne April 15, 2014 at 8:57 pm

Nice list! But, what about a pencil? Nobody mentioned one?

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