Must Have Tools

For most business owners and even building contractors the weekend is either a time of rest or the chance to get those odd jobs done around the house.

Now, unless you work in a trade that requires tools, in which case you are probably spoilt for choice and have no need to read this article, except perhaps to add any items I may have missed, you'll be wanting to put together a small selection of tools.

Power tools are great but there are many hand tools that deserve a mention and that's what we are going to go through today. Since the stone age, humans have adapted aides to help make holes, strike objects, cut, measure and hold and they have become an essential ingredient in our progress.

Okay, I admit that stocking your workshop in this day and age with hand tools may seem outdated, but there are just some jobs and situations where the task just cannot be completed without their use.

To help you build a good emergency or DIY toolkit we have put together a list of the top tools nobody should be without.

  • Duct Tape

    Duct Tape

    You may argue that duct tape isn't a tool, however, this multi-purpose product has been utilised to patch up everything from a particle accelerator to making repairs to equipment used by astronauts on the moon and that's not all it's been used to make fashion too.

    Duct tape was originally used during World War 2 to seal ammunition cases as the polyethylene-coated tape kept out moisture. Today, duct tape comes in a variety of sizes and colours and no toolkit should be without it, just don't use it to seal ducts apparently that's the one use whereby it consistently fails.

  • Hammer


    No toolbox would be complete without a good hammer and today you are spoilt for choice as there are many different types and options.

    What about an anti-vibration hammer? Yes, it's true there is a hammer out there that has a tuning fork built into the handle that reduces vibration or perhaps you would like a hammer with a magnetised head? Apparently, it stops you hammering your fingers but I have my doubts on this one.

    A claw hammer is probably most people's first choice, great for banging in nails and pulling out bent ones, in fact, it can be used for many other things too like helping to dig holes or taking down old plasterboard. Another hammer to consider is a rubber mallet great for pounding on surfaces you don't want to damage.

  • Crowbar


    You may think this is the tool of choice for burglars but it turns out the crowbar you often see in films are not crowbars at all they are actually wrecking bars.

    A crowbar is a steel bar with a flattened wedge-shaped end and it's opposite end may have a slight angle. The wrecking bar, however, is the one with the dramatic look it has a split end like a claw hammer and the other end has the same but bent like a shepherd's crook.

    Films aside, either of these is a useful tool to have when you need to put some leverage in your work. Great for demolition jobs, pulling large nails or prying up floorboards a crowbar or wrecking bar will do the job with a lot less effort.

  • Pliers


    These handy tools come in very many different shapes and sizes and are essential for any toolkit. You would have a hard time gripping, snipping or extracting hard to reach items without them.

    Some of the variations range from long-nose pliers designed to grip tiny wires to side cutting pliers made for snipping wire, there are pliers made for specialist purposes too.

    For this list, though I'd recommend self-grip pliers also called mole grips, these have an adjustment screw to allow the grips to be set to different widths and when clamped on an object will lock into place allowing you to turn, twist and grip varying sized objects.

  • Wrench


    Again there are a variety of adjustable wrenches and they are an indispensable tool when you need to loosen or tighten nuts and bolts, a top tip here is to always have two.

    The crescent wrench was first manufactured by the US-based Crescent Tool Co. in 1907 and was originally designed for owners of vehicles who needed them to adjust brakes and clutches. The tool though really became renowned when Charles Lindbergh made his trans-Atlantic flight and joked how he only took, "gasoline, sandwiches, a bottle of water, and a crescent wrench and pliers".

    What makes this tool so versatile is its ability for the jaws to be adjusted. Thanks to the little turn dial on the handle, one side of the jaws can expand or contract. This allows the user to adjust the gap to the size of the nut or bolt they wish to manoeuvre rather than having a whole box full of different sized wrenches or spanners if you are on a budget they are a perfect choice.

  • Screwdriver


    When choosing screwdrivers there are 3 things to consider, grip, tip and length and you'll need a few different types. The grip is basically what you feel comfortable with.

    There are basically 2 different tips you'll want to start with, flathead also called slotted and Phillips which is a cross-shape. Today cross-headed screws seem to be the most common type of screw used. However, a flathead screwdriver is not only handy for the old tradition single depression screw heads but can be handy for its wedge-shaped head which can be used for prying and scraping.

    These days you can buy screwdrivers with interchangeable heads but a quick tip here buy at least 2 stubby or short screwdrivers one Phillips and one flathead as there will always be a situation where accessibility demands something that can get into tight spaces.

  • Utility Knife

    Utility Knife

    The utility knife often called a Stanley knife is another must have item for your toolbox. This relatively inexpensive item features a retractable blade and is easy to use.

    It's a small workhorse that can be employed in cutting down cardboard boxes, trim carpet, cut plasterboard, splice ropes and most importantly liberating some of your new tools from those annoyingly hard plastic cases that are virtually impossible to get into, (you could use scissors but where's the fun in that?).

    The great thing with utility knives is their handy snap off blades. Unlike a fixed blade which can be dangerous floating around in your toolbox when a utility blade becomes dull, you don't need to sharpen it you just snap off the dull section and you have a whole new blade.

  • Spirit Level

    Spirit Level

    Also called a bubble level this handy little invention comes in very useful when hanging pictures, putting up shelves or when you just want to make sure what you are working on has a horizontal plane, there are also levels you can adjust to make sure something is at a perfect 90 degrees vertically too.

    It achieves this with a very simple design of a bubble of air suspended in liquid and then sealed into a glass or perspex tube encased in a plastic, wooden or metal frame.

    Just place the spirit level on the surface you want to check and there are two static marks when the bubble lies perfectly inside these marks the item is level.

    In this modern age, there is a more technical variety called a laser level but a simple spirit level will do for most jobs you carry out.

  • Handsaw


    Nearly every grandfather at least for my generation had a handsaw in their workshop or shed and you should, too. You never know when you may need to shorten a plank or cut off a wind-damaged tree branch.

    The thing to know about handsaws and there are a lot of them, is TPI teeth per inch this will determine what types of material they can cut and how smooth or rough the cut will be.

    Two types of common handsaws are a crosscut saw which has backward-angled teeth and is used to cut against the grain and the other is a ripsaw which has downward facing teeth that flex left and right and is used to cut with the grain.

    Another saw to consider is a hacksaw generally made for cutting materials other than wood, such as metal and plastic.

  • Tape Measure

    Tape Measure

    Having the ability to measure exact amounts is crucial in many tasks, there's an old saying "measure twice cut once". Whilst measuring has probably been around since before tools even existed the steel tape measure we use today didn't appear until 1865 and then 3 years later an inventor by the name Alvin J. Fellows filed his patent for the first retractable tape measure we now know and use today.

    The retractable tape measure soon became more popular than the folded wooden rulers although you can still purchase them. But for most jobs, a retractable tape measure is much more versatile, a standard one will measure up to 16 foot or 4,8 metres and some can be even longer.

    Whichever length you choose just make sure that it has large easy to read markings, this will cut down on mistakes that aren't easily rectified.

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