After being involved with various forms of engineering, maintaining, and repairing things for over 20 years, it dawned on me that some people might not have the first idea how to accomplish the same tasks that I do. This isn’t anyone’s fault, I mean some people are just skilled in other areas and never had need to learn these skills. As we mature and age, we decide to buy homes, cars, recreation equipment, all of which from time to time needs some attention. When attention is needed, it’s always helpful to have the proper tools to successfully complete the task at hand. But where do you start? That’s where I come in.
If you are beginning your journey into “Handyman Land,” you can easily get overwhelmed by the choices available and marketing that companies shower you with. The secret to weeding through this is to remember this isn’t rocket science, and while some things may change with technology, lots of things stay the same. We will go over a short list of tools that I recommend every man should own so they can save money on their own home and equipment repairs.
1.) A quality battery-powered drill with a full set of bits
When buying a drill, I’d recommend sticking with the two big brands, DeWalt and Milwaukee. If you have to go outside of the two brands, choose Makita or Bosch. Avoid brands like Ryobi, Porter Cable, Chicago Electric, or Skil. They may be cheaper to purchase initially, but they won’t last. Be sure you also get a 1/4″ apex bit kit. It will contain the driver bits for most popular types of fasteners, and are oftentimes magnetic, so you won’t lose them.
2.) Voltage meter
A proper voltage meter and the confidence to use it can be invaluable at the right time. With any safety-related device, I will never cut corners, and with electricity, it doesn’t take very much to cause great injury. That’s why my electrician friends and I trust Fluke. The Fluke T5-1000 multimeter is rated to safely handle up to 690 volts of alternating current and 660 volts of direct current. It also has a feature to test continuity so you can see if fuses are blown. It comes with a two-year warranty and is easily storable when not in use. The Fluke T5-1000 is the most cost-friendly and dependable meter on the market.
3.) Tongue-and-groove pliers
Available in a multi-sized pack like that shown above, I prefer Channellocks-brand for my tongue-and-groove pliers. This has been the basic tool of handymen, plumbers, and boilermen for decades. I’m picky about my tools; most of the time they are used outside of their intended purpose, and I oftentimes have used my Channellocks as pry bars in order to get things to fit together. Channellocks come in a variety of sizes, but the most commonly used ones are the 440 and 420 models shown above.
4.) Torpedo level
Torpedo levels are a necessity when any home project has to be level and straight. Tasks big and small can benefit from being level. Whether it’s building a backyard swing set or hanging mirrors and pictures for your wife, it’s much easier to just point at the level when you get asked, “Are you sure that’s straight?”
5.) Adjustable-jaw wrench
Popularly known as a Crescent wrench, this may be one of the only tools that I am not brand-picky about. These wrenches feature a smooth jaw so you can use them on brass, chrome, and other finishes without marring or scraping the surface with them. Channellocks will scrape and deface chrome, and should not to be used on finished surfaces, whereas Crescent wrenches are perfect to use on sinks, faucets, and any other nut or fastener that you may want to look aesthetically pleasing and still remove at a later date.
6.) Manual handsaw
It’s great to have power tools and saws, but sometimes it’s just easier and safer to use a manual crosscut wood saw. They’re available in several lengths and varied tooth count/pitch to fit a multitude of applications. As is the case with most tools, quality can cost you money, but not as much money as a trip to the emergency room to get patched back up. Dull, unreliable tools are a formula for injury.
Like the saw, the hammer was also covered in a previous prepping article. Be sure you select the right hammer for the job; if breaking up concrete blocks or for demolition, you will want a heavier hammer like a sledge. If you are helping build a birdhouse or a putting together furniture, a smaller, lighter hammer will be needed. A 12-ounce framing hammer might be helpful then, too. Keep in mind, there are also rubber mallets that have interchangeable heads for those times you need a tool that offers force and a tender touch.
8.) Needle-nose pliers
Needle-nose pliers are made by all the usual tool companies: Channellock, Milwaukee, Klein, and Snap-On to name a few. Some needle-nose have compounding leverage heads and handles that are up to 11″ long—perfect for reaching into places where you usually drop screws or nuts during a project. Other models are known as jewelers pliers, and they have extremely thin and long handles. My recommendation when dealing with pliers of any kind is to put them in your hands first. More than once, I have bought tools only to use them and find out their ergonomics weren’t compatible with my style of work.
9.) Digital camera
People often wonder why I suggest a digital camera. Cameras make hard jobs easier; they free up my brain to concentrate on the moment’s task. When I take apart guns, plumbing, heating systems, my four-wheeler, or anything complex, I always take pictures of the steps. This way, I can refer back to how a particular part is supposed to look when I’m done with it. I have had friends do this with restoring automobiles and motorcycles as well; the inexpensive pocket digital camera is being used by more skilled craftsmen every day to make them more efficient.
10.) Socket set
A good socket set contains both metric and standard sockets. As I have suggested before, you can get nice-quality sets in plastic storage cases from Sears, Lowe’s, Home Depot, or on Amazon. I would suggest that you go and put the tools in your hands to check the overall fit and finish for yourself.
If you aren’t a tool person and this is your first foray into the world of mechanics and industrial things, don’t worry. It’s like any other task in life; everyone starts at step one. Ask plenty of questions, and don’t let salesmen talk down to you. Take notes and shop around, ask the tough questions about use and warranty, basically, treat this like you would any other function involving money and safety. As always, follow us on Twitter and Facebook, and be sure to send in any questions, comments, bitches, and gripes.
(Featured image courtesy of guidryhardware.com, all other photos courtesy of their respective manufacturers)