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In the effort to prepare for a disaster or an emergency, it is easy to overlook the need to maintain an adequate cache of common household tools. For some, having household tools means a hammer and a screwdriver or two stowed away in a messy junk drawer. But really, is that going to get you by if there is no handyman available to call?
It is time to summon the inner Tim-the-tool-man that resides in all of us so that we can become our own, self sufficient fix-it guru. Today I offer some suggestions for putting together a practical set of tools for your home or apartment and then leave it up to you to fill in the blanks.
Basic Household Tools
Claw Hammer: Go for a basic, mid-weight hammer. The one thing to look for is a head that is made from deep-forged steel and a handle that feels comfortable when you swing the hammer.
Cordless Power Drill: Look for a drill with variable speeds and a T-handle which will be better balanced than a pistol handed drill.
Crescent or Monkey Wrench: You need a crescent wrench to turn and tighten nuts and bolts. Get a medium sized wrench and if it is too big for the task at hand, use a penny to shimmy the opening a bit to fit the smaller sized bolt.
Screwdrivers: You are going to need two types; a flat head and a Phillips. With the flat head, get three: small, medium and my favorite, the giant sized which can also be used as a crowbar of sorts to pry things open. A small and a large Phillips should be sufficient.
Tape Measure: This is one area where it spending just a few more dollars more will have a huge payback in terms of ease of use and longevity. Go for a 16 footer.
Pliers: For the basics, you will need a medium sized slip-joint piers and a needle nosed pliers. Both are used for gripping objects.
Saws: Two types of saws are commonly used; the hacksaw and the crosscut saw. Hacksaws are used for cutting metal and the crosscut saw for everything else.
Putty Knife: A putty knife is indispensible for filling nail holes (hint: use white toothpaste if you are out of spackle) or for scraping paint of old caulk.
Carpenters Level: A level will help you set things straight . . . literally. I personally like my small, nine inch but a more standard, 2 foot level is more practical.
Stud Finder: The purpose of a stud finder is to pinpoint the exact location of screws or nails in the wall so that you can safely hand stuff in a solid location.This is absolutely a necessity if hanging shelves or other weight bearing objects.
Staple Gun: While not absolutely essential, a staple gun makes the job of putting up plastic sheeting a breeze. If you ever have to shelter in place, you will be glad you have a staple gun.
Utility Knife: Used for cutting up cardboard boxes, or more commonly in my house, opening boxes and packages. Be sure to get they type with a retractable blade.
Electricians Tool: A multipurpose electrician’s tool is used for cutting, striping and crimping wires. This tool also serves as a grip when working with wire and doing other types of electrical tasks.
Tool Box: Not to big and not too small; be sure to get the tool box that fits your needs and your storage area. For your everyday gear, I prefer something basic without a lot of flip top, flip up and flip out compartments. Instead, I prefer a basic box with a lift out upper tray. YMMV but for the basic box, $10 to $15 will give you everything you need to store your tools.
Safety Goggles: When working with wood or other particle laden materials, your eyes need protection. Be sure to get the type with side shields. If you wear glasses, get the type that fit over your glasses.
Dust Masks: Dust and fumes are your enemy when working around the house. Get some disposable dust masks. Look for the type with dual straps for a better fit. Dust masks labeled “NIOSH approved” offer the best protection
Work Gloves: A pair of sturdy cloth and leather work gloves will protect your hands from nicks and abrasions. A pair of study plastic or rubber gloves is also useful and when working with glues, nothing beats latex or nitrile gloves (our favorite).
Don’t Forget the Do-Dads
- Duct tape
- Electrical Tapes
- Wire Connectors
- Assorted Screws, Nuts and Bolts
- Assorted Nails
- Plumbing Tape
- Plastic Sheeting
- Zip Ties
- Elmer’s Glue
- Liquid Nails
The Final Word
Most guys love Harbor Freight due to its endless rows of well-priced tools and shop equipment. But for the basics – and for someone just getting started – many items can be purchased at the local Home Depot or even the dollar store where you can pick up a decent screwdriver or two.
Where ever you decide to shop, though, think about putting together a basic kit that will allow you to make basic repairs yourself. Having the right tools can make a world of difference when it comes to do the job correctly, efficiently and most of all safely.
One more thing: my tool box is my tool box. You can borrow from it but put things back the way you found them. That is the rule in my household . . . and yes, I really do have my own set of tools thank you very much.
Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!
. . . Your comments welcome here and at The Buzz.
From the Bargain Bin: Everyone needs a household tool kit for the day-to-day fix-it tasks. Here are some links and technical details to get you started in adding to the tools that you already own.
Stanley 16-Ounce Curve Claw Fiberglass Hammer
- Fiberglass handle absorbs shock and vibration
- Textured rubber ensures a comfortable, secure grip
- Fiberglass handle minimizes vibrations and reduces breakage vs. wood
- Heat treated and rim tempered for durability and safety
Black & Decker 18-Volt High Performance Drill
- Supplies 330 in./lbs. of torque
- 100 percent metal chuck with a spindle lock to tighten screw drivers and drill bits in less time
- Zero to 350 RPM in high-torque applications, zero to 1,400 RPM in high-speed applications
- Weighs 9.4 pounds (shipped), 2-year warranty
- Includes two 18-volt batteries, one cup charger, kit box, and 10-piece drill bit set
Fiskars Power Grip Hand Drill
- Ideal for drilling on the go – no cords or batteries needed
- Smooth operating gear system is completely enclosed in a durable ABS housing
- Perfect for quick jobs
- Works with standard drill bits
- Drill bits not included
Stanley 6-Inch MaxSteel Adjustable Wrench
- Laser-marked SAE and metric jaw scale for easy fastener size
- Forged alloy-steel body increases strength and exceeds ANSI standards for torque
- Extra-wide jaw capacity opens wider than standard adjustable wrenches
- Bi-material handle for a comfortable grip. Used for automotive maintenance and repair, plumbing and general assembly tasks
- Limited Lifetime Warranty
Stanley 10-Piece Standard Fluted Screwdriver Set
- Standard fluted screwdriver set features ten popular Phillips, slotted, stubby and pocket screwdrivers to satisfy a wide range of fastening needs
- Hardened tips give non-slip fit for use on even the most stripped screws
- Heat treated, alloy steel blades with rust resistant nickel-plated bar; ergonomic, tri-lobular, slip-resistant handles
- Includes 1-point and 2-point Phillips, 4 slotted, 2 stubby, and 2 pocket screwdrivers
- Backed by lifetime limited warranty
Stanley Powerlock 25-Foot by 1-Inch Measuring Tape
- 25-foot by 1-1/4-inch tape rule with belt clip
- Easy-to-read lockable yellow blade graduated in 1/16-inch
- High impact ABS case with rubber over mold for strength; Mylar-coated blade; heat-treated spring for repeated use
- 16-inch and 19.2-inch stud center markings
- 13.6-ounces; 7-foot standout; limited lifetime warranty
Stanley 3 Piece Basic 6-Inch Slip Joint, 6-Inch Long Nose, and 6-Inch Diagonal Plier Set
- Includes 3 sets of pliers with forged-steel construction for durability
- Forged-steel construction for durability
- Rust-resistant finish for greater protection; double-dipped handle for extra comfort
- Hardened cutting edges and chrome-nickel steel for extra-tough cutting edge
- Meets or exceeds ANSI standards
Stanley Rubber Grip Hacksaw, Fits 8-Inch, 10-Inch and 12-Inch Blades
- 10-inch hacksaw with rigid steel frame and molded rubber cushion grip
- D-shaped guard protects hands and knuckles
- Fully adjustable frame
- Throat depth of 3-7/8 inches
- Limited lifetime warranty
Great Neck 26-Inch Hand Saw-Wood Handle and Chrome Nickel Steel Blade
- 26″/10pt Fine Cut Cross Cut Saw
- Weather Resistant Hardwood Handle
- Lifetime Warranty
Great Neck 1-1/4-Inch Width Flexible Putty Knife
- 1-1/4-Inch width high carbon steel blade
- Molded plastic handle will not absorb grease or oil
- Grommet hole for easy storage
Empire True Blue 9-Inch Heavy-duty Magnetic Aluminum Torpedo Level
- True Blue Vial, superior accuracy, durability, visibility, made in USA
- Heavy-duty extruded aluminum frame
- Strong-holding magnetic edge
- Advanced concentric molding guarantees perfectly formed vials
- Vials read plumb, level and 45 degrees
Stanley FatMax 24-Inch Non-Magnetic Level
- Features 2 block vials on each end to provide maximum accuracy
- A center MaxEdge vial enables users to scribe continuous lines with an improved view
- Dual bi-material hand grips for comfort
- Two shock absorbent end caps and non-marring side bumpers for durability
CH Hanson Magnetic Stud Finder
- Small and compact, easily fits in pocket
- Powerful magnets allows hands free use
- 2 way level for ease of marking
- No batteries required
- Soft grip for easy grabbing and gentle touch
Stanley Sharp Shooter Plus Heavy Duty Staple/Brad Nail Gun
- Easy-squeeze product works overtime as a staple gun, brad nailer, cable tacker and wire tacker
- All-metal drive channel ensures better penetration
- Less force to squeeze and more driving power
- Heavy duty aircraft-aluminum housing for long-lasting durability. Hi/Lo power lever for hard and soft materials. Flush-nose design solves the problem of stapling in tight spots
- Limited Lifetime Warranty
IRWIN Utility Knife Standard Retractable Hi Vis
- High-visibility orange color makes for easy spotting on the job site
- Smooth, three-position slide exposes variable blade lengths
- Screw permanently captured in casing to prevent loss
- Features inside storage for up to 5 blades
- Includes three unbreakable Blue Blades
Klein Multi-Purpose Electrician’s Tool 8-22 AWG Red 8 1/2 Inches
- Bolt Size: 4-40, 6-32, 8-32, 10-24, 10-32
- Handle Color: Red
- Overall Length: 8-1/2″ (216)
- Strips and Cuts: 10 – 26 AWG stranded (4.0 – .14 mm²) & 8 – 22 AWG solid (6.0 – .34 mm²)
Stanley 16-Inch Tool Box
- 16-inch tool box
- Two lid organizers for storing small parts
- Built-in padlock eye for small locks
- Soft, wide rubber-coated handle for easy transportation
- Nickel metal-plated latches
Dewalt Clear Anti-Fog Protective Safety Glasses
- Rubber tipped temples provide a secure, comfortable fit
- Tough, polycarbonate lens provides impact resistance
- Telescoping temples adjust for a comfortable fit
- Cushioned brow protection for extra comfort and protection
- Ratcheting temples adjust for a proper fit
3M N95 Cool-Flow Particulate Sanding Respirator, 10-Pack
- Helps reduce exposure to dust from hanging fiberglass insulation or from sanding on wood, metal, plastic, non-lead-based paints, brick or concrete.
- Patented Cool Flow exhalation valve makes for easy breathing and cook, dry comfort.
- Soft inner web feels comfortable against skin
- Government-approved N95 particulate respirator
3M 8210Plus Particulate Respirator N95, 20-Pack
- Easy breathability
- Soft sosefoam for user comfort
- No-tangle straps for ease of use
- Cake-resistant media
- Comes in a pack of 20
Custom Leathercraft Handyman Flex Grip Work Gloves
- Clarino synthetic leather is tough, soft and comfortable to wear, resists shrinking, stretching and hardening
- Padded knuckles provide protection against bumps
- Wing closing strap for perfect adjustments and easy-on, easy-off
- Lycra side panels for improved dexterity
- Stretch spandex for flexibility and fit
Dynarex Nitrile Exam Gloves, Box/100
- The ideal solution for individuals sensitive to natural rubber latex and donning powder
- Contains no allergy causing natural rubber proteins
- Extraordinary strength and puncture resistance while maintaining tactile sensitivity
- Commonly used by law enforcement professionals
- 1 box contains 100 ambidextrous gloves
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