46 Essential Hand Tools Everyone Should Own (List with Pictures)
Whether you’re a professional handyman or just want to do simple jobs around the house, you’ll need several tools to complete the work. Some are very basic, like a hammer. However, others are easy to overlook but vital in many everyday situations. It is always best to be prepared with what you need before starting a project. Stocking up on items from this list will prevent last-minute runs to the store.
46 Essential Hand Tools Everyone Should Own
Below, you’ll find a complete list of essential tools. Many of these are suitable for the average homeowner who likes DIY projects. Even if you aren’t a DIY person, many of these tools are required for general house and yard repairs and maintenance.
There are a few types of hand tools you should have nearby. We’ve broken them down into categories to make it easy for you to get organized.
- Measurement tools are essential for nearly any job, but they are commonly overlooked. You don’t want to be without a level or ruler when needed.
- Hammers, shovels and bars are also essential.
- Saws and files are also vital for several projects.
- Clamps and wrenches. Many overlook clamps when purchasing tools, but they are essential to some jobs.
- Finally, you may need a few other accessories and miscellaneous items, which will come in handy.
The Essential Hand Tools for Measurement
1. Tape Measure
This tool is essential for practically any job that involves measuring objects. You should purchase a sturdy tape measure with a hook that moves, which will make it easier to measure when you’re alone. A 25-foot tape measure is probably your best option. It’ll be long enough for most jobs without becoming unwieldy.
Ah, the old-fashioned protractor. These simple tools are often overlooked, but they are required for almost anything that involves cutting an angle. These tools are cheap, so there is no excuse not to have one around.
3. Speed Square
A speed square is several tools in one. You can use it as a miter square and a protractor (though we still recommend having a regular protractor on hand as well). They are very cheap and nice to have around, even if you don’t consider yourself a talented DIYer.
4. Laser Measure
A laser measure is an excellent option for dimensions that are too oversized for your usual measurement tools. These lasers will quickly measure any distance up to a certain level—usually around 50 feet. You likely won’t need to use the laser very often.
A caliper measures the distance between two sides of an object, where accuracy is often essential. You can technically use other measuring tools for this, but you aren’t going to get more accurate than a caliper, which is why we recommend having one on hand.
A simple ruler can be useful in many situations. Not only can it measure things, but it is also used for making straight lines. You never know when your ruler will be useful.
7. Tailor’s Measuring Tape
Don’t let the name fool you. This measuring tape can be handy whenever you need to measure something that isn’t straight, like a curved piece of wood. They’re made out of simple cloth, which means they’re far more flexible than other rulers.
Most of the things you build will need to be level. It can be nearly impossible to determine this from sight alone, which is where a level comes in. Using a level is very simple and isn’t particularly expensive either.
9. Bubble Inclinometer
This is very similar to a level. But, instead of helping you keep things level, it helps you determine a particular incline. You probably won’t be working with inclines very often. However, when you are, one of these tools is essential.
10. Pressure Gauge
You should have this tool on hand to check the pressure in your car tires. There may be other situations when you’ll also need to use an air pressure gauge.
Temperature is an essential measurement when working with heat-sensitive materials. There are many types of thermometers, and we recommend stocking up on a few if possible. Laser thermometers are a reliable option, as they can quickly measure the temperature of nearly anything.
Hammers, Shovels & Bars
The tool every person should have is a simple claw hammer. You should look for a steel or titanium hammer that has been forged as one piece for increased durability.
This is a bit of a niche tool, but it can speed up many jobs. Anytime you need brute force, a sledgehammer is a good option. They are made to break materials; you never know when you’ll need to do that.
14. Utility Bar
A utility bar is essential for demolition projects. You should get a high-quality bar to pull out nails and remove things like paneling. This is a versatile tool that can help jobs go much faster.
15. Digging Shovel
A simple digging shovel is essential for anyone who owns their land. You never know when you’ll need to dig a hole or dig up something. Shovels aren’t expensive, so we recommend purchasing the nicest one you can find.
16. Drain Spades
These are very narrow shovels. They’re essential for accurate digging, such as planting flowers. If you have landscaping, you don’t want to find yourself without this shovel.
17. Ball Peen Hammer
This hammer is used for metalworking tasks, so it is essential if you plan on working with metal. If you ever need to drive cold chisels, this is the tool you need.
Saws, Files & Planers
18. Dovetail Saw
A dovetail saw is useful for making dovetails. However, it can also be used for other tasks like notching a shelf. They’re very versatile and used for small DIY projects, which is precisely what you’ll probably be doing.
19. Crosscut Saw
A crosscut saw is used for cutting small pieces of wood, which is useful for repairing and making furniture. We recommend picking up one of these saws simply because it can be used for many different things.
This saw is thin and flexible, which is precisely what you need for precise cutting. This saw is particularly useful for cutting pegs and making other small, accurate cuts.
21. Coping Saw
These saws are used for cutting curves, which almost no other hand saw can do accurately. Coping saws are essential if you plan on working with wood often or doing simple DIY jobs.
We recommend having a wide variety of files. You’ll probably need these for most projects, especially if you want them to look finished and smooth. Files are used for sanding down finished work.
A planer can do many things, such as smoothing rough stock and reducing wood to the exact thickness you need. We recommend just a portable thickness planer for most purposes. You probably don’t need an industrial planer for most DIY projects.
If you have trees on your land, you never know when you’ll need an axe. They are essential for any homeowner, even if you don’t plan on cutting something. A tree may fall across your driveway, making an axe very useful!
25. Drywall Saw
This long, narrow saw is mostly used for cutting various building materials, like drywall.
Clamps, Wrenches & Pliers
26. Trigger-activated Bar Clamp
There are several types of clamps, but this is one of our favorites. It can be tightened with one hand, which means you can hold your work with the other hand. It’s ingenious and essential for any home DIYer. The bar clamp is the answer to those times you were trying to tighten a clamp and wished you had three hands.
27. Parallel-jaw Clamp
This is a must-have just because it is so big. The jaw remains fixed at 90º, making it helpful for square assemblies and anything you need to stay straight.
28. Spring Clamp
These clamps are quick and easy. They’re suitable for whenever you need light pressure and need to keep something still for a second. We recommend having some of these at arm’s length whenever possible.
29. Allen Wrench Set
You should purchase an Allen wrench set as soon as possible. You can’t do much without these tools, making them a vital part of any workshop. We highly recommend purchasing a high-quality set since you’ll probably use them often.
30. Adjustable Wrench
This wrench is suitable for tightening and loosening nuts and bolts. The moveable lower jaw is great when you don’t know the nut size you’re working with.
31. Combination Wrench
We also recommend having a set of combination wrenches available. These tools are essential for many projects, so you don’t want to be caught without them. Plus, they’re quite cheap, so there isn’t a reason to skip them.
32. Cutting Pliers
Whenever you need to cut bolts or wires, cutting pliers are your best option. You should always have these around if you need to give a wire a clip or remove a small nail.
33. Needle Nose Pliers
We’ll be honest—we have a minor obsession with these pliers. Needle nose pliers are great for working with smaller materials. You’ll be happy you have these whenever you need to fish out a screw from a tight place.
34. Locking Pliers
When something gets stuck, you need these pliers. They’re great for pulling out nails and loosening frozen nuts and bolts. They can also act as a clamp in a pinch, though we wouldn’t recommend skipping a clamp altogether.
35. Self-Adjusting Pliers
Self-adjusting pliers are great for general repairs and plumbing. You should have a pair of these nearby, as they’re more reliable than your all-purpose slip-joint pliers.
36. Molly Bolts
Having some molly bolts lying around is very useful. These wall anchors provide a decent amount of holding power, which is useful when you don’t have a stud for support.
37. Sticky Notes
It is vital to write all your measurements down. Otherwise, the odds of you forgetting them are quite high. Sticky notes are a simple option to keep track of measurements and other need-to-know information.
38. Extension cords
All of the tools on this list are hand tools, and they don’t require electricity. However, you will probably need an extension cord at some point anyway.
Sawhorses are essential whenever you’re cutting anything. If you’re working with wood, you need a pair of sawhorses to get the job done. They are inexpensive and usually made of wood, plastic, or steel.
You need a good pair of gloves for construction work. You don’t want to end up cutting yourself or with a hand full of splinters. Bite the bullet and buy as good a pair of gloves as you can afford.
41. Staple Gun
You’ll probably have to staple something at some point, and a heavy-duty staple gun can help complete projects faster. This is a tool you could pass on if you’re on a budget, but it can make some projects a lot easier if you can afford them.
42. Caulk Gun
A caulk gun distributes caulk to seal up gaps in your home. It can be used on various materials. We recommend having one handy for those quick and easy home repairs.
You need a screwdriver for practically everything. Even if you’re building Ikea furniture, you will need a screwdriver.
A flashlight can be essential for tight or dark spaces. A smartphone “flashlight” might work in a pinch, but having a quality LED light in your workshop is your best option.
45. Utility Knife
A high-quality utility knife will take you far. Whether you’re struggling to open a bag or are trimming away the carpet, this knife is essential for any DIYer.
46. Stud Finder
If you place a nail or screw in your wall, you’ll need a stud finder. They come in several designs, from affordable magnetic ones to professional models. We recommend choosing one based on your budget.
Caring For Your Tools
Each hand tool will need to be cared for differently. The most significant part of caring for your tool is storing them properly. You don’t want your tools exposed to the elements when you aren’t using them, as this will cut back on their lifespan substantially. Furthermore, you shouldn’t just throw your tools in a pile. You don’t want them breaking each other.
You should only use tools that are in tip-top shape as well. Dull blades are likely to break, and faulty equipment can cause safety concerns. Rust is going to be the number one killer of your tools. It makes them unsafe and unstable. Most won’t even work correctly when rusty.
Luckily, avoiding rust is easy. All you need to do is avoid moisture, though this is often easier said than done. Wipe your tools off after each use to ensure that they aren’t dirty or wet before you store them. You can also add oil to some tools to prevent them from rusting.
Where to Buy Tools
Essential hand tools can be purchased at local hardware stores and online. Our favorite thing to do is to research tools first (like you’re already doing on this website) and then head to a hardware store to see them in person. You can often go to each store’s website to see if they have the particular tool you’re looking for currently available. There is just something about seeing a tool in person that is hard to replicate online.
However, do not purchase the tool at the store. You can almost always find tools cheaper online, especially if purchasing directly from the manufacturer is available. Even if the tool isn’t cheaper, it is easier to compare everyone’s prices online, allowing you to find the cheapest store nearby.
There are quite a few essential hand tools you need to have in a stocked workshop. Luckily, most of the tools are inexpensive, and you don’t have to purchase them all at once. Just buy a few at a time when you can afford them. Don’t forget to invest in the most common tools first, like a measuring tape and screwdriver. All the tools on this list are essential, but some can be put off until you really need them.
- See Also: Who Makes Lynxx Tools?
Featured Image Credit: AlexeiLogvinovich, Shutterstock