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DIY Basics: What to Put in Your Toolbox

By Karin Mangan
DIY Basics: What to Put in Your Toolbox

Good DIY is as much about having the right tools as the right skills. So what tools do you need to unleash your inner DIY self?

Toolbox Essentials

  • A set of screwdrivers for different screw head shapes--standard, Phillips, and Robertson. Or a screwdriver with a set of interchangeable bits.
  • An electrical test or circuit test screwdriver.
  • A cordless drill with a selection of bits for drilling holes and tightening screws. Go for about 12 volts because the higher voltage drills are also much heavier.
  • A cast metal utility knife with a supply of blades.
  • An adjustable crescent wrench to loosen and tighten easy to reach nuts and bolts.
  • A socket wrench, or ratchet, with a couple of extenders and a set of sockets for tighter or more difficult to reach nuts and bolts.
  • A set of insulated pliers including slip joint pliers, which you can adjust to increase the width of their jaws; needle nose pliers for cutting, bending, gripping, or stripping electrical wire; and diagonal wire cutters. You can also use vise grip pliers because you can lock them in place.
  • A metal ruler, which you can use to measure and to provide a straight edge for cutting.
  • A hand saw or two. A 14-inch saw should fit into your toolbox and is sufficient for cutting small pieces of wood. You need a larger saw for tasks such as cutting through a 2 x 4.
  • A level to ensure your DIY jobs are straight. A 9-inch level is enough for simple jobs like hanging pictures or shelves but a larger one is better for bigger jobs.
  • A 10- or 12-foot retractable tape measure with a locking mechanism. Longer tape measures are available if you are planning larger DIY tasks.
  • A 16-ounce claw hammer with a non-slip rubber grip and a synthetic handle.
  • A selection of nails, screws, bolts, and picture hangers.
  • Duct tape.
  • Electrical tape.
  • A few sheets of sandpaper in 80, 120, and 150 grit.
  • Some fuse wire and a selection of fuses.

It might be costly to put together a fully loaded tool box. If you can't afford to buy everything you need in one shopping trip, start by buying tools as you need them. Look for sets that include the tools you need plus a few extras, and keep your eyes open for special offers. Avoid going for the cheapest tools--it can be a false economy. Quality tools are less likely to break and should last longer.

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