Sunday, June 6, 2010

Questions from a Reader: Tools

What would be the top ten tools you would recommend? B.P.

This list really depends on where you are and what you do. More than once I fell under the spell of the Craftsman Tool department and ended up with a complete auto mechanics set (I don't work on cars), a complete woodworkers tool set (I don't work on wood either), and other random assorted cool gadgets that caught my eye and led to visions of stuff I could do if I had the right tool set. Then I figured out that if I am not actually doing the thing now, it isn't likely that I will be doing it in the future.

I have sold and gifted quite a few tools that looked pretty impressive in the store but which I had no actual use for. Lesson learned. Expensively. So now my tool bench consists of the tools that I actually need for day to day use. I don't buy things that I rarely use (like a power washer) because the gardener can bring his own or I can simply rent the device if I really need it. I no longer have a winch on my truck and a chainsaw in the back because I no longer live in a rural, mountainous area that sometimes required clearing your own road if you wanted to pass by. A bolo (machete) is nice, but unless you are clearing jungle overgrowth, there really is no need for one.

So in a nutshell, start with the basic tools below that any average homeowner/apartment dweller may need, then expand as you do work that requires specialized tools (ie: you do a plumbing project, rewire the garage, paint a spare bedroom, build a garden shed, etc).
  1. Set of screw drivers (you don't need a 32 piece set...just buy a small, medium, and large version of both flat and Phillips head screwdrivers).

  2. Hammer

  3. Breaker bar (also known as a pry bar)

  4. Set of wrenches/pliers (needle nose pliers, crescent wrench, slotted pliers, etc)

  5. Hacksaw

  6. Level

  7. Drill and set of drill bits

  8. Ladder

  9. Utility knife

  10. Measuring tape

The three basic rules of tool ownership:

#1 Buy only the tools you need and actually use

#2 Buy quality tools not crap from the dollar store

#3 Build up your tool collection slowly. If you are 20 years old and think you should have a workshop that rivals your grandfather's, don't. Tools are usually collected over many years in just the way described above. You start with the basics, then decide to clean your gutters (add 25' ladder to your collection), the next year you plant a garden (add hoe and shovel), in a couple of years your garden now takes up an acre (add rototiller). You get the idea.

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