Essential Tools For Men
Every man should own tools. They are what sets men apart from boys. They let you protect and provide for your family. They make you a man. It’s an instinct that goes back as far as civilization: the man builds a shelter and creates a home for his family.
As Thomas Carlyle said: “Man is a tool-using animal. Without tools, he is nothing, with tools he is all.”
In today’s throw-away culture, it’s easy to dismiss the importance of owning tools. It’s just as easy to go down to IKEA and replace that bedside table than it is to fix it. But where’s the satisfaction in that? Wouldn’t you feel a greater sense of pride, knowing that you fixed it with your own skill? Being able to fix and improve your house is one of the manliest things you can do. Forget about buying that new beard oil, tools are the new in-thing.
But where do you start? A surprising amount of men don’t even own a toolbox. Can you buy an all-in-one toolset? Yeah, of course, you can. But you could end up buying tools you’ll never need. We’ve thought about this long and hard – what are the 30 most important tools every man should have?
1. Adjustable wrench
An adjustable wrench – or adjustable spanner as they’re called in the UK – is an open-ended wrench that can be adjusted to fit different sized bolts. It’s definitely one of the best tools to own because it means you only have to own one wrench. Instead, you could end up sifting through a kit of 30 different sized wrenches – you’ll never be able to find the right one and will never want to put them away afterward (more on this later). You might know about them as a Crescent Wrench, due to the popularity of the Crescent brand in the US and Canada. If you’re just starting to write your handyman toolbox list, the should be number 1 on there.
2. Allen wrench set
This little tool can be known as a hex key, an Allen key, or an Allen wrench. Its original name is a hex key, but since the Allen company of Hartford, Connecticut registered the trademark, it has been commonly known under that brand name. They are used to drive bolts with hexagonal sockets and are commonly used to repair bikes, build furniture, and even pick locks. If you are ever locked out your house, grab an Allen key long enough and feed it through the lock until you can release it. Hexagonal sockets aren’t the most common sockets, but you will encounter them, so it’s worth having a solid Allen key set.
If you don’t own an ax, go out and buy one right now. Axes are the manliest of all tools and you will feel like Thor himself when you pick it up. To be honest, they don’t have a lot of uses except for splitting wood, but if you have a wood-fire in your house (if you don’t, you should) it will come in handy all the time. Whether you are collecting wood for the fire yourself or having it delivered, you can set yourself up a little area in the yard for chopping wood and you’ll never look back. Make sure you learn proper ax technique before you get started; you don’t want to chop your toes off.
4. Chalk line
A chalk line – or chalk box – is perhaps not the most exciting tool, but extremely useful. You know when you’re trying to draw a really long straight line? It’s impossible to do by hand and if you use a ruler, you always end up getting it wrong. That’s where the chalk line comes in. Most commonly used by carpenters, the chalk line is perfect for creating straight edges on rough pieces of timber. Amazingly, it’s been around since Ancient Egypt, and they were pretty handy when it came to building stuff.
5. Circular saw
This one’s not going to fit in your tool bag, but it will make a huge difference to your DIY capabilities. It’s a powered circular saw blade that can be hand-held or fitted onto a table-top. Once you’ve used one of these, you’ll never want to saw by hand again. They glide through any piece of wood with ease, making carpentry a walk in the park. They are a little more expensive than a lot of the tools in this list, but if you can splash out it will save you a lot of time.
6. Combination square
The combination square is one of those tools that you’d look at in the shop and not really know what you’re going to use it for. It looks like a metal ruler with a funny handle, and that’s pretty much what it is. But it has a ton of uses that will make your DIY much more accurate. This mathematical tool can be used for measuring angles, determining flatness, finding the center of a piece of wood, and checking the level. It’s commonly used in woodworking, stonemasonry, and metalworking.
7. Combination wrench set
So, we’ve already talked about the adjustable wrench – the only wrench you’ll ever need. So why, you ask, would I need to buy a combination wrench set? Well, the adjustable wrench is undoubtedly a great tool, but it does have its limits. They are often quick bulky and difficult to get into small spaces for a start. Then, if you need to tighten one bolt whilst holding another bolt still, you are going to need another wrench. The smaller wrench has its uses and is a great addition to any man’s toolset. It might not be the first thing on your list, but it is an essential item for anyone doing mechanics or plumbing, so it deserves a spot on the list.
8. Coping saw
A coping saw is specifically a woodworking tool. It’s a small bow saw that can be used to cut intricates shapes and cut-outs of wood. It’s almost definitely not going to be the most used item in your kit, but if you are trying your hand at furniture building and repair, it’s going to come in really useful. They’ve been around since the 16th Century and have never been replaced, so you know they’re a pretty solid tool.
9. Cordless drill
This is a big one. Every man needs a drill. Whether you are building furniture, hanging pictures, fixing something, or building a treehouse, you are going to need your drill. They generally have a cutting tool attachment and driving tool attachment. Electric drills have been around for years, but recently more and more have become cordless. Running on rechargeable batteries, the cordless drill is so much more versatile than it used to be. You can fit them into small spaces, grab them whenever you need, and take them anywhere you want.
You might be thinking: why would I need a hacksaw if I already have a circular saw? Basically, hacksaws are designed specifically for metal. They are mainly used to cut metal piping to size but can also be used to cut plastic piping or plastic conduit. They will come in particularly handy if you’re doing your own plumbing or building anything out of metal.
The hammer is probably the oldest and definitely one of the most useful tools on this list. Simple hammers have been found in Kenya that date back to 3.3 million years ago – basically rocks that were used to bash something else into place. The hammer as we know it has been around for about 30,000 years. So, if you don’t own one, you’re basically less tooled up than a caveman. How does that feel? There are all sorts of different hammer you can buy, but a simple claw hammer is one of the tools every man needs.
Here’s another saw for you. The Jigsaw is a precision tool used for cutting shapes into a variety of materials. You can use them on wood, metal, plastic, and stone, as long as you have the correct blade for the job. They are probably a bit advanced to be called a ‘must-have tool’, but if you are really getting into your DIY and want to start creating some beautiful shapes, then you will definitely need one.
13. Spirit Level
Any DIYer worth his salt will know how important it is to get things level. Whether you are tiling a floor or building a table, if you don’t get it level, it’s not going to work. The easiest way to get things level is using a spirit level. Like a long ruler, but with a liquid-filled container that has an air bubble. All you have to do is get the bubble in-between the lines. These days, most smartphones have a spirit level app, which is an okay substitute but aren’t as accurate as the real thing.
14. Locking wrench
“Another wrench!?” Yep, the locking wrench – or locking pliers – is another must-have hand tool. The great thing about the locking wrench is that you can lock it into place and let it do the work for you. This comes in really handy when you’re trying to clamp something or hold a bolt in place. They can also be used to pull out nails and fasteners, or even extract bolts and screws with rounded heads.
15. Multi-bit screwdriver
If this list wasn’t in alphabetical order, the multi-bit screwdriver would definitely be towards the top. The humble screwdriver is one of the most important tools you need to complete pretty much all DIY tasks. Instead of splashing out on an expensive screwdriver set, the multi-bit screwdriver has all of the most commonly used screwdriver heads available. This amazing multi-tool will save you money and tool and probably become your most favored DIY companion. Try to find one a ratchet multi-bit screwdriver. This function gives you much more torque and makes screwing in difficult screws easier and quicker.
16. Needlenose pliers
Needlenose pliers are used by artisans, jewelry designers, network engineers, luthiers, electricians and many other types of tradesmen. As the name would suggest, they have a long, needle-like nose that allows excellent control when you are working with wire. They also have a cutting edge further towards the bottom of the nose, which makes them an excellent multi-purpose tool. They’re an essential addition to any toolbox, especially if you are working with electronics or basically doing anything that requires a bit of fiddly precision.
17. Pipe wrench
This one is quite specific. The pipe wrench is used for bending soft iron piping and fittings around a surface. It’s adjustable which makes it pretty versatile and can be used as a normal wrench. You probably won’t find a lot of uses for it unless you are doing your own plumbing, but it’s absolutely essential to plumbers. It could come in handy if you are creating something decorative out of piping or other metal.
18. Portable Workbench
So, you’ve got a toolbox full of tools, lots of big ideas in mind, and the skills to do it. But where are you going to work? Some people are lucky enough to have a shed with a workbench fitted in, but that’s not possible for everyone. You need something that can be used anywhere as a portable work surface. That’s where the portable workbench comes in. There are all sorts of variations on these, so you will have to find one that suits your specific needs. They often come with vise grips, which are super handy if you’re cutting or working with a material.
19. Putty knife
A putty is actually a specialized tool used for fitting single-glazed windows. The tradesman will apply the putty by hand before putting the window in place. But the name putty knife is actually an umbrella term for wide-bladed knives used for applying putty, plaster, and other mouldable substances. You aren’t likely to use this tool every day, but it will quickly become important when you start to work with plaster or putty.
20. Electric Chainsaw
Coming a close second behind the ax, the electric chainsaw is one of the manliest tools you can buy. It’s a portable, mechanical saw that has a row of super sharp teeth designed to cut through even the toughest wood. You can use them for felling, pruning, limbing, and bucking trees – and if you don’t know those terms, you probably shouldn’t be doing them. Chainsaws can be extremely dangerous, and you should treat them with extreme care. If you are worried about using them, have a quick look on YouTube for some excellent chainsaw safety videos. In some countries, you even need a license to use a chainsaw.
21. Electric sheet sander
If you’ve ever tried to sand a large piece of wood by hand, you’ll know how important it is to own an electric sheet sander. Any tools man that knows how to work smart, not hard, will have one of these tools in his collection. When you’re working with wood, you need to sand it off to create a smooth surface for varnishing. This can take a lot of time and a lot of elbow grease if you don’t have the right tools. Forget tennis elbow, you’ll be in for sander’s elbow if you don’t have one of these.
Again, you might be thinking: “Why would I need a hand-saw, if I already have a circular saw?” They pretty much do the same job. The hand saw is designed to work its way through the wood, only this time you have to use your own energy to make it happen. The reason is pretty simple. If you have a small piece of wood that needs chopping off, you aren’t going to want to get your large circular saw out, plug it in, then put it away again, for the sake of a small job. A hand saw is an essential item in any toolkit.
23. Socket wrench set
You might think you are strong enough to twist of any bolt, but you’d almost certainly be wrong. The socket wrench makes the job easier with its clever ratchet design. It gives you much more torque than you’d be able to get from a normal wrench, which means you can tighten bolts until they are extremely tight. That’s why this type of tool is used so often in vehicle mechanics – the bolts need to be super tight to avoid something coming loose in the engine or chassis.
24. Stud finder
You might think you know how to hang a picture on a wall. That’s until you put it up, admire it for a few minutes, and then watch it come crashing down onto the floor. You can’t rely on plasterboard alone to hole a heavy picture, you need to fix it directly into a stud in the wall. That’s where the stud finer comes in. This handy pocket tool can locate both metal and wooden studs in walls so that you can find the perfect place to hang your picture frames. You might laugh it off and think you can do without this tool. That is until you’re awoken by the sound of that expensive painting falling off the wall.
25. Tape measure
This is lesson one of DIY – buy and use a tape measure. You can’t accurately measure by eye, so you need a tool that can do it for you. That small plastic ruler you have from your school days isn’t going to cut it anymore. You can get all sorts of different tape measures now, but you don’t need anything fancy. Just a simple, 3-meter tape measure will do. Plus, as an added bonus, it makes a great toy if you have cats in the house.
26. Tool Box
Now you’ve bought all these awesome tools, you are going to need somewhere to store them. A real tradesman will have a well-organized toolbox with him at all times. Again, you don’t need anything special here – just a solid box with a space for big tools and one for smaller tools. You can even get tool boxes with built-in radios if you really want to impress your friends.
27. Tool Belt
How can you tell a pretender from a real DIY expert? Easy, the tool belt. How else are you going to carry around all the important tools you need for today’s job? You’ve got the toolbox with everything in it, but you don’t want to carry that around all day. No, you need the right tools on hand at all times. Think of it as your superhero utility belt. You’re basically Batman.
28. Torque Wrench
This is the last wrench on the list. Promise. A torque wrench is a specialist tool for when the tightening of nuts and bolts is extremely important. With this wrench, you can tighten a bolt to the exact tightness so that you don’t over tighten it. It was developed in 1918 by Conrad Bahr for the New York City Water Department.
29. Utility knife
This one’s going to come in handy. The utility knife is an all-purpose knife that has a protective outer coating, so you don’t end up hurting yourself by accident. They are generally very sharp and can be used to cut through all sorts of materials. They also have replaceable blades, so you can keep them sharp at all times. The fixed blade version has been around for 500,000 years, whereas the retractable blade that we all know has only been around in the last century.
When you start doing DIY, you’re going to find that you don’t have enough hands. You need to hold something in place, whilst screwing something else, and hold the third thing. Or you need something to stay still so you can cut through it carefully. That’s why vise grips are so important. You can attach them to any solid surface and they will act as your handy assistant, making DIY a whole lot easier.