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What are the tools that every DIY'er should have? This is a community wiki as there is no one right answer.

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77 Answers 77

A ratchet with a gator-grip head. That is, unless unlike myself, you really like digging through a toolbox full of sockets for every job and can't identify the sizes on sight.

BTW: I have no interest in the company that makes Gator-grip, I just didn't know the generic name for this type of tool (if there is one).

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I use mine on almost every project for something or another. For Home improvement tasks I find it handy mostly as a meta tool (removing blades from my circular saw, for example). –  JohnFx Jul 21 '10 at 22:09
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I will warn though. That a regular driver socket properly sized is much better at getting tough bolts off. This one will work, but sometimes it doesn't get as much traction. It is darn handy though. –  JohnFx Sep 27 '10 at 1:09
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A hack saw.

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A Good Flashlight

Regular and Small versions are good to have - I'm constantly looking for one when trying to fix something.

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A decent table saw

After getting a cordless drill and a power miter saw.

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My outlet tester; beats sticking a paperclip in the outlet to see if it's live...

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I love Japanese saws. They cut on the pull stroke and leaves a very narrow kerf (the channel that it cuts). I find that it cuts through wood a lot easier. Cutting on the pull stroke means that the blade won't bend. For saws that cut on the push stroke (most western saws), the blade might bend as you push.

I have this all purpose one, Japanese Modern Ryoba Saw, at home. One side is for ripping (cutting to a certain width) the other is for cross cutting (cutting to a certain length)

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A straight edge is really important. I actually have a 48" long aluminum ruler/straight edge that has a significant depth. It's great for drawing long lines and I sometimes use it as a guide for a circular saw or router.

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A collection of good-quality clamps of different sizes, including some that can be tightened with one hand.

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Adjustable Spanner (Wrench)

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Can be used on a wide variety of nut sizes.

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A hammer drill

Something you'll definitely want if you're doing any kind of drilling into masonry or stone. A bonus is that these can typically be used as just a regular drill by turning off the hammering action, so it's basically a 2-in-1 tool. Some even let you turn off the drilling action so you can use it like a small jackhammer.

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Installing a flat-screen TV over the fireplace, something like this is mandatory. :) –  GalacticCowboy Aug 12 '10 at 16:55
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Workbench with a Vice

This may not count as a "tool", but not having one can make DIY projects difficult. I don't have one, and trying to sharpen a mower blade on your kitchen table is sub-optimal. Then there was the metal bracket I needed to drill a hole into... holding it with my hand...

I've had my eye on this bench from Home Depot. I like the steel work surface. I will need to drill holes to bolt the vice to the top, though.

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Update: Last weekend, I bought this bench along with a 6" vice. My dad and I assembled it as a weekend project. We drilled holes for the vice and secured it with 1/2" bolts. Overall I am pleased with it. It did require a drill for assembly, which was a little unexpected. Here are the photos. (Sorry for the poor lighting, a good workshop light is next on my list!)

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Lineman's Pliers

Lineman's pliers are a sort of heavy duty combination of wire-cutter and pliers. A pair of lineman's pliers accompanied by a pair of wire strippers is about all you need to do just about any home wiring project. I've also used it to pull out staples and nails, bend sheetmetal, cut open tubes of silicon, and even as a light-duty makeshift hammer when I didn't want to walk all the way back to the garage.

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Gloves. A good pair will save you several trips to the first aid kit.

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Cordless Impact Driver

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The ultimate compliment to your cordless drill - it does everything my cordless drill sucked at doing!

  1. Drives in screws without mangling the fastener head (phillips head screws anyone?)
  2. Removes rusted/stuck items like you wouldn't believe (Read: no rounded out screws or rounded off nuts/bolts)
  3. Cordless Drill will not drive a 3" screw into a stud - Impact Driver doesn't break a sweat.
  4. Compared with cordless drill, much less torque transferred to your wrist makes it more comfortable to operate
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Oscillating tool

Those cheapo harbor freight version of the Fein Multi-master et al. are nearly as good but much lighter on the pocketbook:

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I have the Dremel Multi-Max - far less expensive than the Fein, but has 85% of the capability at 1/3 the price (even cheaper if you buy a refurbished one). –  kkeilman Aug 3 '10 at 23:49
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A decent quarter-sheet, general purpose palm sander. Especially one with decent fastening capabilities.

Bosch 1297

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Am surprised that no one has mentioned Duck Tape (Duct tape?) and 3 in 1 oil.... :)

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A portable workbench: I use my Workmate all the time:

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You'll definitely need a torpedo level. I don't have a lot of storage space, so I just have one of these torpedo levels.alt text

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Watchmakers Screwdriver Set

It seems like more and more things around the home use those pesky little screws. Also don't forget all those kids toys, electronics, etc that like to use those same little pesky screws.

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Aviation shears (tin snips)

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These are like giant wire cutters. They are designed to give you a massive amount of leverage from a squeeze of the hand. They're great for cutting anything that will fit in the jaws : wire, nails, sheet metal, conduit, doweling, and corner beads.

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Head lamp

Much easier than having someone else hold a flashlight, or trying to balance the light against the tool box.

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Snake Light

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Stop holding a flashlight in your mouth.

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Stanley Plastic Clamp Miter Box

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I got a cheap one - wish it had the clamps like this! –  GalacticCowboy Aug 12 '10 at 16:57
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(Medium to Heavy Duty) Extension Lead/Cord

Leads on corded power-tools aren't always long enough to reach from power-outlet to working area.

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A slide gauge

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If you want to know what size bolt you're supposed to use, how deep a hole you need to drill or whenever precise measurement is needed.

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also called calipers. The cheap(est) kind mean you need to learn how to read a vernier scale, o'course (unless you're old enough to have learned on a slide rule ;) –  Wayne Werner Aug 9 '10 at 10:13
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A Picquic.

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[I would have left this as a comment on the screwdriver-set answer, but I don't have sufficient rep.]

If you're in Canada, the one tool I'd recommend above any other is the standard Picquic combination screwdriver. Canadian Tire's page is probably the best example -- judging by the reviews, I'm not the only one who loves it. :)

I've used mine for years, on almost every job I've done around the house. In a pinch, the bits also fit well into a cordless drill. There are probably good equivalents in other countries, though I've not run across any myself.

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A good knife.

Always in my pocket when working on something. (Knives like the one pictured seem impossible to find in hardware stores in the U.S. Where are they sold?)

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I'd say a Stanley knife. –  Umber Ferrule Jul 29 '10 at 22:18
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@msemack, the long, strong blade is helpful when whittling a piece of wood (e.g., to make it fit around an unevenness in my old house) or when cutting something thick, like styrofoam or fiberglass. Also useful for stabbing building inspectors. –  Vebjorn Ljosa Aug 4 '10 at 22:47
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A good solid 3-4 pound drilling hammer

...because regular hammers can chip when struck against hardened steel (i.e. chisels, star drills, hardened nails, etc.).

drilling hammer

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