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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

Locking pliers
Commonly known by the genericised trademark "Vise-Grip"

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I find that I use it one way or another on every project I do.

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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.

head lamp

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A multimeter

a multimeter (licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license)

(Image licensed under the Creative Commons)

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Typically referred to as a Multi-meter. –  Brad Gilbert Jul 24 '10 at 3:27
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I'm giving this a downvote. I don't think every DIYer needs one of these. I have no idea what one of these even does. –  SamtheBrand Mar 27 '12 at 17:26
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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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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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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?)

knife

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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-quality stud finder

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See also: What should I look for when choosing a stud finder?

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how does one identify a good stud finder? I have two and neither are that great at finding studs. tapping on the walls is usually more effective. –  mmccoo Jul 21 '10 at 20:00
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Yeah, can someone recommend a specific model of stud find that performs well? I have tried a few and they are pretty in-exact. –  msemack Jul 23 '10 at 15:06
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i've bought about a dozen stud finders in my lifetime. in my experience, zircon stud finders are the most reliable, consistent and accurate. the big home improvement places usually carry 2-4 different kinds. make sure to buy one that has an LCD display to show you the strength of the reflected signal. –  longneck Jul 28 '10 at 14:19
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xkcd.com/952 –  Doresoom Sep 16 '11 at 16:38
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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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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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Nail Pincers & Nail Bars

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Makes pulling out nails a breeze.

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(A high quality) Combination Square

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Transferring measurements, marking out 90° & 45° angles, scribing parallel lines...

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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 Good Multi-tool

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My personal favourite tool was my Gerber - though I know some people also like/prefer Leathermans. This is one thing where going cheap is not worth it. Anything Gerber, -Leatherman, -SOG, or any other quality tool brand really shines when compared with a cheap $10 variety. Seriously - save up for a few months and buy a good one. You'll be very glad you did.

I used mine almost daily until I lost it :'(

I'm saving up for a new one :D

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Multitools are useful because once you're up the ladder/stuck in the crawlspace, there's always that one extra tool you didn't bring with you. Sure, the screwdriver might suck, but at least it's there. –  Alex Feinman Jul 28 '10 at 21:09
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I routinely cut down 1-3 inch thick trees/weeds with the mini-saw on my leatherman. –  Yitzchak Jun 10 '12 at 15:31
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Needle-nose pliers

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These are the most often used tool in my toolbox, not that they ever make it back into the toolbox.

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My wife has requisitioned a few pairs over the years as weed pullers for the yard. Nothing like finding my pliers caked with dirt... thanks, dear! –  Jared Harley Jul 28 '10 at 22:06
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I'm sure she says the same thing about her good fabric scissors when she finds you've been using them for home improvement tasks, Jared ;) –  Wayne Werner Aug 5 '10 at 15:31
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Chalk Line

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Snapping, setting out straight lines.

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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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Shrinking tube and hot glue - use them all the time.

The combination of shrinking tube and hot glue makes smooth, sealed and water-proof solids of any basic shape. Ideal to create custom-shaped plugs or jacks.

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A cordless drill
No doubt about it. I bought a DeWalt 14.4V three years ago, and it's been invaluable to me. alt text

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Why cordless? I'm assuming your home has outlets? –  Joe Philllips Jul 21 '10 at 19:45
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@Joe - everything is easier with a cordless drill. I have a very nice corded drill and I probably use it twice a year. The cordless one I use all the time. –  Eric Petroelje Jul 21 '10 at 19:46
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Cordless is nice, but I never get much use out of them. Since I work only intermittently on DIY projects I find the batteries brick out on me after only getting to use them 2-3 times. –  JohnFx Jul 21 '10 at 19:47
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My Dewalt 14v cordless sits around for months at a time and still holds a charge. It's a beast. –  Adam Robinson Jul 21 '10 at 19:48
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LOL! That just begs for a link to this: joke-archives.com/dating/mengifts.html –  Vilx- Aug 8 '10 at 6:47
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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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(Sharp) Pencils

You need something to layout, set-out, all those cool DIY projects you are going to do.

Don't forget a pencil sharper, if you can't get a good sharp point via a knife.

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A Diamond Sharpening Stone

For honing and keeping those plane blades, wood chisels, knives, etc good n' sharp.

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(A good quality) Handsaw

Don't underestimate the usefulness of this old school hand-tool.

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Palm Router

Cheap enough for most DIYers, you can pick up a good quality one for around $100.

Has enough power (normally about 1HP) for most DIY jobs.

Can be used to make a variety of DIY projects around the home that much easier.

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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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Plumb-bob

Sure you can use a Spirit Level to check if something is plumb, but there are occasions when a Plumb-Bob just makes more sense...

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Toolbox

You need somewhere to store, organise and keep safe all those essential DIY tools.

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

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Safety Glasses

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Not really a "tool" per se, but one thing I ALWAYS and is stress ALWAYS make sure I have in my tool box and wear all the time.

Had a friend that got metal in his eye and had to have the metal drilled out, creeped me out so much that I now wear safety glasses anytime I do any kind of work around the house.

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It took a trip to the emergency room (brake cleaner blowback) to cure me of "I don't need no stinkin' sissy eyewear"-syndrome forever. I'm so very lucky I didn't blind myself, and I'm never taking chances. Also, hearing protection, gloves and appropriate shoes :) –  BryanH Jul 14 '12 at 2:17
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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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