Caution: I have a toolbox and I know how to use it!

What’s inside a basic toolbox that everyone should have?

My ex-husband used to do all of the home improvement projects around the house.  When we divorced, he was kind enough to leave me a basic tool box with some tools.  I look back and laugh because at the time, I couldn’t tell you the difference between a flat head screwdriver or a Philips head and how a wrench was different than pliers.  The whole thing scared me to death!  Its time to conquer your fears if you feel the same way.

The following is a very basic intro to some useful tools everyone should have (guys too!):

1)      Hammer- With a claw on one end and an anvil like head on the other on top of a wood or metal handle. A good medium duty hammer will get you through most projects such as hanging pictures, removing nails, etc.


2)      Screwdrivers & Cordless Drill/Driver- You need at least one flat head and one Philips head (looks like a cross on top) screwdriver preferably ranging in size from small to medium for a total of 6 in the set; many stores offer great buys on a “set”.  You can use screw drivers for a wide variety of projects such as  removing light switch plates, light fixtures, paint can lids, hanging blinds or curtain rods.

Screwdrivers-flat and Philips head (Philips looks like an x on the tip)

If you really want to reduce your time and effort, invest a few bucks into a cordless rechargeable kind.  Even better for a few bucks more, invest in a cordless drill/screwdriver light duty model.  Sometimes this additional “muscle” is all you need to loosen an otherwise seemingly stuck screw.

Cordless drill and Screwdriver

3)    Wrench-This tool is usually silver with a crescent-shaped top with a squared off-center and a little screw knob right under the crescent to adjust the width of the square.  Useful in loosening or tightening nuts such as what you might encounter with toilets or other plumbing fixtures when pliers just won’t do the job for you.

Crescent wrench

4)      Pliers (also called “channel locks”)- Looks like a nutcracker with two slim handles that move two jaw-like clamps on the opposite end.  The jaw-like clamps have ridges to “bite” into whatever you are trying to loosen.  Like a wrench, this tool is very useful when you are doing plumbing related projects or trying to loosen bolts.


5)      Caulk gun– Maybe I’m alone in thinking that because this has the word “gun” in it, I felt intimated.  But really, it simply holds an open tube of caulk and just does the squeezing for you.   It also has a handy “poker” that punctures a new tube of caulk for you.  The trigger is what squeezes the tube while the rod on the end is what is doing the pushing.

Caulk gun

6)      Putty knife-Don’t know why it’s called a knife, but its useful for spreading wall patch smooth when fixing small nail holes.   A good size to have is about 1 1/2″ wide.  A little smoothing is all you need to patch small holes so that it can be lightly sanded and ready for touch up painting!

Putty knife

7)      Utility knife-I know why this one is called a knife because it has a very sharp blade inside.  I recommend you have the two types, the straight edge kind for scraping and the angled kind for cutting.  The straight edge is great when removing old caulk or paint residue on a flat surface and the utility knife can be used to cut such things as carpet, cardboard, plastic etc.  The blades are inexpensive an easily replaced once they become dull.

Utility knife and straight edge scraper knife

8)     Tape Measure-Get one with a steel tape and at least 1/2″ to 3/4″ wide x 16′ long.  On the end of the tape is a handy little “stop” that you can hook on the end of something when measuring.  The tape itself has 16 little marks between every inch; these little marks represent 1/16″ of an inch.  It is important to note these little marks when measuring to ensure accuracy.  This tool is very important when it comes to measuring for DIY projects such as window blinds, trims, and floors.

tape measure

9)   Level-Levels are used to determine if door frames, floor surfaces, picture frames, shelves etc. are hung level in a straight line.  You don’t want something rolling off do you?  Levels come in a variety of lengths and I recommend you get a small 12″ one and longer one like 3-4′ for bigger projects.  Inside the level contains little windows full of water with a bubble.  When the bubble is in the middle of the window, whatever you are assessing is “level” either horizontally or vertically.

Level (if the bubble in the yellow window is evenly positioned between the 2 black lines, your line is straight)

10) Handsaw, Hacksaw and Jigsaw-Confused?  A handsaw, about 12-14″ long, is for cutting wood.  A Hacksaw is used for cutting metal, like toilet anchor bolts or PVC.   A jigsaw can do both of these jobs at  a faster speed with the proper blade.  I have used my jigsaw extensively for many projects because it is lightweight and I feel like I have better “control”.

Handsaw-used to cut wood objects
Hacksaw-Used to cut metal and PVC pipe
Electric Jigsaw

11)   Pry bar-I love this tool.  It has two claw ends similar to a hammer but one end is bent more at a 90 degree angle with the other end at a slight angle.  It is a jewel when you need to remove nails in tight spots, baseboards and moldings with a good whack from a hammer.

Pry bar

12)    Wire stripper/cutter-This is a tool that looks like pliers with a flat top with several other holes that range in size and a “cutter”.  This tool is useful when you are installing new light fixtures or plugs and switches.  All wires have a protective insulating plastic coating and these can “strip” the coating away from the conducting wires inside.  The cutter portion of this tool will also literally “cut” through the wires.

Wire cutter
Wire stripper/Cutter combo

13)  Safety first-Of course, no toolbox would be complete without a good pair of safety glasses, a dust/odor mask and some ear plugs!

Dust mask and safety glasses

And finally, the most obvious….you need a toolbox to put the tools into!  There are a wide variety of boxes available.  I recently found a neat one with that rolls like a carry on suitcase since toolboxes can get kind of heavy.

Want to hear the best part?  You get to go shopping if you don’t already have these!  Once your toolbox is equipped, you should be all set to tackle most repairs and improvement projects around your home!


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