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My favorite tools for household handiwork

Whether you are a renter or a home owner there are a variety of tools that will come in handy in a variety of circumstances.  Whether it's a simple hammer to hang photos or a table saw to build your own furniture, the tools I prefer to get the job done are discussed below.

Avoid in Most Cases - the little tool kits that purport to provide all you need.  Unless you are resolute that you will never use tools for anything other than hanging a picture or tightening loose screws, they offer more style than substance.

The Essentials

Hammer - A basic claw hammer will take care of your banging-things needs unless you're building structures or adding onto your home in which case a framing hammer will be a good choice to drive nails quicker (though the standard claw hammer will also get that job done).  Choose the claw hammer over a ball-peen so you can pull nails as well as driving them.

Screwdrivers - Though most of the screw heads you'll encounter will probably be Phillip's head (the plus-sign), and a few flat head (the minus-sign), it doesn't hurt to have a couple other bit varieties in case you run across a non-standard head around the house.  A screwdriver set will take care of most everything you need for basic upkeep and repairs.

Battery-Powered Impact Driver - Getting halfway through assembling a piece of Ikea furniture is all it takes to wish for a power screwdriver (even though their instructions will probably tell you not to use one).  If you anticipate having occasion to put things together frequently, performing upgrades like installing a new bathroom vanity, or having a hankering to build stuff, a brushless impact driver will change your life.  Brushless motors allow variable speed in the same way as a gas pedal; if it's not brushless you'll have to rely on preset power/speed settings.  Brushless motors give more control so when you're ignoring Ikea's recommendations against a power driver you stand a smaller chance of blowing out the screw-hole.  As discussed in the yard-tool post, I default to Ryobi for my battery tools because they have a huge line of tools that use the same battery and my Ryobi impact driver has been going strong through a variety of major and minor projects..

Note - impact drivers rely on impact to finish off a screw and can be quite loud.  That said, they get the job done far better than a standard drill/driver.  Because of the impact and torque you need to use impact-rated bits and you won't be able to adjust the drill port to the size of the bit like a standard drill.

Other note:  when choosing your power tools go with the brushless motor option anytime you can.  That'll give you better control over speed and power.

Impact Driver Bits - Phillips and T25 will be the most used, but it's nice to have the set to cover all your bases and prevent the dreaded return-trip to Home Depot.
Impact Drill Bits - If nothing else it's nice to have drill bits to make pilot holes and prevent splitting whatever you need to put a screw into,

Battery-Powered Drill - Probably the least essential of the essentials.  But I use both the drill and driver on big projects so I don't have to constantly swap out screw-driver bits and drill bits.  Aside from that, I only use the impact driver.  That said, if quiet performance is your priority maybe  the drill is a better choice than the impact driver.  Or, if like me, you want a second tool available, and one that can accept whatever bit that will fit its teeth, a drill is a nice backup.  Again, I prefer Ryobi tools.  When it comes to bits, you can use impact drill bits and standard screw driver bits will both work with the drill, but standard drill bits won't work with the impact driver.  Get the two sets of bits linked above and don't worry about anything else.

The Incidentals

Clamps - The sort of tool that you won't always need, but when it's needed it's really needed.  Whether it's holding together a glued item or giving you a third hand, clamps can be indispensable.  I'm a fan of Irwin Quik-Grip clamps for most basic chores.  This variety pack will cover most needs.

Allen wrenches - aka hex keys.  Most things around your home will be fastened with either flat or Phillips head screws, but now and then you'll run into something that requires an Allen wrench.  And when that happens there's really no substitute.  To make matters worse you also have to deal with metric and standard sizing, so it's helpful to have a set of each variety.  I prefer the "L" variety over the folding variety because the folding wrenches can be difficult to use in tight spaces. 

Circular saw - this is perhaps my least favorite saw, but it's also the most versatile and inexpensive.  If you only foresee a need to cut enough wood that you don't want to use a hand saw, but can't justify something like a mitre saw, then a circular saw is the way to go.  Consider battery-powered here, too, because this is  tool where the cord can really be a a pain--but heavy use might require a corded model. 

The Craftsman's Needs

Mitre Saw - Cut boards to length and to angles with a mitre saw.  With it you can install your own crown molding, build a shed to your own design, or create a raised-bed garden to suit your space.  If you can afford it, go with a 12" compound saw to maximize the size of lumber you can cut.  I made the mistake of trying to save some cash and got a 10" regular saw and have to be creative in some of my cuts.  Standing saws are where my affinity for battery-tools ends.  Go with a corded model for power.  And if accurate angle-cuts are important, here's where I depart from my Ryobi recommendations, go with at least Dewalt for that.

Table Saw - If woodworking is in your present or future, so is a table saw.  From making picture frames to furniture, the table saw will be vital.  Most of us mere mortals can make due with a jobsite table saw; but if you the space, budget, and desire for the best tool available go with a cabinet saw.  Whichever you choose

Did I forget anything?


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