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Canadian Woodworking

Top 10 DIY hand tools

These are 10 hand tools I use most frequently on maintenance jobs around my home. When it comes time to add more to your tool kit, choose quality over price. Store your tools in a sturdy cardboard box, canvas bag or toolbox. Take care of them and most will last a lifetime. Next month we'll cover 10 essential power tools.

1. Multitool – These multi-purpose tools combine upwards of two dozen tool functions in one tool, including pliers, knife, screwdrivers, scissors, file, saw, wire stripper, awl, bottle opener and can opener. They re compact enough to be carried in a pocket or clipped onto a belt. It certainly beats toting a toolbox around the house for small, everyday jobs.

2. Tape Measure – For accurate measurement you need a tape measure. A light, compact 6′ tape will handle the lion s share of common home maintenance tasks. When the time comes to undertake large reno work upgrade to a 25′ tape.

3. Level – For hanging pictures, installing shelves, levelling a bookcase and similar jobs a 7″ to 12″ torpedo level is the best choice. Levels with magnified dials are easier to read.

4. Hammer – You’ll need one of these for sinking nails, bending or shaping metal, prying things apart, knocking things together and the like. A 16- or 20-ounce curved-claw hammer will suit just about everyone. Look for one-piece steel construction with a slip-resistant overmould handle.

5. Hand Saw – For general-purpose sawing a 15″ to 20″ saw with seven to 10 teeth per inch of blade is the way to go. Choose one with hardened teeth (they can t be resharpened but are exceptionally durable) and a universal tooth grind, which cuts quickly. As a general guideline, the more teeth per inch (TPI) the slower the saw will cut, but the smoother the finish will be.

6. Ratcheting Screwdriver – These have an internal ball-bearing mechanism that enables you to apply turning force in only one direction while moving freely in the opposite direction. They re quick to use and put less strain on your wrist. Choose one with in-handle bit storage or one that comes with a case for storing bits. The bits you’ll use most frequently are slot (a.k.a. flat), Phillips (a.k.a. crosshead) and Robertson (a.k.a. square).

7. Adjustable Wrench (a.k.a. Crescent Wrench) – An adjustable wrench will enable you to handle most sizes of nuts and bolts. And while you can buy sets of wrenches in various sizes, an adjustable wrench is a good investment, especially if space or budget constraints are an issue. Choose one with a large jaw opening or a set of graduated jaw sizes.

8. Utility Knife – Equipped with inexpensive disposable blades, these knives are useful for a wide range of jobs: cutting drywall and rigid foam insulation, slicing carpeting, stripping electrical wires, opening cartons, and sharpening pencils. Some use trapezoid-shaped blades and others use segmented, snap-off blades. A knife that uses 9mm wide blades with 12-blade segments is ideally suited for light-duty cutting tasks.

9. Adhesive Tapes – For light-duty jobs use green or blue painter s tape. It has good tensile strength but comes off easily. Duct tape is strong, waterproof and holds just about anything in place. It has more flexibility and greater tensile strength than painter s tape and can be used on just about any surface, such as wood, plastic, metal, tile, glass, cement, brick and cardboard. These two tapes will cover 80 percent of your needs.

10.  Portable Workbench –  A small workbench will enable you to hold material securely and safely for cutting and shaping. The bench jaws serve as a vice while pegs inserted into jaw holes enable you to hold odd-shaped material firmly. The bench folds up for neat storage.


Carl Duguay - [email protected]

Carl is a Victoria-based furniture maker and the web editor at Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement.

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