Thursday, July 25, 2013

The perfect small tool set

If you do a search for the best tools, or the most handy tools or even the top 10 tools, you will get one of two things.  Either you will get a list of the top large tools (such as table saws and nail guns) that anyone serious about remodeling should have or you will get a list of the coolest new tools on the market.  Although interesting, neither of these lists is very helpful for someone starting out or as a list of must have and must carry tools.

This is my go-to tool belt. It contains the tools I use most commonly. With this simple set, you can repair the vast majority of maintenance issues that will arise in a home.

I came to this simple collection while working in the apartment industry.  Simply because of the large number of homes in an apartment complex we were exposed to the most commonly needed repairs again and again.  These tools were found out of necessity.  I slowly replaced or added tools until I had almost completely stopped using my tool box on most calls and relied on my simple belt pouch for probably 90% of the repairs I did.

I will start by saying that yes, you do need a drill and you do need a hammer.  You also need a saw, some nail sets, pipe cutters, electrical dykes, a level and any number of other tools but this list is about the most used tools, not a comprehensive list of all useful tools.

This tool pouch is the second small pouch I have purchased.  It has room for about 10 or 15 tools and can hold a few nails and a tape measure as well.  Find a pouch that you like and that is comfortable to wear.  This pouch has a clip on the back to slide over your belt without taking the belt off first.  My second pouch has a flap that folds around the belt and snaps in place.  Both ran about $10.

Electrical tape is a go to, not only for electrical repairs but for holding things in place and patching things together.  It's not as useful as duct tape, but it fits on a small ring and can be carried around.
Plumbers tape is not used quite as often, but often enough.  It can be used for water pipe or gas pipe and since you have the place to store it you might as well bring it along.

In order to fix things, you usually have to cut something.  From opening packaging or cutting dryall to cutting tape or trimming a piece to fit in place, you will find a thousand uses for a utility knife.  This one was $1.96 with spare blades to boot.

So honestly, if you don't mess with electricity you can probably skip this one, but this is the perfect place to start.  The "wire sniffer" on the left is a device that detects full voltage current in electrical wire.  This can be used to locate the hot wire when replacing a switch or outlet or to verify that power is off before installing a ceiling fan.  This is the most costly device in the bag at $15.
The wire stripper / cutters are perfect for cutting wire off an existing outlet instead of unscrewing each wire and can strip new ends.  The fine tip can be used as micro-pliers for light duty squeezing or retrieving a part.  $10.

The screw drive on the Right is pretty self explanatory.  This $5 model has a reversible shaft with 2 sized each of flat head and phillips heads.  But don't forget that each socket on the shaft is a different size nut driver - This means one less tool to run and get out of your bag.  The mini version ($2) is the only way to remove or install a towel bar and can also be used to punch a small hole through drywall before starting a screw.

Both pliers and wrenches are very valuable for repairs.  These adjustable pliers ($10) size automatically and are angled slightly for stubborn bolts.  The teeth allow you to turn gas pipe or hold onto a tight part while you wort a nut or screw out with another tool. The adjustable crescent wrench ($5) is a classic handyman tool.  Remember to use these two together when you are dealing with gas lines, valves or bolts.

A decent pair of gloves are worth 100 times what you pay for them when they save your hands from a nasty cut or burn.  These thin mesh backed gloves ($4) have a "leather type" palm.  Keep your hands soft gentlemen, you wife will thank you.

Although any putty knife is helpful, this 2" flexible blade ($6) is the ideal knife for every day.  It can be used to scrape caulk out of a tub or to take labels off.  Spread wood filler or clean out a tight area.  This baby will even pop a locked door by sliding it behind the handle catch.

Weather you are trying to find your way to a leak or see in a tight space, we all know how handy a good flashlight can be.  Since I carry an expensive model in my pocket whenever I am wearing pants, I don't spend too much into my tool pouch light.  This one cost $4 out of a sales bin but I would recommend you get at least a $15 stream light or something similar to make sure you don't get left in the dark.

One last note:  Be prepared to spend anywhere from $70 - $100 on a small kit like this.  You may be able to do it for less but make sure you purchase quality tools.  I've been using my first kit for almost 6 years now with only a few replacements due to loss or misuse.  For the most part, a good tool will last you a very long time.  Don't skimp - it's not worth having to make an extra trip to the hardware store in the middle of an emergency repair.


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