The Essential Hand Tools List: 46 Different Types Everyone Should Own
Whether you’re a professional handyman or just want to be able to do simple jobs around the house, there is a list of essential tools you should know. Some of these tools are very basic, like a hammer. However, others are easy to overlook but vital in many everyday situations.
It is always best to be prepared with what you need before you find yourself needing it. Stocking up on items in this list will prevent last-minute runs to the store.
46 Essential Hand Tools Everyone Should Own
Below, you’ll find a complete list of essential tools. Many of these are suitable for the average homeowner who likes to do DIY projects. Even if you aren’t a DIY person yourself, many of these tools are required for general house and yard repairs and maintenance.
There are a few different types of hand tools you should have nearby. We’ve broken them down into categories to make it easy for you get organized.
- Measurement tools are essential for nearly any job, but they are commonly overlooked. You don’t want to be without a level or ruler when you need it.
- Hammers, shovels and bars are also essential. You may not use these for every job, but they are essential when you do find yourself in need of them.
- Saws and files are also vital for most people. These are tools you don’t need until you really do, which is why it’s essential to keep them around.
- Clamps and wrenches. Many people overlook clamps when purchasing their tools, but they are essential to some jobs.
- Finally, you may need a few other accessories and miscellaneous items, which will come in handy at some point.
1. Tape Measure
This tool is essential for practically any job that involves measuring objects. You should purchase a sturdy tape measure with a hook that moves, which will make it easier to measure when you’re alone. A 25-foot tape measure is probably your best option. It’ll be long enough for most jobs without becoming unwieldy.
Ah, the old fashioned protractor. These simple tools are often overlooked, but they are required for almost anything that involves cutting an angle. These tools are very cheap, so there is no excuse not to have one lying around.
3. Speed Square
A speed square is many different tools in one. You can use it as a miter square and a protractor (though we still recommend having a regular protractor on hand as well). They are very cheap and nice to have around, even if you don’t consider yourself a considerable DIYer.
4. Laser Measure
For things that are a bit too oversized for your usual measurement tools, a laser measure is a great option. These lasers will quickly measure any distance up to a certain level – usually around 50 feet. You likely won’t need to use this very often. However, when you do need to use it, you’ll really need it.
A caliper is used to measure the distance between two sides of something, where accuracy is often essential. You can technically use other measuring tools for this, but you aren’t going to get more accurate than a caliper, which is why we recommend having one on hand.
A simple ruler can be useful in many different situations. Not only can it measure things, but it is also used for making straight lines. You just never know when your ruler is going to be useful, so we recommend having one on hand.
7. Tailor’s Measuring Tape
Don’t let the name fool you. This measuring tape can be handy whenever you need to measure something that isn’t straight, like a curved piece of wood. They’re just made out of simple cloth, which means that they’re far more flexible than other types of rulers.
Most of the things you build will need to be level. It can be nearly impossible to determine this from sight alone, which is where a level comes in. Using a level is very simple, and they aren’t particularly expensive either.
9. Bubble Inclinometer
This is very similar to a level. But, instead of helping you keep things level, it helps you determine a particular incline. You probably won’t be working with inclines very often. However, when you are, one of these tools is essential.
10. Pressure Gauge
You should have this tool on hand simply to check the pressure in your car tires. There may be other situations when you’ll need to use an air pressure gauge as well. They also make water pressure gauges, but you’ll probably need to use this sort less often.
Temperature can be an essential measurement during some projects. There are many types of thermometers out there, so we recommend stocking up on a few if possible. Laser thermometers are a reliable option, as they can be used to measure the temperature of nearly anything very quickly.
Hammers, Shovels & Bars
The most apparent tool every person should have is a simple claw hammer. Go all out on this tool, since you’ll probably be using it quite often. You should look for a steel or titanium hammer that has been forged as one piece for increased durability.
This is a bit of a niche tool, but it can speed up many sorts of jobs. Anytime you need brute force, a sledgehammer is a good option. These tools are made to break things, and you never know when you’ll need to do that.
14. Utility Bar
A utility bar is essential for all sorts of demolition. You should get a high-quality bar to pull out nails and remove things like paneling. This is a versatile tool that can help many jobs go much faster.
15. Digging Shovel
A simple digging shovel is essential for anyone who owns their land. You never know when you’ll need to dig a hole or dig up something. Shovels aren’t expensive, so we recommend purchasing the nicest one you can find.
16. Drain Spades
These are very narrow shovels. They’re essential for any sort of accurate digging, such as planting flowers. If you have landscaping or plan on having landscaping, you don’t want to find yourself without this shovel.
17. Ball Peen Hammer
This hammer is used for many different metalworking tasks, so it is essential if you plan on working with metal at all. If you ever need to drive cold chisels, this is the tool you need.
Saws, Files & Planers
18. Dovetail Saw
A dovetail saw is useful for making dovetails. However, it can also be used for other tasks, such as notching a shelf. They’re very versatile in general and used for small DIY projects, which is precisely what you’ll probably be doing.
19. Crosscut Saw
A crosscut saw is used for cutting small pieces of wood, which is useful for repairing and making furniture. We recommend picking up one of these saws, simply because it can be used for so many different things.
This sort of saw is thin and flexible, which is precisely what you need during some projects. This saw is particularly useful for cutting pegs and making other small, accurate cuts.
21. Coping Saw
These saws are used for cutting curves, which almost no other hand saw can do accurately. If you plan on working with wood often or just doing simple DIY jobs, this sort of saw is essential.
We recommend having a wide variety of files available. You’ll probably need these for most projects, especially if you want it to look finished and smooth. Files are used for sanding down finished work and can even be used on things like steel in some places.
A planer can do many things, such as smoothing rough stock and reducing stock down to the exact thickness you need. We recommend just a portable thickness planer for most purposes. You probably don’t need an industrial planer for most DIY projects.
If you have trees or anything of that sort on your land, you never know when you’ll need an axe. These tools are essential for any homeowner, even if you don’t plan on ever cutting something. A tree may fall across your driveway, which would make an axe very useful!
25. Drywall Saw
This is a long, narrow saw that is mostly used for cutting various building materials, like drywall. If you’re a homeowner, having this saw available is essential for some projects.
Clamps, Wrenches & Pliers
26. Trigger-activated Bar Clamp
There are all sorts of clamps, but this is one of our favorites. It can be tightened with one hand, which means you can hold your work with the other hand. It’s ingenious and essential for any home DIYer. The bar clamp is the answer to those times you were trying to tighten a clamp and wished you had three hands.
27. Parallel-jaw Clamp
This is a must-have just because it is so big. The jaw remains fixed at 90º, making it helpful for square assemblies and anything you need to stay straight. Many of these clamps can provide tons of pressure as well, which you might find useful.
28. Spring Clamp
These clamps are quick and easy. They’re suitable for whenever you need light pressure and just need to keep something still for a second. We recommend having some of these at arm’s length whenever possible.
29. Allen Wrench Set
You should purchase an Allen wrench set as soon as possible. There is a lot you can’t do without these tools, making them a vital part of any workshop. We highly recommend purchasing a high-quality set as well, since you’ll probably be using them often.
30. Adjustable Wrench
This wrench is suitable for tightening and loosening things like nuts and bolts. The moveable lower jaw means that you can make it whatever size you need, which is great when you don’t know what size nut you’re working with.
31. Combination Wrench
We also recommend having a set of combination wrenches available. These tools are essential for many projects, so you don’t want to be caught without them. Plus, they’re quite cheap, so there isn’t a reason to skip them.
32. Cutting Pliers
Whenever you need to cut bolts or wires, cutting pliers are your best option. You should always have these around in case you need to give a wire a clip or remove a small nail.
33. Needle Nose Pliers
We’ll be honest — we have a small obsession with these pliers. These pliers are great for working with small, little things. If you’re working in tight spaces or with tiny things, these pliers can be a lifesaver. Whenever you need to fish out a screw from a tight place, you’ll be happy you have these.
34. Locking Pliers
When something gets stuck, you need these pliers. They’re great for pulling out nails and freezing frozen nuts and bolts. In a pinch, they can also act as a clamp, though we wouldn’t recommend skipping a clamp altogether.
35. Self-Adjusting Pliers
These are a type of adjustable plier. They’re great for general repairs and plumbing. You should have a pair of these nearby, as they’re more reliable than your all-purpose slip-joint pliers.
36. Molly Bolts
Having some molly bolts lying around is very useful. These wall anchors provide a decent amount of holding power, which is useful for many DIY projects.
37. Sticky Notes
It is vital to write all your measurements down. Otherwise, the odds of you forgetting them are quite high. Sticky notes are a simple option to keep track of measurements and other need-to-know information.
38. Extension cords
All of the tools on this list are hand tools, so they don’t require any sort of power. However, you will probably need an extension cord at some point anyway. Extension cords are one of those things you don’t think of until you need them, so we recommend stocking up while you’re thinking about it.
Sawhorses are essential whenever you’re cutting anything. If you’re working with wood, you need a pair of sawhorses to get the job done. These things are incredibly inexpensive, so we don’t see a reason why you shouldn’t have them handy.
You need a good pair of gloves for construction work. You just do. You don’t want to end up cutting yourself or with a hand full of splinters. Bite the bullet and buy as good a pair of gloves as you can afford.
41. Staple Gun
You’ll probably have to staple something at some point, which is why it is useful to have a staple gun handy. This is one of those that you could pass on if you’re really on a budget, but it can make some projects a lot easier if you can afford it.
42. Caulk Gun
A caulk gun is a tube that is filled with some sort of material to seal up gaps within your home. It can be used on a wide variety of different materials. We recommend having some handy for those quick and easy home repairs.
You need a screwdriver for practically everything. Even if you’re just building Ikea furniture, you’re going to need a screwdriver. Even the very beginning DIYer should have a variety of screwdrivers handy.
A flashlight can be essential for tight or dark spaces. A smartphone “flashlight” might work in a pinch, but having a quality LED light to use in your workshop is your best option.
45. Utility Knife
A high-quality utility knife will take you far. Whether you’re struggling to open a bag or are trimming away at the carpet, this knife is essential for any DIYer.
46. Stud Finder
If you’re going to place a nail or screw into your wall, you need a stud finder. These come in a wide range of options, from affordable magnetic ones to professional models. We recommend choosing one based on your budget.
Caring For Your Tools
Each tool will need to be cared for differently. The most significant part of caring for your tool is to store them properly, which we have already discussed somewhat above. You don’t want your tools exposed to the elements when you aren’t using them, as this will cut back on their lifespan substantially. Furthermore, you shouldn’t just throw your tools in a pile. You don’t want them breaking each other.
You should only use tools that are in tip-top shape as well. Dull blades are likely to break, and loose hammers can cause safety concerns. Just don’t do it. Repair your tools or purchase a new one.
Rust is going to be the number one killer of your tools. It makes them unsafe and unstable. Most won’t even work correctly when rusty.
Luckily, avoiding rust is decently easy. All you need to do is avoid moisture, though this is often easier said than done. Wipe your tools off after each use to ensure that they aren’t dirty or wet before you store them. You can also add a little bit of an appropriate oil to some tools, which will form a seal around them and prevent them from rusting.
Where to Buy Tools
Tools can be purchased at local hardware stores and online. Our favorite thing to do is to research tools first (like you’re already doing on this website) and then head to a hardware store to see them in person. You can often go to each store’s website to see if they have the particular tool you’re looking for currently available. There is just something about seeing a tool in person that is hard to replicate online.
However, do not purchase the tool at the store. You can almost always find tools cheaper online, especially if purchasing directly from the manufacturer is available. Even if the tool isn’t cheaper, it is easier to compare everyone’s prices online, allowing you to find the cheapest store nearby.
The internet has made it incredibly easy to purchase and compare tools. We suggest using it to its full abilities.
There are quite a few tools you need to have a stocked workshop. Luckily, most of these hand tools are very inexpensive. You don’t have to purchase them all at once, either. Just buy a few at a time as you can afford it.
Don’t forget to invest in the most common tools first, like a measuring tape and screwdriver. All the tools on this list are essential, but some can be put off until you really need them.
Featured Image: Pikrepo
- Hammers, Shovels & Bars
- Saws, Files & Planers
- Clamps, Wrenches & Pliers
- Caring For Your Tools
- Where to Buy Tools