The Tools Every Homeowner Needs. From Basic to Advanced.

Today I’m going to blather on about all the tools every homeowner needs.  Before your eyes glaze over and you click away to go see how many people have liked your latest Instagram photo consider this;  7 out of 10 people who die at home, die after crying to death over not knowing which anchor to use to hang a picture.

So today we’re going to discuss a few of the basics and a several extra tools that every self-respecting homeowner needs. They’re the things you need for a workshop that you can be proud of.

I know.  You don’t really care about having a workshop you can be proud of because you aren’t “handy”. You’d rather have a perfect ass that you can be proud of.  I’m with ya.   But even if you don’t plan on building yourself a picnic table this summer, every homeowner needs some basic tools.

Like the Great Depression, the pandemic has forced a lot of unhandy people to become handy. 

It’s a well known fact that a home without a well stocked workshop will lead to Anarchy and wobbly tables.  If you can afford good tools, buy them.  If you can only afford the cheap ones get the best reviewed cheap ones you can afford.

I’m going to start off with a bag of the basics. The things every single homeowner should have for basic repairs.  All of these things together in a kit would make a great housewarming present for someone who has bought their first home.

The Basic Tools a Homeowner Needs

  • Drill & bits
  • Measuring tape
  • Hammer
  • Flashlight
  • Handsaw
  • Level
  • Screwdrivers


Battery operated tools just aren’t very powerful. Not having power is a major drawback for something that’s actually called a “power” tool.  Also they need to be recharged, oftentimes in the middle of using it. BUT they’re incredibly convenient and versatile which makes them a good choice.

The Ryobi cordless drill (which I have owned for years) is a good option on the cheaper end of the scale.

The Makita cordless drill with brushless motor (which I would like to own) is a much better option if you can spend a little more money.  

One of the best things that was ever gifted to me was a huge, 204 piece drill and driving set.  It has every drill bit, hole saw, or spade bit I could ever need for any job.  Owning one of these kits means you never have to run to the store because you don’t own that one specific sized bit you need.

This 204 piece kit which is very similar to mine will have every size and type of drill bit you need unless what you’re drilling is a Mexican escape tunnel.


O.K.  For real. It seems so simple, but it’s not.  Do NOT cheap out on your measuring tape if you really intend to use it for measuring anything other than the length of a wiener.   If you want to measure any distances longer than 5′ (for measuring rooms or windows for example)  you need to invest in a big, sturdy measuring tape.

The 25′ Stanley FatMax * is kind of the gold standard for men because they have bigger hands than women.  It’ll stretch out to 11′ before collapsing.

The 16′ Stanley PowerLock Blade Armor,*  is the measuring tape my sister, Pink Tool Belt, swears by.  It’s smaller so it fits well in the palm of a woman’s hand, plus it still has a good standout of 8′.

*Even though I’m Canadian I normally work in feet and inches for measuring but ALWAYS also have a tape that measures in cm. as well.


Hammers are different weights.  If you’re a woman OR a man you don’t need the biggest, baddest hammer in the world. A 16 oz hammer is probably all you need for anything around the house and even that’s a little bit of overkill.

This Estwing 16 ounce hammer is expensive but it has a few features that a cheaper hammer won’t have.  It has a sideways nail puller for nails you need to pull that are in awkward places, a magnetic nail starter, and a rip claw that you can use as a pry bar.  

4) COMPACT FLASHLIGHTS (1 for each room or floor)

You’d be surprised at how many people move into their first apartment or home only to realize they don’t own a flashlight after the power has gone out.  When I first bought my house my friend Lydia from work bought me a flashlight as a housewarming present and I was struck by the practicality and genius of it.

I never, ever, ever, ever would have thought to buy a flashlight before I moved in.  Regular LED flashlights like you see for sale beside the cash register of most hardware stores are perfect for bedroom and kitchen drawers.  Not really a workshop thing, but handy.  For the workshop …

A great big flashlight that tilts and swivels used to be the way to go but nowadays workshop flashlights are much smaller.

This LED stick light is only $17 US and can swivel, hang, or magnetically stick wherever you need it to.


Just a basic hand saw.  That’s all you need.  You’re not building a log cabin, just trimming the odd hunk of wood .  

This Japanese  hand saw gets great reviews, is inexpensive and perfect for basic household jobs.


Really you could use a few different sized levels but if you’re only getting one, get a 24″ level.  You’ll use it for hanging pictures, checking if tables are level and about a billion other things you had no idea you’d use a level for.

This Stanley FatMax is a good basic 24″ level.


Multi bit screwdrivers are generally crappyish quality but they’re handy as hell, especially for someone whose workshop is a drawer in the kitchen.    In one screwdriver you get an assortment of usually 7 or 8 bits that fit into the head of the screwdriver.  The thing I never liked about these screwdrivers is it’s a pain to change the head, especially if you’re in the middle of a job that requires 2 different screwdrivers.

This Retract-A-Bit by Benchmark eliminates that problem.  There’s no need to manually change the screwdriver heads.  You just use your thumb to slide any bit you want up or down.  That means you can change bits with one hand while you’re holding the light fixture up with your other.  I love mine and use it all the time.


I added this one in at the last minute when the middle panel of my shaker cabinet door fell right out. The cupboard door just kind of fell apart at the seams, lol. I can laugh – because I had wood glue.

That’s your basic kit.  Yes it’s missing many things.  But like I said, it’s a basic kit for basic needs.  NOW we’re going to take a look at the 10 things that you’re going to need if you plan on being your very own household repair ninja / building guru.

Advanced Tools for the Handy Homeowner

Now that you’ve discovered you actually do use the few tools you have, maybe it’s time to think about getting a few more.  Just to be safe.  Once you wade into these waters you might want to think about getting these things.

  • Wrenches
  • Sliding Compound Miter Saw
  • Chisel Set
  • Hacksaw
  • Assorted Files
  • Circular Saw
  • Orbital Sander
  • Magnetic Pickup tool
  • Jigsaw
  • Socket set


Any sort of adjustable wrench will get you out of many potentially bad situations.  Just a quick twist with one of these and you can fix your dripping faucets, undo a stuck nut, tighten dishwasher connections and of course 8,561,933 other things.

I’m a huge fan of Channel Locks.  This two piece set will get you through most jobs you’re going to attempt.  Plus having two wrenches means you can use one wrench for using reverse pressure to undo a stuck nut like you saw me do when I switched out the shutoff valve for my outdoor waterline.

Regular adjustable wrenches work well too, I’d just go for the channel locks if I had to choose only one set.

2) Sliding Compound Miter Saw

Nothing will impress (or intimidate) a man more than a woman who owns her own sliding compound miter saw.  Except a woman who also knows how to use it.   It sounds like something bizarre that you’d never ever need, but its uses are endless.  This one saw will give you straight end cuts for building a deck, 45 degree cuts for making frames and bevel cuts for crown moulding.

Some of the things I’ve used my sliding compound miter saw for are for  making raised planter beds around my entire backyard, building window boxes, rebuilding my deck, cutting baseboards and crown moulding for my new dining room and for doing all the trim work on my new library/dining room bookcases.  And those are just a few things off the top of my head.  All courtesy of the Sliding Compound Miter Saw.

“Sliding” means the saw has a blade that slides back and forth.  This allows you to cut wider widths of board than a saw that doesn’t slide.  For instance a 10″ miter saw can cut a 5.5″ board.  But a 10″ sliding miter saw can cut a board wider than 5.5″.  How much wider, depends on the actual length the saw slides.

“Compound Miter” means the saw can tilt and swivel which will create compound cuts that are mitred and beveled.

So a sliding compound miter saw does all of these things.  The finer the blade you use on it, the finer work you can do (crown moulding and picture frames).  Chunkier blades are what you would use for general household use like deck building and 2/4 cutting.  Most miter saws come with the chunkier blade.

This little 10″ Hitachi miter saw was my go-to saw before it was stolen out of my shed.  For most projects around the house it’s perfect as your first miter saw.  What I loved about it was the size.  At only 26 pounds it’s incredibly portable and easy for a woman to lug around to wherever it’s needed.

I also owned a Canadian made Mastercraft 12″ sliding compound miter saw (also stolen) which is similar to this DeWalt one.

I CURRENTLY own (because it hasn’t been stolen yet) a Kobalt miter saw which I have absolutely no feelings for one way or the other.

If you have a bit more money to spend, I’d recommend the  Makita 10″ sliding compound miter saw. It’s the best little miter saw you can buy for the money.  


3.) Chisel set

Again … if you’re at all sane, you’re probably thinking … um … I’m pretttyyyyy sure I don’t need a chisel set.  You do.  Why?  You’ll find out.

This 3 piece set is all you need unless you’re planning on carving a totem pole out of an old giant cedar tree you have lying around.

4.) Hacksaw

Just a little handsaw with a very fine blade.  You can cut through anything with it.  Just ask those guys who steal bicycles.  If you have any piece of metal that’s too long a hacksaw is the thing that will cut through it.  Copper pipe, electrical fittings, metal hardware, plastic pipe  … bicycle locks.

The Dewalt 5 in 1 hacksaw is the highest rated one I could find on Amazon.

5). Assorted files

This is another thing you might be thinking, wth?  There’s no cord. There’s no chance of a hospital visit!  Those aren’t tools!  But they are and you need them.  Big, metal files.  Like a gigantic nail file that could file the hooves of a goat in one swipe.  The last time I used mine was when I had to cut my door sweeps to length with my hacksaw.  The hacksaw left the ends of the metal door sweeps with a few sharp edges,  just waiting to rip an unsuspecting toe to shreds.  I swiped it a few times with one of my assorted big files and it was as smooth as a Martha Stewart fondant.

Here’s a good multi set with 5 different shapes and sizes.

6.) Circular Saw ( note: this links to *just* the tool, battery is not included )

A hand held circular saw can do end cuts like a miter saw with slightly less precision because you’re using it freehand.  Even though it isn’t as accurate, it isn’t as expensive either.  In a pinch you can rip cut lengths of boards if you have a steady hand or set up some cutting guides.  Since I don’t have room for a table saw in my house (plus they terrify me) I often use a circular saw where most people would use a table saw.

The cordless Ryobi circular saw like I own is really handy but needs to be recharged fairly often so it’s not good for big, day long jobs.  It also isn’t great for wood that’s wet or really dense because it doesn’t have the power to motor through out.  Also you need to buy the battery and charger separately if you don’t already own them.  For small jobs though?  It’s a great additional tool to have on hand.

The Dewalt Lightweight Circular Saw is the perfect choice for women because it’s compact, weighs under 9 pounds but is still strong enough to go through tough boards.  You’d be amazed at how tired your arm can get using a heavy saw all day.


7.) Orbital Sander

An orbital sander (this is mine) is just a little electric sander that fits into the palm of your hand.  I once bought an antique bowl that was made of 2% wood and 98% mould at a garage sale.  Enter … the orbital sander.  You can use it to sand down small burns or discolourations on wood chopping blocks too.

Wood door sticking?  Orbital sander.  Finishing a rough piece of wood?  Orbital sander. Two pieces of wood won’t quite matchup?  Orbital sander.

My Festool orbital sander is the lowest end sander in the highest end brand of tools you can buy.  What makes it worth the almost $300 with tax?  It does a great job, sands right to the middle of the pad, not just the edges and your hand never, ever goes numb after using it.

But.  For those of you not ready to commit to a $300 palm sander  I have a recommendation.

The Makita is in the medium to low price range and because it’s a Makita you can count on it being good.


8.) Magnetic Pickup Tool

Just think of how many times you’ve dropped a nail, screw or washer and immediately stared at the floor to where you know it fell only to realize you just can’t see the stupid thing.  It’s not such a dilemma unless it’s your ONLY screw or ONLY washer.  Then it really sucks.

This telescoping magnetic pickup tool is $20 and has a magnetic force of 50 pounds!  I have no clue what that actually means but it sounds really good.  Great for sweeping under cupboards, workshop floors, driveways and chicken coops. Yes.  Chicken coops.  Because chickens will eat anything including nails which of course, is bound to kill them. They also have a tendency to walk around. If they step on a nail that could lead to bumblefoot.  You don’t even WANT to know what bumblefoot is let alone deal with it.

9.) Jigsaw

Certain companies are known for being the best at making certain tools.  Bosch is a great line all around but what it’s especially known for is making the absolute best jigsaws.  I’ve bought a lot of different jigsaws and my work with them was religiously pathetic.  I thought it was me.  It wasn’t.  Well, kind of it was, but mostly it was the jigsaw.  Since breaking down and buying my Bosch jigsaw I’ll never buy or recommend any other brand of jigsaw again.  It’s the most comfortable, most accurate, easy to use jigsaw every.

The Bosch JS365 is the jigsaw I decided on after trying a few different Bosch models. It fits my hand well, I can access the switches easily and it just felt the best to me.


10.) Socket Set

You need a socket set.  Just a good basic socket set.  The first time you use the socket set you’re going to remember me forcing you to get it and you’ll say Hey!  Thanks Karen.  You’ll probably just say it in your head, but still …

A 40 piece socket set.  Just a good basic socket set.

 All of the tools I’ve linked to are either tools I own, would like to own or did a lot of research on trying to find the best for you.  I used Consumer Reports, The Family Handyman, Amazon and several other objective sources to come up with what I think are the best quality tools for the price for anyone looking to expand or start their workshop.
Now go out there and fix that wobbly table.  Hang that picture.  Make that planter box!  You’re only as good as the tools you use and the friends you have helping you.
By the way if you’re on the verge of dying due to anchor anxiety, here’s how to choose which anchor to use to hang something.
Now. What are YOUR favourite tools?


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The Tools Every Homeowner Needs. From Basic to Advanced.


  1. Peggy MacMillan says:

    Hi Karen,
    Would you please suggest a brand of wood glue for an outside wooden obelisk for my garden.
    Thanks so much for your posts.

    • R Ryz says:

      Gorilla wood glue can be used indoors/outdoors, and it does not foam like the regular Gorilla Glue.

    • Mark says:

      I would suggest the original Gorilla glue. It is water activated and is waterproof. I have used to glue wood plugs in my deck. Plus it is available anywhere is various size bottles.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Peggy. I’m not sure if you’re in Canada or the US, but I use LePage outdoor wood glue. ~ karen!

    • Lisa says:

      I have had great luck with Liquid Nails. It repaired a wooden slat on the back of a rustic outdoor bench that had broken in half. I had previously tied to repair it with Gorilla Glue* with no luck. It fell apart as soon as the temperature got cold.
      *Not Gorilla Wood Glue – that might have been better, but I don’t know if it was available at the time).
      Speaking of glue. I used Shoe Fix Glue recently to repair my bamboo toast tongs. It’s like Super Glue, but better. It also fixed my sneakers where the treads were pealing off, in 45 seconds. That’s all it takes. Expensive, but worth it.

  2. Janis Millett says:

    Thank you for re-posting this. I have most of these tools. And can even use some of the advanced ones! Could you please write (or re-post) something about your workbench and workshop? I have time and I need to organize my tools. TIA, Janis

  3. yyz says:

    Have you ever checked out a Track Saw? I thought I needed a table saw until I found this

    It’s a little expensive and can do much of what a table saw can do, but very portable. It can also do nice bevel cuts.

  4. Shawna says:

    I would add having a neighbour with a planet and table saw. Sometime you can avoid sanding by just planing something! And your neighbours store it for you!

  5. billy sharpstick says:

    My first thought was, “You silly twit! A 16 oz hammer weighs a pound!” Then, before I made a public fool of myself, I decided to weigh mine. Yeah, my “16 ounce” hammer weighs a pound and 10 3/8 ounces. Go figure. So, why do they call it a 16 ounce hammer??!! I’ve been using them for over fifty years and never thought to question that statement stamped on every one. I also have a cute little hobby hammer in our overfilled kitchen drawer. It has a set of russian doll screwdrivers screwed into the handle. It weighs 5 3/8 ounces, so it must be a 3 ounce hammer.
    In that drawer is also a cheap pair of slip joint pliers, a razor cutter, the ubiquitous multi-screwdriver you mentioned, a butane lighter, scissors, pipe cleaners, 13 old birthday candles . . .

    • Billy Sharpstick says:

      Hammer weights date back to when hammers had steel heads and replaceable wooden handles. The nominal weight was the weight of the head. This silly nomenclature is similar to why train tracks correspond to the width of a horse’s ass. “Tradition is peer pressure from dead people!”

  6. Billy Sharpstick says:

    As an owner of many tools over the years, I have some (admittedly opinionated) observations.
    – Levels: I have several, but seldom use them. If I made things in my house level and plumb, they would look crooked. Better to measure from a wall or ceiling and make stuff parallel.
    – I agree on cheap stuff. I used to buy cheap chinese junk fro a store that rhymes with “arbor gate”. One example, I got a cheap heat gun to remove old tile adhesive from our wood floor. It died the second day. I went out and bought a real brand name one that is still working fine. How much money did I save? As for that drill bit set you posted, I would steer clear of it, especially after reading the reviews. I have a set like that. The bits are total junk. Splurge on a brand name one. (As for Arbor Gate, I only buy cheap paintbrushes from them now.)
    – Power tools: I used to agree with you on plug in vs cordless. Big tools like reciprocating saw, angle grinder, impact drill, I have plug in versions. Usually half the price, and I can usually find an outlet near jobs that those are used on. But in the last few years, I’ve come around on cordless tools. They cost way more and the batteries don’t last forever. They’re like cameras. You get committed to one brand because they all use the same batteries. I have Dewalt 18 volt tools now. I also got a cordless chainsaw, 40 volt. I recently used it to disassemble a fallen oak tree on my driveway that was about thirty inch diameter at the base. It needs a battery charge every thirty minutes, but that’s just right for a beer break. And our new cordless mower is just as impressive. And I’m considering converting our lawn tractor to electric. I have horrible luck keeping gas engines running. (All Bosch products are now on my permanent “never buy” list after several bad experiences, one almost sending me to the hospital from an obvious design defect. They used to be a reputable company. And Craftsman power tools are not what they used to be too.)

  7. Hi Karen, this is long after the fact, as PC is up, and I am most often, down BUT … isn’t a reciprocal saw considered one of the MOST important tools and should be the 11th on your list.
    This is the girl-saw of all time, and should be on all lists. Some of us have husbands, but they aren’t always around, and some of us have other ‘significants’, and ditto, not always around and when there isn’t another to help out, this saw is your THIRD ARM.
    Anyway, as always, enjoy reading, laughing – mostly, the laughing, but then wouldn’t be doing that if I weren’t reading. Happy Spring, although the forecast, a few days down the road here is inferring our +15 temps will dive down to a high (low) of -2oC and a low of -10oC which means frost, as it also calls for clear. However, it’s soon to start raining here, and I’m waiting for a cloud to give a sign.
    Take care, : D

    • Karen says:

      Hi Charlotte. I don’t actually like reciprocating saws. I have 2 of them and never, ever, ever, ever use them. Partly because really they’re used mostly for demolition work. So for taking things apart as opposed to building them. So that’s why it isn’t on the list. I, personally, just don’t consider it an important tool for someone who is just getting together their workshop. But if you love yours then good on ya! Keep using it. :) ~ karen!

      • Leslie Russell says:

        I bought one and practically took off my own arm. I’ve not used it since. I do love my multi-purpose tool though. I wouldn’t be without one.

  8. Patty Martin says:

    I use my files to sharpen all of my garden tools. I sharpen all of the neighbors garden tools too. You wouldn’t believe the number of people that have told me that didn’t know their garden tools needed sharpening!

  9. Lisa says:

    Don’t forget an assortment of clamps. Always handy when working alone. Pencils. Ruler. Good scissors too.

  10. Alena says:

    I keep getting the weekly Home Depot flyer by email and when I looked at it this morning, I found out that the Ryobi 10″ sliding mitre saw has been discounted from $259 to $199. I have never worked with it but in case somebody needs one and doesn’t want to pay mucho moola, this might be an option to consider. It looks like this is not a sale price, this is a new lower price.

    By the way, about 5 years ago I bought a Ryobi cordless screwdriver, for about $29. The battery is built in so you cannot pop a reserve one in, it has to be charged up but it holds the charge for weeks. I loved that little thing to death, I practically put the entire kitchen together with it. It doesn’t look like it’s available any more – here is what it looks like:

  11. Mike says:

    You might consider including three things: a nice Leatherman multitool (or even a crappy one) and a decent pair of leather-palm gloves to keep the splinters at bay, and to help avoid dropping toe-crushing objects. And just about the handiest thing in my home toolkit is an Awl which is great for poking holes to start screws and picking the lint out of… well…you get the idea. Just my 2¢…

  12. Karin Braun says:

    I love my japanese screw punch!
    Wouldn’t want to be without ist!
    So helpful!

  13. Rosie Walsh says:

    True story. A neighbor, about 50, asked if I had a screwdriver. Yep, about thirty. Do you need a Phillips head or straight head? She just stared at me.

    I’ve got lots of tools, but my current love is a battery operated 20V Switchdriver Drill. I’m old and this is my very first cordless drill. It has a rotating bit holder, so I can drill a starter hole and switch to a screw bit. I’m in heaven!

  14. MDR says:

    …..good reading glasses are my most important tool!

  15. Margaret K. says:

    You might want to add a CORDED power drill to the list. Nothing like finding out that your batteries [yes, my mom had 2] have permanently died and the manufacturer changed the battery shape for their tools. Thereby making the batteries unreplaceable and the otherwise OK drill headed to the tool disposal recycling place.

    So my list for new home/apartment owners has both types, to provide both convenience and reliability.

  16. Heather Sykora says:

    What a great list. Thanks for researching all these items. My husband is so good at diy it is intimidating. I feel more empowered to use a power drill after reading your post!
    Downside to having such a handy husband: he is unwilling to pay others to do most jobs. He is also very busy, so last week after the water pump in the washer gave out for the second time in 6 months, and I was sans washer for days, I not only found the replacement part but looked up a video on how to take my wash machine apart in order to access the pump. I did all the work myself using a drill, pliers, socket wrench. I kept thinking of how handy you are for my inspiration!! I was proud when I completed the task and my husband was very happily surprised!!! 😀 That evening we installed the replacement pump and put the wash machine it back together. Yeah!!!

  17. Lois M Baron says:

    Great list. I just wanted to confirm that it was your friend who was doing the “swearing, apologizing, swearing, apologizing, swearing, then crying.”


  18. Sheryl Powell says:

    Miter saw is the bomb. I also LOVE my very small band saw and my disk sander. That disk sander can fix any bad cut unless it is too short

  19. Lisette Swinnen says:

    Thanks Karen ! I ordered your list right away. My late husband left me with a huge atelier full of tools. After sorting out a thousand screws, nails and stuff, I made 2 piles with all the electric tools. One to keep and one to give away because I am moving out of the house.
    My husband was a confirmed DIYer specialized in woodwork. Now I have tools and things I don’t know how to use or even what it is for. With your list, I can at least know what to keep : the best handsaw of the 6, 1 mittersaw (out of 3), orbital sander (out of 3) and so on….

    • Karen says:

      Ha! Yes, a man with his many tools. I would have liked him. :) When picking what you think is the “best”, if they’re for you, pick the ones that fit your hand and strength for lugging around the best. That would be my advice. ~ karen!

  20. Nicole says:

    I echo the compound miter saw – best. tool. ever.

    And a good quality hammer – I have the Estwing you reference – will literally change your life. Part of the challenge of accurately hammering stuff? Crappy hammers.

    My recommendation is a small compressor and nail gun. It will save you sooooo much time in small construction projects, hanging molding, etc.

    My dad isn’t the least bit handy, but he proudly gives me some sort of new power tool for Christmas. Tools rule.

  21. Alena says:

    My eyes didn’t glaze over – quite the contrary! This is a post I would read several times over even if it was 3 times as long. I love talking tools! I have everything on the list with the exceptional of an orbital sander and my jigsaw is a crappy one so I may get those you recommended (although ouch! the Bosch is really pricey).

    I also have most of the stuff that Jenni recommended …. except for the baggie with an antiseptic and band aids etcetera (I just never buy that stuff though a few pieces probably would not hurt).

    My first big purchase was a compound mitre saw that I purchased approximately in 2001. I didn’t need it but Sears had a really good sale on it so I bought it. Unfortunately it’s not sliding – I don’t even know if sliding one already existed then and if so they probably cost a fortune. It sat unused for a year or two until I walked into a flooring store (I think to look at some rugs) and I walked out with laminate flooring for the entire main floor of my house. Talk about impulse purchases hahaha. But I never regretted it had this somewhat exotic pattern, beautiful colour and I totally fell in love. So the mitre saw came out of the box and I never looked back. It really came handy for doing all the trim, it was wide enough to cut the planks and it was SO MUCH FUN. Now I cut even wide planks with it and I have learned to flip the plank around (when it’s too wide to be cut in one step) and cut in the opposite direction. It takes a bit to master it even there is almost always a tiny ridge (the saw probably needs some adjusting after all these years) but can be usually sanded down pretty easily.

    I would also add (to the above list) a planer … my neighbour has a small one that fits into one hand very nicely, that thing is a pure gem. He got it at a garage sale and he let’s me have it whenever I need it (Him and his wife, both retired, are the world’s best neighbours).
    Thanks Karen, I enjoyed this post very much.

  22. Mary W says:

    So the 16′ Stanley would be a good presidential gift, I assume. Just before finishing your post I was thinking it would be great to have as a reference tool (in my toolbox) so that when needing something in the future (or for gifting) it would be great. Then I got to your bit about the download – how do you manage to read my mind/think of everything needed? Now I’ll go back for the dessert portion of your post – the comments!

  23. Kim from Milwaukee says:

    Karen, thank you for the reminder of this list. One question….if I get the compound miter saw, does that mean I need a work table that I have to attach it to?? If so, any recommendations for one, or how to make an easy one?

    • Karen says:

      It depends on the size of the saw Kim. I don’t have a dedicated stand for either of mine. I either use them on the ground, on my potting shop work bench, on a small workmake table (which I don’t recommend) or on a big table. It just needs to be stable. You can bolt it down while you’re working if you like. ~ karen!

  24. Jody says:

    Love the list. Particularly love the flashlight suggestion which I needed the other day when the power went out and I headed down to the sump pump thinking I was going to need to bail as the sump was pumping every 15 minutes. Luckily the power came back on after 5 minutes.
    I do “soft” crafts–knitting, sewing, quilting. I think I want to try wooden bowl turning. I have always been fascinated with wooden bowls.

  25. Sandra Blackwell says:

    Best present I ever got from a boy was a cordless drill. That was probably 25 years ago. I have had other very nice and useful gifts since then, but that drill was more than a drill. It was acknowledgment that I use tools, and use them well!

  26. Found the “Choose Image” box below. Tried posting a pic of the Irwin channel locks my neighbor texted me because when trolling the hardware store it is easier if I have a visual image of what I am searching for.

    However, your Firewall denied me…which is fine.

    Just thought I’d let you know.

    Either way … Irwin makes great tools!

    • Karen says:

      Thanks for letting me know Susan! I’ve updated the site to make it safer and faster but there are glitches that I don’t know about until someone tells me. :) Thx. ~ karen!

  27. I regularly have tool envy.

    Just saw the neighbor’s new channel locks and fell in love. They are Irwin Vise Grips…yellow and blue rubber type handles. Will be buying them today. Wish I could include a pic.

    This is a great post. I need a new sander, but was hesitant unsure of which one to buy. Now I know!

    Otherwise, I have all your listed tools. The only thing I would add, and it wouldn’t be for casual DIYers, is a band saw. I SO love my band saw! It stands there…smiling…ready to cut most anything…already plugged in. Downside…not portable..but oh so readily available with a flick of the ON switch.

    Thanks for the list. I’ll be adding it to my bulletin board for future reference. You are such a good person!

  28. Jamieson says:

    Great list! Even for someone like me who isn’t nearly as prolific in DIYness there are plenty of useful tools here that I own and use. The proper tool of good quality is akin to using a good sharp knife – it’s so much effective to use – and therefore safer and less frustrating – that you won’t resent doing the task at hand! (Great example: a flat-slot screwdriver beats a bread knife any day, tho Canadian-invented Robertson screws & screwdrivers are unbeatable when used properly).
    My additions to the list: needle-nose pliers and a utility knife. I use the pliers all the time for stuff like pulling staples out of wood, tearing up carpet, coaxing a broken lightbulb out of its socket and a hundred other menial jobs. I use a utility knife for cutting things, such as breaking down cardboard boxes, cutting up old carpet, and occasionally pruning my fingers unintentionally.

    • Karen says:

      Of alllll the tools in the world, utility knives scare me the most, lol. And any time I’ve sliced myself open and had to go to the hospital it was from a utility knife. And stupidity. :/ ~ karen!

      • Jamieson says:

        Yes I’ve cut myself a fair number of times with utility knives and Xacto knives. Easy to get overconfident. I sliced off a few millimetres of my finger just yesterday with the latter. I once gashed my palm with a utility knife because I closed it upside down, with the blade sitting across my palm. #dumdum

  29. marilyn meagher says:

    I think something happened with your computer..rough linen? Cat spray?? Lol

  30. ronda says:

    My sister is the “handy” one in her family. Her husband just bought her a compound miter saw. My tools list is pretty basic, and many items seem to go missing … adult kids who “borrow”!

  31. Chris White says:

    Tools as wedding / housewarming presents are great ideas. We gave a couple a power drill as a wedding gift – first time I ever received a thank you note written by the groom!

  32. Sandra Lea says:

    I just splurged on an 18 volt cordless Makita drill after struggling and swearing every time I used my old drill. And now I’m asking myself why I didn’t do it sooner. I love my new drill and it is worth every penny. It gets the job done.

  33. whitequeen96 says:

    OK, Karen, you’ve sold me on the Hitachi compound miter saw. I would love to make frames, window boxes, etc. I’ll be getting it in the next couple of months, maybe as a Mother’s Day gift to me. :) Thanks for the info!

  34. Thandi says:

    My self-healing cutting mat, rotary cutter, stork snips, magnetic wrist band pin cushion, a really good seam ripper…oh wait. Wrong tools.

    But seriously, this is actually quite uncanny. I was talking to my husband this weekend about how I was going to ask you for a beginner’s list of tools. My husband and I are not really drill and saw people, mostly we’re book and couch people, but I’m really keen to expand my skill set and make and fix the basics around the house. I need a stand for my laptop to raise it to eye level while I work on my dissertation to avoid massive, stupid headaches, but hello student budget, meet ridiculously expensive thing in the shops that I MUST be able to diy. Surely. Long story short: thanks for the list! I’ll go online and start a wish list.

  35. TucsonPatty says:

    I love these lists! I have some of these – not a lot of power tools, except for some VERY cheap ones from Harbor Freight. I thought I was in hog heaven when I found them, but, yes, Karen, when you think you need it for just this once and cheap out…drats! I hardly ever really need it “just once”, and when you have something, you’ll find more uses for it!
    One other thing I have several of is pliers. My dad always joked that he was “planting pliers” out in the wheat fields of Kansas, because he lost so many pairs while farming.
    My passion is glue. I love Gorilla Glue, JB Weld and my new favorite is Sugru. (This amazing stuff is – amazing!!) Watch this – These and a super glue called Plastic Surgery are my fixit finds and I mend EVERYTHING!!! Plastic is contaminating our world and never goes away, so everyone I work with and all my friends know to save broken things for me to fix. If glue will fix it – I can fix it! And save it from the landfill!

  36. Jennie Lee says:

    Since I have a history of telling many people about this tool, I am thrilled to be able to tell zillions of people all at once! It’s a STRAP WRENCH, and I mean the kind with a plastic handle and a rubber strap, which will cost you a whole $2-$5. Actually, it’s best to buy 2- one for the kitchen and one for the workshop. And if you know anyone with arthritic hands, buy them one too. You can open bottles and jars with them. I use one to tighten my keyless chuck on my drill, because my grip isn’t strong anymore. You can turn things that aren’t conveniently hexagonal, and without damaging them, like the square wooden knobs on my dresser that were stuck in a crooked position for over 50 years- until I took a strap wrench to them.

  37. JulieD says:

    I’ve wondered for years how odd my husband and I might be for having compact flashlights all over the house- like everywhere. Feeling validated now!

    • SusanR says:

      We have them, also, though we’ve upgraded them to LED compact flashlights. Bathrooms, sewing cabinet, we each have one next to our chairs in the living room and on our night stands, kitchen. There’s probably a compact flashlight within 2 steps of everywhere in this house! And, of course, in the tool box!

  38. Jani says:

    My hubs should buy stock in all of the tool manufacturers. If he misplaces a tool he can’t spend the time or effort to look for it… off to Home Depot or Lowes he goes……plus we have those pesky adult kids and grandkids who will borrow and never return. I am looking for a tool set in PINK for my daughter for Mothers day hoping that her macho son will leave them alone!!

  39. Sarah says:

    Great list! Add crescent and monkey wrenches (pipe). Also, vise grips and duct tape. My grandmother lived in the sticks, that’s way out in the country. Her radiator hose bust on the way home one day, this was before cell phones. So she lets the radiator cool, adds water to it (she always carried a gallon of water). After wiping off the radiator hose, she removed her pantyhose and carefully wrapped them around the leaky part of the radiator hose. She wrapped duct tape on top of that. The entire time not one car passed by. She drove to a gas station and had the radiator hose replaced. Her car was locked and loaded with necessities.

    • Mary W says:

      Great story – great ingenuity like most people used to have. Seems we can’t drive to the store now without a GPS. Maybe the world is getting bigger but your grandmother sounds like a very interesting person to have known.

  40. Tracie Berry says:

    Well, obviously this is a repost-post, as I see posts from 2010. (I was expecting to be first) Well, I have a hammer and a tape measure, and nails that are never the right size for my needs…also cup hooks, which are very versatile…clearly, I’m not building anything anytime soon. Or hanging anything much, apparently…So what’s up with your new posts and their baggage?

    • Karen says:

      It has to do with SEO Tracie. There are a TON of posts I wrote when I first started this blog that hardly anyone got to see. So I take some of the better ones and rewrite them and redo the pictures. Rewrite the post basically. But I publish it under the old title’s name so I don’t lose any of the SEO “juice” I already have on that post. Make sense? Probably not if you aren’t a computer geek, but that’s why it is the way it is. :) ~ karen!

      • Tracie Berry says:

        Got it! I have a Lee Valley Tools not far from me, and I’ve been trying to make it over there since your post about it. I’ve looked in their catalogue, so I know they have a lot of interesting stuff! And possibly some tools that even I might be interested in, lol.

  41. Valerie says:

    This is a perfect list Karen.

    If you should be in a log home and decide to refinish the logs ( which I did some years ago ) the best tool to manage this task is something called a grinder which is just a powerful type of sander than can follow the curvature of the logs.

  42. Lin says:

    Tool freaks unite!!! I have a great little tool shop, in ite of the mess it’s in. I love to putter in it and help folks fix things…even have people come and ask to borrow tools.

  43. Mark says:

    You should always have two hammers, always. One that you use, and a (cheap) one that you lend out. :)

    To anyone who has chisels, please learn to sharpen them. Most chisels are not very sharp out of the box, although they are usually good metal detectors :).

    (I’m confused — this post is dated 2017 but there are comments from 2010?!?)

    • whitequeen96 says:

      Thank you for pointing out the dates! I was wondering what I missed, what with people referring to cat litter and other things I didn’t see in the article.

    • Karen says:

      Long story mark. It’s an old post based that I rewrote, updated and redid the photos for. So a new posting of an old topic I thought should be revisited. ~ karen!

      • Mark says:

        Well Karen, your post rewrites are very good, keeping the information updated etc. It must be a lot of work so thank you for doing it.

        • Karen says:

          Thanks Mark! It just seems like such a waste to have good information and have it be lost because it was originally published years ago. Also YES these list posts are actually a LOT of work, lol. ~ karen!

    • sf says:

      Several posts recently have been reposts (butcher block, yogurt, recipes). Hope everything is okay with Karen!

      • Karen says:

        Hi SF. Yup, not to worry. They aren’t really reposts since I rewrite them and rephotograph. In fact they take just as long as any other post to do other than coming up with the idea, lol. They’re posts that are old that deserve to be seen by more than the few people who read them originally. :) ~ karen!

        • sf says:

          I’m glad you do that; I’ve read the blog for many years but have never gone all the way back to read everything I’ve missed! You put a lot more work into refreshing the content than most people would. Yours is far and away one of the best blogs out there.

        • Karen says:

          Thanks sf, I appreciate you saying that. Like I said, these reposts take a lot of work. :) ~ karen!

  44. jenni says:

    Hi Karen,
    I would recommend adding
    Pencils, Olfa knife, can of WD40, Mr. Clean eraser (for removing pencil measurements, live electricity tester – it chirps if live wiring is behind where you plan to nail, drill etc., cheap set of dental picks, straight and curved long forceps, magnets (strong rare earth ones), led mini flashlight with bendy lamp for seeing in awkward places, vice clamps, pliers, vise that screws on a kitchen table, notepad for design and parts list, ziploc bag with anticeptic, band aids and tweezers and magnifying glass, jar of spare screws, nails, wallplugs etc., electrical tape, ruler, carpenters square,. And there are differences between a chop saw (single angle mitre saw), a compound mite saw (as in the picture, which cuts two angles, to the vertical and horizontal) and the sliding version has a bar like a radial arm saw for sliding the saw backwards and forwards for wider pieces of wood. Overkill? Undoubtedly. Sufferring from CDO? Totally. Cheers, jenni.

    • Karen says:

      LOL. All good suggestions but this wasn’t an exhaustive list. Just a list of things for people moving into their first home or apartment really. And yes. I know all about the differences between a chop saw and a sliding compound miter/mitre saw. ~ karen

  45. Leslie says:

    I would like to suggest an addition to your list: ever heard of a Kreg jig?

    With one of those and a power saw, you can build ANYTHING!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Leslie – Indeed I have. GREAT tool. It’s for more of an advanced woodworker though. That’s why it’s not on the list. This is just a list of the most needed basics. ~ karen!

  46. Brittany says:

    To reference your cat problem: Nature’s Miracle, (the red bottle) works WONDERS. Our cat doesn’t mark anymore since we started using it. Petsmart is carrying it and Nature’s Miracle awesome (but slightly less awesome than the World’s Best Cat Litter — real name) cat litter. Hope this helps!

  47. Jan B says:

    If you really want to impress those in the know, call your compound miter saw a chop saw. My husband is a carpenter/contractor,so I have this on the best authority. I’m lucky to have him for very fancy carpentry (when he’s available, heh heh) but I miss using tools myself. Painting doesn’t give the same thrill…

  48. Tricia Rose says:

    Aww, I’m touched! Thank you Karen.
    Have you on RSS.

    • Karen says:

      Yes, m’am … I do. Thanks for asking!

      It’s located right at the very top of the page alongside the Twitter, Facebook and Email icon. Here you go RSS.

    • Karen says:

      Eep … just realized you said “Have you ON RRS”. I thought you wrote “Have you AN RRS?” You know … much like a British aristocrat would say. Are you a British aristocrat? Nevermind. :)

  49. Karen says:

    How funny! I was just telling my neice about yesterday! I loooovvvvveeee them. Almost as much as my saw! – karen

    • Jenn says:

      Ugh……. I kinda of thank you because I finally found what I’ve been looking for. That perfect linen for the curtains I’ve wanted for 2 1/2 years! However, it’s the worst timing to find it! With that being said…. we’ll see if I can contain myself and buy them at the right time. Grrrr I mean Thanks :D

  50. Tricia Rose says:

    Ah, a fellow tool freak! Love my compound mitre saw.
    I resisted getting a Senco compressor and nail gun through many long and worthy projects, but caved and bought it to plank my vaulted living room ceiling, and fell in love. My frail woman’s body isn’t up to too much whacking, and this just went like silk! Power tools empower women!
    I don’t get along with my orbital sander though, must be doing something wrong.

    • Karen says:

      Oh! And my old orbital sander sucked. It made me angry. Often. Then I got the Ryobi palm sander and it’s great. Just so ya know. :) – karen

    • SusanR says:

      I second Karen’s recommend of the Ryobi palm sander. I used mine to sand off the dark stain painted onto the redwood planking in the upstairs bathroom of our house, done by the previous owner. It made the job much easier than we thought it would be! I later used it to refinish an MCM oak hutch that I got for $10 at a garage sale. I would not have bought the hutch, had I not already known how easy the palm sander would make sanding off the old finish. One afternoon of a couple of hours, and the hutch was done and refinished.

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