How to assemble the essential toolkit

A surprisingly small number of tools can have you covered for a wide range of repair and maintenance jobs around the house. Here are some expert pointers for assembling the essential toolkit.

  1. To start with, choose a light but robust plastic case with a lift-out tray for small tools. Avoid metal tool boxes; they're heavy to carry around and they rust.
  2. Screws have head recesses of various sizes and types, so screwdriver sets make sense. Those with a master handle that accepts the different bits can be a bit tricky, but will save space.
  3. Include a tool that's simply a handle with a flexible steel blade for applying filler. Buy 2.5 and 5 centimetre (1 and 2 inch) knives for everyday use. But don't confuse this tool with a stripping knife, which has a stiffer blade.
  4. A compact or toolbox saw with fine-point hardened teeth will handle all sorts of household woodwork jobs such as trimming wall studs or cutting a shelf to length.
  5. Hacksaws are designed to cut metal, but will also cut through plastic – a curtain rail, for example – and small lumber sections. This kind of saw can be inexpensive, but make sure any replacement blades you pick up are of good quality.
  6. You'll need a 450 gram (1 pound) claw hammer, which is fine for most DIY jobs, and possibly a smaller model for lighter or finished work. Also buy a nail punch, used with a hammer to drive nail heads below the lumber surface.
  7. A utility knife with replaceable blades is a DIY essential. There are different blades available: some are best for easy jobs such as paper and plastic sheeting, while others are better suited for tougher materials such as carpet and linoleum. Choose a knife with a retractable blade – it's safer.
  8. The serrated jaws of pliers are useful for gripping, twisting and cutting wire, and for straightening bent metal.
  9. Pincers are designed for pulling out tacks and nails – from floorboards, for example – but can also be put to other tasks, such as removing picture hooks without damaging the plaster, or as a ceramic tile cutter.
  10. A 60 centimetre (25 inch) spirit level will handle inside jobs such as fitting shelves and hanging pictures. Outdoor jobs such as erecting screens, posts and fences may require a longer level.
  11. A 6 metre (20 foot) steel tape measure is ideal. It will be long enough to measure the dimensions of most rooms and will work for smaller jobs as well. Some tape measures have metric and imperial markings, so you can also use your tape as a conversion device.
  12. A cordless drill/screwdriver, about 12 volts, with rechargeable batteries is a must. It should have forward and reverse settings, fast and slow speeds, and be comfortable and not too heavy to handle. Look for a set that includes masonry, high-speed steel twist and brad-point bits (for lumber), as well as a range of screwdriver bits. Drill bit sets often come along with electric drills.
  13. Choose a stapler that can handle flat staples for jobs such as fastening webbing or fabric and trellis or netting, as well as curved staples for speaker and low-voltage cables.

Keep these expert pointers in mind when you're assembling your essential toolkit to make sure that you've included everything you'll need.

How to assemble the essential toolkit
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