Do you know your hacksaw from your hammer? What about bradawls, cross-peins and strap wrenches? There's a whole catalogue of hand tools available and if you're going to do a job correctly, make sure you get the right ones.
General purpose tools
Adjustable spanner or wrench
Great for gripping a wide variety of nuts of different sizes.
The perfect tool for marking drilling positions on plaster, as well as for boring pilot holes in wood.
For holding materials securely in place while you work. The easiest to use are modern spring-loaded or ratchet clamps. They can also be a good substitute for an extra pair of hands.
Invaluable for everyday tasks such as gripping, twisting and cutting.
Newer plastic and hard rubber handles make modern screwdrivers much easier to grip. But if you have a lot of screwing to do, a power screwdriver or drilldriver will save you time and effort. Remember to always match your screwdriver to your screw, or you'll quickly strip the head from it.
A simple socket set is useful for securing and releasing nuts and bolts. It includes a range of different socket sizes which can be attached to a fixed rod or ratchet.
Every fixing requires a specific nail, clip, screw or bolt - often in combination with matching plugs, washers and nuts. If you keep them sorted in storage drawers, they'll always be easy to find when you need them. Many tool boxes have combination tool trays, compartments and drawers. Tool boxes (or bags, belts or trays) make it easier to carry and protect your tools. Be particularly careful how you store cutting edges in a tool box - keep and use the plastic guards that are usually fitted to new saw and chisel blades.
A secure working surface is essential for many tasks. A portable workbench allows you to establish a solid platform in the house or garden.
This can be used for measuring as well as marking angles of 90° or 45°. Combination squares usually feature a small spirit bubble for levelling – plus a scribe for marking.
Retractable tape measure
Buy a robust retractable tape measure – you’ll need it more often than you think for a huge variety of tasks.
A good-quality spirit level shows you a true horizontal or vertical – essential when lining up shelving or cabinets on a wall. Spirit levels come in a variety of lengths, although for more ambitious projects, a laser level will also prove invaluable.
Use a 300mm steel rule for accurate line drawing and measuring. When marking out over greater dimensions, use a wooden batten as a straightedge.
Ideal for knocking things together and apart, a claw hammer will drive in all but the smallest nails. Made a mistake? No problem. The curved claw opposite the hammer head can also be used to pull out nails.
When you need to drive home lots of small nails – for instance, when securing hardboard to a floor – use a cross-pein or Warrington hammer.
A sturdy chisel with a synthetic handle you can hit with a wooden mallet is essential for a range of woodworking jobs. Key to fitting doors and many joinery projects, chisels will need constant sharpening with a sharpening stone – so never use one to open a tin of paint.
General purpose saw
A saw comes in useful for many jobs. The panel saw type is the most versatile, cutting sheet materials and timber well. As with all saws, the fewer teeth per inch (TPI) the more aggressive the cut – while the more teeth, the smoother the cut.
A good hacksaw will cut any metal. It takes different blades, with different numbers of teeth per inch (TPI). Use 24 TPI to cut a thin metal sheet, or 16-18 TPI for coarse metals.
This can be used to cut many different materials. The simplest versions store spare blades in the handle. For safety in your tool box, choose a knife with a retractable blade.
A pair of lightweight plastic sawhorses will support materials while you cut them. Inexpensive and easy to store, they’re a simple evolution of the traditional carpenter’s wooden sawhorse.