A properly stocked toolbox makes easy work of a multitude of household projects, including hanging framed artwork, fixing wobbly chair legs...
A properly stocked toolbox makes easy work of a multitude of household projects, including hanging framed artwork, fixing wobbly chair legs and assembling new furniture. But it’s tricky figuring out exactly what to put in a tool kit.
Here is a checklist of must-haves for tackling everyday tasks — efficient, useful tools that are a snap to use and store.
Hammer: A 16-ounce model is easy to handle for most people. A hammer that is too heavy can result in bent nails — one that’s too light requires extra strokes to drive nails in. Look for one with a rubber handle for comfort and a good grip.
Screwdriver: Save space with a multihead tool with interchangeable tips. One with “ratchet action” doesn’t require you to reset the tool after each turn. If you prefer, opt for four regular screwdrivers: a small and a large each of the flathead and Phillips.
Wrench: One adjustable model will do the work of an entire wrench set. The movable lower jaw can be adapted for almost any job. Use it to loosen bolts that are too tight (pliers can strip them) and for assembling furniture, toys and bikes.
Most Read Life Stories
- Staff at Seattle chef Edouardo Jordan's restaurants quits following sexual misconduct allegations
- Seattle chef Edouardo Jordan responds to sexual misconduct allegations in Seattle Times report
- J. Kenji López-Alt is Seattle’s most powerful food influencer — and its most reluctant one
- Rant & Rave: Crows are quite smart. They don’t need your help finding food
- See the Pacific Northwest this summer with these 12 road trips from Seattle
Saw: A model with a 15-inch steel blade is long enough for a variety of tasks, yet short enough to fit in many tool kits. Look for a style that reads “general purpose” on the label — these can cut with and against the grain.
Cordless drill: For basic tasks, 9.6 volts will do the job. Heavy-duty tasks, such as drilling into brick, require a 12-volt model. A keyless chuck, the mechanism that allows for changing bits, means you don’t need to keep track of a key.
Staple gun: This versatile tool can be used to install screens, fasten upholstery and cover objects with fabric. Choose one that’s small or medium-size. It will fit into a toolbox and is easier to handle than larger models.
Measuring tools: Metal is the best choice for a straight edge, since other materials, such as wood and plastic, can get scratched and nicked by cutting blades. To calculate longer distances, use a 25-foot-long measuring tape.
Pliers: A pair of slip-joint pliers is best for tightening and loosening nuts and bolts. A needlenose pair is perfect for twisting wire. Its pincers are also useful for working in cramped spaces.
Hardware: Stock your kit with all the basics: nails, screws and hooks of all kinds, including eye hooks and cup hooks. Remember to get picture-hanging wire and anchors appropriate for your walls.
Clamps: Use these tools to secure items while they are being glued or nailed to one another. C clamps hold items steady by securing them to a workbench and offer the firmest grip. Spring clamps are good for smaller items.
Level: This tool can tell you when something is perfectly straight. A carpenter’s level can identify 45-degree angles. A torpedo is even tiny enough to fit into small spaces.
Putty knife: This tool is used mainly to smooth over putty, mend plaster and perform similar tasks. However, it can also function as a scraper, for peeling away loose paint and caked-on glue. Choose one with a 1 ½- to 3-inch-long blade.
Safety equipment: Always wear protective glasses when sawing or working with harmful chemicals. Leather gloves can prevent blisters and injury and improve your grip for tasks such as carrying firewood. Latex gloves are handy when working with grease or paint.
Adhesives: On wood and paper, use carpenter’s glue. Also handy are tapes in 1- to 2-inch widths: masking, painter’s, duct and electrical.
Cutters: Keep a pair of scissors in the toolbox dedicated to tough tasks, such as cutting sandpaper, so you don’t ruin the household pair. For more detailed jobs, a utility knife with a retractable blade that can be locked is ideal.
Miscellany: Assorted items can help in a pinch: a pencil, a flashlight for repairs in dark spaces, 100-grit sandpaper for smoothing edges, felt pads for preventing scratches underneath items and a bottle of adhesive remover for eliminating tape and glue residue.
Toolbox: A toolbox keeps everything in one place and protects all the essential items inside. A durable plastic model is light enough to tote from room to room.
A chest that measures 10 by 10 by 19 inches is large enough to hold everything in this checklist, except for the drill. Choose one with clever features, such as removable trays with compartments, which keep small items organized.
Questions may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or Ask Martha, care of Letters Department, Martha Stewart Living, 11 W. 42nd St., New York, N.Y. 10036. Sorry, no personal replies.