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After years of writing about tools and the tool lifestyle, we believe that everyone — man, woman, homeowner, apartment(/bar)-dweller, college student, everyone — should own a few basic tools and the accessories needed to make them useful. So we decided to throw together a list along with some recommendations for where to find ’em, how much you should pay for ’em, and what you can do with ’em.

We don’t intend this as an exhaustive list of every tool you could (and should) possibly own. Instead, we’re targeting the gear you’ll find useful day in and day out — and that occasionally may pull your ass out of the fire when you’ve done a great job of lighting it up.

Of course this wouldn’t be Toolmonger without your feedback. Think no one really needs a utility knife? Wonder why we’re not going to include a scroll saw? Speak up! As you see the each post in the list (starting today), feel free to let us — and more importantly other readers — know what you think. And if you’re reading to assemble your first toolkit, do what we do: Pay attention to comments. There’s as much useful info there as you’ll get from us. Toolmonger readers are sharp, like your pocket knife better be, too.


43 Responses to 25 Toolmonger Essentials: Introduction

  1. bajajoaquin says:

    My comment is more of a request: as you go through these posts, can you keep a consolidated list together so that we can see the whole set as it builds? That way, we don’t have to do a search to find what the 25 tools are.

  2. Jason Peacock says:

    Oooh, yay! I’m excited to see what’s in the list – I’m finally able to start filling out my toolchest/garage and almost every week I find an essential tool that I”m misisng (chisels! hacksaw!).

  3. Mike47 says:

    Just hand tools, or are you including power tools?

  4. Gary says:

    Maybe clarify what those basic tools can be used for – in terms of categories like carpentry, plumbing, flooring, electrical etc? Maybe like a grid – it would tell you what the most critical tools are. Per your example, a utility knife can be used for all 4.

  5. Frank Townend says:

    Great idea for a series. I await.

  6. David Bryan says:

    Everybody ought to have Joseph Eiffel’s Mighty Plilerench.

  7. Old Coot says:

    I just hope each tool has a laser.

  8. Toolhearty says:

    David Bryan Says:

    Everybody ought to have Joseph Eiffel’s Mighty Plilerench Plierench.

    Yep, got a set right here in my toolbox (Heyco strain relief installation tool).

  9. george says:

    as a mechanic, i could not do without those little pocket screwdrivers with the magnet on the end. usually given free from mac and snap on tool dealers. i felt naked without them. retired now but still have and use them.

  10. YoungCoot says:

    Old Coot: the laser joke is getting old.

  11. David Bryan says:

    Toolhearty, of all the things for me to misspell, that one really hits me. Thanks for the correction. If you’ve got the old Heyco strain relief pliers you might be missing out on the party; they generally had cut out frames and just one jaw. Still mighty handy, though. I’ve got 7″ plierenches with 3 jaws and I don’t even know how many different jaws I’ve got for the 8-1/2″ ones. I’ve got dated ones from 1921 to 1960 (not every year, and I don’t think any of them were dated between 1922 and 1933; and I think they were only dated triennially from 1933-1939) and some of the 80-some-odd-year-old ones look brand new. If you want to mash the hell out of something this’ll do it.

  12. Old Coot says:

    As we all are, my friend.

  13. KJ says:

    A library card. Especially if no one close to you has already helped you build and learn to use the basic tool collection. Libraries often usually have do-it yourself books, and bigger libraries will have Fine Homebuilding and other relevant periodicals. Libraries have web access, too (hey, you could read Toolmonger), but you usually need a card to use it.

  14. Steve says:

    I’d say you don’t need 25 tools for a basic tool kit. In my opinion, a basic kit would include: 1)Hammer 2) 6 in 1 Screwdriver 3) Adjustable Wrench 4) Needle-Nose Pliers 5) Utility Knife 6.) Tongue and Groove Pliers 7) One of those basic socket sets you can get at any store for like $9.99 8) Locking pliers

    That would be more than enough to handle just about any home or emergency auto repair need.

  15. Steve says:

    ***and that smiley face was supposed to be an 8.

    I left out #9, most importantly, a Tape measure.

  16. Andrew C says:

    Steve, I’d put vise grips on your list in place of tounge and groove pliers (channellocks).

  17. Steve says:

    Got it covered Andrew. Take a look after the smiley face (supposed to be #8) I’ve got Locking pliers (vice grips) on there too.

  18. Brian Dolge says:

    I am a big fan of the redneck 2 item toolbox: if it moves and you want it to stay put, that’s Duct Tape. If it don’t move and you want it to, that’s WD40. The rest is details. The only problem that can’t be fixed with these two led me to include a third item several years later: a roll of toilet paper.
    Another friend of mine used to say all he really needed was a pair of Visegrips and a bottle opener, ’cause if he couldn’t fix it with the Vicegrips it was time for a beer.

    Seriously though… 25? I have a “109 piece” socket set, does that count?
    Home? Auto? Office? Camping? Hobby?
    I probably have 25 different kinds of tape. Is glue a tool or an ingredient?
    Books? Don’t get me started.
    Is a first aid kit a tool? What about a fire extinguisher? A pistol?

    Anyway I will anxiously await the nominees, but just wanted to say that the most interesting parts of these sorts of exercises are (A) defining the problem, and (B) what gets left out.

  19. shopmonger says:

    this sounds great guys….. maybe also come voting? i would always like to see the HIVE MIND SPEAK


  20. jeffrey immer says:

    i just looked through the popular mechanics list, i have everything on the list but it leads me to the question how many of each should i have??? with 9-10 different cir saws, and multiple jigsaws and pretty much duplicates in each category, the real question is how much do i really need?

  21. Eddie says:

    Now come on people. Think about this…. This is a general home owner list. don’t think a list of tools for a project but everyday household repair.

    I will attempt to make some suggetions as well.

    1. hammer (16 oz, not too large, no too small) how basic can you get?

    2. multi bit ratcheting screwdriver. (a good one not a cheap one)

    3. tape measure (16 foot)

    4. 18 Volt cordless drill

    5. jig saw with various blades (useful for cutting a lot of things, not too dangerous or hard to handle)

    6. A good set of bits and drill bits for drill and screwdriver

    7. set of adjustable wrenches ( at least 2, one bigger, 1 smaller)

    8. A set of locking pliers (again one larger and one smaller)

    9. Set of Pipe wrenches (agian one larger and one smaller)

    10 needlenose pliers

    11. Side cutters

    12 Wire strippers

    13 Set of 4 clamps (two small, two larger)

    14. a Level (at least 2 foot long)

    15. speed square

    16 set of screwdrivers (you know 1 longer phillips and 1 longer flat head, 1 stubby phillips and 1 stubby flathead, 1 shorter phillips and 1 shorter flathead)

    More later???

  22. Tony says:

    Hands down, the painter’s multi-tool is a must-have; the more parts the better. My favorite would be the the Husky 14-in-1: http://bit.ly/e7gra

  23. Eddie says:

    Things that I do not consider tools

    I was looking and thinking at what some people put on list of tools. It seem to me some things that might be found in a tool box or used while working should not be put on a list of tools.

    1. Pencils (consumable)

    2. Sandpaper (consumable)

    3. Safety glasses (not a tool, just protective sheilding)

    4. Electric cord (not a tool, just makes it possible to use some tools)

    5. yard tools (unless you are making a list of yard working tools, Then you would have to include lawn mower, weedeater, rake, shovel, etc….)

    6. rope

    7. ladder

    I could go on, but I will stop there…..

  24. JH says:

    When I moved out of my parent’s house, my father gave me a small pouch of handtools. A hammer, an adjustable wrench, needlenose pliers, a small level, a tape measure and a 6-in-1 screwdriver. All of them were of quite poor quality and infact the screwdirver broke on me. The rest of the tools are still in working condition although they might be a bit mangled. That is not a bad thing! Everybody needs tools like this that can be used for any task without fear of ruining them. To this day these are the tools I most often take out of my toolbox.

  25. Chris says:

    Eddie: As far as “toolbox essentials” go, no, not really, but I can think of a pretty good reason to do a post on why certain models of any of those seven examples are better than others. Precisely *because* all seven are basically commodity items, there is a tremendous variation in quality and function across the breadth of the market. Take rope, for example — para-cord is great for lots of things, but I sure wouldn’t want to use it to try to pull a car out of a ditch. Even for general homeowner use, stepladder or extension ladder? Depends on the home. Some safety glasses are so uncomfortable as to be nearly useless. Etc. I could go on, but I’ll stop there. 😉


  26. shopmonger says:

    Wartex,,,,,I think you are missing the point……I run a Wood Working company and don’t have one, let alone for a home owner set….

    I like the idea of a ladder though……very important and what model will be a great debate….


  27. Mac says:

    THE bare essentials: Duct tape, WD-40, and a coat hanger. These will get you through life just fine. 🙂

    Skilled potential supplements: medium sized vise-grip, a basic claw hammer and a medium quality multibit screwdriver. (Sorry, Average Joe does NOT need Snap-On at this point.)

    Joking aside, look forward to the list. Most of it should be agreeable to most everyone. Where it gets interesting is the bubble – what gets included at the end, and what doesn’t, and why.

  28. Joe C. says:

    A ladder is not a tool? It is to getting up as a drill is to making holes. And it’s not like an extension cord, in that it makes it possible to use some tools. It’s a tool for climbing things. Whether or not it makes the list is debatable, but whether or not it’s a tool . . .?

  29. Joe Sainz says:

    To me a ladder is a little bit like a household commodity; like a broom or a vacuum.

  30. Yadda says:

    In the varnacular of science, a ladder is an inclined plane. Definitely a tool.

  31. Ted says:

    One of the things rarely discussed, but I find is a big issue for young or new tool users, is quality. I see a lot of junk passed off a ‘starter kits’ or ‘apartment kits’ that are so chintzy they’re either unsafe or useless. IMO, it’s worth spending a few bucks to get nice screwdrivers with comfortable handles and good fitting, durable, tips, sockets that won’t shatter like glass or slice your fingers to ribbons with flaking chrome, likewise for simple stuff like hammers, axes and tape measures. A few extra well-spent dollars gets you something that is a pleasure to use and will last a lifetime. I’m not a huge fan of multi-tools, I’d rather have a tool that does one thing well than one that does numerous things badly. A subjective assessment of each of the top 25 would be helpful, ie “spend a little more on a good hammer”, or “feel free to peruse the bargain bin for a plumb bob”.

    YMMV, Ted

  32. blore40 says:

    1. Brain

  33. Eddie says:

    Essential tools

    17. Walboard saw. (I didn’t use one of these until I started my kitchen remodel. But it has proven itself to be very useful and now I would not want to be without one.)

    18. one of those good snap blade knives. (I bought one for about 2 dollars after I started the reno on my kitchen. I have reached for it time after time. I prefer it to the old fashioned razor blade knife.

  34. Eddie says:

    If a ladder is a tool then so is a set of stairs. They are also an inclined plane….

  35. Eric R says:

    Stairs are not portable… unless you make a set of them to use on different jobs… then they would be

  36. Patrick says:

    If sets count, I could pull a 25-tool must have list…if they don’t? I don’t think so.

  37. KoKo the Talking Ape says:

    I strongly prefer interchangeable-tip screwdrivers that take 1/4″ hex bits to those 6-in-1 screwdrivers. Why? Because screwdriver tips wear out, and you cannot buy replacement tips for those 6-in-1s. But you can get replacement 1/4″ hex tips everywhere. Also, if you ever need to drive something obscure like a spanner or security Torx bolt, you can buy the tips pretty easily. Also, most of the quality in a good screwdriver is in the tip. With interchangeable tips, you can get really good quality or crap, whichever you prefer.

  38. David Bryan says:

    You can get replacement tips for the 6-in-1’s.

  39. phil says:

    A good, bright LED flashlight. Good lighting for inspection of the job at hand is the first thing I always reach for before I reach for other tools – pliers, screwdrivers, wrenches, etc.

  40. Julie says:

    Just wondering if an official list was ever posted?

  41. kyle says:

    did this list ever come to fruition?

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