By Ande Waggener
If you like to do your own home maintenance or fun DIY projects, you need to know how to assemble the perfect toolbox.
From DIY creative endeavors like building your own headboard or making a lap desk to larger undertakings like redoing a basement, nothing is more important than having the right tools for the job. That's why it’s imperative that you get the right items in a toolbox you intend to use for your DIY tasks.
Of course, not all tools you will need for all tasks will fit in a toolbox, but having the best selection of toolbox tools will go a long way toward making all your DIY efforts easier.
If you’re wondering what to put in a toolbox, wonder no more. Here is a list of toolbox items and additional tools that will help you assemble a toolbox and a collection of tools so you’ll have what you need in most DIY situations.
For most DIY tasks, a 16-ounce claw-style hammer will be all you need. It’s best to get a cushioned grip if you plan to use a hammer frequently.
A metal tape measure is an absolute must-have around the home, even if you don’t do much DIY. Get one that’s at least 25 feet long, and be sure it has a blade lock.
It’s amazing how many DIY projects require you to see in dark areas, behind furniture, or in other hidden spots. So a flashlight is a toolbox essential. Any flashlight will work. However, a headlamp or a flashlight with a flexible handle will help you be hands-free when aiming your light.
DIY projects can lead to accidents in too many ways to count. So protect yourself. Every toolbox should have these three safety items:
- Safety glasses or goggles. Even if you wear glasses, flying debris can get in your eyes.
- Dust masks. Protect your lungs with either a respirator or at least a paper dust mask.
- Ear protectors. Muff-style ear protectors will make working with power tools more enjoyable and safer. My husband uses his in conjunction with earbuds for an mp3 player so he can listen to music while he works.
A retractable-blade utility knife will become your new best friend when you’re doing DIY projects. Any basic utility knife will work, but getting one with a non-slip handle can be helpful. Be sure you get replacement blades too.
Putty knives are great for applying wall patching paste, and they will help you scrape off peeling paint or other debris.
Ideally, you’ll want an array of screwdrivers that includes at least three or more sizes of flathead screwdrivers.
You’ll also want various sizes of Phillips head screwdrivers.
If storage is an issue, you can get a screwdriver that has interchangeable heads.
We’ve always found it useful to have a set of tiny screwdrivers as well. These will help fix glasses and appliances, and they can be useful for opening some battery compartments.
Regular, groove-joint pliers will be helpful for all sorts of projects.
You’ll nearly always have a need for needle-nose pliers as well.
At the very least, you’re going to want a set of adjustable wrenches or at least one wrench to grab nuts, bolts, and other fasteners.
A set of combination wrenches (so-named because one end is open and one end is closed) will be even more helpful if you often need to loosen or tighten nuts or bolts.
A ratchet set is a set of socket wrenches. A set has a selection of sockets that can be added to the ratcheting wrench base. Although this type of wrench set isn’t a necessity, sometimes a socket wrench is the only thing that will work on a stuck fastener. This set is a must-have if you work on engines.
Every home needs a level... unless you don’t mind crooked pictures on the wall. A small level will work for most projects as well.
My woodworking dad used to say, “You can never have too many clamps.” My husband agrees. I think we might have 50 or more. But a couple spring clamps and bar clamps in sizes that best suit your usual projects will be a good start for you.
Even though you have a measuring tape, you’ll need something to help you draw straight lines. A simple metal or plastic straight edge is a must. Get longer ones if you do larger furniture- or room-sized projects.
At some point, you’ll have a project that requires you get an accurately squared corner. A square helps you do that.
Mill files are used for filing off sharp metal edges or sharpening metal edges (like a lawnmower blade).
If you do mostly small projects, a 12-volt cordless drill will work for you. Get an 18-volt drill for larger projects. If you only rarely need a drill, you can get an inexpensive corded drill. If you’re a frequent DIYer, having both corded and cordless drills will serve you well.
Even simple projects like creating centerpieces often call for a wire cutter. Although pliers can work for this, a wire cutter is far easier to use.
Obviously, a power saw isn’t going to fit in your toolbox. But having a small hacksaw gives you at least some sawing power at hand.
Even though it’s not in your toolbox, if you do many DIY projects, you’ll want to invest in a 7 ¼-inch circular saw for cutting wood or particle board.
Anything heavy that you want to hang up should be fastened to a stud. Although knocking on walls can sometimes help you find studs, it’s not a sure thing. You can get an electronic stud finder, but an inexpensive magnetic stud finder will work too.
Although sandpaper has a place in your toolbox, you may not have room for a sander. Even so, sanding is much easier with an electric sander. So if you do a lot of DIY, invest in one and keep it nearby.
Glue and Tape
Although not tools, glue and tape are nearly always needed in DIY projects. Tucking some wood glue, electrical tape, duct tape, and plumbing tape into your toolbox will prepare you for most DIY situations.
If you assemble all these tools together, you’ll have what you need for most building or repair tasks around your home. And that’s when the real fun begins!
Images used with permission, courtesy of Ande Waggener