What handtools should I register for?
December 19, 2006 2:54 PM   Subscribe

I have been tasked with registering for hand tools. I have a general idea what kinds of tools to get, but need suggestions on what I'm missing, where to register and how much to spend.

My fiancee and I are going to be buying our first home after we're married, and I've been asked to register us for the tools we'll need in our new home. From previous askme's, I think I'll want:

Screwdriver set
Claw hammer
Electric Drill

I'm not sure what to do about wrenches - should I go with a crescent wrench set, an adjustable crescent, or socket wrenches? I'd like to be able to do minor repairs on my Jeep Liberty also, so if I can double up there, it'd be good.

If there's anything you think I've missed or don't really need, please feel free to comment.

My main problem, however, is that I don't know how much I should be spending on each of these tools and where I should be getting them from.

I don't want the cheapest tools out there, but I don't need a professional toolkit either. Normally I'd go by brands, but even within the same brand I'm finding a lot of variety. For example, looking at Craftsman tools I see a 5 pc. screwdriver set for $20 and a 30pc set for $30 (and there's 150 hits for craftsman screwdriver at sears.com). In other words, I'm a little overwhelmed with all the choices.

How much should I be looking to spend on tools that are going to last a long time and get the amateur job done?

Also, do you have any suggestions on where to register? I was thinking Sears, but have considered Home Depot and Lowes.
posted by chndrcks to Home & Garden (38 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The Home Depot Ryobi stuff is surprisingly good. I have burned up many Black and Decker. DeWalt and other brands are made by B&D but with slightly tougher plastic gears. :)

I love the Craftsman wrench sets, especially the auto-ratcheting ones. Very very useful. I do alot more mechanical car stuff than home stuff (since my place was just built 2 months ago) but damn they feel good in your hand. (on a Jeep too no less)

Head out to a few stores, pick the tools up and get what feels comfortable but the Craftsman socket and wrenches get my vote for just feeling real nice and durable.
posted by evilelvis at 3:02 PM on December 19, 2006

and now that I think about it, I have definitely gravitated towards Craftsman. I work with some Bosch hammer drills that are tough but for personal use, once I crushed all the cheap Harbor Freight and dainty other "cheap" wrenches I definitely have gravitated towards Craftsman and stopped the endless cycle of breaking and replacing. My dad's 20 year old drill still works from them! Heavy sob too.
posted by evilelvis at 3:05 PM on December 19, 2006

For the non-electric hand tools - Craftsman's lifetime warranty is great. Don't forget a toolbox. For the electric tools, a good battery powered drill (~$80) and quality bits. Just get the basics. Part of the fun and motivation of approaching a new job around the house is getting a new tool to perform the job. :)
posted by caddis at 3:07 PM on December 19, 2006

For what it's worth, most craftsman hand tools have a lifetime warranty, so my suggestion would be to meet your needs at your price level and not worry about getting "cheap" tools - everything in their line is rock solid for non-commercial use.
posted by jtajta at 3:07 PM on December 19, 2006

For the wrenchs get a medium adjustable crecsent, a set of sockets with a ratchet and a set of open and box end wrenches.
posted by Iron Rat at 3:11 PM on December 19, 2006

My 62-year-old father has Craftsman tools that he inherited from his father, and they still honor the lifetime warranty. In some cases, the tools are 50+ years old.

I would stay away from Black and Decker stuff as it tends to be cheaply made and seems to wear out quickly.
posted by Ostara at 3:21 PM on December 19, 2006

should I go with a crescent wrench set, an adjustable crescent, or socket wrenches?

You're really gonna end up wanting a set of all three. Different jobs require different tools. For general fix-em-ups, an adjustable crescent wrench is a time-saver (no more going back and forth to the tool box), but a socket wrench is great for doing a lot of the same sized bolts over and over. For many automotive applications, you'll want deep-depth sockets, as well as those little angly dongles that let you use the socket at an angle.

A good pair of wire cutters/strippers and some of those twist-on wire connectors may help a lot doing minor home/car repair.

Tape Measure.

For your car: One of those magnets on the end of a telescoping rod (believe me, you'll need this. Buy 5 or 6.)

Forget the handsaw and ask for a sawzall and a circular saw.

I can keep going...
posted by muddgirl at 3:24 PM on December 19, 2006

Don't forget a couple of pipe wrenches.
posted by Good Brain at 3:37 PM on December 19, 2006

Orbital sander.
posted by craniac at 3:41 PM on December 19, 2006

A few other notes from a self-confessed tool field:

Good tools should last your lifetime. They are an investment and will reward you each time you use them. Cheap tools are hazardous to you and the stuff you are working on, and can frustrate you to no end. It is not excessive to spend $5-$10 per screwdriver, $20-$30 for a quality hammer (such as a 16 oz "electrician's" hammer with a fiberglass handle), $20-$30 for a good medium sized cross-cut handsaw, and $50 for a complete set of Craftsman 3/8" drive sockets and ratchets (get a set with both metric and SAE sizes).

The Craftsman stuff is fine; I have a complete set of their sockets and ratchets, and they have enabled me to rebuild several engines, etc. However, not every tool that Sears sells is a Craftsman. They also have some cheaper lines (e.g., "Companion") that must be avoided.

NOTE: A few excellent tools are better than a bunch of crappy ones. Get good tools!

The Black and Decker WorkMate portable work tables are excellent, and worth having around if you don't have a dedicated workbench. They store flat and are great for those times where you need to work on something bigger than a breadbox, like cabinet a door, but don't want to rest it on the ground and work on your knees.

In a similar vein, a good workbench with a large, decent quality vice securely mounted on one of its corners will serve you for many years to come. I would STRONGLY consider getting one of these once you are settled.

Other odds and ends:

Get a decent straightedge, carpenter's square, and/or engineer's square.

Get two levels if you can, a small torpedo level and a longer contractor's level. Also, it may seem gimicky, but the inexpensive laser levels are great and surprisingly useful for things like aligning multiple picture frames.

Get a utility knife and a quantity of blades. Change the blades frequently, as soon as they get dull. Dull tools are dangerous, as they require more pressure to use but more pressure = less control.

Get an LED headlamp from someplace like REI or a camping goods store. It makes many jobs SO much easier to have a good, portable source of light that follows your gaze.

Get a quality (i.e., thick) extension cord.

Finally, i think the most important tool you will need is a quality tape measure. Better yet, get two, one a stout 25 footer, and the other a longer 50 or 100 footer. You will be doing a lot of measuring.

Good luck, and congratulations :)
posted by mosk at 3:47 PM on December 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

For me, part of the fun is getting the right tool when you need it. A Saturday trip to the hardware store is good fun, though I start to get annoyed at my third (you will always forget something).
My rule of thumb is to buy good quality unpowered tools that I use often. So a good set of screwdrivers, quality hammer, saw and 3 different size shifting spanners.
For power tools I buy cheap crap except for my main drill, which sees a lot of duty.
Most power tools just don't get used enough to wear out in DIY use, and you can buy ten of them for the price of a professional brand.
Some ideas:
- if you will have room for a workshop, consider a bench saw, they rock. Similarly, you will need a vise for the workbench you will construct as your first project.
- I have a couple of toolboxes. I keep all the auto & electrical stuff in one, plumbing/tiling stuff in another, and ,y main one for general/woodwork tools.
This is a benefit as it is unlikely you will need that socket set if you are re-hanging a door, so it doesn't pay to cart it around.
- this doesn't apply for a wedding gift, but garage sales and flea markets are a great source for superb quality hand toolsfor peanuts. Here I have seen beautiful 50yro English woodplanes for under $10. Record still make them but for about $300.
posted by bystander at 3:49 PM on December 19, 2006

i use the following tools frequently:

- multi-tool (i have a leatherman supertool)
- utility knife
- snips
- channel-lock adjustable pliers
- diagonal cutters

i would also recommend an inexpensive kit containing an electric drill and whatever other tools you are familiar with. i have been extremely satisfied with this 18v delta kit - perfect for a hobbyist.
posted by jjsonp at 4:16 PM on December 19, 2006

get a couple of quick clamps. When you use power tools you need to lock down what you're working on. They can also be reversed to use as spreaders.
posted by subtle_squid at 4:21 PM on December 19, 2006

Unless you are one of those people who can actually, like, FIND things (freaks), I recommend several tape measures.

Also, you probably want a cheap cordless power drill for convenience (to use mainly as a screwdriver) but also a corded one for serious work. The cordless ones are good for light use, but they won't be driving many 4-inch screws into concrete, if you know what I mean. As bystander says, your power drill is one item you should not choose cheaply, because a bad one will drive you crazy. No pun.

Bystander is obviously looking in my windows, because I too have a "plumbing" toolbox, a "wood" toolbox, and a "general crap" toolbox.

Look for a handsaw that comes with a miter box, or ask for one at the same time. Most things you want a handsaw for, you'll appreciate being able to cut straight. I use one even for cutting plumbing pipe and such, because it gives me perfect 90-degree cuts.

Those laser-levels are really nice, and not as gimmicky as you may think.

Don't use cheap screwdriver bits. Many are made of metal that will twist right apart on their first challenge.

A good flat file (or a set of needle and flat files) comes in handy in many unexpected circumstances.

There's no circular saw on your list, but depending on the work you are doing, you will probably need one. Cutting more than a couple of 2x4s by hand is painful.

Good luck, and have fun!
posted by rokusan at 4:27 PM on December 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

One of my favorite tools I have purchased in a long time is a Black & Decker cordless screwdriver. I bought mine at Lowe's. It is shaped like a pistol and came with a nice assortment of bits. The speed is controlled by a trigger. The torque is not real strong, which keeps you from stripping out screw heads or breaking the item you are trying to screw (lightswitch plate, etc.).

It is perfect for screwing in the millions of screws when hanging curtains and blinds.

I love mine so much, I'm giving one to my now single mother.
posted by JujuB at 4:43 PM on December 19, 2006

Watch the Sears sale adverts..... they often have a great tool kit on sale for 100 dollars that has a great rachet/socket and wrench set......

Another useful tool kit is a "bit kit," which I have also seen on sale at Sears..... it's a kit with a "driver" and a bunch of different screwdiver, hex, torx-drive, nut and other assorted bits for different fasteners..... I hace seen the cheap kits on sale at hardware stores for as little as 20 dollars for the 100-piece kits...... Even if they are of lesser quality, I usually end up buying a new one every few years as the bits do seem to get lost over time....

A cordless screwdriver is a wise investment, be sure and get one that is at least 12v.... an extra battery is handy as well......

A hammer is must.... I would recommend getting three: a claw hammer, a 5 pound hammer, and a brad hammer...... as well as a rubber mallet.....

A tape measure, of course..... as well as a level, a right angle tool, and a yardstick..... They do make a pretty slick tool that will do all of the above using a laser if you must be high-tech.....

A few pry bars......

A cordless drill. Sears sells great kits containing a nice set of different bits across the different cost levels..... pick a kit you like in the middle...... Again, an extra battery is nice......

A set of screwdrivers. I have never had a problem with the cheap ones from the hardware store. If I misplace them or break them I just go buy more...... I have seen 21 piece sets for 5 dollars.

Saws. Alot of options here. Are you just planning on basic home maintenence or are you going to build bird houses and bookshelves, or even rebuild your den? At the very least a hack saw and wood saw are a must, though circular saws are reasonably priced and well, just fun to use...... If you can afford it, a table saw is nice, as well.......

Extension chords! A few of the fifty-foot, heavy-duty orange ones

Some sort of drop light.... I have a nice fluorescent light that is shock proof (I drop it alot) with a 20-foot chord

If you have a workshop, your ideal first project would be to build a workbench..... basically just build a big wooden table that you could pound on with your five pound hammer and not have to worry about it moving an inch.... you can make it fit into what space you have allocated for such a thing. It would serve to be a learning experience for you, your new tools, and your new home.....

Mount a bench vise on it when you are done.

There are other tools that you will discover you need as you exist. You will find that sometimes AutoZone is the only place that has a tool at 7 o'clock on a Sunday evening and it is three times the price of the same tool and of lesser quality than the same tool that you saw at Sear's last week... yet you still buy it because you need it NOW......

Of course, purchase some safety goggles, and a first aid kit.... and if you don't know how to use power tools, be sure and have some who does show you how..... take all safety precautions......

and whenever in doubt, ask someone who knows..... the biggest tool is acknowledging that it's over your head when it comes to amateur repairs of any sort......

I have also bought many tools from Harbor Freight that I would deem more than okay for Home-use....... I have listed this link before, and I don't mean to sound spammy, but HB is my fave place to shop....
posted by peewinkle at 4:46 PM on December 19, 2006

For registering, I would stick to $40+ power tools, or sets of hand tools. No one will buy the random small sub $10 thing like screwdrivers and hammers.
posted by smackfu at 4:50 PM on December 19, 2006

Sears can be hard to price because they have so many different combination packages, but Craftsman is generally good bang for the buck. And those big combo packages would work well on a registry. You mention their screwdrivers. I wouldn't go too expensive with these. I have a moderately priced set of Craftsman screwdrivers and trust me they have taken some serious beatings. I mean using them as full-blown prybars. Putting so much force on them I stopped for fear of my safety. Maybe spend more if you want rubberized handles.

I second a good toolbox. I currently have two main ones: a large box on wheels that holds almost everything and a small one ($15 at Home Depot) that holds my most-used tools and ones I want to take somewhere.
posted by cyclopticgaze at 4:58 PM on December 19, 2006

For where to register - Lee Valley Tools / Veritas has more high quality handtools than almost anywhere else, as well as countless storage and accessory solutions. They also have a huge selection of garden tools as well, if you need those.
posted by true at 5:17 PM on December 19, 2006

Hammers and mallets, in skilled hands, are precision tools. Don't scrimp. A set of the basics, for an around home kit, would include

16 oz framing hammer, for general carpentry
6 oz tack hammer, for tacking and brads
8 & 16 oz ball pein hammers, for metal and machine work
16 oz dead blow hammer, for use with other tools, and precision surfaces
12 oz rawhide mallet, for non-marring woodworking

You can add other specialized hammers later as needed, like heavier mauls for chiseling, and sledge hammers for outdoor work, rocks, etc.
posted by paulsc at 5:18 PM on December 19, 2006

Plenty of good suggestions above, but I recommend a different strategy. Buy tools when you need them for a specific project, and not until. It is easy to get all carried away at Home Depot and leave with $500 worth of tools, most of which might gather dust in the garage for years. God knows I have done it. Once you have the few basic hand tools, hold off on anything else until you need it.
posted by LarryC at 5:30 PM on December 19, 2006


Get em at sears; they will never let you down; now--i don't do much with tools, i'm in school but i love em and love when i get to use them around the apartment (country boy too . . ).

Best thing is one of the 100something sets at sears that includes sockets with the ratchets--both standard and metric. also get a set of hex/allen wrenches and regular standard and metric handheld wrenchs--the old style of turning with your hand to loosen bolts etc

and yes don't forget the pliers and channellocks, and set of flat and phillips head screwdrivers and a good hammer

That is all you will need--anything else is specialty tools
posted by uncballzer at 5:43 PM on December 19, 2006

Cover your basic tool needs, and then add to your collection over time as the needs arise. Also, make sure you get a good, sturdy ladder. And a couple of good old fashioned wooden sawhorses. And one of those really bright utility lights that you can clamp on to something and aim the light where you need it. And a nice, long, indoor/outdoor extension cord. While maybe not technically "hand tools," these are all things that you will use a million times as a homeowner, a car owner, and a tool owner.

And get some needle nose pliers.
posted by spilon at 5:45 PM on December 19, 2006

peewinkle writes "Watch the Sears sale adverts..... they often have a great tool kit on sale for 100 dollars that has a great rachet/socket and wrench set......"

Do not buy any Sears tool at full price unless you ab-so-smurfly need it right away. It will be on sale some time in the next three months. Socket and rachet set per piece prices go down the more you buy. Same with screwdriver sets and wrench sets. If you watch sears you can often get 100-150 piece sets for the price of the three ratchets. I'd go 150 at least if not 175-200.

You'll need a block plane, lee valley makes a nice one. The $20 Borg specials will just make you swear. You'll also need two sets of 3-5 chisels. One cheap $10 chinese set, and a $60+ set for fine work.
posted by Mitheral at 5:53 PM on December 19, 2006

Everyone should have a nice pair of Vice-Grip pliers... maybe the most versatile tool ever. Get the real thing, by Irwin, not one of the wimpy knockoffs.

The link goes to the tool section of Amazon.com. They have OK product reviews from consumers on power tools, so it’s a good first place to shop and their prices are pretty much in line with Lowe’s and Home Despot.

The cordless drill is, arguably, the handiest power tool ever. I have used a wide variety of them for everything from decking screws to door hanging and hardware over the last ten years and, regardless of what you will read, 18V is excessive... 12V is fine... maybe 14V is best.
posted by Huplescat at 6:44 PM on December 19, 2006

I just don't understand why everyone in the world doesn't see a leatherman wave as essential. I end up using mine all the time, and I'm no diy-er or mechanic.
posted by chrissyboy at 7:12 PM on December 19, 2006

a GOOD CORDLESS DRILL is the #1 tool you'll use in the house. get an expensive one, the cheap ones run out of battery too fast.

i constantly use:
HAMMER - get a medium-sized one, it'll be fine, who needs a zillion graduated hammers?
SWITCHY SCREWDRIVER - again, i don't want seven screwdrivers, and the switchy heads also fit into my drill
SPACKLE, PUTTY KNIFE and SANDPAPER (for spackling holes in the wall, i do that a lot for some reason)
good 3" PAINTBRUSH for edging (it's noticeably better than a cheap brush- whereas rollers are more or less all the same)

and i have been too lazy to buy, but wish i had:
posted by twistofrhyme at 9:01 PM on December 19, 2006

I'll be contrary here. Skip the cordless drill unless you have a definite, specific need for it in the near future. Or at most, get a cheapie one, and a good corded drill. Cordless batteries die, get old, get lost, become obsolete, and are generally a pain. Plus, the next generation is always better. Anyway, a good, professional grade corded drill will last roughly forever, and they can be repaired.

The obvious ones have been said, but a few standouts. Clamps are one of those things you can't have enough of. Including Vice Grips. Flashlights/torches, especially a headlamp for where's-the-damn-fuesbox moments.

If the house is old and has been...shall we say creatively maintained, you may want to consider a line toner/tracer to figure out what the wire monkeys were smoking when they installed your phone lines *grumbles*

Check out Toolmonger for some of the newer stuff that might catch your fancy.
posted by Skorgu at 9:22 PM on December 19, 2006

Great suggestions above. I constantly use my expensive Milwaukee corded drill and cheap Craftsman circular saw. I've seen a lot of cheap drills die and cordless always seem to run out of charge at inopportune moments. I also frequently use a handsaw, screwdrivers, sockets, allen keys, clamps, a level, and speed square. Sears! Sears!
posted by fieldtrip at 9:39 PM on December 19, 2006

Opinions from the 60 year old guy wearing the yellow vest in the garden department:

How familiar with the tools and how to use them are you? Check out the DIY pages on the web or pick up some how-to books for the tasks that you're less familiar with. My primary tool philosophy is that they're an investment in helping you get a job done right, quickly and easily. Weak or unreliable tools will frustrate you and you'll end up spending extra time fixing or replacing the tool. Get good quality tools and take care of them.

Most basic tools for a new home owner planning on doing simple home maintenance/repairs and some auto service have been covered above. Some I'd leave out and there are some I'd add. Heed advice from LarryC.

Measuring and marking have been pretty well covered. Two tape measures, one mid length and a 50 footer. Combination square, maybe a rafter square or a 4 foot drywall square later - great as a straight edge to cut plywood. A torpedo level, a 2' level, plus a laser level would be really handy. A chalk reel, a carpenters pencil and a dual point Sharpie marker.

Clamping and holding; A decent bench vise, not a cheap one. Vise grips, a pair of 6 or 12 inch bar clamps a couple spring grip or ratchet grip hand clamps. My Black and Decker Workmate gets used a lot. Make your own sawhorses or buy a set of the Stanley folding ones. Pliers; a pair of slip joint , needle nose, and the Channellocks.

You'll need to cut stuff, metal wood, plastic etc. The utility knife as listed above. Having a circular saw and a recrip saw would be great you could go either cordless or corded - trade off either way. I favor either Makita or Hitachi. A Rotozip tool or a jig saw would be a handy addition.

Joining and fastening: The first tool, hammers - per paulsc. You might just start with the 16 oz. claw hammer and the mallet then get the others later as you need. A cordless drill/driver with a set of good drill bits and driver bits. Get yourself one of the short driver extensions with the magnet in it. Craftsman tools are good, but I'm convinced Makita, Hitachi or Bosch are better. A couple of adjustable wrenches, maybe a 6" and a 12". A set of the Craftsman open end with ratcheting box wrenches would be great along with a starter socket wrench set in one quarter and three eights drive sizes. You might get both together in one set. A set of screwdrivers and a set of metric and SAE allen wrenches. Add a mechanics inspection mirror and a magnetic pick-up tool

How about an electrical test meter?

Now you need at least one toolbox plus the work light mentioned above. Add a couple of files and a dual sided sharpening stone. Don't forget your safety gear - gloves, eye protection, earplugs and filter mask.

Ladders were rated in CR a while back. The Werner 13' telescoping multi-function was rated a best buy.

Don't forget your Leatherman! The original is still the number one with me.

Oh, I almost forgot, a shop vac will prove it's worth quickly.

You may want some yard care tools too, but that's another list for some other time.
posted by X4ster at 10:04 PM on December 19, 2006

Also, you probably want a cheap cordless power drill for convenience (to use mainly as a screwdriver) but also a corded one for serious work. The cordless ones are good for light use, but they won't be driving many 4-inch screws into concrete, if you know what I mean. As bystander says, your power drill is one item you should not choose cheaply, because a bad one will drive you crazy. No pun.

I have a DeWalt cordless which will drive 4-inch screws into concrete all afternoon, and it came with a second battery and fast charger such that you can recharge the second battery about as fast as you can run down the first, even when you are really trying. The torque is nearly as good, although not quite, as a heavy duty AC drill. It was easily the best $100 dollars I have ever spent on tools. I use it all the time and it rarely lets me down. I do still keep the old heavy duty plug drill for the heaviest duty jobs. Don't go cheap on the cordless drill.

By the way, someone mentioned the BD cordless screwdriver. That is a very convenient little device for a quick job here and there although the battery will not hold out for big jobs. That is a fine trade off. After using one at a charity construction project last summer I should probably put that on my Christmas list for this year, although my DeWalt kept driving screws all day without a battery change and that thing died after an hour or so, but for the occaisional small job around the house what a great design.
posted by caddis at 11:41 PM on December 19, 2006

I love my Sawzall and get a surprising amount of use out of it. A ladder's a must. (My husband and I got one for our wedding; great, great wedding gift.) And if you don't have room to store a set of good old-fashioned wooden sawhorses, then a set of not-quite-as-good new-fangled plastic fold-up sawhorses may fit the bill for you.
posted by sculpin at 1:15 AM on December 20, 2006

This impact drill is pricey ($129), but since this is a registry, and since other people are buying (right?), think about adding it to your list. It has two benefits over the other cordless drills I've used ... (sidebar: don't get a corded drill. The flexibility you get with a cordless is incredible.) ... the square head and the impact / hammer. Square heads give a lot better torque / grip on square-head screws (which really should be the standard). Especially if you'll be doing outdoor work (building a deck, for example), the square heads are great. Square heads are, of course, more widely used than just on this drill, but I believe the square head comes with it, which is nice.

The "impact" part of "impact drill" means that it has a little pneumatic piston that pushes the screw in to the material while it's rotating the screw. I know that sounds odd, that a screwdriver would be more productive pushing into the material, and not just twisting, but it is.
posted by Alt F4 at 5:46 AM on December 20, 2006

Some great advice here. I'd especially echo the feeling to get one good tool rather than 6 cheap ones. A good tool is a joy to use, and there's little worse than trying to use a half-broken crappy one.

As a fellow homeowner, the big tools I use the most are (in rough order of frequency):

- Cordless drill: 5 decks and counting. And the new ones certainly will drill tapcons into concrete.
- Shop vac: I've got a small Rigid that I can carry one-handed. The perfect size for me.
- Utility lights and extension cords. Corded painter's lights are great, but high power battery lights are better.
- Step ladder: 6' is perfect. 5' is too short, 7' is awkward indoors.
- Extension ladder: 'cause everyone needs to clean gutters.
(one option is a combo step-and-extension ladder. There are some great choices out there in ladder-land nowadays).
- Chop saw: 10" minimum, 12" is better. Compounds are invaluable for specific jobs (crown molding), but better to rent as needed, I find.
- Circular saw: the other essential deck-building tool.
- Reciprocating saw: "Sawzall", great if you're going to do a lot of demolition or remodelling. Not so useful otherwise.

Craftsman makes great handtools, but I've never been really impressed by their powertools. Definitely stay away from B&D (unless you like shopping for new tools every year). Bosch, Makita, De Walt (B&D pro line), Porter Cable (the other B&D pro line), Milwaukee (saws, especially) all are decent tool makers.
posted by bonehead at 12:59 PM on December 20, 2006

Oh two more:

- Wheelbarrow, gardening, but still, and
- B&D Workmate (collapsible workbench): one tool B&D makes that is really better than anything else out there. The original model is still the best size. The big ones are a bit awkward, I find.
posted by bonehead at 1:06 PM on December 20, 2006

Some great advice here. I'd especially echo the feeling to get one good tool rather than 6 cheap ones.

A few summers ago I was cleaning out my late father-in-law's shop. He was a Depression kid who never threw away anything in his life. I would open a drawer and there would be an ancient spark plug wrench, obviously the cheapest one you could buy, broken. Next to it would another spark plug wrench, twenty years newer, cheap, broken. Beside that a new spark plug wrench from the dollar store. It was the man's whole sad life layed out before me.
posted by LarryC at 7:20 PM on December 20, 2006

The Craftsmen warranty is pretty cool. I had a Craftsmem shovel which I broke by pounding on the handle with a cinder block (yes, stupid, but I was having a difficult time breaking into clay soil) and they just gave me a new one, no questions asked, thank the Lord. A buddy found a Craftsman crescent wrench buried, encrusted, ruined, but still identifiable as Craftsman - it was replaced, no questions asked. More manufacturers need warranties like this. I have more personal stories. I will only buy Craftsman for hand tools for this reason alone. We sometimes abuse and break them, sometimes they break in normal use, whatever, I like the fact that Craftsman tools are replaced, no questions asked, every time, without fail. Sears rocks.
posted by caddis at 8:10 PM on December 20, 2006

In addition to the tools you listed, I suggest:

25-foot measuring tape

If you'll be hanging framed pictures, a small hammer in addition to the big one.

An auto-loading screwdriver, which has various sizes and types of bits in the handle; you turn and pump the handle to change bits. Craftsman makes an excellent one.

Utility knife

posted by wryly at 12:13 AM on December 21, 2006

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