As I watch an old episode of "In a Fix" (one of those reality TV home improvement shows on TLC) and wish I were James Lundy or Andrew Dan Jumbo (actually on "While You Were Out"), I decided to help those among us who need to get their basic tools in line. Here are the tools I can't live without:

  • Electric driver/drill. This is the #1 tool I reach for time and again. Whether it's my 9.6 volt Makita driver drill or my 18 volt driver drill, this tool gets more face time than any other.
  • Linesman pliers. The second most-often-used tool I reach for. Whenever I need to clip a wire or some rope, tighten a nut or bend something, I reach for these.
  • Razor knife. Open boxes, cut drywall, and threaten your little sister.
  • 35' tape measure. With one of these you can measure any room, hang ten paintings level, or just look like you know what you're doing by clipping it to your belt.
  • Hammer. You won't use it that often for many projects, but when you do, you need it. I have about six, ranging from a 16-oz Estwing to a 28-oz Estwing framing hammer to a 5-lb driver hammer.
  • Two flat-head screwdrivers and two Philips-head screwdrivers. You'll use the driver/drill most of the time, but when you need a screwdriver with a long shank, you'll need these. Get one big one and one small one of each.
  • Needle-nose pliers. Awesome for getting picles out of the jar. :-)
  • 9" Vice Grips. Now we're getting to the cool tools. The 9" Vice Grips can substitute for a rachet wrench, and adjustable wrench, a clamp, and a paperweight.
  • 7-1/4" circular saw. You need a saw. Don't bother with a hand saw. For under $50 you can get a good 7-1/4" circular saw that will do about 90% of the dirty work you need. Heck, I built a finished Craftsman-style table with only these tools and made four-sided tapers on the legs with the circular saw.

We spend a lot of time thinking about the hot-stuff tools. But every toolbox should have these.