Essential Tools You Can Get For A Steal On Amazon
When it comes to tools, there is no shortage of opinions among what is and isn't "quality." I'm no different. I've long been accused of being a "tool snob," but that's because most buddies just don't get to peak around in my kitchen. Why would they? When it comes to those common tools I keep on hand in my handy little homeowner junk drawer, they don't have to be the best name-brand made in USA type items, they just have to work.
Funny enough, as corporate contracts keep your options limited at the hardware stores both in brand and in price point, Amazon has come out in the tool industry as a real dark horse. Offering just about every brand out there and often at the best price. Not always the best price, but close enough to warrant spending the extra few dollars so you don't have to scour the web putting together a DIY'ers kit.
Every junk drawer needs a multi-screwdriver. I'm pretty sure this driver from Klein can be found in every fathers kitchen the world over, and there's a reason for that. It's a great design, quality components, and it'll work for just about every homeowner screwdriver task you'll run across inside. $15 is cheap for a quality mostly-made in USA tool with such high reviews from every seasoned homeowner in this country. If you want to be patient, Home Depot often offers this driver with a set of linesman pliers and some wire stripper/crimpers in a "Holiday" bargain pack around Thanksgiving for about $30. It's a steal.
Next thing that comes in super hand around the house is a socket set. If you look around the web or in stores, you know they're available from mild to wild. The thing most tool makers trick you with though is the listing of how many tools come with a kit. Look at just about any big box store set and odds are, 75% of the tools in the case are made up of screwdriver tips and allen wrenches. Because of your amazing Klein multi-driver above, you don't need any of that for 99.9% of the tool needs around the house. You will need a decent socket set though, preferably something with a few wrenches in the most common sizes found around the house. Again, brand doesn't matter. Even the cheap stuff will work in a pinch for household stuffs. If you'd rather pick up something in store, Harbor Freight offers some decent enough socket and wrench sets that are easy enough to warranty when you break them.
When you do start in on a project, it becomes very apparent that your home, while well lit, doesn't have enough light to actually work on most stuff. Whether you're servicing the dryer or installing a new outlet, you're going to need a light. While we almost instinctively reach for a flashlight, you'll really benefit from something that floods light. I've used the same Lowe's Kobalt snakelight for the last twenty years, and it's super handy, but only a fool would pay some $300 for a $9 "stocking stuffer" light. If you can't find something similar, find something comparable. These little Harbor Freight knockoffs will probably do you well. If you need more light that that, a set of these headlamps are pretty killer.
A good quality utility is worth its weight in gold. Why? Because when you need to cut or scrape something, there is no better tool. This is another category that goes mild to wild. You can buy a $5 folding version if you want. I don't like them. When it comes to the safety of my digits, I don't want to bet a finger on the durability of a Chinese pivot pin. I keep it simple. A metal body that holds a razor blade, easily deploy-able with the press of a sliding button. There are countless manufacturers of these utility knives out there. I bought fifteen of them for a buck a piece when Sears went out of business. I wish I could recommend a "Best Utility Knife" to you, but I can't. They're all just about the same. I'd buy the cheapest one from any recognizable brand. You can spend more, yeah, but name brands are only for those with more money than sense. Samsies with the blades too. I've tried them all. They all dull after "X" amount of cuts. Buy the cheapest you can find from a known brand. Stanley's been making both for over a hundred years. I trust that.
A decent set of pliers should round out the bare essentials in your junk/tool drawer. While I like the German Knipex and USA made Channellock brand that has been making the same teal blue handled pliers for a hundred years, you can get a lot more for less. Remember, you're not making a living with these tools... You're getting by in an emergency with them. This kit from generic brand WorkPro is a good roundabout set of homeowner pliers. You get them all... Pipe pliers, regulars, needle nose, linesman, and side cutters. As a bonus, they even include the adjustable corner-rounder wrench that's handy, but never the tool for the job. Odds are, these are the same kit pliers you see in stores under any other value brand name, but at $23 shipped, you can't go wrong.
When it comes to light duty home furnishings and decorating, a hammer comes in real handy. I'll be honest with you, I bought my first hammer at an antique store for a dollar and I still use it some twenty years later. It's "my" hammer. It's not designed for heavy duty house framing, wall building or deconstruction, it's just a simple light wood handled rusty 10ounce hammer for everyday use like hanging pictures and attaching trim. It seems most men look at hammers and immediately go to the extreme, full 16-24oz hard-faced fancy hammers. Not only do you not need something like that, it would be the absolute wrong tool for most hammering jobs. You just need to push nails into drywall. If you're buying one anyway, you might as well get the nails too.
If you really wanted to step your game up in the home, move to more of an intermediate homeowner level, you might look at things like levels and tape measures. Do you need them? Eh. It's nice to have all your decor hanging level and organized, but eyeballing is close enough. When you seek out these things, they're best bought locally. I know Walmart used to sell American made four-foot levels for $9. I bought a couple of them years ago because they're both handy and make good gifts for your bros. If you buy anything from Harbor Freight, you can usually get a tape measure for free. I wouldn't worry about quality of a tape. Even if it's off by a quarter inch, if you use the same tape for an entire project, it'll work as good as the best tapes out there. The real dark horse of measuring though is, and I know you'll raise an eyebrow, a soft tailoring tape. They come in really handy, can measure any shape, and they fit in any drawer.
I'm sure there's more tool bargains out there. I know the Tekton brand has something on sale every month. Yeah, they're made in China, but they're quality and cheap. You want to save even more money, the company in China that makes Tekton's tools usually sports the exact same tools under a different, much cheaper name. Built to a different standard? Probably, but you're not making a living with them. If you have one tool you always reach for not covered here, shoot me a message. I'll work into the next one.