Erik Miller

Even Cavemen Had Tools: The Starter Tool Kit

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Hammering, drilling, nailing, and sanding — these actions mean “building” to many people, but also they mean frustration and pain to rookies. In this case rookies include recent grads, youth who didn’t take shop class, and anyone who doesn’t hammer, drill, nail, or sand on a regular basis. I recently had a young accountant ask me if he could use my tools to make a special table as a gift. I was a little shocked but quickly realized that many people are sent off into the world without proper equipment. There is generally no life-threatening immediate need for young adults to have a basic set of tools . . . unless you want to hang an HDTV, fix a leak, change an alternator, or build a table. Eventually, everyone needs a decent tool set.

By “decent” I mean both basic tools as well as reasonable quality. Most guys don’t need super high-quality tools mechanics use — but they also shouldn’t buy super cheap tools made with poor-quality metals, either. A decent tool set will save everyone time, money, and frustration. So I’ve put together a list, and try thinking of the list as an investment. If a person has the tools to fix faucet leaks and blocked drains, then they don’t need a plumber for 95 percent of their plumbing issues. The same goes for auto repair, basic home repair, and building vs. buying. Albeit, the percentages change in each category but the premise is the same. Besides, building a shelf out of wood for the garage is far more satisfying than assembling something manufactured out of plastic that will bend under the weight of a simple go bag.

If you already have an awesome tool set, then think about those around you who don’t — and young adults just starting out can usually use some help in this area. I’m going to start my boys’ tool kits now; hopefully, by the time they’re young adults and ready to leave the nest, they will have a good tool set and have some experience in using those tools. I know this means pain for me — because I will have to let them fix the leaks, hang our pictures, build forts, and saw wood. I’ll likely end up with some extra repairs, but handyman knowledge and confidence don’t truly transfer until a guy puts it into action. Certainly a man’s boys are a worthy investment, right?

As for rookies, I joke a lot about how it takes me 20 minutes to complete a task by myself and 90 minutes to complete the same task while coaching a rookie. Here’s my secret, though: If the rookie doesn’t call me again then two people win the long game.

When you’re acquiring tools, you don’t have to rush out and buy everything new. Start with a toolbox — or even a tool bag — and start filling it when the tool that seems right at the time. If you buy a new hammer, give your old hammer to your son or daughter (ever see a woman who could use a hammer that you didn’t appreciate?). Need a stocking stuffer? Toss in a tape measure. An all-in-one kit is great, but something built over time is even better.

Core Tools for Starter Tool Kits:

  • Hammer: A hammer has unlimited uses. I like the Stanley 51-163 16-Ounce FatMax Xtreme AntiVibe Rip Claw. This hammer has great grip, good balance, and is versatile enough to handle most anything.
  • Tape Measure: When the activity is not an outright simple repair with a replacement part, then it will require measuring. The Komelon SL2925 has all the features of a good measuring tape; self lock, easy retraction, 25 ft, and it’s coated in nylon for easy handling and drop resistance.
  • Level: Old-school levels work for most leveling; however, I like the Black & Decker BDL170 Bulls Eye Auto Leveler. The auto-level feature is great and it projects a level line both horizontally and vertically.
  • Cordless Drill: The cordless drills are becoming more powerful and lasting longer, making them a guy’s go-to drill over the hassle of corded drills. The Black and Decker LDX 120c is a great all around drill with good flexibility of use.
  • Needle Nose Pliers: I’m constantly turning to needle nose pliers. Unlimited uses — and once a guy has some, they’ll recognize the odd moments they need them most, like holding a nail for a hammer in an impossible position otherwise. The Stanley 84-102 work great for me. Very sturdy, easy to grip, and decent cutting.
  • Socket Wrench Set: The Stanley 92-824 Black Chrome 69-Piece Socket Set has a great look and is covers the majority of socket needs.
  • Adjustable Wrench: The catch all tool for quick fixes is the Stanley 90-949 10-inch MaxSteel Adjustable Wrench. I think if you have this, a knife, and plenty of duct tape . . . you can temporarily fix anything.
  • Hacksaw: I like hacksaws because they are man-powered and you can change the blades as needed. The Dewalt DWHT20547L 5in1 is the best I have used.

I like the idea of putting together a kit for my boys and using the tools that I know will last and work well for them. All of the above tools fit that criteria — if they have them, a use for them will appear, guaranteed. So get a tool box or better yet, a tool bag, and start right now.

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