Having a workshop—a place to go and work with your hands—is part of the quintessential American dream. Part of putting your ideal workshop together is choosing the right kind of tools. Along with power tools and a reserve of hardware (screws, nails, staples, bolts, etc.), you must have hand tools available. Hand tools are convenient and often don’t require power or gas. That makes them useful for most tasks. They’re also easier to store and maintain. Suitable for a variety of different jobs, hand tools just make life easier for all. Here are five hand tools you should always have on hand (get it?). Keep reading to get your workshop ready for anything.
Other than the fasteners you use, levels are probably the most important tool you need for any installation. Levels come in different lengths (from short to long) and help you ensure fixtures aren’t crooked/misaligned. You’ve definitely seen these unassuming tools in most toolboxes and garages. Essentially a bar with a few bubbles in it (a massive oversimplification, we know), levels have been a staple of construction for centuries. Keeping a few different-sized levels in your workshop is useful for various projects and can help you get more done—with much better accuracy—than merely “eyeballing” measurements as you work.
At the expense of sounding super obvious, every toolbox needs an array of screwdrivers. Documented uses of screwdrivers go all the way back to the Middle Ages, and the tool has been evolving and going strong ever since. Flathead, Phillips head, star, spanner, hex, and many other types of screwdrivers simply belong in a workshop. They’re the single most useful and versatile tool anyone needs to accomplish most tasks. Whether it’s tightening some screws on an engine part, putting up a frame, or doing some home repairs, it’s always good to have several different screwdrivers (types and sizes) on hand.
Every workshop should have pliers to cover a variety of activities. Pliers are a simple tool with a handle, pivot, and head. Pliers come in several different styles—needlenose, round nose, slip joint, lineman’s, wire stoppers, and more—and are a necessity for any toolbox, workshop, or home repair. Indeed, pliers are an essential hand tool for any demolition or construction work. And they’re just handy to keep around. Pliers, as we know them today, are based on the lineman’s pliers invented in the 19th century. Originally known as Kleins (named after their inventory, Mathias Klein), these pliers evolved significantly over the 20th century to become the ones we know today. Before that, pliers were not as well developed, but date back to the bronze age. Although similar to some modern pliers, many of them were dedicated tools for specific purposes such as horseshoeing, blacksmithing, and other specific tasks.
Ratchets and Socket Wrenches
Ratchets and socket wrenches are other important tool for a workshop. They speed up repetitive work and can handle a variety of different fasteners. Nuts and bolts don’t stand a chance when you can use the fast action of a ratchet to tighten or loosen them. These tools are a surprisingly recent invention. But from their origins as an attachment for non-turning wrenches to multifaceted toolkits today. Hex head sockets are the norm these days due to their utility and ease of use. They’re perfect for everything from simply tightening bolts to working on larger, more involved projects and vehicles around the workshop/garage.
Stud and Screw Removers
Some projects require the removal of studs, screws, and nails. A stud—whether wooden or metal—is an integral part of the support structure of a building. Studs have been an integral part of a building structures since around the 12th century in Europe. The practice became more popular and started showing up in American architecture around the 19th century. Today, it’s practically a part of everything we build. Occasionally, studs, screws, bolts, and the like must be removed from the wall. This might be to accommodate plumbing work, electrical wiring, or an expansion of the home. Luckily, there are specialized tools for this: stud and screw removers. These tools make removing even the toughest studs (or screws) simple. Consider adding one to your workshop so you have it available when the time comes to take on a larger project that requires its very specific use.