Different jobs call for different tools. If you’re into cars, everything from mechanical to body work, then you’re going to need job specific tools such as a welding machine, impact wrench, compressor, grinder and a hydraulic lift, among a myriad of other things such as the small tools and the sand blasting gear and the painting gear, etc.
On the other hand, maybe you’re into fine carpentry work, finish work. Then you’ll need job specific tools such as a brad nailer, compressor (I recommend that everyone, save for the most casual dilettantes, stay far away from cheap electric versions of the proper tools, such as an electric brad nailer), a handy supply of wood glue, rubber mallets, a router, miter saw, hand saws, jigsaw, glue gun, chisels, palm sander, belt sander, planer, stapler, and the list goes on.
Again, different jobs call for different tools. So if you plan on zealously jumping into a certain project or a particular avocation, then you’re going to need to do your homework to find out exactly what you need. But if you’re not exactly one of those passionate hobbyists and you’re more in need of a general assortment of tools to assist you in those everyday tasks that frequently pop up, then here is what I would consider to be the basic arsenal:
First and foremost you should have a good tool kit, one that includes items such as a measuring tape, socket wrench (with sockets), multi-bit screwdriver, crimping tool, pliers, vice grips and a wide array of potentially helpful little goodies such as electrical tape, Allen keys, plastic ties, a small level and things of that nature.
Next you want a decent hammer. It doesn’t have to be a top of the line Estwing, although I would recommend something with a straight claw and an anti-vibe grip. A weight of around 16 oz. is probably your best bet. It’s not too heavy and not too light. So if you happen to get into any framing type work, it’s heavy enough to drive home three and a half inch nails with minimal exertion. And if you’re into lighter work, it’s not so heavy that you’ll batter what you’re working on or have your forearms cramp up during the fast, repetitive hammering that accompanies finer work.
A tool belt. It’s a necessity. You don’t want to keep laying your hammer down and then having to stretch for it when you need it again or wonder where you left it in the first place. Besides, where do you plan on putting those nails or screws when you climb up the ladder? And did I mention your tape and your pencil? Contrary to the cartoons, it’s not that comfortable to have your pencil stuck behind your ear. Oh, and your utility knife, you want that on your person as well. And the list doesn’t end there. The number of ways in which a tool belt can make life easier are too many to count.
I just mentioned things like a pencil and a utility knife, but I feel I should focus on the ladder. A good ladder (or several) can come in handy. Personally, I’d recommend having at least two ladders, one step and one extension. For the step ladder, try to get something between 4′ and 6′. That way it’s not too cumbersome to drag around and set up, yet it’s more than high enough to give you access to standardized heights. As for the extension ladder, go for a 20′ aluminum. It’s slightly longer than the standard 16′ ladders and is significantly lighter than its fiberglass counterparts. And of course the advantage of an extension ladder is versatility in terms of length, which means that you can use it in places where a straight ladder wouldn’t fit. Also, when retracted it’s easier to carry around. You don’t have to worry so much about shouldering it and then leaving a trail of destruction behind you as you turn corners.
A few other small items that could always come in handy would be a standard 2′ level, a chalk line, maybe a couple of sets of C clamps, a paint opener, a propane torch, a couple of extension cords and other miscellanea of that nature.
Moving on to power tools, the first thing I’ll bring up is the cordless drill. True, it can’t reach everywhere, but in most places and cases it’ll be a welcome weapon when compared to the laborious twisting of regular screwdrivers.
I think if you plan on doing any work around the house at all, you should have a miter saw. Many would suggest a standard 10″, but I’d recommend a 12″ sliding saw. This way you really don’t have to worry about making two cuts in a piece of 6×6 or even 4×4. With the sliding action and the larger blade, the sizes of wood that you’ll likely see won’t be any problem at all. One fluid motion and you’ve got a nice clean cut made.
A jigsaw too is something I think you should have. It’s great for cutting out plug holes (electrical outlets) in drywall and plywood, as well as for cutting out vents and holes for lights and such. There will also be a few curvy and wavy markings and patterns to cut out I’m sure. I mean, you never know what you might run into. So a jigsaw is nice to have on hand.
A palm sander is another pleasure to have lying around. Like a lot of leisurely tools it can’t do all the work or reach everywhere, but it sure does make life easier. If you plan on doing any amount of sanding at all, then you should pick up one of these.
Another tool that can make life easy is a circular saw. It can be used in places where many might feel inclined to break out the reciprocating saw, but at least the circular can make a straight cut. Great for cutting plywood and for a quick fix on the end of virtually any piece of lumber if it’s too much trouble to carry said lumber all the way back to the miter saw. It’s a good tool for demolition as well.
I don’t think you absolutely need it, but a decent table saw will never go astray. You can pick up portable 10″ table saws with 15 amp motors and their own stands for around $200. They can do some heavy cutting while remaining relatively light and easy to carry if need be. And again, if you’re going to be doing any work around the house at all, there will certainly be times where you could use a table saw.
Last but not least, get a gas powered chain saw for yourself. You don’t have to worry about getting tangled up in cords and you command more power in case you ever need it. A chain saw is good for limbing or cutting down problematic trees, for disposing of Christmas trees and for cutting your own wood, if ever you choose to do so.