Ham's recommended toolbox ideas 1: For those just starting out

    So you (or someone you know) want to set up a new toolbox to get you/them through your/their DIY urges? Now, like I've said in my blog section. Everyone has their idea of "essential" tools for the tool box. However, an appropriate selection of tools will vary from person to person, based on their needs, their goals, and skills/space/financial/better-half approval limitations.

    Now there are some fantastic guides out there that do "tool box" for $250, $500, $1000, $2000, & $5000. Honestly, I wonder whether people with $5000 or more to burn really need a guide, but I suspect some people will dive right in without doing their research. If I had to sum it up simply, I'd say, "start small, and work your way up".

    Things are simple when you are just talking about a small tool box with some basic tools. However, over time the slippery slope of tool accumulation can occur, and a tool box becomes a tool trolley, a tool trolley becomes an entire workshop. Do you really have the space for all that? I'm just trying to ensure you don't cause some sort of drama in your household when you start siphoning off funds, or your better half's car space, your daughter's room, or your wife's studio, or son's home theatre room for your endeavours.... however much you might want to!

    Ham's ultra-basic "pick and mix" ideas for starting a tool box (good as a housewarming gift!)

    This kit is designed to be the bedrock from which all other packages extend out from. Now I don't know what you want to be able to do, but feel free to pick and choose from the list below:

    • Storing:
      • Toolbox(es): I was considering putting this last, so you could buy one large enough to fit all the stuff (that you need) mentioned below into it.. but regardless of whether you buy one or build one, it's important that it remains both portable (not too heavy) yet suitably large to fit stuff in. It's ok if you want to buy multiple smaller toolboxes. Just make sure they're either labelled or sufficiently different so you grab the right one for the occasion. Many power tools, and sets of hand tools come in their own storage/carry case. However, it isn't necessarily ideal to carry everything in these cases, as a lot of space will get wasted. Ultimately, your toolbox is a personal thing, so you'll need to find what suits your needs. But lets move onto tools! I've put them into categories so you can pick and choose based on your activities.
    • Safety - No, these are not optional:
      • Safety is about both having and using safety equipment.... along with safe practices when DIY-ing of course. :-) Remember: Store your safety gear somewhere dust/chemicals won't accumulate when not in use. Also, keep this stuff out of reach of kids, pets, and anyone suffering from compulsive cleaning disorder. They'll move it somewhere, you won't be able to find them, and then you'll be tempted to do "that one little task" without them.
      • Safety Glasses/Goggles: I personally own both, goggles typically have a soft band, rather than the hard "wings"/ear hooks typically found on safety glasses which can also get uncomfortable when wearing other protective gear on your head like ear-muffs and dust mask. Having said that, there are times to use glasses when noise/dust might not be as big a problem... or you just keep fogging up. :-)
      • Ear protection: Whether this is in the form of disposable ear plugs, reusable plugs on a band, or a full-on set of ear muffs that look like headphones. It is important that you protect your hearing. Often, ear protection products will have some noise reduction rating on the label, and the bigger the number, the less noise you'll hear. Please note: Some people think listening to music that's louder than the noise is a great idea. It is not. It just means more damage is being done to your hearing by the increased noise. Long term exposure to even reasonably loud noises can do damage. 
      • Dust Mask: These start with the cheap disposable paper ones which only deal with dust. At the other end, (without going to self-contained breathing apparatus or SCBA, that's without the underwater part of SCUBA gear) there's chemically filtered masks, to help to filter out fumes. For basic sanding, a paper one is better than nothing, but I eventually got a better mask with replaceable multi-layered filters... some of them do make you look like you're Darth Vader, or a chemical warfare scene in a movie.
      • A pair of gloves: Whether it's to avoid splinters, hold something that gets hot, prevent electrocution, reduce chemical exposure, make sure you choose the right gloves for the job.
      • Torch with rechargeable batteries: Whether you're going through a blackout, or just have your head in the ceiling/basement crawlspaces, being able to see is safer than not. Phones have lights, but they're not powerful, nor do they last very long if you like long conversations about why you're sitting in the dark. (Metaphorically or literally)
    • Measuring and Marking:
      • Measuring tape: Measuring is going to be one of the most common activities for any DIY-er. You can probably find a tape in a $2 shop, but you'll find better quality in hardware stores. If you're making furniture, an 8-10m (roughly 26-33 feet) is usually enough. If you're measuring out rooms, or building larger projects, then a longer and higher quality tape is advisable.
      • Steel 30cm/1 Foot Ruler: If I had to say which measuring device I use most, this would be it. I just find that it's easier to manoeuvre in small spaces, it's useful as a straight edge indicator, great for cutting straight lines with a box cutter and the ruler itself can act as an improvised blade for opening boxes/envelopes in a pinch. Get one where the zero point is on the edge, for easy depth marking.
      • Pencils: Remember that you need all of your pencils to constantly be in a very sharp state for accurate markings. Pens aren't ideal because the use ink which can soak into wood, meaning extra sanding. Get a pencil sharpener too!
    • Fastening:
      • Hammer: Every home I've ever seen has paintings/pictures on a wall and almost every picture hook kit I've seen uses small nails. There's always plenty to pry, hit, break, or tap with your trusty claw hammer.
      • Screwdriver with interchangeable bit head: A full set of screwdrivers is great, but tips wear down, and a full set takes a lot of space. Merely swapping the bit out makes a single handle almost universally helpful, and the bits can be used with a power drill when you decide to get that!
        • Bit kit: This might be as simple as a few bits, to huge bit collections of exotic bits. I'd say a kit of 10-30 bits is sufficient at this stage.
      • Micro/Jeweler's screwdriver's set: If you just want to fix your reading glasses, sunglasses, or small electronic devices, you'd be surprised how often these come in handy.
      • Shifting/adjustable spanners: A full set of spanners (both metric and imperial), and decent socket set is a very expensive (albeit useful) thing to buy, but not exactly the basic kit solution needed here. I'd say get two medium-sized shifting spanners at this level. You need two, one to hold a bolt head steady, and the other to adjust the nut. People sometimes do this with pliers in a pinch, but it's far from ideal.
      • Tape: Whether you prefer masking tape, duct tape, or gaffer's (a.k.a: "Gaff") tape. It's absolutely critical to have. Some people use a lot of double-sided tape too, but I find that I don't use much.
      • Glue: A couple of tubes of super glue, a small bottle of PVA, and a little epoxy is great to have on hand! If you break shoes a lot, there are glues for that too!
    • Cutting:
      • Hacksaw: Ok, this is going to be a controversial choice, but hear me out. Hacksaws come in a variety of sizes, but I'm talking about your typical 30cm/1 foot hacksaw. For simple straight cuts. Hacksaws have replaceable blades, so you don't need to know how to sharpen a saw blade (or buy the gear to do that), and if you want to cut metal, or wood, you simply swap out the blade to whatever type you need.
        • Hacksaw blades: Some hacksaws come with a basic wood or metal cutting blade installed. However, getting some more (or some of whatever variety you don't already have) won't hurt! Just make sure they're the right length and type for your needs.
        • Mitre Box: With the saw taken care of, a mitre box helps with straight and mitred angle cuts.
      • Box cutter/Stanley knife: Serves a lot of uses.
      • Cutting mat: Going for the basic kit, I'm going to assume you don't have a workbench yet. You really don't want to cut into your kitchen table. A cutting mat is a cheaper alternative to building a workbench. I've seen them as cheap as $2-$5 in the dollar stores.
      • Pair of scissors: Sometimes you just want a pair of scissors.
    • Finishing:
      • Sanding block + sanding paper: A simple variety pack of sandpaper, and even a comfortably-sized scrap piece of wood will do for the block. There are also commercially available sanding block options too!
      • Small paint brush/roller: If you're going to paint, protect, or glue, this is better than using your hands.
        • Bottle of Mineral Turpentine (also known as "Turps") or Methylated Spirits (Often called "Metho" here in the land of Oz). Good for cleaning up spills and cleaning paint from brushes.
        • Consider getting some clean-ish rags too! Keep them in a box or container that will keep the dust out until needed. Once used, keep them separate and away from flammables, as some finishes can cause rags to spontaneously combust.
        • Small disposable plastic bowls. If you're mixing epoxy, or painting small items, this is a far cheaper way to mix than specialty-made "paint pots". Just make sure you store these somewhere that won't get dust on them so you don't have any getting into your paint/glue.
    • Holding
      • Clamps: You can never have enough clamps, but 2-4 mid-sized G/C-clamps can hold a piece down while shaping or sanding work.
      • Rubber drawer liner: A rubbery, non-stick surface can help with the work piece sliding on your work surface.
      • Pliers: Sooner or later you're going to want to grab something and/or cut some wire.
        • Needle nosed pliers for small things.
        • Typical pair of pliers for medium things.
        • Multi-grips for bigger things, and plumbing work.
      • Tweezers: Whether it's to dig out a splinter, or handle small items like screws or electronic components, or reach something in a small crevice, a good pair of tweezers is invaluable.
    • Drilling:
      • Hand-held (not hand powered) Drill: Ok, this is the only power tool that everyone should have. While there are traditional hand-powered (not just hand held) drilling devices, they're actually surprisingly expensive. A basic Ryobi corded power drill costs under $100. Obviously there are better, more versatile and powerful options out there, and I'd recommend that you buy quality tools wherever you can. Having said that, basic kit is exactly that, and priced accordingly.
        • Remember that bit set with your screwdriver? You can use that with this as well!
        • You'll also need drilling bits as well. They come in both metric and imperial measurements. Eventually you'll use both sooner or later. For Aussies, I'd recommend that people start with a small metric set which ranges from 1mm to 13mm. You probably want to make sure that you get wood drilling bits, not masonry drilling bits, because that is a completely different design of bit. The cheapest bits will be "high speed steel" (or HSS). Longer lasting bits will be coated in Tungsten Carbide, Titanium, or some sort of Cobalt alloy. They're not really suited for this kit because their cost is substantially higher.. but they are an option if you have some spare cash.
        • Consider a centre punch. If you are drilling holes, making an indent with a hammer and centre punch exactly where you want it want it will create a dent that will help to stop the spinning drill bit from "wandering" off your desired point before it really starts to drill in.
    • Portable/Emergency Tool(s):
      • Multi-tool/Leatherman/Swiss Army Knife: You can't take this as "carry on" on a plane, but a multi-tool has gotten me out of a lot of trouble when "out and about". The pliers, blade, screwdriver, and file have saved me hours of walking, and enabled me to help fix people (in first aid situations) and things alike. Ranging from as little as $15, and going up to $350, start with a basic unit and upgrade when you find yourself needing more features.

    Going beyond tools. If you're just starting out, consider maintenance and safety items for your home and/or family:

    • There are a number of consumable items that are handy to have on hand. They are not... strictly speaking, tools. I've already included tape and glue in the fastening section above, but I'm thinking more about things that are handy to have around the home.
      • Fuses or fuse wire: Most home these days have circuit breaker switches. But some older homes still have fuses. Make sure you get wire/fuses with the right rating if this applies to you.
      • Light bulbs: (If you don't know what types of bulb you have, have a look at every bulb by removing it from the socket and seeing the connector type, connector size and the wattage of the bulb. You'll probably find that your home has a couple of types. If you're still using the incandescent (tungsten) bulbs of the 20th century, you should consider switching some/all to the new LED bulbs. They run on far less power, and last far longer. The bulbs come in different "colour temperatures", where lower number are "redder" and higher values are "cooler". (The difference between red hot and white-hot, if that helps). The "warm" type is going to be most familiar to tungsten users. However, cooler coloured bulbs are closer to daylight and are easier on the eyes. Especially good for reading/studying.
        • Bulb considerations may include:
          • The connector type (screw in or bayonet are the two most common)
          • The connector size (diameter). Measure it, trace it on a piece of paper, take a photo of it with a coin for scale reference on your phone, or take the old bulb with you.  Just make sure you can choose the right one when in the shop.
          • Don't forget the bulbs you might have in appliances like your oven, fridge, or range hood. (Our oven bulb needs replacing every year or so).
          • If you have bathroom "heat" lamp light fittings, having a spare "heat bulb" laying around is helpful.
          • If you have chandelier's, or ceiling fans with a light "built in", then you are probably going to need some sort of exotic bulb. However many new ones already have LEDs which will probably outlast the fan.
          • Do you have garden lights or flood lights outside? Lights outside are easy to forget.
      • Safety switch for all your extension corded activities. If you're DIY'ing, the chances are you're going to be running an extension cord to power equipment, and if you're holding onto some guttering while using a corded drill for example, if the tool is not properly insulated you might get a pretty impressive zap. Having tested electrical devices for my former employer's annual "Test and Tag", you'd be surprised how many appliances fail a basic safety test.
      • Tap washers (helps to know what kind of taps you have) and washers for your toilet/lavatory cistern. If you have a trickle in the bowl long after flushing, consider getting some. They're usually manufacturer-specific, so take a note of the brand you have.
      • Picture hook kit.
      • Smoke alarm batteries: (If you don't have smoke alarms in your home, get them, AND some batteries. I'd recommend rechargeable batteries and a charger to save the environment and money)
      • First Aid Kits: Ok, this is really a medical tool kit. Get a small one for your car, get another bigger one for the home/work shop/shed two paddocks over. If you have all of these buildings.. have one for each building.
      • Fire extinguisher: For your fire-prone areas like a kitchen and workshop. Rags with volatile finishes can spontaneously combust. Plasma cutting, welding and grinding are obvious potential fire starters, and many people store fuel for garden machinery in the garage, along with many interesting chemicals. If this sounds like you, I recommend getting the biggest one you can find, fit and practice using one (when yours gets old) in your home. A general purpose "Dry powder" type will work on everything BUT deep fryers and oil/fat, or other high-temperature, liquid-fueled fires. If you're looking for an extinguisher like that, consider getting the "Wet chemical" rated one, or a "fire blanket" for you to throw over the fire and smother it. Other countries have their own extinguisher standards, so you'll need to do your own research. There are many online videos on how to use a fire extinguisher, make sure everyone in your home has watched it.

     


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