Ask the Handywoman! with Kheli Mason
I was asked recently what I thought was the most important tool a Handy Woman (or Man) should have. As a business woman, of course the first thought that came to mind was a phone. Use it to call me! But, setting aside the obvious, it really is a good question.
There are so many tools that folks can buy these days that are supposed to be the latest and greatest, the last tool you will ever need. And, especially around this time of year, all of the 129 piece kits come out that seem to have a hammer, a pair of pliers and a screwdriver with 125 different bits and tips in sizes and configurations never before seen, all for just $19.99 (The case counts as a piece.). These kits are definitely not meant for serious use (or maybe any use) and I have heard on more than one occasion how “the handle of the screwdriver twisted right off when I tried to tighten the screw” or some other such story.
It is tough to limit the answer to just one tool, but I do have a list of about a dozen or so that, in my opinion, everyone, not just homeowner’s, should have. Any of these tools would make great stocking stuffers and gifts for your special someone, but beware that buying tools for another can be like buying clothes for a teenager (sometimes you just shouldn’t go there). It brings to mind the generous gift a friend of mine gave me once: a 10 ft. tape measure and matching utility knife in a fabulous pink floral design. Um, thanks?
So, let’s start out with housekeeping and safety:
1) Tool box, tool bag, tool bucket, whatever works best for you. You’ll need something to put your tools in to keep them all together and easily accessible. A tool drawer is sort of hard to move around, and a hammer in one room and chisel in another is just frustrating.
2) Safety glasses. Not much more to say there, except “use them.”
3) Hammer. Not as simple as it sounds, there are different types and different weights. The curved claw hammer has been upstaged by the straighter ‘rip’ hammer, which can be used for more than just pounding nails (i.e. demolition and splitting wood). A 16 oz. is a typical size, not too light, not too heavy. Pick what feels good to you.
4) Screwdriver(s). Some folks like the versatility of a 5-in-1 (or more) that has various bits in one handle (I personally have two of those type, one ratcheting that was actually a gift). A set of quality screwdrivers should include #1 and #2 Phillips head tips and 1/4” and 3/8” flat head tips.
5) Utility knife. A wide variety are available, but blade storage in the handle is really handy.
6) Vise-grips. Also called locking pliers, this tool lets you hold onto something and not let go. Non-locking and channel lock pliers are good choices, too.
7) Needle nose pliers. These are the tapering skinny tip pliers that are especially useful for electrical work and places where there is not a lot of room to move around.
8) Electrical tester. Important. There are a wide variety of testers. I prefer the plug-in type that will show you whether or not an outlet is installed correctly and properly grounded, and the non-contact probe type which will let you know if electricity is present in an outlet or wire without touching it.
9) Tape measure. I find that the 16 ft. length works best. 25 ft. is big and sort of cumbersome and 10 ft. isn’t long enough.
10) Pry-bar. Invaluable tool especially when it comes to any demo work or removing moulding.
11) Hand saw. Again, a wide variety to choose from. I prefer the Japanese style pull saw which has a thinner, flexible blade.
12) Bubble level. Various lengths are available. A small version, called a torpedo level, will fit nicely in your tool box/bucket/belt.
13) Drill (3/8) with bit set. Corded or cordless will be by preference, but the reversible drill is probably one of the most important tools I have. Cordless is certainly convenient, but corded never runs out of power and they typically are lighter since they don’t have to support a battery pack.
These 13 items will make a good, well-rounded tool kit. Frankly, though now and again I will need a more specialized tool, these 13 are what I use most when helping folks with their home repairs and maintenance. I would suggest to anyone considering buying a tool for themselves or others to go with quality, name brand products that have been around awhile. These will be the tools that you keep for years. I have my grandfather’s mitre box and 4’ level to this day. I also have a Milwaukee Sawzall that was manufactured in the year I was born (an antique!) that still works wonderfully. Good tools that are well cared for will pay for themselves.
To me, giving someone the means to take care of and do for themselves is the ultimate gift. Just stay away from the pink floral design, please!
With over 20 years experience in Home Maintenance and Repair, Remodeling and Building Inspection, Kheli started the Handy Woman LLC to be ‘not just your average contracting company’, but to also teach people how to take care of their homes by offering do-it-yourself coaching and how-to classes. Along with typical home repair and maintenance services, her focus is to help our elders age-in-place and teach women homeowners how to understand and care for their homes.
For more information please call Kheli at (303) 999-5812 or visit www.thehandywomanllc.com.