Every man should have at least a small collection of tools with which he can make minor repairs around the house. The repair I personally find myself making on almost a weekly basis is to the drain on my dishwasher, which is mainly due to the fact that neither my son nor I are very good at properly loading it. Had I called in a professional each time we’d done some injustice to the dishwasher, I’d have already spent enough to buy a new dishwasher about five times over.
The tools are listed in no particular order, as you should have all of them. If you’re feeling adventurous, I’d suggest you head out to your local Lowe’s or other renovation center/hardware store and speak with the person at the tool area or rental counter to see what you should pick up after you’ve got these staples.
There are literally dozens of types of hammers out there. For general purpose percussive maintenance (smashing things until they work again), a general, lightweight hammer of about 8 ounces does the trick. These can be picked up fairly cheaply. I’ve seen them for under $5 in the stores, but I prefer to spend about $40 on one. Why? For the following reasons:
- A cheap one typically has an uncovered wooden handle. This means that there is nothing to stop the reverb from your strike from travelling right up your hand and arm. Wood also wears much faster than fiberglass or metal, so you may find yourself with a weakened handle as the years go by which leads to…
- ballistic hammering. This is what happens when you use a cheap hammer and the joining member of the hammer (where it meets the head) wears out due to the impacts. The day will come when you swing up to hammer that nail down and the head instead decides to continue going through the air, backwards, usually into something expensive like a window or passer-by.
Go with a metal or fiberglass handle which is wrapped in rubber. Your hands, windows and the general public will thank you. $40 may seem like a lot to spend on one tool, but I have been using the same general purpose hammer around the house now since I was 21. That hammer is now significantly older than my children and still works perfectly.
You’ll notice that I pluralized that. That’s because, as far as I can tell, all of the major appliance manufacturers, home builders and contractors have, at some point got together and decided that they’re each going to use a different screw type to put the various bits and pieces of your house together.
The standard screwdriver is the flat-head screwdriver. It’s been around since about the time that man first invented the wheel. Its broad, flat head makes it easy to slot into a screw and torque it around. The head of the screw is also fairly unobtrusive, so it’s used for many decorative purposes where the screws remain visible. Your light switches and cabinet doors probably use flat-head screws.
The Phillips-head is the proper same for the screwdriver which looks like a cross. The Phillips-head is popular due to the fact that it self-centers, owing to the design of the screw head being a pointy cross. If you’ve ever bought flat-pack furniture from Canadian Tire, Wal-Mart, etc., you’ve experienced the joy of trying to torque these screws while your arm is bent at a 90 degree angle.
The Robertson drive is the correct name for “that one that looks like a square”. P. L. Robertson was a northern gentleman himself, having been born in Ontario. The reason for his square-headed design was that Mr. Robertson was sick of having the original flat-blade screwdriver slip and eat off part of his hand. The square head ensures that the screwdriver is firmly seated in the screw and very rarely slips; it also means you get about the same amount of torque using only one hand whereas the flat-head and Phillips often require two hands. My dishwasher, clothes dryer and washer and microwave all use Robertson screws (and are proudly Canadian). The typical head number for Robertson screws is #2, so make sure that’s the size on your screwdriver.
Your eye isn’t that good. Trust me. It looks level, but it isn’t. In order to make sure that your shelves aren’t slides, a level is a must. Now, I have three of varying length and weight, but for day to day use, a small level is all you need.
I personally like my 8.5 inch aluminum level for shelf and picture hanging. It’s short, so you’re not fighting with it while trying to hold a shelf up and it’s light so when you forget you laid it on the shelf and tip the shelf towards you, it doesn’t knock you out (though, in my case, you do get a lovely dent in the middle of your head). A good, small level will run you about $35, but, again, you only need to buy it once. Treat it well and it will last longer than you do.
Nothing says “I’m terrible at guessing” like a line of holes in a wall next to a shelf. These holes can be avoided by spending about $20 on a stud finder and a pack of batteries. I have a Stanley Intellisensor which cost me about $30. At that price, it not only tells me where the studs are, it also tells me that there is electrical current nearby. Nothing says “I am terminally terribly at guessing” like a line of holes and a scorch mark next to a shelf.
When I say flashlight, I don’t mean a little pen light. I mean a proper flashlight. Like an “it’s the end of the world and the zombies are coming” kind of flashlight. I’ve got a Snap-on Tools model that has a standard LED flashlight at the end and a huge, room illuminating LED bar on the side. It’s also magnetic on one end, so if you’re feeling brave, you can stick it to overhead piping when working in a dark area. That model runs about $75, but any light that you can aim and is LED will ensure that your work space is properly lit and you can buy those starting around the $25 mark.
There are a million other tools that come in handy, but having the ones we’ve just looked at in your modest toolbox will ensure that you will be able to handle the run-of-the-mill repairs that come up around the house. Because, although the dictionary would have us believe that gentlemen are deathly allergic to manual labour, we believe that a gentleman should know his way around a hammer.