How to put together a basic tool kit

How to put together a basic tool kit

Jeremy, Construction site supervisor, Cardiff

Guide written by:

Jeremy, Construction site supervisor, Cardiff

Every DIYer needs a tool kit – even a beginner! Whether you go for a plastic or metal toolbox or even a tool bag, it's important to have a few screwdrivers, nails and screws on hand. Need help putting together your tool and hardware essentials? Read on to find out how to put together your very first tool kit.

Important features

  • Tool box
  • Advantages and disadvantages
  • Basic tools
  • Consumables
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Putting together a tool kit: where to begin?

Whether you hammer in a nail once every five years or fancy delving a little deeper into the world of DIY, there's one item we all need – a decent tool kit! But how do you go about picking the perfect tool box and choosing what to put inside?

Of course when you're starting out, you may not even know exactly what each tool does so there's no need to have a huge collection taking up room. You'll therefore have to seek out the most important tools to ensure you can deal common problems around the home. There are three basic elements when it comes to building a tool kit:

  • the tool box: flexible or rigid, plastic or metal... your choice will come down to the amount of storage space you have and how often you plan to reach for the kit;

  • basic tools: screwdrivers, pliers and spanners are the types of tools that immediately spring to mind. But which types should you go for? In short, only the most common tools and tool sizes should find their way into a beginner's tool box;

  • hardware and consumables: in addition to basic tools, a good tool kit should contain a few fasteners and consumables to get you out of any fix. This includes things like screws, nails, tape and sandpaper.

Before we think about tools, let's take a closer look at the tool box itself.

What kind of tool storage do I need?

It's important to pick the right type of tool box. A large tool box will make it a breeze to find your tools but too big and it'll take up a lot of space and be tricky to store. A smaller tool box will be easier to store and transport, but if you go for something that's too small, it won't be able to hold your biggest tools. You simply need to weigh up your options and find the right balance for you.

Here's a quick rundown of the most common types of tool boxes:

Type of tool box

Pros

Cons

Metal cantilever tool box

Features compartments

Large volume

Easy tool access

Strong

Very good tool protection

Heavy

Bulky

Plastic tool box

Features compartments

Large storage capacity (depending on model)

Lightweight

Affordable

Fragile (depending on model)

Average service life (depending on model)

Tool bag

Features compartments

Lightweight

Easy to transport

Stores large tools easily

Difficult to access tools at bottom of bag or not organised in compartments

Expensive

Rolling tool chests

Features compartments

Large storage capacity

Easy to transport

Bulky (depending on model)

Heavy

Expensive

Basic DIY tools

Screwdrivers

Screws are the most common type of fastener so it is essential to fit a set of screwdrivers in your tool box.

Slotted screwdrivers

A slotted, or flat head, screwdriver is used to tighten or loosen screws with slotted heads. These screwdrivers are categorised according to the size of their tip (the part that slots into the screw head). A DIYer's toolbox will usually have two sizes of screwdriver: 5.5 mm and 8 mm.

Phillips screwdrivers

Also known as crosshead screwdrivers, these tools are used for screws with a cross-shaped recess. These screwdrivers are also measured by the size of their tips but have their own sizing system which runs from PH #0 to PH #4 (#0 being the smallest). A DIYers tool box will usually have at least one #1 and one #3.

Waterpump pliers

Not generally favoured by professionals but a must-have for DIYers, waterpump pliers can be used to tackle pretty much any job (with varying degrees of success!). Also known as tongue-and-groove or adjustable pliers, the jaws of these pliers are adjustable and can get around many different shapes (flat, hexagonal, round, etc.). These tools might get quite a bit of use when you're first starting out so should definitely have a place in your tool box or bag.

Cable cutters

As the name suggests, these tools can be used to cut cables as well as wires, nails and so on. You will often find yourself needing to cut or trim small objects and cable cutters are perfect for these types of jobs.

Spanners

If you are putting together your first tool kit to deal with common issues around the home or to tackle a few DIY projects, there's really no need to invest in a whole range of different spanners. Go for the essentials!

Adjustable spanner

A must-have for budding plumbers, an adjustable spanner (or wrench) features adjustable jaws. These tools can be used to grip all different types of bolts or screws with hexagonal heads. Adjustable spanners are measured by the maximum size of their jaw (in millimetres or inches). For a beginner, an adjustable spanner with a jaw opening of up to 25 mm (1 inch) will be perfect.

Open ended spanners

A set of open ended spanners can get you out a lot of fixes. Go for double-ended spanners (with different sized openings on each side) and you'll save yourself room in your tool box. In terms of sizes, go for a set ranging from 6 to 19 mm to start.

Allen keys

An Allen key, or a hex key, is a small tool with a hexagonal cross-section designed to tackle screws and bolts with hexagonal sockets in their heads. A set of Allen keys ranging from 2 to 8 mm should be included in your kit.

Tape measure

Taking measurements is an important part of any job. Compact and practical, a tape measure stretching up to 3 metres is ideal for beginners.

Hammers

A hammer can be used to hammer in and remove nails and will quickly become a DIYers best friend. Hammers are categorised by their shape and weight. For a basic tool kit, go for a 300 g claw hammer.

Saws

If you plan on tackling a few DIY jobs, you will inevitably find yourself having to cut something at some point. To do so, you'll need a hand saw. Practical and versatile, a hacksaw is the ideal cutting tool for your first tool kit.

Depending on the type of blade you have, you may be able to cut metal, plastic or wood. A saw with a removable blade will be easier to store and you can stock your tool kit with a few different blades.

Spirit level

Just as you'll need a tape measure to measure, you'll need a spirit level to check that surfaces are level. These tools can be used for anything from hanging a painting or shelf to fitting furniture legs. There are several different types of spirit level depending on the application (e.g. indoor or outdoor). A spirit level can also vary in terms or length and the number of vials they have. For a tool kit, a 30 cm spirit level with two vials (for horizontal and vertical readings) will be ideal.

Consumables

Any DIYer should have a range of consumables in their basic tool kit.

Hardware

You'll need a few pieces of hardware to deal with any situation that may arise. Firstly, kit yourself out with an assortment of nails. It's also essential to get your hands on a range of screws in different sizes. Finally, it's always a good idea to have a set of washers on hand.

Tape

Of course there are many different types of tape. But you'll need two to start. A roll of masking tape can be used to cover up or protect a surface in the short term. A small roll of adhesive or electrical tape can be used to temporarily secure or fix objects or to gather cables or pipes.

Sandpaper

Sandpaper can be used to sand, clean up cuts, and so on. It's always handy to have a small piece at hand in your tool box. A grit of 120 is a good compromise for common tasks.

Pencils or markers

You never know when you'll need something to mark or write with! Whether you go for a basic biro, marker or pencil, you'll need something on hand to take notes or mark out measurements.

 
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Guide written by:

Jeremy, Construction site supervisor, Cardiff

Jeremy, Construction site supervisor, Cardiff

Electrician by trade, I first worked in industrial estates where I installed, wired and fixed a large number of electrical installations. After this, I managed a team of electricians for this type of work. 10 years or so ago, I turned to building and construction. From the modest family home, to gyms and theatres, I have been able to coordinate, audit and organise all sorts of construction sites. For 4 years now, I am restoring and building an extension to a bungalow in the heart of the Welsh countryside. My experience in manual work and my knowledge means I am proud to be of service. Terraces, interior design, roofing, plumbing, electrics, anything goes! My wife, daughter and I, built almost everything we have from scratch! So to answer all of your questions and advise you on choosing your tools? Easy!

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