If you plan on tackling home repairs or backyard home maintenance chores, then you need at least a few basic hand tools. Pliers and wrenches are a great place to start your collection because they’re so useful. Trouble is, there’s also a lot to choose from out there. It’s easy to get overwhelmed. So here are six of my personal favourites. Tools that you’ll never regret owning.
Adjustable wrenches sit high on my list of must-have tools because they work so well, as long as you respect their limitations. A thumb wheel opens or closes the jaws, allowing you to grip small-, medium- and large-size nuts and bolts. Just remember two things:
- Only use adjustables that are in good condition with straight, flat jaws. Worn wrenches will ruin what you’re working on.
- Never use adjustables where a lot of twisting force is required. What adjustable wrenches offer in versatility, they take back in terms of strength and safety. They’ll break or slip off bolt heads if you apply too much force.
Needle Nose Pliers
Needle nose pliers are finesse tools that let you sneak into confined spaces and grab things that are too small for your fingers.
- They come in both regular and curved-jaw styles.
I find the most useful models have jaw sizes that are 3 or 4 inches long, with wire-cutting edges near the swivel point.
- Buy larger or smaller needle nose pliers as needed.
Locking pliers are another all-time favourite of mine. Generically called ‘vise grips’ after the company that made them popular, vise grips come together like a pair of regular pliers as you begin to squeeze them, but they lock shut when closed all the way.
- These days vise grips are sold in a huge variety of sizes and jaw styles.
- Start with a pair of standard, flat-jaw vise grips.
- Add a pair of the needle nose or round-jaw versions if the need arises.
Socket Wrench Set
A socket wrench set is a great investment in self-reliance because it’s so versatile.
- All sets include a wrench handle, an assortment of detachable sockets (sized to fit different nuts and bolts), and a couple of extensions.
- These snap in place between the wrench handle and sockets, extending the reach of the tool into deeper locations.
- Spend a little extra money and buy a socket set that comes with a lifetime warranty.
- The best brands allow over-the-counter exchange of broken tools with no questions asked.
Combination wrenches have two different ends – a U-shaped open end and an enclosed ‘box end’.
- Wrenches like these do what adjustables do, only they deliver more torque (though less conveniently because you can’t change their size).
- The box end slips over the top of nuts and bolts, the open end slips in from the side.
I really like channel-lock pliers. They use an adjustable jaw design to grip various sizes of round, hexagonal or flat objects.
- The width of their closed jaws ranges from zero to 4 inches, depending on the size of pliers.
- The channel-lock plier design has remained the same for years, but newer models include a spring-loaded center swivel that locks the jaws into a half-dozen different sizes.
- Unlike older-style channel-locks that can slip into wider positions accidentally during use, new designs always grip tightly.
- When you want to select a wider range of jaw size, just push the pivot button, open or close the jaws to the desired range and then release the button to lock the tool.
Beyond the basic wrenches and pliers mentioned here, build your collection one piece at a time in response to the real-world challenges you face working in your home and yard. Buy quality and keep them stored and organized. If you’re anything like me you’ll feel good every time you reach for the tool you need to succeed.