Common Tools

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Screwdriver Set The simple beauty of screwdrivers makes them the ideal tools to tighten cabinet hardware, install light switches, and crack open the lids on metal paint cans. This 10-piece set includes all the common slotted and Phillips-head sizes, as well as stubby versions to get into tight spots.

Tape Measure Keep it on hand to measure anything from the wall area for a paint project to the thickness of lumber at the home center—where you'll learn that a 2x4 is not exactly 2 by 4 inches. The tough composite case's bright green color makes this Stanley Hi-Vis 12-foot tape measure easy to find.

Toolbox Keeping your collection of drivers, screws, and bolts in an easy-to-haul toolbox keeps things organized and handy. The large-capacity plastic box has a single metal latch that closes securely. A removable tray is great for assorted fasteners.

Hammer A 16-ounce smooth-faced claw hammer has a nice mix of heft and versatility for driving nails into walls to hang pictures, knocking together ready-to-assemble furniture, and building birdhouses. The curved claw is useful for pulling out the nails that inevitably get bent. This Plumb model has a fiberglass handle that's nearly unbreakable.

Duct Tape For quick fixes around the house, this supersticky tape adheres to just about anything and has a thick, woven backing that is thicker than most rolls, yet easy rip to length. Use it to repair torn tarps, broken buckets, and just about everything except ducts.

Flashlight With a rechargeable worklight that you leave plugged in, you won't have to go looking for fresh batteries the next time the breaker trips or when you have work to do inside a dark sink cabinet. The 25 LEDs are rated to last for 100,000 hours and deliver up to 8 hours of light per charge.

Set of Pliers Use them to straighten bent power-cord plugs, replace old showerheads, slice wiring, and get a good grip on just about anything. This well-made kit from Channellock includes tongue-and-groove, side-cutting, needle-nose, and slip-joint pliers.

Utility Knife You'll be reaching for this tool again and again to open boxes, sharpen pencils, mark mortises, and shave wood. Spend a little more upfront for one with a comfortable rubber-covered handle and built-in blade storage. Then you're more likely to pop in a fresh blade rather than forcing a dull one, which isn't safe.

Handsaw Less intimidating than a power saw and faster to set up, this handsaw is good for trimming lumber or molding stock because it cuts on the pull and push strokes.