Editor’s Note: When you buy tools, you buy them for life. Our picks reflect that. Each section grows your workman’s arsenal, and the intention is that you never have to buy the same tool twice. While that may mean more investment early on, it will save you money in the end.
Outside of a sweet ride, a gargantuan 4k display and a quality beer fridge, few things cue the envy of other men as quickly as a collection of good tools. This equipment is for men of action, men of substance, men of stature. A proper set of quality implements turns projects into results, and the wielder of a good tool becomes a fixer of things, a maker of more and the master of his domain. And, last time we checked, the fairer sex still digs a competent man more than his compensating cars and TVs.
To help you become this enviable specimen of maleness, we’ve put together the ultimate tool kit. However, instead of simply plunking down an exhaustive list of excuses to fill a garage, we’ve broken things down to match the requirements of what you can use in your current life situation — be you an apartment renter, condo dweller, homeowner or professional contractor.
The Apartment Renter
Because Landlords Can Be Lazy
Apartment living is a relatively worry-free affair. Aside from paying rent on time and not totally tearing the place apart, there are few responsibilities that land in your hands. Major fixes belong to the owners, and the superintendent is, supposedly, there for that reason. But that doesn’t mean you don’t need a basic tool kit. There is always artwork to hang, a leaky faucet to silence, and if you think that crappy allen wrench will tackle every IKEA furniture assembly you’re facing, we wish you luck. Every man needs the basics: a hammer, a tape, some screwdrivers and a level (at the very least). Here are the best basic starter tools that are guaranteed to outlast that Swedish furniture affliction.
Hardcore Hammer ($79)
Stanley PowerLock Tape Measure ($11)
Milwaukee 10-in-1 Ratchet Style Screwdriver ($19)
Johnson Magnetic Torpedo Level ($12)
Kobalt 227-Piece Socket Set & Wrenches ($199)
Olfa Multi-Blade Utility Knife ($25)
Klein Tools 6-piece Apprentice Tool Kit ($75)
The Condominium Owner
Be the King of Your Small Castle
Congratulations on taking the plunge into property ownership. All of your diligent work — skipping out on repeated boys’ nights, passing on that beloved vintage timepiece — to scrimp and save has finally paid off with a place you can call your own. Bask in the magnificence of this moment: you’re finally building equity. Now get to work. All of those niggling things you wanted changed in your old apartment that the owner wouldn’t tackle now fall to you. That basic toolkit you brought with you is a great start, but you’re going to need more. Power tools are a must if any kind of renovating is in your future, and you’ll also need the bare essentials for drywall and plaster repair. And while you’re at it, its a good idea to get some tool storage solutions — we’re now moving beyond the junk drawer.
Bosch Brute Tough 36V Cordless Drill/Driver ($339)
Makita 7-1/4-Inch Magnesium Circular Saw ($149)
Milwaukee 15-Amp Super Sawzall ($234)
Channellock Tongue and Groove Pliers ($29)
Swanson 16-Inch Combination Square ($20)
Vaughan & Bushnell Double Edged Bear Saw ($24)
Marshalltown Trowels ($13)
DeWalt 18-Gauge HD Staple Gun ($28)
Stanley FatMax Mobile Work Station ($98)
Filson Tool Belt Pouch ($70)
Home Is where the Hard Work Is
From the moment the keys hit the lock, your home will perpetually be in need of something, somewhere — even if it’s a new build. There’s landscaping to think of, a complete kitchen reno (at some point), a new shed to store your toys — and you’ll want to start carving out that man cave, too. Bigger projects demand bigger tools — tools designed to make molehills out of any DIY mountain. It’s estimated that by the time 2019 rolls around, the home improvement retail industry will reach an expected value of $2.3 trillion. To make the most of your portion of that staggering number, here’s what you should add to your growing collection of tools.
Black+Decker Workmate ($90)
DeWalt 20V Cordless Drywall Gun ($200) and Cut-Out Tool ($126)
Bostich 6-Gallon Air Compressor with Nailers ($269)
Stabila 48-Inch Box Beam Level ($106)
Shop-Vac 6.5 Horsepower Wet/Dry Vacuum with Detachable Blower ($139)
Irwin 6-Piece Clamp Set ($20)
Kobalt 40V Outdoor Power Equipment ($149+) (our review)
Yost 8-Inch Bench Vise ($353)
Little Giant Multi-Position Ladder ($334)
Tajima Chalk Rite Chalk Line ($15)
The Student Has Become the Master
So, you figure you’ve been fixing, renovating and building so much for yourself that you might as well make some scratch doing it. Considering the labor end of most projects typically outweighs the costs of materials three to one, if you can deliver the goods in a timely fashion, profits will grow more quickly than piles of sawdust in a wood shop (which you’re gonna need by the way). These are the tools that will never let you down, call in sick or require downtime to recuperate. Much like everything else you have in your collection, these bad boys are professional grade — just like you.
Delta 10-Inch Table Saw ($1,357)
STIHL Cordless Cutquick ($500)
Bosch 12-Inch Dual-Bevel Compound Sliding Mitre Saw ($649)
Hilti TE-7 Hammer Drill ($569)
Festool Router ($535) and Router Table ($1,625)
SKIL 15-Amp Magnesium Worm Drive Saw ($215)