30 Tools Every Man Should Have In His Garage (The List Of Essential Tools)
Tools are used to get things done. Some equipment does this better than others. Through the years I have spent a lot of time and a lot of money learning the differences.
And I love having a garage because it’s my space. It’s the launching pad of nearly all my projects and it’s the place I go when I’m looking for that “one thing” that I know I have that will help me finish whatever it is I’m working on.
Of the thousands of tools that are out there, I’ve narrowed it down to the top 30 tools every man should have in his garage. This isn’t a list of every tool you need, but it’s a list of the first collection of tools you should get a hold of.
Tools Every Man Should Have In His Garage
The hammer is one of the oldest tools known to man. This ancient tool still has plenty of uses in today’s toolbox, and you should have at least one.
Many of us are familiar with the claw hammer with a claw on the back of the head that can be used to pull nails from wood or other materials. Another popular choice is the Mallet, used in conjunction with chisels to cut and shape stone or wood. The long-handled sledgehammer is employed to distribute a lot of force over an area, such as for demolition.
2. Tape Measure
Most models have a hook on the end that can be used to hold it in place as you stretch the tape out to the desired distance. They can measure in Empirical, Metric, or both. Some models add extra features, such as red markings for regulation wall stud spacing.
3. Utility Knife
Also known as the “Stanley” knife by many, these cutting instruments are very sharp and cut through a variety of materials quickly. Utility knife designs will use razor-thin cutting blades that work well in thin to medium thickness plastics or woods.
I keep one on hand for trimming plastic sheathing from wires and for cutting rope and string to length. Installing a heavier blade or purchasing specific knives will allow users to cut stronger materials such as linoleum flooring or roofing shingles. They can also quickly cut through zip ties or other types of fasteners.
4. Cordless Drill
One of the first power tools my father purchased was a drill. The first power tool I bought was a cordless drill. Drills not only replace screwdrivers for inserting fasteners into a surface, but they also drill holes into metals, plastics, and wood.
The major advantage a cordless drill provides is the ability to operate in areas that a corded model can not reach. Today’s lithium battery designs provide 18 volts power (or more) that will last most non-professionals an entire day. Many models double as an impact driver as well by changing the torque settings.
Handheld screwdrivers are always useful to have. They work great with light projects that do not require the power and torque of a drill, and they can reach into areas that a drill may struggle with.
While fasteners can come with various types of head slots, I find that most bolts and screws still use either the slotted standard head or the crossed Phillips head. I have also used my standard screwdriver as a miniature pry bar to open paint cans and to peel socket covers off of walls when they were stuck to it with paint.
6. Socket Wrench Set
A variation on the wrench, these tools use a socket to connect to the head of a fastener or the outside of a nut in order to turn it. The sockets are clipped onto a connector at the end of a solid or ratcheting handle that is used for torque when loosening or tightening the items.
Socket sets will come in empirical, metric, or a combination of both. Many sets sold today also include attachments for extra length or odd angles, as well as driver bits and other fastener designs.
7. Crescent Wrench Set
These adjustable hand tools come in handy for finding purchase on fastener heads and nuts of various sizes. This can be done through the adjustable jaw of this open-ended wrench.
That adjustability allows one wrench to take the place of many fixed jawed tools. It also can adjust to sizes in between wrench sizes that you might have. That can save time and money when you come across a fastener size that you don’t have a wrench for. I’ll use two in tandem, one connected to the fastener and the other to a nut.
8. Needle Nose Pliers
These are one of the more versatile tools that I own. They act like standard pliers in many cases and are able to apply pressure on smaller surfaces that a standard set would struggle with. With the long jaw of this tool, you will be able to reach into areas that standard pliers can not.
Many needle nose pliers will come with a notch that can be used to cut a wire or to strip the plastic sheathing from it. The jaws may have a crossed pattern for a solid grip or smooth jaws that prevent damage to the gripping surface.
9. Chain Saw
I never realized how handy a chain saw was until I purchased my first model a few years ago. Harvesting firewood from trees will save you money, especially if you live in a climate where firewood will be used throughout the colder months.
I have also discovered that this tool is great for trimming and pruning trees on my property. Once you learn how to safely use and maintain your chainsaw, it will become a go-to item throughout the year. Woodworkers that want to mill their own lumber might start with chainsaws before they move up to larger milling equipment.
10. Hand Saw
I remember my grandfather’s shop and the wall of hand saws that he had. While power tools now dominate the market, having at least one hand saw around is still a must.
Many hand saws are designed to make either rip cuts along with the grain or cross-cuts against the grain. The difference in these various blades will be the number of teeth per inch as well as the way those teeth are filed and set.
A lot of hand saws made today have teeth set into a universal cut that covers both crosscuts and rip cuts.
11. Adjustable Ladder
If you are a homeowner or renter doing DIY projects, you know how important a ladder is. They allow us to reach places that we normally could not, and most models help to support our tools and supplies once we are off of the ground.
Some models, like the Little Giant, actually convert to multiple platforms. From a standard A-frame ladder to an extension ladder, these multiple positions lock into place securely and are capable of supporting a lot of weight. The Little Giant can even convert into a scaffolding system that you can walk across.
12. LED Flashlight
It can be next to impossible to work on something unless you can see it, especially in closed off or tight spaces. That makes a flashlight a must for everyone’s shop.
They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from models that clip onto your hat to bulky units that need to be plugged into a socket for power.
No matter what model, I would suggest one that uses an LED light. LEDs are the most energy-efficient lights out there, and they will last longer than older models with traditional bulbs.
Think of a multi-tool as an adult version of those Swiss Army knives you had when you were a kid. This multi-function tool collapses into a compact size that you can keep in your pocket or place in a belt pouch.
The various tool combinations are limited only by your budget and what the manufacturers offer. My simple set up has a knife, pliers, and three different screwdriver heads. Other models will include things such as scissors or even flashlights.
The multi-tool makes a great addition to your car’s glove box or backpack when you are camping as well.
14. Stud Finder
These electronic gadgets have improved greatly since I purchased my first model years ago. This handheld device uses audio and/or visual signals to indicate where wall studs and supports are located behind drywall.
Using one of these will allow you to find the studs you need for extra support when placing things like shelf brackets. Conversely, you can also use the stud locations to find the empty cavities between them for running wires in the wall for outlets or for low-voltage electronic wiring.
Newer models can detect things like water pipes and electrical wiring, too.
15. Tool Box
One thing that many people overlook when they first start collecting tools is how they will be stored. I have had several toolboxes and tool belts over the years.
Keep in mind that the box will help you organize as well as store your tools. It will keep your workshop clean and may even prevent you from losing your favorite tool. I also use toolboxes to protect tools such as chisels, that have edges that can be damaged easily. A toolbox is a must-have for hand and power tool users alike.
16. Wire Cutters
No matter which design you go with, this tool is another must-have on the list. Unlike scissors or knives that will dull easily, wire cutters are designed to withstand the thicker metal wires that you might need to trim.
Models are available that will handle thinner gauged wire used in low-voltage applications like alarms and sound systems. More robust wire cutters are made to work with thicker household electric wires and appliance cords.
I have also used my wire cutters to trim thin plastics, like outlet covers, when I found myself lacking the proper tools.
17. Vice Grips
Vice grips allow you to gain maximum purchase onto a surface due to their textured jaws that lock around the object you working with. They make a great substitute for an adjustable wrench with hard to grasp fasteners or bolts.
Remember that the jaws are adjustable with a knob located at the bottom of one of the handles. Making jaw width adjustments will allow you to lock the jaws more easily, and it will also allow you to grasp onto a wider range of objects.
18. Caulking Gun
While some sealants or adhesives can be applied by hand with a putty knife or small trowel, a wide variety of heavy-duty caulks and glues are available for use in caulk guns.
These products are self-contained in these tubes, allowing you to keep them after they have been opened. Anyone who has worked with these materials can tell you how messy they are, as well as how difficult it is to clean them up. Caulking guns keep applications clean and consistent across your entire work area. You will also use less material on the job.
19. Brad Nailer
This tool, often air-powered, allows the user to fasten items like molding into place on walls without larger nail heads ruining the materials or their appearance. It also makes using the smaller nails, often ranging from 18 to 23 gauge, easier and safer.
Hammering nails of this size is difficult and requires that you use pliers to hold them in place so you do not hammer your fingers.
You can also use brad nails to fasten a woodworking project together while the glue dries. A brad nailer allows you to set all brads before the glue can dry.
20. Air Compressor
Many power tools, like the brad nailer mentioned previously, are powered by compressed air. An air compressor is able to generate the air pressure needed for a variety of jobs.
In my garage, the air compressor is used for a spray gun, nailer, air wrench, and a nozzle attachment for praying air to clean. An air tank can be added for air storage, and pressure gauges allow you to adjust the air pressure leaving the hose. I would recommend both accessories, as well as a variety of attachments, to get the most out of air compressor.
21. Torpedo Level
With many DIY projects around the house, you will want them to be straight and level after they are put into place. This is as true for a picture frame as it is for a security alarm control panel.
For the majority of us, a small torpedo level will suffice. Larger Box Frame or I-Beam levels can be overkill for the projects we work on, and they can also be harder to use, especially the professional models that are 48-inches or larger. Also, torpedo levels were originally designed to be used in small spaces that other levels would not fit.
22. Pry Bar
One of the major jobs that a pry bar is used for is to remove nails by using the slots found on one or both ends of the bar. The other task that many use it for is to pry apart two objects.
If you ever do any major remodeling to your home or property, the pry bar will be of considerable use. It is heavy for its size and made from carbon steel or even stronger metals. That makes a good choice for the demolition of walls and other structural components.
23. Allen Wrench Set
Also known as a Hex Key, the Allen Wrench is used to drive or remove hexagonal-headed bolts and screws. Single keys are often included in furniture kits that require some assembly, such as computer desks or books shelves.
Often, however, these wrenches come as a set. The fasteners with hexagonal sockets come in standard sizes that the sets cater to. Hexagonal socket fasteners are becoming more popular, so I would recommend grabbing a set if you do not already have one in your shop.
24. Bench Vise
No workshop is complete without at least one bench vise. These instruments are used to hold a metal or wooden component in place as you work on them.
There are a variety of styles that you can choose from. Many shops do well with a bench vise with a toothed jaw set and anvil included in the metal body. This set is great for small metalsmith projects. A wooden bench vise with covered jaws will hold the wood in place without scratching it as you work on the project.
25. LED Overhead Lights
One thing that many people overlook is their lighting. Even in a room with indirect sunlight, using overhead lighting will improve the comfort and safety of your shop.
Low-light will cause eye strain and make measurements and work surfaces more difficult to see. I would recommend selecting one or more LED overhead lighting systems. They may cost a bit more at the time of purchase, but you will save money down the road. These units use less electricity and last much longer than other types of lights.
26. Saw Horses
I never really understood how saw horses aided with workflow until I started using them on the job. Keep a pair handy and you will see how versatile they are.
You can use them to hold projects off of the ground as you cut or drill through them. They raise the work towards you, helping to relieve lower back and knee strain. They can be used to create a temporary flat surface to work on as well.
27. Shop Vac
For most users that have a workshop, however, the shop vac is used as a dust collector and clean up tool. In smaller shops, you can connect a power tools dust port directly to the shop vac. Larger shops will make use of a flexible hose that connects to all power tools and the shop vac.
28. Circular Saw
Many will argue that a circular saw should be the first power tool that you purchase, as it is used so often. Due to their blade design, these power saws will make fairly straight cuts through wood.
These saws work well with most woods, including panel sheeting, if the correct blade is used for cutting. While the blade will not twist or wander like a jigsaw, you can also improve the accuracy of the cut by using a saw guide. Many models come with laser guides that will mark where the blade will cut.
29. Channellock Pliers
These pliers use a slip joint to adjust the width of the plier jaws. Unlike the Lineman’s pliers, the jaws of a pair of Channellock pliers are offset from the handles, often to 45-degrees.
These pliers can be used to hold or turn bolts and fasteners as other pliers can. I put them on this list because their serrated jaws are fantastic at gripping objects with irregular surfaces. The open-ended jaws work great on pipes and other fixed objects.
Due to their longer handles, some may use them as a handheld clamp device.
30. Extension Cord
Most power tools include cords that range from four to six feet in length. This may suffice for a stationary tool, but even in a small workshop, an extension cord is needed to keep tools powered.
You want to select the right extension cord for the tool being used. An improper cord can become overloaded, and damage done to your tools may not be covered by the warranty. Each tool will list the proper cord gauge, based on length, in the user’s manual. Extension cords themselves should be rated for specific amps range.