The Handyman’s Basic Toolkit

A basic toolkit is described below, and the tools listed are sufficient to tackle most of the jobs within the scope of the handyman. Any special tools required are mentioned in relevant sections dealing with their use. Purchase tools of good quality; it is false economy to buy cheap tools.


There are three types of handsaws which are the main tools for cutting wood to shape:

First is the ripsaw; this is used for cutting a plank down its length, ie. with the grain; obtainable in blade lengths of 24-28 in., with three or four teeth to the inch. This is not an essential tool in the basic toolkit, as is the crosscut handsaw, which can be used for sawing with the grain and across the grain of a piece of wood. This tool should not be confused with a crosscut saw used for felling trees.

Crosscut handsaws are available in blade lengths ranging from 22 in. to 28 in. 24 in. is a good average length. The number of teeth per inch in a crosscut handsaw is from five to eight, the fewer the teeth the coarser the cut. The handyman will find a saw with seven teeth (points) to the inch suitable.

In the same group of handsaws is the panel saw which is used for fine sawing, and for cutting large joints. Panel saws have blades ranging in length from 18 in. to 24 in., with seven to twelve teeth per inch. The panel saw may be added to the basic toolkit at some future date.

workbench and basic toolkit

Tenon Saw:

This has a variety of uses for workbench jobs, and for cutting woodwork joints. Lengths of tenon-saw blades range from 12 in. to 16 in., with twelve to fourteen teeth to the inch. A handy average size is one with a 14-in. blade having thirteen teeth per inch. A dovetail saw which is smaller though similar in shape to a tenon saw, is used for cutting small joints and for fine work. This fine-toothed saw has from eighteen to twenty-two teeth to the inch, with blade lengths of 8 in. and 10 in. The dovetail saw is an additional tool to the basic kit.

Nest of Small Saws:

This consists of a handle into which can be secured interchangeable blades. The saws are used for cutting wide curves and in awkward places where a large saw cannot be used. The blades available are a pruning blade (16 in.), a compass blade (14 in.), and a keyhole blade (10 in.).


This is a metal-cutting saw. Blades of different length and setting of teeth are interchangeable in the handle. Also obtainable is a ‘junior’ hacksaw with a 6-in. blade in a metal frame and handle.


These useful tools are obtainable in a variety of shapes and sizes. The handyman’s basic toolkit should include the Warrington hammer and a claw hammer, others being added at some future date when their inclusion in the tool kit becomes necessary. Hammers are sold with heads of varying weights; the choice should be to suit the user – 11 oz. is a good size for a Warrington hammer-26 oz. is average for a claw hammer. When the claw end of the claw hammer is used for extracting nails from wood, a small piece of waste wood should be placed under the head of the hammer to avoid marking the wood. A wooden mallet is another basic necessity. The difference in use between a hammer and a mallet is that the former is used for striking metal, while the latter is used for striking wood. A hammer should never be used for striking the handle of a wood chisel; a mallet should never be used with a cold chisel of metal.


A pair of pliers is one of the most useful tools in the handyman’s workshop. A good choice would be a large pair of ‘gas’ pliers and a pair with a side-cutting head; this means that the jaws have chiselled meeting blades that are used for cutting nails and wire.


Choose a pair with claw-and-ball handle ends of the type shown. Allied to pincers are nippers, the inclusion of which is not essential in the basic toolkit.


A medium-sized wrench with ‘footpad’ jaws is another basic necessity. Choose one which has an adjustable head. Used mainly for simple plumbing jobs, the footpad wrench has a variety of workshop uses.


This is another kind of tool which is obtainable in a wide variety of sizes and types. If you intend using prepared timber mainly, a smoothing plane will be sufficient for the basic kit. If a quantity of sawn wood (timber which has not been prepared by passing through a planing machine) is going to be worked the basic outfit should include a jack plane. Both types may be obtained in wood or metal; wooden planes are cheaper than metal, but the amateur will find a metal plane easier to handle and set, and much more robust for general use. An optional addition to the basic toolkit is a rebate plane.


A hook scraper is used for finishing wood after it has been smoothed with a smoothing plane. It is a very useful tool for jobs such as easing the edge of a door or for easing a drawer which jams. Hook scrapers of the kind shown are fitted with removable blades that may be replaced when they become worn.


Essential in the basic toolkit. These range from very large ones with a blade length of 14 in. to tiny ones with blades of 2 in. The basic toolkit should include a large screwdriver, a medium-sized screwdriver, preferably of the ratchet type, and a small screwdriver which, as it may be used for electrical repairs, should be fitted with an insulated handle.


A set of firmer chisels should be included in the basic toolkit. The set should consist of three sizes (blade widths), 1 in., ½ in., and ¼ in. Additional sizes may be added at a later stage of progress.

Brace and Bits:

Basic toolkits can commence with a good quality brace with a small range of bits, which fit into an adjustable chuck of the brace. The choice of bits will largely depend upon the requirements of the user; a good basic set would be ¼-in., ½-in, ¾-in., and 1-½-in. twist bits, with intermediate small sizes of drill bits, an expansion bit and a countersink. A ratchet brace is an improvement on the ordinary brace.

The brace, together with its different kinds of bits, is intended mainly as a woodboring tool. It may be used for cutting holes in metal — with drill bits — but the use of a carpenter’s brace for metal work would be found slow and laborious. If much metal work is to be done the basic tool kit should include a drill with a geared wheel. A small hand-drill should be sufficient for light work; a breast-drill may be obtained for heavy work — both tools take the same kinds of drill bits, the breast-drill of course having a larger chuck capacity than the hand-drill. Although not essential for inclusion in the basic toolkit a drill has many uses in household jobs; a drill may be used for boring holes in metal or wood.

Try-square, Rule and Gauge:

These are tools used for marking and measuring. A try-square with 6-in. blade will be suitable for the basic set. The rule should be of the fourfold variety, 2 ft. or 3 ft. in length. The marking gauge shown should not be confused with cutting or mortise gauges which are dealt with in the section on Woodworking.

Miscellaneous Tools and Equipment:

The basic toolkit should include a wood rasp, which is used for shaping and finishing curves — one side of the rasp is rounded, the other side is flat — a bradawl, some ‘G’ cramps — two should be sufficient to commence with — and two sets of cramp heads. The cramp heads are attached to wooden battens with pins placed through holes drilled through the battens; they may easily be adjusted to cramp glued woodwork of various sizes. A nail-punch is required, also a steam-jacketed glue-pot although some manufacturers pack their products in jacketed tins which replace the conventional gluepot. A soldering iron is a good tool for the basic toolkit, although it need not be purchased until it is required. An electrically heated soldering iron is the easiest tool for the amateur to use; buy one with a fitment for interchangeable bits (heads) of different sizes. Two more essentials complete the toolkit; an oil-can and an oilstone for sharpening tools.

This tool section would not be complete without a mention of handyman kits based on electric drills. Although not an essential addition to the basic toolkit an electrical drill kit will do much to increase the range of jobs which can be tackled. These toolkits for drilling wood, plastic, brick, masonry and metal — with the appropriate bit of chuck capacity up to ¼ in. which is the diameter of the largest bit the drill will take — may be used as a hand-drill, or mounted as a bench-drill with a set of fittings purchased additionally to the drill unit. There are other sets of fittings which may be purchased separately to convert the drill unit for buffing, sanding, grinding, and polishing, also for use as a small lathe for light woodwork, a bench circular saw for cutting timber up to 1 in. thickness, for fretwork, and for machine planing.

05. July 2011 by admin
Categories: Hand Tools, Tools | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off on The Handyman’s Basic Toolkit


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