The 9 Essential Hand Tools for a Home Toolbox (for Less Than $120)


It’s a popular misperception that living the life of a modern gentleman somehow prohibits you from doing manual labor.

Instead, it’s one of the most important things you can do with your life — especially when it comes to working with your hands.

Plus, it costs a ton of money to pay someone to come to your house and fix things.

That’s why we’re breaking our hot-streak of writing about liquor today and harping on a much more important topic.

The gentleman’s toolbox.

This isn’t a metaphorical title for learning how to be a gentleman (although that’d be pretty cool). We’re talking about a physical toolbox that helps you hit, tighten, loosen, or melt things into other things so that they perform a function.

As a result, a lot of this blog post will revolve around wood- and metal-working tools, as opposed to mechanical tools. You can use all of these tools with your hands, the right materials, and a little bit of common sense.

An extensive background in carpentry is helpful, too.

Anyway, these are the nine tools you need in your gentleman’s toolbox.


1. Claw Hammer

Claw hammers are the standard hammer in every toolbelt.

They’re made of steel, they have a rubber / neoprene handle, and they weigh a pound or two.

Super simple, right?

A good hammer will run you a couple bucks, but it should last a lifetime with moderate DIY usage.

In fact, you probably have a better chance of losing your hammer in your life than you do of breaking one.

So how do you actually find a decent hammer? It comes down to a few factors:

  1. Length
  2. Material
  3. Claw style
  4. Bells & whistles

First, check its length. A hammer that’s 10″ to 12″ long will be fine for any home applications.

Second, check the material. The head of the hammer will almost always be steel, but the handle can be wood, fiberglass, steel, or a number of other materials. Steel is often the strongest and most expensive, but you don’t really need that for DIY use.

Third, take a look at the claw style. Most hammers have either rip or curve claws. Rip claws are good for when you want to remove nails or staples with a straight-back, jerking motion. Curve claws work well when you want to remove a nail with leverage by locking your hammer against a nail and rocking the head away from the nail.

Last, look around for bells and whistles. Some hammers are magnetic to help drive nails. Other ones come with anti-vibration construction to prevent your hand from feeling the impact of the hammer’s head.

These aren’t essential to using a hammer, but magnetism can help with your aim and anti-vibration tech is good if you have osteoporosis, arthritis, etc. etc.

Personally, I prefer the Stanley FatMax antivibe curve claw hammer.

Here’s why.

First, I like Stanley tools. I spent $20 (or so) on this hammer years ago and it still works just fine for pounding nails into things and ripping them back out.

Judging from family medical histories of arthritis and osteoporosis, there’s a good chance I’ll need the “antivibe” qualities of this hammer sometime in the future.

Other than that, this hammer weighs a pound, it packs a punch, and it’s stood the test of time.

The only downside is that it’s mostly black, so it’s really easy to lose.


2. Screwdriver (Multiple Bits)

Screwdrivers are the most useful items on this list because they can do pretty much anything, even if they’re not intended for the job.

Got a screw loose? Tighten it up.

Got a nail sticking out of the floorboards? Give it a whack.

Got a package with six layers of tape on it? Slice it open with a flathead.

The big problem with finding a good screwdriver is accommodating all the different kinds of screws that you’ll encounter.

For that reason, it’s usually best for a home toolbox to have a screwdriver with swappable heads.

These screwdrivers are usually called “##-in-1” models. They do a surprisingly good job most of the time, too.

So how do you choose a good screwdriver?

For the most part, just get as many compatible heads (also called “bits”) as you can.

You’re not going to be using your screwdriver for impact-heavy work, so you probably won’t need something super durable.

As a result, DIY screwdrivers are more about convenience than they are about strength.

With that in mind, I like the Lutz 15-in-1 ratchet screwdriver.

Here’s why.

This screwdriver has a bunch of bits, and they’re all made for different screws.

It also has a handy carrying case built into the handle for the extra bits you’re not using.

I don’t know Lutz as well as I know Stanley on a brand level, but this screwdriver is good enough to get the job done.


3. Adjustable Wrench

Adjustable wrenches are typically used for plumbing or mechanical work, but you could run into an odd situation that requires one with your home or something along those lines.

Adjustable wrenches are pretty much used to remove nuts from bolts. It sounds a little boring — and it probably is — but that singular purpose means that adjustable wrenches are damn good at their only job.

Good wrenches are going to be made of steel, and the best will come with grips that feel comfortable in your hand.

They’ll usually measure about 8″ or 10″ long for day-to-day use, while more specialized wrenches can be absolutely huge.

For the most part, you’ll only ever need an 8″ or 10″ model to work with the problems you’ll encounter as a homeowner, gentleman, or DIY-er.

That’s why I like the Stanley 8″ adjustable wrench.

Here’s why.

First, it’s Stanley again. Hooray, Stanley!

Second, it’s 8″ long, which is long enough to do good work and small enough to fit into any toolbox.

Third, it costs $5.

Seriously — this thing costs $5.

You can buy four of these wrenches before you can afford a movie ticket.

Again, this wrench can last you for years. Treat it well and you could even pass it down to your kids one day.

Your tool-savvy, gentlemanly kids.


4. Saw

Hand saws are a ton of fun. They’re also one of the only tools on this list that doubles as a gardening instrument.

Hand saws are essential because at some point, you’ll have to cut through a 2×4 in your life.

I don’t know why. I don’t know when.

But it’s gonna happen.

Hand saws prep you for that mildly-intimidating life event by giving you the ability to lacerate pretty much anything that isn’t a rock.

The best saws for a gent’s toolbox will be 12″ to 16″ long to provide a nice long, even stroke while you cut.

They’ll also have coarse teeth, meaning they’re especially good for cutting through things quickly.

Hand saws should also have comfortable handles because you may have to use one for a long time at some point in your life.

(I once cut through a queen-sized box spring with only a hand saw. Not fun. Or fast, for that matter.)

To be ready for any non-rock object that comes your way, check out the WilFiks 16″ hand saw.

Here’s why.

It’s 16″, which gives you a nice, long, clean glide when you cut through wood.

It has coarse teeth, so it can shred stuff pretty quickly.

Last, it has a comfort-emphasized no-slip handle.

It’s safe. It’s long. It’s powerful.

I’m also realizing it’s difficult to talk about hand tools in a way that doesn’t sound like a euphemism.

But hey — this article is 40% done.

In for a penny…


5. Needle Nose Pliers

Needle nose pliers are so common and easy to manufacture that you’ve probably gotten them as a random add-in from IKEA or a raffle prize.

Still, these pliers are awesome.

Needle nose pliers give you a solid grip on any nail or screw that’s lost its head.

So if you’re using your hammer to yank out a nail and the head pops off, you still have a nail sticking in your floorboard. It just doesn’t have a head.

Enter the needle nose pliers, which are thin and coarse enough to grip just about anything so you can give it a good yank.

These pliers are also helpful for electrical work, detail work, and — most surprisingly — amateur orthodontia.

(When I was 12, I once had my headgear slip out of my braces and lodge itself behind the metal in my mouth and inside my gum line. Needle nose pliers to the rescue!)

So really, to pick out a good pair of needle nose pliers, you just need to look at the jaws and handle.

The jaws should be long and thin (duh), but also have interior teeth for gripping.

They should also have comfortable handles because you’re going to use these things a lot when you need them.

To nobody’s surprise, I recommend the Stanley 5″ needle nose pliers for a gent’s toolbox.

Here’s why.

First, they’re super cheap. $4 for pliers? Sold.

Second, they’re made of steel and they have 5″ long jaws. You probably won’t need jaws that much longer because the tool can become unwieldy and uncomfortable.

Third, these pliers have comfort-grip handles.


6. Tape Measure

Tape measures might be the easiest tool on this list to find and buy.

You have two big questions with tape measures:

  1. Does it work?
  2. Is it long enough?

Assuming that everything you buy does work, that’s just one question to answer.

For DIYers, you’ll pretty much never need a tape measure longer than 25 feet — and even that’s pretty generous.

Your tape measure can break or tangle any time, but when you use it well, you can have the same tape measure for a decade or longer.

Because of this, I recommend going for affordability when it comes to tape measures.

And what tool brand is the king of affordability?

That’s right…

That’s why I recommend the Stanley Powerlock 25 foot tape measure.

Here’s why.

Despite the fact that this tape measure has 25 feet of give, it costs almost exactly the same as a 15 foot model.

If you’re going to get a tape measure, why not get the one that lets you measure more if it’s the same price?

Second, as I said before, I like Stanley for DIY projects.

With this price tag, it just makes sense.


7. Utility Knife

Utility knives — also called Xacto knives or razors — are the perfect solutions to creating clean, straight cuts on anything you want.

They can cut through vinyl. They can mark up wood. With a fresh razor, they can probably cut a human hair, length-wise.

Really, the key to finding a good utility knife is how safe you feel when you hold it.

Some are all made of steel. Others are coated in neoprene or rubber for a good grip.

They all do the same thing, and they all let you replace the razors.

With that in mind, I’m going to throw all of my Internet credibility behind the Stanley 6 classic utility knife.

Here’s why.

My dad worked in carpentry for 40+ years.

He’s had this thing for as long as I can remember.

Seriously. This knife is not only older than I am — it’s still doing it’s job just as well as it did on day one.

(I assume. I’d like to say it performs better, but I’m pretty sure that’s not possible.)

So if my dad could use this on job sites for four decades, it’s good to use it in a gentlemanly toolbox.


8. Socket Wrench

Socket wrenches aren’t always used in carpentry. They’re more of an automotive use case — but they’re still handy.

The best socket wrenches will come in sets with replaceable bits and reversible ratchets (for the lefties out there in the world).

They’ll be made of steel, and they should come with a carrying case so you can keep all of your socket wrench hardware in one place.

I actually don’t have much to say about these guys. All I know is that I’ve replaced car parts with a pair of pliers enough times to know that I really wish I would’ve had a socket wrench.

That’s why I’m recommending the EPAuto 40 piece socket wrench set.

Here’s why.

This is more of a quantity-over-quality play. But I still like it.

Do you have a nut that needs to be loosened?

Here’s a kit with more than three dozen options.

You’ll find the solution, even if you’ve never used a socket wrench in your life.


9. Hardware

So this last section isn’t about hand tools per se. Instead, it’s about the stuff that you use with your hand tools.

The hardware in your toolbox breaks down to two main items — nails and screws.

(You can use other stuff like fasteners and bolts and such, but you probably won’t use them as a casual DIY-er.)

I always have a box of Grip Rite drywall screws on hand.

Here’s why.

Don’t let the name intimidate you — these screws have nothing to do with drywall.

They’re called “drywall screws” because they can be used without damaging drywall.

Otherwise, they’re called “all purpose” screws.

That’s basically what you use them for.

I’ve used these bad boys to screw down cement board, wood, and cleats. They do good work, but they work better when you have a powered screw gun instead of a hand screw driver.

I also recommend keeping a pack of decoration nails around.

These are the nails you can use to hang pictures and stuff on your walls.

They’re 1″ long, which is more than enough for a reliable fit inside your wall and enough space to hang a picture frame or wire.

With all of that done, you have your gentlemanly toolbox!


Total Cost: $120

All told, this gentlemanly toolbox will cost you just under $120 (shipping not included).

That’s less than a night out, a car battery, and probably a bunch of other things that aren’t coming to my mind right now.

Bottom line: You can afford it since this toolbox may just last you for your entire life.

Did I miss a tool you love?

Do you use drywall screws for anything specific?

Let me know in the comments!