Best hand tools

Did you know that your hand is good for more than one thing.

 

Essential hand tools and all you need to know

Undeniably, hand tools are among the most fundamental of all tool types. Most power tools we know of today likely originated from the basic functions of hand tools. While seemingly primitive and tedious, these guys really come in handy in most situations.

Kits like taps and dies do wonders for threading especially smaller material; hammers are a necessity as you can use them in almost any building or DIY project. Want to mount something on your wall? Then a magnetic stud finder will do the trick.

Big projects or small ones, there’s always a place for hand tools.

Various hand tools for beginners

Early use of hand tools

Hand tools are perhaps the oldest of tools known to man. Discovered in the prehistoric stone age, hand tools have been here and have been evolving for the last 3.4 million years, yet retain much of their basic principle of use. Of today’s hand tools, among the most common and popular are carpentry and striking tools.

The practice of carpentry and woodworking has been around since the ancient Egyptians, with pieces dating back to 5,000 years ago. And perhaps even longer ago as the world starts to discover hidden history under the ground in Indonesia.

The axes, chisels, hammers, and drills, albeit in a more primitive version then, still used today were also used for construction by earlier civilizations than what we are today.

What are the common hand tools for builders?

Striking tools

Not just common but best professional hand tools, often with a weighted head, striking tools are used to strike against the material to either chip parts of it off or to drive in fasteners such as nails. 

  • Hammers/Mallets (framing, Stiletto, ball peen, Estwing, sledgehammers)
  • Chisels (For wood, stone, and concrete)
  • Scrapping and cutting tools
  • Picks 
  • Punch sets  
  • Mauls

Striking tools

Measuring tools

Tools for measuring lengths, distances, and angles. Check out our full detailed guide here

  • Manual measures (Tape measure, Ruler, Level, etc.)
  • Digital measures (Laser measure, Laser Level, Electronic Stud Finder, etc.)
  • Mechanic’s tools (caliper, micrometer, etc.)

Manual tools and kits

Manually operated tools that usually come in sets and work well with other tools.

  • Hand drill
  • Tap and die set
  • Sockets and wrenches
  • Squares
  • Sliding bevels
  • Standard levels
  • Carpenter’s tool belt / Carpenter’s apron
  • Woodworking apron

Organizing a tool

Essential hand tools every DIYer or woodworker must have

If you’re a budding DIY’er or even a long-time woodworker, then the tools highlighted below should be part of your workbench. They’re simple and easy to acquire, allowing you to work more efficiently with different materials and across multiple applications.

Claw hammer

An extremely common and basic household tool, you’ve probably already heard or at least have seen a claw hammer. A claw hammer is a hammer with a striking head on one end and a ‘claw’ or v-shaped part on the other. 

Pros

  • Easy to obtain and relatively inexpensive.
  • Can drive and pull nails.
  • Comes in a variety of grips and handles.

Cons

  • Must be “balanced” to be effective and non-strenuous.
  • Requires controlled use so as not to weaken the joint between the head and handle.

A claw hammer for striking

Tape measure

An essential tool especially when measuring dimensions. Tape measures come in very handy when working with varying-sized wood pieces. 

Pros

  • Can fit in your pocket.
  • Varied and adjustable lengths.
  • Works in any orientation.

Cons

  • Difficult to use with longer pieces.
  • The tin material can degrade over time.

Screwdrivers

Screwdrivers are perhaps the best tools to have whenever you need to work with screws or need to fasten pieces together for a tight and secured fit. Screwdrivers come in many shapes and sizes and allow you to work with a variety of threaded applications.

Pros

  • Simple and efficient.
  • Convenient and reduces fatigue.
  • Allows you to work even with larger screws and threads.

Cons

  • Limited and very targeted use.
  • Screwheads are not universally compatible, which requires you to have a large set.

Chisels & utility knives

Chisels and utility knives are important parts of any tool kit. They allow you to clean out small and tight spaces of materials to prep them for finish or to make detailed, minute adjustments. 

Pros

  • Very lightweight and compact.
  • Ease of use.

Cons

  • Need to buy multiple sizes for greater versatility.

Of course, you can opt for a 6-piece chisel set or more.

Chisel and knife set

Hand Level

While a level may seem to only be applicable in select cases, it’s actually an all-around-friendly tool. Sometimes including a built-in ruler, it tells you if you’re working at the level and allows you to take measurements too.

Pros

  • The easiest way to tell if you’re at the level.
  • Power is not a necessity.
  • Essential if you’re going for symmetry and precision (E.G hanging a painting in the middle of a wall).

Cons

  • Comes in many forms and can be difficult to select which is best for you. 
  • Certain levels require additional maintenance to prolong life and retain peak operating conditions.

Why there is a need for quality hand tools?

The thing with a good quality hand tool is that it’ll definitely get the job done without you having to worry about power limitations or encountering possible malfunctions. If you bring these along as back-up for your power tools, that only proves the fact that they are still reliable and are practical fail-safes to ensure that your project continues regardless of circumstance. 

Quality hand tools are just as good as power tools given the right time and effort; in some cases, they even perform better because they give you a higher degree of control in terms of force applied and working angle/s. The only real limitation of a hand tool is the creativity of its user.

Jobs that require maximum accuracy are done with hand tools.

When is it better to use a power tool alternative?

It depends on the need. Generally, you’d want to go with a power tool if a project or task is both demanding and time-consuming; short timeframes coupled with multiple, schedule-bound deliverables definitely require a tool that’s capable of operating at a steady-pace while churning out consistent results.

Naturally, you’d also have an easier time working with larger and heavier materials using a power tool. Here’s an analogy: if a project is easy enough to do quickly with a hand tool, then go with hand tools. If the job would take a long time by hand! Then power tools will do it better.

Milwakee Cordless Drill

How to find the best quality hand tools?

Research is always a good way to know more about anything. With the internet, it’s easy to find information pertaining to tools, brands, and more. You can check this page for the easiest go-to-source for reviews.

Go online and read up on customer reviews, professional opinions, or visit the manufacturer’s website directly. While you can’t exactly pinpoint the world’s best hand tools, you can request testimonies from friends and family that have used a tool you’re interested in before or something similar.

But I would say the world’s best-hand tool is a hammer.

Your local hardware store might know a thing or two about a hand tool of the best value or a budget hand tool that can do more than just one job. However, I will also point you to some good recommendations.

Likewise, if possible, also try visiting a local commercial woodworking school to personally view and demo tools, before committing to your kit.

What are the best brands for common hand tools?

So know who makes the best hand tools?

There are a lot of good brands that can be considered “the best”. However, to help set the bar, among the top are Stiletto and Estwing; both of which are exemplary, probably the best hand tools for the money, of varying hammer types such as framing and ball peen hammers. Franklin is definitely the best brand hand tool for classic and value for analog magnetic stud finders. 

If it’s a threading kit you’re after, then Greenfield produces some of the best tap-and-die sets for all your threading needs, while Ingersoll Rand has some of the snazziest impact sockets. No work outfit would be complete without a tool belt; Occidental Leather makes the best carpenter’s tool belt money can buy – utility and style in one.

Remember, the best quality hand tools are always worth the investment.

Hand tools vs Electric tools

When are hand tools good to use

Advantages

  • Higher precision and control.
  • Better for detailing and doing intricate precision work.
  • Quieter and better for focus.
  • Fool-proof and guaranteed to always work.
  • Safer and more consistent use because they do not require a power source. 
  • Lighter and more portable.
  • Lasts forever if properly cared for and maintained.

Disadvantages

  • Can be tedious and tiring, especially in prolonged uses.
  • Less versatile/all-around compared to power tools.
  • Effectivity dips greatly the larger the scale of your project.

Using a wrench to fix pipes

Why use electric tools

Advantages

  • More powerful and effective.
  • Efficient and automated work. 
  • Reduces fatigue and shortens work times.
  • More versatile and better designed for all-around use. 
  • Produces relatively cleaner and more consistent results.

Disadvantages

  • Costlier and more complicated maintenance due to having more moving parts.
  • Requires a power source (even if cordless); not always available in remote areas.
  • More hazardous and not as beginner-friendly as hand tools.

Makita cordless impact wrench

Are more hand tools going to be replaced by electric or power tools?

We wouldn’t go as far as saying that hand tools will be replaced, but more so that power tools are more likely to be chosen over them because of the added speed and performance.

Modern times call for modern practices and, as a result, even the process of building and DIY is undergoing a transition of ‘modernizing’. Using hand tools is considered “old school”, but even so, that doesn’t mean that they’re obsolete. The best US made hand tools that are worth buying will always be a requirement in your toolbelt.

As more people fancy power tools, hand tools are still continuously being developed. The fact that they work 99.99% of the time, don’t require power; don’t have confusing and complicated mechanical parts, and are more portable ensures that hand tools will always have a place on the worktable.

How to organize your hand tools?

Make use of tool storage.

Tool storages are universal. Hand tools and power tools alike are welcome. Toolboxes, tool bags, cabinets, even buckets are all receptacles in which you can store and properly sort all your tools and equipment.

Arrange by category or size

It’d be best to arrange your tools by category (E.G all striking tools are grouped together, etc.) and by size, from biggest to smallest; usually starting with the bigger and heavier ones at the bottom on a multi-level storage setup.

By frequency of use

Arranging your tools by frequency from most frequent (daily) to least frequent (less than once a month) can help reduce confusion and enhance productivity.

Labeling

It’d be easier to distinguish between extremely similar-looking tools if you label them properly, or use paint to color them.

Essential skills a woodworker must-have when using hand tools

The best quality woodworking hand tools should be paired with simple but important skills for every woodworker.

Control. Woodworking can be very precise. Having good control and muscle memory helps a woodworker a lot as it allows them to work more efficiently and wastes less both effort and material.

Keen measuring. Working with wood can sometimes also be trial and error. Apart from having good hand and force control, a keen sense of measuring will be essential when working with estimates, especially when cutting and chopping.

Firm and stable grip. Using a hand tool requires a strong grip that doesn’t slip. This is doubly true when woodworking, as there will always be a lot of vigorous hand movement when working with your wood. A firm and stable grip helps avoid mistakes and accidents.

Why a beginner should start with hand tools?

Beginners should start with hand tools to be able to better grasp the fundamentals of tool use and the craft. Familiarizing yourself with hand tools also gives you an idea of how their power tool variant operates, making the transition easier. Hand tools are also more affordable and easier to acquire and maintain than power tools, contributing to faster learning.

One of the biggest reasons why a beginner should opt to start with a hand tool is the fact that they’re much safer; not requiring a power source means that they don’t put you at risk of electrocution or catching on fire.

Any good woodworking school will teach the students first how to use hand tools. Once you get good with your hands, you can then operate power tools more safely.

What are the best woodworking projects that need hand tools?

A chopping board. An easy project that doesn’t require much time and planning. You’d need some measuring skills and vital tools such as a saw, hand planer, chisel, sandpaper, and a drill. It’s always better to have a ready cranking hand drill like these for such a project.

A phone or laptop stand. Similar to making a chopping board in terms of tool requirements, get a good design. A hand-drill, sandpaper, and varnish will help out greatly with this.

A picture or mirror frame. This is perhaps one of the easiest woodworking projects and makes a good starting point. You can complete a picture frame project with just a saw, miter box, and glue.

Wood craft chopping board

Conclusion

Hand tools are a prime example of “old, but gold”. Despite their long-standing service record, their viability and usefulness have not diminished even after several millennia. While they shine less than automated power tools nowadays, you can’t deny their utility and straightforwardness. 

Simple, easy to use, and safer! no tool kit would be complete without hand tools. Think of it this way: would you rather buy a shelf or make one yourself? Because you can totally do so with a saw, power drill, and some screws.