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?
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.
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.
1. 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.
Easy to obtain and relatively inexpensive.
Can drive and pull nails.
Comes in a variety of grips and handles.
Must be “balanced” to be effective and non-strenuous.
Requires controlled use so as not to weaken the joint between the head and handle.
2. Tape measure
An essential tool especially when measuring dimensions.
Tape measures come in very handy when working with varying-sized wood pieces.
Can fit in your pocket.
Varied and adjustable lengths.
Works in any orientation.
Difficult to use with longer pieces.
The tin material can degrade over time.
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.
Simple and efficient.
Convenient and reduces fatigue.
Allows you to work even with larger screws and threads.
Limited and very targeted use.
Screwheads are not universally compatible, which requires you to have a large set.
4. 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.
Need to buy multiple sizes for greater versatility.
5. 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.
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).
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.
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.
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 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 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?
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.
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.
Why use electric tools?
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.
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.
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.
They 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?
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
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.
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.
2. 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.
3. 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?
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
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.