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Author: Leah Cooper
10. Adjustable Wrench
Opposable thumbs may be the height of human evolution, but rarely have your bare hands been able to surpass a simple tool when it comes to unscrewing that stuck-on bolt. A good quality, highly adjustable wrench can get into tight spaces where your pneumatic tools cannot, and they keep working even after the battery has died in your impact drill. There’s a reason the wrench has withstood the test of time. Pros keep this handy number in their toolbox for whatever situations may arise. For corroded fasteners or metal pipes, keep a plumber’s wrench handy. Adjustable, large, and powerful— the large teeth of this wrench’s grip secure to a great variety of surfaces to keep your wrench steady while you supply the force.
While not technically a “hand-tool,” WD-40 is the perfect company for nearly any hand-tool in your arsenal. It’s why this lubricated spray is listed directly after the adjustable wrench. Dealing with a corroded screw that ‘elbow grease’ alone just can’t handle? Don’t break a sweat. The thin kerosene-like component in WD-40 can infiltrate tight spaces to provide lubrication and break down thickened grease and petroleum build-up. It is the solution for the two most common sticky situations professionals encounter at work.
8. Hand Bender
Benders are a must for plumbers and a frequent go-to for mechanics and handymen. Large construction sites often feature a gigantic, powered bending machine for a factory-like output of curved tubing. But there a few drawbacks to large equipment that are obvious to the working professional: cumbersome size and one-off jobs. Massive Greenlee Benders are a contractor favorite, but transportation around sites is a major inconvenience with these machines. Choose a hand-bender for small projects and confined spaces: ideal for quick remodeling projects or working beneath a restoration vehicle. Benders come in steel, iron, and aluminum. Aluminum benders offer the best benefits as a lightweight and strong material.
7. Metal Crimper
When it comes to crimping a metal tube, you have all the options. You could use an everyday pair of pliers, although that’s not very convenient. If you don’t want to waste time, you could use a hammer, but then you’d risk damaging the material. Of course, there are always your hands if you want to test your strength. And once you’re done fooling around, you’re going to want the right tool for the job. Add a hand-held metal crimper to your workbench. Different brands have brought their patented technology to the table. Try out the purely mechanical Thomas & Betts TMB8S Crimper, or boost your crimping power with Burndy’s Hydraulic 12-Ton Hand Crimper for larger diameters.
6. Laser Measure
The only ‘powered’ – battery-powered that is— tool that makes the list is the Laser Distance Measurer. And there’s an excellent reason for this. Unlike your traditional tape measure that works with a finite length of retractable tape, your new laser measure can extend its reach. Compared to the standard 30 feet of measuring tape, the laser measure can extend up to 100 feet without obstruction. Don’t spend your time squinting at the scratched away quarter-inch lines on your well-used tape: the laser measure calculates the distance for you. Find laser measures under $100 from top brands like DeWalt, Craftsman, Bosch, Stanley, and Grainger.
5. Torque Wrench
Changing your own oil is a slippery slope (pun intended) to flushing your coolant to changing your brake calipers, and before you know it, you’re jacking your car up to change the sway bar links. Take a note from the pros, any decent car enthusiast needs a torque wrench. Fastening your bolts and screws to torque spec – the standards set by the automotive manufacturer— can make the difference between your lug nuts holding your tire securely to the wheelbase or watching mid-commute as your tire slides off and bounces across the freeway. Unlike the other tools that make our list, torque wrenches can easily overpower your budget: source your torque wrench from reconditioning retails like General Equipment & Supply (GES) for the tools your need at 70% or more off manufacturer costs.
4. Pry Bar
Pry Bar. Crow Bar. Wrecking Bar. Whatever you call it, trust me – you need one. What can’t a pry bar do? Knock out old tile? Check. Open a broken window? Check. Extend your hydraulic jack’s handle? Check. Open paint cans? Check. Break into your local McDonald’s after-hours… I mean, sure. But please don’t. The point being, your pry bar is the king of versatility amongst all the tools in your toolbox. Professional contractors keep these tools handy. Some even keep one in their truck! Let the pry bar join your team.
3. Threader Ratchet
It’s a fact of construction life; pre-threaded pipes are more expensive than non-threaded pipes, and at the same time, ridiculously inconvenient for custom-sized jobs. It’s the same business model behind your favorite pizzeria. Of course, it’s cheaper to make the same pizza at home, especially when toppings cost extra, but we want instant results. The iconic Ridgid threading machines make quick work of threading bear pipes on the jobsite, but the initial cost of these heavy-duty machines may not be in the cards for homeowner-driven renovations. In this case, Ridgid also makes a hand-held threader ratchet with detachable die heads. Not looking to take the plunge on this tool for a short-term project? Contact the rentals department at GES!
2. Screwdriver Set
You may have thought I’d tell you to buy a screwdriver with magnetic bits. They are extremely popular with homeowners these days. However, replaceable magnetic bits lack the sturdy reliability of a traditional screwdriver set. The magnetic pull of those screwdrivers is just enough to keep the bit in place, relying on your mechanical pressure to keep the bit in its holster while at work. However, accidentally knock your bit out of the screwdriver while you’re working on your engine bay and say hello to expensive mechanic’s bills. Drop your bit while working in a dark crawl space – say goodbye forever. Make the investment into a screwdriver kit and always have the size you need ready.
Is a tarp technically a hand tool? Who is judging? Chances are, most handy Americans keep a moving blanket or tarp in the back of their car for those just-in-case moments. Pull out your tarp to protect your floor from paint spills, collect sawdust, protect your equipment from rain, or just cover the birthday presents in your trunk from your little one’s prying eyes. A tarp is a must-have item for general construction.