A toolkit to suit your jobs
There comes a time in a D.I.Y.er’s life when the basic toolkit begins to seem inadequate. When you find yourself starting to take on tasks such as removing and rehanging doors, building partition walls and then plastering them, or building a deck or pergola, it’s time to consider adding some pro-grade tools, such as the following, to your kit.
Clamps: A clamp can be your second set of hands. They can hold one end of materials while you fix off the other, they’re an essential tool for temporary props and bracing, they can hold a joint in place while you nail or screw, and hold materials together while glue sets. Look for heavy-duty clamps that can be easily operated with one hand, and buy a range of lengths.
Chalk line: A chalk line or chalk reel is a long, retractable string in a container of powdered chalk. Reel it out, hold taut along a surface where you need a straight line marked and flick the line against the surface for an instant dead straight line five, 10, 20 or more metres long.
Spirit levels: A basic 800mm spirit level will do many tasks, but adding other lengths to your kit will make life easier. Long levels, up to 2.4 metres in length, make it simple to accurately check levels and mark lines over longer distances, while shorter torpedo levels – generally 20-30cm long – fit in your back pocket and allow accuracy in tight spaces. If you do a lot of landscape D.I.Y., a multi-sided post level lets you check two post faces and post plumb at the same time.
Impact driver: These power drills are designed for driving screws into difficult materials such as metal or hardwoods, or driving large construction screws. Impact drivers provide hammer drill-like action cuts in when resistance is met to add force to the driving process.
Hammer drill: Many drills (corded and cordless) have a hammer function which adds impact force behind the drill bit, helping to drill through rock, stone, brick and concrete. For bigger projects and repetitive work, use a rotary hammer drill, which provides a lot more impact energy.
Large circular saw: A smaller blade-size power saw will only get you so far. You may need to step up to a more powerful larger-bladed circular saw, such as a 235mm blade, which will give you a maximum cutting depth of around 85mm. You could consider a 305mm blade sliding compound mitre saw. These bench-mounted saws allow for accurate straight and multi-angled cutting of timber over 100mm thick.
Sander: Sanders are the essential finishing tool for larger projects. They range from small palm sanders to large belt models, so do your research to work out which best suits your needs. Most are corded but there are now a number of good battery models.
Power planer: This provides the same finish as a fixed-blade plane, except multiple rotating blades are used to shave off timber super-fast. It’s a useful multi-purpose tool. You can take a piece of rough timber and quickly convert it to a fine finish, remove bumps and imperfections and smooth joints or do tricky fixes, such as removing a millimetre or two from the edge of a sticking door, far more accurately than you could with a power saw.
Sliding bevel: This is effectively an angle finder and marking tool. It has a thick handle with an adjustable blade that can be locked in place at any angle. Use a sliding bevel to determine an angle then transfer that angle to a piece of timber for cutting or for setting a power saw cutting angle when repeated cuts are needed.
Chisel set: Chisels are used for everything from fine cabinetmaking to fitting locks and hinges. The very sharp blade can shave away timber and cut very precise sections. Matt Francis, national training manager at Stanley Black & Decker, says, “Chisels, like good knives, can be resharpened for years. Invest in a good chisel set and sharpening tools and then, most importantly, take the time to learn how to use both correctly.”
The wish list
You’ll find these next-level gadgets genuinely useful.
Multi-tool: Describing a multi-tool, it’s impossible not to sound like a late-night television infomercial – it saws, cuts, sands, drills, bolts! A multi-tool is a hand-held unit with interchangeable heads, allowing you to swap from an oscillating cutting blade to a detail sanding head to a jigsaw, drill or ratchet head. With its compact head, you can get into tight corners to sand, cut or drill.
Laser level: Once only the domain of the top-shelf tradie, laser levels are now available in a range of affordable styles. They give you the ability to project a line around a room, horizontally or vertically, giving you instant, super-accurate levels. Be aware that only some models are suitable for outdoor use.
Tool storage: You might be happy with a simple toolbox but as your kit expands, having a place for everything will make your D.I.Y. projects run smoother. There are fantastic tool storage options – from wheeled tool chests to workbenches with tool-hanging pegboards and integrated or add-on storage units – that will see your shed transformed into a serious workshop.
Safety first in every kit
Safety should always be your number-one priority, and that includes for anyone watching you work, too. Ensure that your kit contains:
• Quality earmuffs or plugs
• Safety glasses and goggles (goggles give side protection from flying debris and dust)
• Breathing protection to suit your work
• Good-quality gloves
• Boots, protective toe if needed
• Safety vest
• Hard hat
• First-aid kit
Expert tip: "Despite my 30-plus years in the trade, every now and then I still make the mistake of using a not-quite-sharp-enough tool. Always make sure cutting tools, like chisels, saws and even drill bits, are as sharp as possible for the easiest cut and best finish,” Brandt McRitchie, builder.
Time to upgrade your tool kit
Check out your local Bunnings store and get the tools you need to take you pro.
Photo credit: Brigid Arnott