Housewife MacGyver: Mr. Hawkins' Toolbox

Today we have our first man-guest of the Housewife MacGyver series! Today's guest is, as he says, the DH of my BFF. In other words, he's my best friend Debra's husband. Which I guess kind of makes us friends too. Most of the time. Except when I win too many games of golf...

Anyway, Mr. Hawkins knows his way around the toolbox, so I asked if he'd give us his top ten tools. You know, so we can each have put together our own toolsets. To put in a pink (possibly furry) toolbox and modpodge all the tools to be cute and coordinating... Just kidding. Or am I?

The 10 Should-Have Tools for Your Toolbox
by Seth R. Hawkins

In an effort to appease the great blog-gods that be [note from Lu: pretty sure he means me and Debra...], I was asked to pen a post about the top 10 tools you should have in your toolbox.

I’m not entirely sure why I was asked to do this instead of Tim Allen. The best I could come up with is:
  1. I own more tools than my wife owns British romantic-novel-inspired-movies (admittedly by a small margin).
  2. I am the DH of Lu’s BFF. LOL. NCIS. FBI. CVS. Did I get all those terms right? I don’t care how catchy DH has become in bloggy land, men the world over will still consider DH a baseball term.
  3. Lu’s still feeling guilty about teaming up with my wife and mishandling my drill, destroying more titanium-tipped drill bits in one project than I’ve destroyed in a lifetime. [note: this may or may not be true. I plead the fifth.] 
Whatever the reason, I’m happy to share what little I may know.

A small disclaimer: Though I am handy with home repairs and know my way around tools, I am by no means a professional. My top 10 may vary from another man’s, but I feel like this list is a nice, well-rounded toolkit.

Now for the list (in no particular order). Hold on to your arc welders.

10. Claw Hammer 
This may seem a bit cliche and “duh,” but a claw hammer is a must-have tool. It actually stands out as one of the few tools that uses increased force rather than increased distance (you like the physics lesson here?) to do work. The claw hammer serves two main functions. With the flat end, you obviously hammer the nail into the board. The claw end works by placing a nail between the claws and using the top of the hammer as a fulcrum to pull out the nail. The hammer is a phenomenal simple machine.

What you may not know about the claw hammer is that there are different sizes and weights. Many hammers that feel comfortable to men may feel too heavy and unbalanced for some women. Go to the hardware store and try out a few weights until you find one that feels comfortable to you. Other considerations are the handles, which can be either wood, plastic or have padded grips.

9. Phillips Screwdriver
8. Flathead/Slot Screwdriver 
There are two main types of screwdrivers: Phillips and Flathead/Slot. Why two? Well, each type of screwdriver fits a certain type of screw shape.

The Phillips screw is a cross with a slight circle in the middle. The advantage to this shape is it provides a firm grip between the screwdriver and the screw, simplifying the motion. Phillips heads are commonly found in many electronics and furniture.

The flathead, or slot screw, is a simple line, or slot, that goes across the screw, hence the name. These screws are easy to quickly twist and provide considerable torque, which firmly tightens the screw in place.

You need both of these screwdrivers in your toolbox. These also come in a variety of sizes. Unfortunately, one size does not fit all. You definitely need a standard size of both screwdriver types, but it’s also good to have a set of smaller screwdrivers for small electronic devices. Fortunately, these can usually be purchased for a small price and many dollar stores even carry them nowadays.

7. Needle-nose pliers with wire cutter 
Not all pliers are created equal. While they may essentially do the same job, the most useful for regular home repairs and projects are the needle-nose pliers, which are characterized by long arms that can tightly grip whatever object you intend to hold in place. Needle-nose pliers are especially useful because their shape allows them to delve into hard-to-reach places. Be sure to get a set with wire cutters beneath the corrugated arms. This is useful for cutting fishing wire, electrical wire or my favorite use - guitar strings.

6. Vice-grip pliers 
While I don’t think this would rank on most people’s toolbox must-have list, it definitely deserves a place. These pliers have a locking mechanism that makes its grip super strong and prevents slippage so common with other types of pliers. These pliers are especially useful when you’re trying to loosen objects that are more stubborn than a two-year-old child fighting a nap. Vice-grip pliers work by gripping an object much as you would with needle-nose pliers, but once the grip has been made, the knob at the bottom of the pliers can be rotated to tighten the grip even further, guaranteeing the grip and adding extra torque.

5. Tape Measure 
So many projects have started out brilliantly and failed disastrously all as a result of poor measurements. Just ask NASA. A tape measure is absolutely essential to a toolbox and is one of the most commonly used tools. Like nearly every other type of tool, there are a variety of sizes. So which size is right for you? For most around-the-home projects, a 25-foot tape measure should do the trick. Perhaps more importantly is finding a tape measure that will be sturdy and easily draws back into the storage area. A tape measure is one tool where you definitely get what you pay for. Spend the extra couple bucks to get a sturdy tape measure. It will serve you well for years.

4. Utility knife 
Better than a pocket knife and more sturdy than an X-ACTO knife, the utility knife is a best friend. Whether you’re cutting rope, trimming ends or opening a box, a utility knife comes in handy. There are so many types of utility knives available today. All do essentially the same job. The most important factor then is finding a utility knife that feels comfortable. My favorite is the utility knife that acts like a pocket knife. It can fold up to hide the blade and the top unlatches easily to replace the blade, but stays firmly locked while using it. This variety costs a bit more, but sure beats the pain of having to find your screwdriver to unscrew the casing to pull out more blades. Of course, the downside of this model is you have to store the extra blades separately.

Speaking of blades, a utility knife is only as useful as its blade. Blades should be regularly replaced. As soon as the blade starts to give some steady resistance, it’s time to replace the blade. A dull blade causes you to apply more pressure and may lead to slippage and injuries. The blades are inexpensive, so take care of this minor, albeit important detail.

I should also note that there are many types of blades. In general stick with the pointed-tip blades. The curved-tip blades, sometimes ironically labeled “safety blades” can often slip and cause injury. The downside to the pointed-tipped blades is they can easily stab and cause injury that way.

3. Adjustable Wrench 
(also sometimes called a crescent wrench or monkey wrench)
This is perhaps the image that readily comes to mind when it comes to wrenches, but the truth is there are a great number of wrenches with different shapes and applications. The adjustable wrench is handy because, well, it’s adjustable, meeting the size you need. The downside of this wrench is because it’s adjustable, it doesn’t grip as firmly as a set wrench. This is another tool where you really get what you pay for. You can easily find inexpensive adjustable wrenches, but these may also not stay in place so well.

2. Combination Wrench Set 
OK, so I cheated here. This is actually a whole set of wrenches, but you will probably need all of them at one time or another for home or auto repairs. A combination wrench has a set-measured open end and a closed end with the same measurement. The open end can easily grip a bolt in a hard-to-reach space, but it sacrifices grip and torque. The closed end may be harder to fit around some bolts, but it maintains a firmer grip. The frustrating thing about combination wrenches are you generally have no idea what the size of the bolt you’re trying to tighten or remove is, so you get to play the fun game of trying three or four sizes until you get it right.

2a. Socket Wrench Set 
(sometimes also called a ratchet set)
While I’m cheating, I may as well continue and add that in addition to a combination wrench set, it’s also useful to have a socket wrench set. I put this as a subcategory because most socket wrench sets come in their own carrying cases and don’t necessarily fit in your toolbox. They are extremely useful though. A socket wrench uses sockets that fit various-sized bolts. A normal wrench works by turning the wrench until your hand can’t naturally rotate any farther, at which point you must remove the wrench and reposition it for another turn. A socket wrench eliminates that problem. As soon as you come to the end of the rotation, simple move the handle back to it’s starting position and you’re ready to go again without removing your grip on the bolt.

1. Level

Few things annoy me more than things that aren’t level. It doesn’t matter if it’s a shelf, picture frames or cabinets, some things just need to be level. A level works by trapping air bubbles within a liquid. To use a level, simply place it on the object you want to get level. For instance, place it on top of a shelf you want to hang on the wall (do this before you actually secure the shelf to the wall). Then move the shelf and level together until the bubble rests between the two guidelines. This means your shelf is level. Most levels have three chambers - one for horizontal leveling, one for vertical and one for 45-degree angles. You can get long, large levels or you can find smaller levels that even fit in your toolbox.

I feel bad I had to leave off some other favorite tools, but this is a good list that should get you going and meet most of your tool needs. Almost all of these tools are relatively inexpensive. I think the tool I paid the most for in my toolbox are my vice-grip pliers, but they are worth every penny.

Good luck putting your toolbox together or adding some new items. Besides, this will be the one shopping trip where your husband may actually enjoy joining you and won’t complain about your purchases. Well, too much.

Did you hear that, Housewives? Straight from the man's mouth... take your men shopping!

This post is part of the Housewife MacGyver series on just Lu. Read more about Housewife MacGyver and see all the posts in the series here.


Naturally Carol said...

Hi Lorene..this guy's got a great sense of humour..good post!

Nick and Keira said...

You both are fantastic with your humor, and this man is very well-written! Thanks for such a good post! I think over the years we have gotten everything except vice-grip pliers--so a-shopping we must go! :)

Gwen @ Gwenny Penny said...

Awesome post (and good for a laugh :) My mom put together a little tool box for me when I first moved out on my own. It's made up of extra/old tools that my parents had lying around. I still have it. It includes a teeny tiny hammer, and I still use it, and my husband will probably make fun of me for that for the rest of my life.

Katie @ On the Banks of Squaw Creek said...

Love his sense of humor, but my list is waaaayyy different! I have never used wrenches, probably because I don't do any automotive or plumbing. And I would add a few other things, too. I should really get off my duff and write my post! lol

Danae said...

A good list, and a fun post. I think I might have swapped out a cordless drill for one of the wrenches, and my husband (who is admittedly more into wood-working than most people) claims you can never have "too many" clamps. They are awfully useful for repairs sometimes. Thanks!

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