21 Types of Tools You Need to Have on Hand
Author: Chris Miller | Editor: Omar Alonso
Review & Research: Jen Worst & Chris Miller
Whether you’re a carpenter by profession or just someone who needs to get the odd repairs jobs done around the house, the right types of tools are going to be your best friends. As a beginner, though, the world of tools can be quite overwhelming—there are just so many! Where do you even start?
21 Types of Tools
How about with our guide to the different tool types that should feature in any toolbox? Read on for a basic guide to the different kinds of tools you must always have by your side.
If someone said the word “tool”, the first object that would come to anyone’s mind, regardless of whether they’re a professional carpenter or a lay person, is the humble hammer.
Hammers are among the simplest tools, working on the very simple principle of using force to drive in an object, but use them wrong and they can be quite a danger. You can even find softer rubber mallets to help you hammer without harming the surface you're working on.
Hammers are generally used to hammer nails into the wall or an object, and depending on the types of hammers, there can be other functions as well, such as pulling out nails, breaking things down, or dismantling something.
Wrenches are commonly used to loosen bolts and nuts. There are different types of wrenches, such as stubby wrenches, combination wrenches, pipe wrenches, adjustable wrenches, ratchet wrenches, combination wrenches, and open-end wrenches, to name a few. Of all these different kinds of tools, for most odd jobs a ratchet set will save you a ton of time.
Each has a different purpose and level of functionality. For example, open-ended wrenches have differently-sized ends that are open, allowing you to use them as per the size of the bolt to be loosened, whereas stubby wrenches are engineered especially for bolts and nuts in tight spaces.
This is a hand tool with a sharp, thin blade, typically made of metal, meant for shaping, engraving, carving, and cutting wood, metal, or masonry (you’ll find different chisels for each medium).
These types of tools are mostly used by professional carpenters unless you’re into wooden DIY projects. Chisels are often used with a mallet or hammer for efficient chipping and shaping.
There are many types of chisels, such as skew chisels, pairing chisels, slick chisels, and bevel edge chisels (the most common and popular), to name a few.
Probably the most commonly found tools in households after hammers, pliers are among the most versatile tools on this list. Not only are they favored by carpenters, but they’re also favored by people in professions such as jewelry making and by art and craft enthusiasts.
Pliers can efficiently carry out a range of tasks, such as pulling out objects, cutting/bending/straightening wires and other material, or even just holding down an object firmly. If you don’t have a wrench, you can even loosen or tighten bolts and nuts with this tool.
There are multiple types of pliers, some of which are slip-joint pliers, electrical pliers, needle-nose pliers, and cutting pliers. They may all look similar but these are completely different tools with various functionality.
Another simple but efficient categories of tools are the screwdrivers. This tool helps you further drive in screws to tighten them or loosen them, regardless of the medium they’re screwed into.
There are three primary types of screwdrivers—slotted, star, and Phillips-Head screwdrivers.
Slotted screwdrivers, also known as flathead screwdrivers, are the most basic and common, with a flat head that can fit into any screw slot and loosen or tighten the screw. However, these screwdrivers have a nasty tendency to slip out of the screw slot, which can be the cause of much annoyance, and worse, injury or damage to the object.
This is where Phillips-Head screwdrivers have an edge. As common as slotted screwdrivers, these are used to tighten or loosen screws that have a plus-shaped engraving on their heads, which the screwdriver fits into to do its job.
Star screwdrivers are more specialized, meant only for screws whose indentations match the shape of the screwdriver’s head. The most convenient, though, is screwdriver sets where the bits can be interchanged. Apart from these, there are many more types of screwdrivers.
Primarily meant to chop wood, axes are a must-have for lumberjacks and other folks who work outdoors. The head of the axe is a flat blade sharpened on one side to chop through wood, sitting on a handle of steel, fiberglass, or wood.
Though an axe is quite simple to use compared to other types of tools, it can be quite dangerous if used improperly—a blade designed to chop through wood can easily slice through other things like a hot knife through butter.
There are many types of axes, such as felling axe, camper’s axe, fitting axe, splitting axe, chopping ax, and hatchets, to name a few.
Nowadays, you may also see axes next to fire extinguishers in buildings; they’re kept near the glass box to let you easily break through the glass in case of an emergency.
Clamps do the task of keeping two objects held together so that both your hands are free to work on the objects. This is especially handy for art projects or when you need to assemble or glue something together. In woodworking these tool types are most often used to make sure glue cures between two surfaces nice and tight.
C-clamps are the most popular; other types of clamps include pipe clamps, sash clamps, bench vices, and bench clamps.
Shovels are digging tools, used mainly outdoors, to either dig a hole or trench or to move loose materials around. A common use would be to move mulch from a pile into a wheelbarrow so you can carry it over to your garden. There are many types of shovels of various sizes, built with different materials for the handle (usually wood or fiberglass). You typically find rounded tips to help you dig and penetrate the soil, or flat headed shovels that help you scoop easier.
Nail guns are great for quickly and effortlessly shooting nails into the wall, as the name suggests! Staple guns are the more basic versions of nail guns, where instead of nails, you’re driving staples into the medium.
These industrial-strength staple pins are capable of holding together light materials such as plywood, cardboard, and cloth. One of their most useful applications is in upholstering, where they’re used to staple the surface and the cloth/material together.
Hand Saws & Power Saws
Hand saws are excellent for cutting through wood. You can either use these types of tools manually or get an electric power saw that further reduces the effort involved. However, a manual saw is good to have for quick jobs; additionally, you don’t always have to be reliant on a power source.
Pruning saws, hack saws, crosscut saws, jab saws, back saws, and coping saws are all some of the types of saws that exist.
There are also power saws, such as table saws, band saws, circular saws, jig saws, and all types of chainsaws, among other options, all designed for specific tasks. They're all vastly different tools meant for certain applications and all have different safety protocols, so be careful, please.
Sanders refer to power tools, whether plugged into an electrical outlet or powered by a battery. These types of sanders are meant to help you sand and smoother larger surfaces faster with less work, replacing the manual method of using sand paper.
You may still want sand paper for precise woodwork, but in general, a sander is a tool you will want on hand if you're doing any kind of wood projects. You can also look into planers, which will ensure a large surface is completely flat before you start sanding.
Though they may seem extremely basic, fasteners such as nuts, bolts, screws, drywall anchors, and lug nuts are extremely important.
Bolts are threaded, so you’ll need threading on the object as well to be able to use a bolt on it. Bolts and nuts are usually used together; nuts are used to secure bolts. There are many types of bolts, such as lag bolts, anchor bolts, carriage bolts, and hex bolts.
Nails are among the simplest available fasteners and are usually driven in with hammers. For delicate mediums, you can use box nails as they are sufficiently strong without being bulky, whereas common nails will do for most other tasks. There are types of nails for every little task.
Screws are also threaded but don’t require a nut for securing. With many types of screws, you don’t need to pre-drill a hole into the wall; the screw will do this for itself (they are self-tapping types of tools). Screws are best driven into the walls with electric drills.
Drywall anchors, as the name suggests, help anchor screws and nails to the wall without damaging the wall or causing the paint to flake off. There are many types of drywall anchors that are rated for different weights and wall materials.
These power tools are great for drilling holes into a range of materials, from stone and metal to wood. They generally come with a variety of drill bits that let you drill holes, dig using an auger, as well as drive nails into the wall.
Drills are available in both cordless and corded versions; though the latter is more expensive, it affords better flexibility. There are hand-held drills too for when very precise woodworking needs to be done, though these types of drills are becoming more rare with the advent of the drill press.
Measurements are extremely important in metal and woodwork, due to the high levels of symmetry and accuracy that are required. Therefore, measuring tools are a must in any toolkit.
Basic measuring tools to have include rulers, measuring tape, calipers, spirit levels and other types of levels, angle locators, protractors, stair measuring tools, and much more.
It's funny to describe scissors to you because we all get it. All the many types of scissors are just two blades that swing together to cut through some kind of item. But you may be picturing office or craft scissors meant to cut through paper or fabric.
But there are also pruning shears meant to trim flower bushes, loppers meant to cut through tree limbs, hedge clippers to cut through thicker bush limbs, and even grass shears to cut grass. There are tons of things in the yard and garage that need to be cut through, and as many varieties of scissors to handle it.
Files & Grinders
These two tool types are especially important in metalwork, useful when you need to get rid of any extra metal, such as in newly welded joints. For smaller, more delicate mediums (such as plastic, flimsy metal, and thin wood), files can get the job of shaping and smoothing easily done, much like a sander.
For bigger, tougher projects and mediums, an angle grinder can smooth down sharp edges and grind down any excess wood or metal. Angle grinders are also great for making precision cuts in metal and stone. Some grinders also let you attach sanding discs, in which case, you then also have one of the sanding types of tools at your disposal.
You could argue that ladders aren't tools in themselves, but they do enable you to take care of your work and use other tools more safely and easily. They're large and even larger depending on how tall you need them to be. They're sturdy methods to reach higher heights safely, though you still need to be careful when you use them by following their provided guidance about which steps to not climb above and to follow the weight limits.
You can find all types of ladders including wood ladders, metal ladders, fiberglass ladders, and even among those materials you'll find ones that can reach various heights or are shaped differently. There's A-frame ladders and extensions ladders, as an example. Among all types of tools, you can't find an alternative option if you don't have a ladder available. It's more important than it seems.
Vises & Anvils
Vises and anvils are tools to help stabilize an object you're working on. Vises are kind of like clamps, though they're mounted to a bench and meant to hold an object in the right orientation to help you saw, drill, hammer, or do precise work on it.
Anvils are either mounted to your work bench or are free standing, and there are even some that are small and built into your vise. They're hard metal and flat surfaces meant to give you a firm and stable work space to place your object on before you beat on it with a hammer or rubber mallet, typically.
Yard Work Tools
Rather than talk about every single one of these, let's group them together. When it comes to the many types of lawn mowers, you'll find riding mowers, electric and gas powered push mowers, and even manual rotary push mowers. There's also weed eaters meant to help you trim around edges.
You'll also discover kinds of tools like hedge trimmers, tree limb pruners, air blowers, and a wide array of gardening tools such as trowers, loppers, garden forks, rakes, hoes, watering cans, and more.
Air Compresser & Pneumatic Tools
There's an entire category of tools that are powered by air, and these are called pneumatic tools. In order to power them you need an air compressor. It sucks in tons of air and uses a pump to hold it at a higher pressure, which is then released through a tube and fed to your tool.
You can find different types of tools of the pneumatic variety, including air guns, wrenches, grinders, ratchet tools, drills, dusters, air inflators, and so much more. It's a solid alternative to electric or battery tools, but it won't work for every task.
Other Categories of Tools
Of course, that's not all, but if we tried to list every single type of tool out there we'd have to write a full novel and you wouldn't care. Many are very niche items, like tools for working with fire pits, cabinets, tiles, gutters, plumbing, concrete, paint, grout, wallpaper, foam, bricks, windows, and so much more. It's best not to learn about these until you realize you actually need them, in my opinion, or they'll become a distraction.
Types of Tools to Speed Up Your Goals & Chores
While this is by no means an exhaustive list, these are some of the tools that should be in any basic toolkit. You shouldn’t be running to a professional for every small repair; having these tools will help you easily and quickly get the job done yourself—provided you learn how to use them right, of course.
Additionally, always take the appropriate safety measures when handling any of the different types of tools, even if they are the most basic kind. Freak accidents are all too real with tools and some of them can be quite severe and scary. So always gear up before you get to work and keep your mind in safety mode.