How often have you had to stop to look for even the most basic tool? Imagine having to do so when you're in the middle of installing hinges on a new entertainment unit you've been working on all weekend. Keep your DIY toolkit stocked and handy while working. It's the best way to keep your momentum and your cool.
Here's a list of the basic components of a good DIY toolkit. Even if you're a beginner and your only DIY experience comes from watching The Block, you'll use these tools over and over again.
Hammer. Obvious. Or is it? The choice at your local hardware store is enough to give you a pounding headache. Hammers come in different weights and are made from different materials. Some are designed for specific purposes. A 16 oz claw hammer seems to be best for most people. Ask for one with a handle made from rubber-coated fiberglass or graphite for durability and shock absorption.
Nails. Nails come in different lengths, widths, and strengths, and have their own specialty. Even the shanks (the part that's hammered into the wood) are different. Some are indented or threaded for extra strength. If you're not sure what nails to purchase, ask at the hardware store. They'll need to know what material you're nailing into and if the nail is expected to hold anything up. Also know that finishing nails are made so that they can be hammered into flat into wood and won't ruin the finished look of your piece.
Pliers. There's a big assortment pliers on the market from locking to adjustable and non-adjustable. Then there's the actual shape of the jaws, tips and handles. Before you buy, consider how you'll use them most often. A good toolbox should include at least one pair of needlenose pliers, and one pair of lineman's pliers. Know what you'll be using the pliers for and ask for recommendations at your local hardware store.
Wrenches. In general, all adjustable wrenches work the same way: you use a roller to adjust the jaw's width to fit your job. Buy one with a locking feature so that once you've adjusted it to the right width, it will stay that way. You might also consider a standard (non-adjustable) wrench set in the popular sizes. Wrenches come in metric and Imperial, so know what you're getting.
Level. Don't rely on eye-balling that shelf you're about to install. Keeping things straight is a lot of what DIY is all about. A good combination level will allow you to check vertical, horizontal, and 45-degree angles.
Screwdrivers. Get a driver with interchangeable tips rather than a whole slew of individual screwdrivers. Make sure the grip is comfortable and that you can change the tips easily.
Tape measure. A 25-foot tape measure works well for most projects. You'll want to test two things: that it won't bend or sag when you're measuring a distance of over two feet; and that it's not so rigid that you can't measure a curved surface accurately. Make sure the numbers and calibrations are easy to read. Consider a measure with a belt-clip, so you can keep it handy while working.
Square. Don't be surprised when you ask for a square and the store clerk hands you a triangular or L-shaped tool. Squares are used to measure 90-degree angles and draw straight lines. Start with a basic square. You can always upgrade to a fancier model with moving parts if you find the need.
Stud finder. All puns aside, heavy objects like shelving and mirrors need to be anchored properly. The best place to anchor anything is to a stud. While there are inexpensive manual models out on the market which use magnets to detect nailheads, you should know that these stud finders aren't very reliable, especially through plaster walls. Buy a electronic model that reads the density of the wall to find the studs. It will pay for itself over time. Newer models even check for live wires, an added safety feature when drilling.