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Three toolboxes filled with the right tools for women

QuestionIt seems whenever I try to tackle a home project like hanging pictures, recovering chairs, or caulking joints, I can never find the right tools at the right time for the right project. I've decided to put an end to my frustrations and create a toolbox that I can call my own. However, at the home improvement store, I was totally confused by the long aisles of tools and accessories. Can you suggest some basic tools I should consider as I set up this toolbox? I like to be organized and think this will really help me stay more focused on the project at hand rather than hunting down the right tools.

AnswerMore and more women want to tackle their own home improvement projects. They like saving money and they enjoy the sense of pride they feel in doing it themselves, working with their hands, doing it their own way, not waiting for someone else to do the work, and not being dependent on a man to get the job done.

For all those reasons, I created "ToolTIPS for Women," a live high-energy demonstration that I presented at Home & Garden Shows across the U.S. and Canada. This presentation promoted safe tool use and shared the latest information in professional and consumer tools and home improvement products.

At the beginning of each show I passed out a flier that outlined the necessary tools to consider. Basically, I recommend setting up three specific toolboxes—one each for general carpentry, electrical, and plumbing—so you'll be prepared to tackle a variety of basic home repairs and improvements.

Begin by purchasing three sturdy toolboxes that are 22 inches by 10 inches by 10 inches. I find this to be a useful and convenient size to carry. The lift-out tray comes in handy to house smaller tools that would normally get lost at the bottom. Consider purchasing these toolboxes in three different colors to help you easily tell them apart.

To get you started, here are my suggestions for tools and other related products to fill those toolboxes:

For General Carpentry

Safety: safety glasses, hearing protection, gloves, mask.

Saws: Japanese pull-saw; hacksaw.

Hammers: 16-oz. wooden short-handle finish hammer (framing hammer optional).

Hand tools: prybar; mini prybar; nail puller; nail set; 1-inch and 3/4-inch wooden chisel; hand plane; six-in-one screwdriver; end-cutting pliers; 1-inch wide 25-foot tape measure or 3/4-inch 20-foot tape measure; utility knife and blade scrapers with refill blades; staple gun; torpedo level; two spring clamps; adjustable framing square; angle finder; stud locator; caulk gun; scribe with pencil.

Miscellaneous: sanding block; no. 2 pencils; wood glue; and painters' blue masking tape.

Power tools: cordless drill, 9.6 to 12 volts with drill bits; electric drill with keyed chuck (for working with metal) and bits; circular saw; jigsaw; electric palm sander.

Accessories: router and router bits; electric miter saw; table saw; belt sander; electric hand sander; center punches.

Also helpful, but too large for a toolbox: 4-foot aluminum straightedge; four folding sawhorses; 25-foot No. 14 and 50-foot No. 12 multiple-head extension cords.

For Electrical

Testers: voltage; circuit (plug-in).

Pliers: slip-joint (regular); long-nose (needle); diagonal (side-cutting); lineman's (a combination of flat-jaw pliers and wire cutters); groove-joint (channel).

Screwdrivers: six-in-one; Robertson-style (square head).

Miscellaneous: cable cutter and cable ripper; wire stripper and crimping tool; fish tape (with reel and winder).

Accessories: Small clear plastic divider boxes for wire nuts, grounding wire connectors, screws, etc.; electrical tape; 3/8-inch by 12-inch piece of wooden dowel (to push wires into electrical boxes—don't use screwdriver or fingers); telephone handset/base cord crimp tool.

For Plumbing

Pliers: groove-joint (channel).

Wrenches: two adjustable pipe wrenches; two basic adjustable open-end wrenches; offset hex wrench; fixed spud wrench; adjustable basin wrench; and plastic nut basin wrench.

To cut pipe: mini and regular copper tube cutter; pipe cutter (for cutting ABS and PVC pipe); pipe saw/Japanese handsaw; hacksaw.

Miscellaneous: folding hex keys; hand auger and blow bag; propane torch and striker; clear plastic divided accessory boxes for small parts; vinyl thread seal tape.

Purchasing all these tools at once could be a real budget buster so I suggest you first buy the toolboxes and then work toward filling them, one tool at a time, perhaps as needs and sales arise. Power tools are frequently on sale as Christmas approaches. I recommend that you purchase quality tools with brand names. Off-brand discount tools are not a wise choice or investment as they simply don't hold up.

Finally, after you acquire your tools, care for them properly:

  1. Place your tools carefully into the toolbox—careless tosses can damage them and the box.
  2. Clean and dry your tools after use—for a safe non-slip grip and to keep the toolbox and your hands clean.
  3. Sharpen tools when necessary—dull blades can be a real hazard.
  4. Protect sharp blades and your hands with blade guards when possible—getting stitches really isn't all that much fun.
  5. Keep all the parts and pieces, such as drill bits, together in the case they came in—saves time when you need them.
  6. Read and follow all the instructions and safety guidelines that accompany power tools.
  7. Keep your toolbox locked and out of reach of children.

These basic tools will make you as well equipped and organized as some professional contractors and you'll be able to accomplish a wide variety of home repair and improvement tasks. The confidence you'll have in knowing that you have the right tools at your fingertips will help your projects move along in a smooth and positive direction. Good luck stocking your toolboxes.

Copyright © 2005 & 2006 LAF/C.R.S., Inc. All rights reserved.
Question answered by Leon A. Frechette.

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