The simple beauty of screwdrivers makes them the ideal tools to tighten cabinet hardware, install light switches, and crack open the lids on metal paint cans. This 10-piece set includes all the common slotted and Phillips-head sizes, as well as stubby versions to get into tight spots.
About $12; stanleytools.com
Keep it on hand to measure anything from the wall area for a paint project to the thickness of lumber at the home center-where you'll learn that a 2x4 is not exactly 2 by 4 inches. The tough composite case's bright green color makes this Stanley Hi-Vis 12-foot tape measure easy to find.
About $5; lowes.com
Keeping your collection of drivers, screws, and bolts in an easy-to-haul toolbox keeps things organized and handy. The large-capacity plastic box has a single metal latch that closes securely. A removable tray is great for assorted fasteners.
About $14; acehardware.com
A 16-ounce smooth-faced claw hammer has a nice mix of heft and versatility for driving nails into walls to hang pictures, knocking together ready-to-assemble furniture, and building birdhouses. The curved claw is useful for pulling out the nails that inevitably get bent. This Plumb model has a fiberglass handle that's nearly unbreakable.
About $13; cooperhandtools.com
For quick fixes around the house, this supersticky tape adheres to just about anything and has a thick, woven backing that is thicker than most rolls, yet easy rip to length. Use it to repair torn tarps, broken buckets, and just about everything except ducts.
About $9; gorillaglue.com
With a rechargeable worklight that you leave plugged in, you won't have to go looking for fresh batteries the next time the breaker trips or when you have work to do inside a dark sink cabinet. The 25 LEDs are rated to last for 100,000 hours and deliver up to 8 hours of light per charge.
About $40; Snap-on at acehardware.com
Set of Pliers
Use them to straighten bent power-cord plugs, replace old showerheads, slice wiring, and get a good grip on just about anything. This well-made kit from Channellock includes tongue-and-groove, side-cutting, needle-nose, and slip-joint pliers. About $40; channellock.com
You'll be reaching for this tool again and again to open boxes, sharpen pencils, mark mortises, and shave wood. Spend a little more upfront for one with a comfortable rubber-covered handle and built-in blade storage. Then you're more likely to pop in a fresh blade rather than forcing a dull one, which isn't safe.
About $8; stanleytools.com
Just the tool you need to spread a smidgen of spackling compound, reglaze a window, or scrape off paint or wallpaper. This one has a flexible 2-inch-wide blade.
About $7; hydetools.com
Less intimidating than a power saw and faster to set up, this handsaw is good for trimming lumber or molding stock because it cuts on the pull and push strokes.
About $13; stanleytools.com
You need one to tighten and assemble all manner of swing sets and appliances as well as plumbing fixtures. This pair of Crescent wrenches has 6- and 10-inch-long handles. Opt for the longer handle when you need extra leverage to free a stuck nut; go for the shorter handle when space is tight.
About $20; cooperhandtools.com