When I first decided to design and build my own patio furniture, the first question my father asked me was “Okay, so what tools do I need to bring over to help you with your projects?”. Honestly, I had no idea. I wasn’t sure what I would need beyond a saw and a drill. I wasn’t entirely sure what tools my husband had stashed in the garage, basement, or laundry room. My dad sighed and said, “I’ll just bring whatever I can pack in the car”.
Building the very first piece of furniture with my father was like a crash course on what tools to have around. The biggest surprise was that you can never have too many clamps. Long ones, short ones, ones that screw tight and ones that tighten with a trigger-action. You’ll use every one of them! After that first build, my dad and I made a list of “the essentials” I would need to be able to build more furniture, without borrowing his tools. So, what are the essential tools for a DIYer? Well after building several patio chairs and tables, I definitely have a list of tools I can’t live without. And my list seems to grow with each project I complete. But I wanted to make sure I was covering all bases and including what other DIYers believe to be the essentials.
So, I asked women (yes, women) from beginner DIYers to pro craftswomen to name their must-have tools. And so, without further ado, this is the comprehensive list of what is considered “the essentials” or the must-have tools to be a true DIYer:
Leading Roles - The Power Tools to own
Personally, I think all homeowners, whether they are DIYers or not, would benefit from owning at least some of these power tools. You never know when you’ll need to cut, smooth, or assemble something in your home!
power tools that cut
Some people will call this a hand-held saw or a “skilsaw”. This comes in handy for cutting a board or a panel. I once used it to shorten the legs of a chair. I’m not a super short but this chair was built for giants. So, I used the circular saw to shave a few inches off the bottom.
This saw, with the proper blade, can cut through metal pipe, plastic, wood, etc. I just used mine to cut a really long tree branch into smaller segments for backyard bonfires. When shopping for one of these, look for one with a variable speed trigger. That way you can start off slow and increase the speed once you’ve got the blade dug into the material. Also, it’s advisable to move the saw back and forth to distribute wear and tear on the blade.
I used this one for every patio furniture project. It’s also called a chop saw. Mine is mounted to a folding stand with extending arms and stops so I can do repetitive cuts in a hurry. For more information on miter saws read this article on what to look for when buying drill and tips on how to use one.
power tools that smooth
There are many, many types of sanders. I most frequently use the Random Orbital Sander and the Detail Sander to build patio furniture.
The Palm Sander is also called a finish sander. This incorporates a square pad that oscillates in tiny circular orbits. It will produce ultra-smooth finishes. So, It is great to use for finishing but you wouldn’t want to use it for removing rough stock. It’s also perfect for smoothing paint, varnish, or plaster.
An orbital sander has a rectangular or square sanding pad that moves in tiny circular paths or obits and hence the name orbital sander. You can cut a rectangle piece from the standard size sandpaper and clip it on the sanding pad. Hence this power tool is also known as sheet sander. Electric orbital sanders are mainly used for finishing large surfaces that are pre-sanded with belt sanders.
Random Orbital Sander
This type sander has a round sanding pad and works similar to an Orbital Sander. Its round pad moves in tiny circular orbits and spins. That means the movement of the sanding pad on the workpieces is random. This results in smooth and clean surfaces unlike with orbital sanders that leave a visible swirl pattern. Mine has a Velcro-like surface that the sanding discs stick to. It can quickly finish large areas and is more powerful than an orbital sander or palm sander. This sander is really versatile because it can do the function of an orbital sander and belt sander in one; it’s truly an all-purpose sander. I think I own just about every type of sander in this list, but my go-to is always this one first.
A portable belt sander is the best electric sander for flattening and smoothing wood surfaces. You would use this primarily to ensure a tabletop is flat and smooth.
This guy is handy for getting into tight spaces that need sanded. It’s not very powerful, so I always try to plan ahead, and sand pieces before they get assembled so I don’t need to try and get in to the tight spaces with the detail sander.
power tools For Attaching or Removing
A cordless drill’s main purpose is to drive screws into a material or drill pilot holes. However, it’s not great for driving really long screws into a harder material. You’ll find the screw wobbles and tilts and often gets stuck before you drive it all the way in. If you don’t want to up your game to an impact driver (discussed next), you’ll need to predrill pilot holes to help guide the screw. For more information on cordless drills and how to use them, check out this article!
An Impact driver “bumps” when the screw hits some resistance. This helps to tap it in as it rotates the screw. This makes it ideal for driving longer screws into a denser or harder material. This has become more and more popular among DIYers. But beware – it is loud, it has a lot of vibration, and it’s quite a bit more expensive than a standard cordless drill.
A Hammer drill is used primarily for drilling into concrete. If you live in a cool urban loft with concrete walls, this might be your best friend if you want to mount anything to them! However, this guy is really loud due to its hammering action. It also costs quite a bit more than a standard cordless drill.
Battery Powered Screwdriver
I bought one of these a several years ago and it came in super handy when I was repainting every room to sell my house. It makes quick work of removing outlet covers and face plates to wall switches. It’s not very powerful so it’s definitely suited for just light duty work. But it is nice that it’s smaller and fits in tight spaces.
A power tool in a category of its own
This gets its own category because it can really do a lot of different things. It’s a hand powered tool with different tips, that a lot of crafters use for carving, etching or sanding small items. There’s a wide range of tips to carve rocks or shells, wood, glass, plastic – really just about anything. It can also be used to remove grout, sharpen garden tools, or cut off nail heads. Some homeowners would claim it’s in their top 5 list of go-to tools for repairs.
Supporting Actors - The Hand-tools to own
These are your basic hand-held tools that require no battery or outlet. Although they do not require any amps, they come in super handy when working on a project, a craft, or a repair.
Socket Wrench Set
This is what you’d use to turn nuts and some bolts with more ease than a regular wrench. The ratcheting feature allows you to keep the wrench connected to the bolt and eliminates the need to refit it with every turn of the bolt. Super important if you’re an impatient person like me.
This is really popular among handywomen. If I had to guess why… C’mon we are masters of multitasking! Who else can tie a kid’s shoe, respond to an email, and prepare for a presentation to clients all at the same time?! No wonder we love a tool that multitasks as well. Here’s what it’s designed to do:
- The sharp, straight edge is ideal for scraping loose paint or smoothing plaster.
- The pointed edge is used for cleaning out and widening cracks before patching them.
- The hole in the center of the tool serves as a nail puller.
- The side is ideal for opening paint cans, and the handle has a built-in hammer, for closing paint cans.
- The curved surface can be used to squeegee excess paint out of rollers before you rinse them
This one’s great for banging pieces of wood into place when building a raised planter bed or patio chair.
Needle Nosed Pliers
This is typically used for electrical work or crafting
This is typically used to remove nails, pry apart wood crates or pallet pieces, or remove trim.
Essential for furniture kits, or tightening wall mounted towel bars.
Worksite Extras - Tools and accessories to get it done
These are the things that typically have you running out to the hardware or home improvement store after you start a project and realize you don’t have it. They are the “I’m sure I have that somewhere” tools. They never seem to get talked about or make it to a list of things to get – but they are still very essential!
- Clamps – a variety of lengths
- Tape Measure
- Saw horses
- Duct tape
- Sanding block
- Construction pencils
- Level – a large and small one
- Speed square
And there you have it! Hope you found this helpful! Did I miss something? Shoot us an email and let us know!