The Skilled DIYer/Woodworker’s Toolbox


Serious enthusiasts who do many projects around the house will want to invest in more specialized tools or more power tools to do everything more efficiently.

  • Crowbar: When you need to pry apart boards, remove stubborn nails, do some heavy lifting, or otherwise break things, reach for the crowbar, a.k.a., pry bar. A medium size bar between 2 to 3 feet might be best for most projects. For larger demolition projects, get a wrecking bar.
  • Rubber Mallet: A rubber mallet lets you hammer or tap without damaging the surface. It comes in handy when installing laminate flooring or ceramic tile, as well as other uses, and you can pick up a decent mid-range mallet for under $25.
  • Staple gun: A heavy-duty staple gun doesn’t cost much (under $20) but has a broad range of applications: everything from roofing and upholstery to hobbies and crafts. It’s like your standard office stapler but more powerful, and comes in manual and electric versions.
  • Circular Saw: One of the most common power tools today, the circular saw’s toothed metal cutting disk cuts through masonry, tile, and steel. Prices range from $50 to $200. See This Old House’s article for advice on selecting and using a circular saw.
  • Automatic Nailer: If you’re going to be driving a whole lot of nails, a nail gun will help you save time and effort over using a hammer. Finish nailers are used to nail moldings and small trim boards (like baseboards), while brad nailers are for thinner or more delicate trim. Family Handyman says these two types of nail guns are complimentary, so if you can afford it, buy both a 15-gauge finish nailer and an 18-gauge brad nailer (together, they’ll cost $300 to $550), otherwise a 16-gauge nail gun is a good compromise (ranging from $200 to $300).
  • Impact Driver: To fasten a lot of screws or drill a bunch of holes with speed and ease (for deck-building and other woodwork), an impact driver is a worthy investment (yes, even if you already have a fancy drill). They range in price from $90 to $300. See Popular Mechanics’ review of 9 impact drivers for a cost/features comparison.
  • Cordless Dremel Rotary Tool: A Dremel (or other similar rotary tool) may not be a necessity, but it sure comes in handy for a great variety of applications. With different attachments, you can use the power tool for drilling, grinding, sanding, sawing, sharpening, routing, polishing, cleaning, carving, and engraving. It’s like a toolbox in itself. This kit includes 30 accessories and is $80.
  • Table Saws, Miter Saws, and More: For more precise, specific cuts and slices, there are a slew of specialty saws for the handyperson. Bob Vila’s Essential Tools for Woodworking lays out why you might want these saws and other items such as an air compressor, drill press, and table and belt sander. Expect to pay $500 to $1,500 (or much more) for the whole kit and caboodle.
  • Other: plumb bob or plumb line (a weight on a string for creating a vertical reference line), clamps to hold wood pieces together, sledgehammer, extension ladder, sawhorse or workbench