A tool is any mechanical implement that cuts, turns, grabs, attaches, or provides some other useful function. To perform electric can opener repair, fax machine repair, small engine repair, sewing machine repair, and most other repairs around your household you’ll need at least a few basic tools such as screwdrivers, wrenches, hammers, drills, and pliers. There are additional tools for specific jobs, such as a toilet plunger, level, clamps, paint brushes, caulk gun, etc. You can find basic tools at local hardware stores or online at Fix-It Club Tools.
Which Tools Do you Need in Your Fix-It Toolbox?
We recommend these basics:
- A good quality 8- or 16-ounce curved-claw hammer for installing and removing nails
- An adjustable wrench (6, 8, or 10 inches long) for tightening and loosening bolts
- A set of screwdrivers or a combination screwdriver with assorted tips (standard and Phillips) for tightening and loosening screws
- Adjustable pliers (6, 8, 10, or 12 inches long) for holding or turning things
- A basic multimeter for testing electrical voltage, current, and resistance.
That’s about it. For less than the cost of replacing many broken household things, you can have the basic tools you need to fix hundreds of things in your household. Just make sure you buy at least medium quality. A cheap hammer is hardly worth its price. A medium-quality hammer may last you many years. Besides, you’ll probably save the cost of the tools on your first repair — and you get to keep the tools!
You also can expand your budget to upgrade any of the basic tools covered here. For example, you can invest a couple dollars more to get a better set of screwdrivers or even a power screwdriver with assorted tips. If you want to add on to this basic toolbox to make tasks easier — or to make even more repairs — you can get these:
- Hand or power drill with assorted bits for drilling holes in wood, metal, or plastic
- Wire stripper for cutting and removing the outer wrapper (insulation) from around wires
- Retractable-blade utility knife for cutting softer materials such as plastics
- Measuring tape for measuring the height, width, or depth of various materials
- Hand, hack, or power saw for cutting wood, plastic, or metal (depending on the blade used)
- Set of wrenches (open- and closed-end) with standard (inches) and metric (millimeter) sizes for bolts and nuts
- Socket wrench set with standard (U.S.) and metric sizes using 1/4-, 3/8-, or 1/2-inch ratchet drives for bolts and nuts
- Allen wrench set for tightening and loosening Allen-head screws and bolts
- Files are useful for removing excess metal, plastic, and wood.
In addition to common screws and screwdrivers, you may occasionally run in to spanner and Torx fasteners. Both are designed to resist tampering. A spanner bit has a notch in the middle (sometimes found on coffee makers). Torx fasteners have six points. In addition, Torx tamper-resistant screws have a post in the center that makes it even more difficult to open (found on some microwaves). If you need to get past one of these fasteners, you can purchase these special tools at larger hardware stores or auto parts centers.
A basic tool kit for painting projects
Your painting toolbox should include these items:
- Paint brushes or paint pads for applying paint and other finishes to smaller surfaces (better brushes will cost more, but will last a lot longer and spread paint more easily and evenly)
- Paint roller (frame and cover) and tray for applying paint and other finishes to larger surfaces (a better quality roller cover will last for years and apply paint more easily and evenly)
- Cartridge gun for applying caulking and other sealers
- Scrapers and sandpaper for removing paint and other finishes from wood, metal, or plastic
- A-frame ladder or sturdy step-stool for reaching higher locations
Where to Work?
One of the keys to quick repairs is having a convenient place to work. Tools, standard parts, and good lighting are all together in one place. And it’s a place where you can leave things spread out if needed without complaints or losing parts.
Like where? To start, a corner of the dining room or a spare room will work. Parts and tools can be in a small tool chest or even a cardboard box. Nothing fancy, just efficient. Or you can use a small desk in an extra room or in your garage. A used student desk can be purchased for less than the cost of a repair and will give you working surface plus storage for tools and parts. Someday you may have a fix-it bench in the garage (as we do), or even a separate shop, with all the tools you’ve purchased with the money you’ve saved by fixing things yourself.
Soldering is simply attaching two objects together with a metal alloy, called solder, that melts at relatively low temperature, then hardens into a metal joint. The type of solder used depends on the job: joining copper pipe, electronic parts, or other components. Some solders require a cleaning agent first, called a flux. Other solders have the flux combined with the solder.
Choose a soldering tool (iron, gun), solder, flux, and other tools based on the job you want to do. Follow instructions that come with the soldering tool. Typically that means heating the work (pipe, electrical connection, etc.) with the soldering tool, then touching the solder wire to the work (not the soldering tool) until the solder melts to form a union.
Many household sewing repairs can be completed with a few stitches, either by hand or on a sewing machine. Clothing, blankets, towels, dolls, upholstered furniture, and other items made with fabric occasionally need fixing. Seams and hems come un-stitched. Tears and holes happen. You’ll need needles, pins, thread, and scissors. If you use a machine, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
First, match the thread to the project. Use poly-wrap polyester for most fabrics, but cotton-wrap polyester works well for jeans. If you’re not sure what thread or needle to use, ask at your fabric shop.
The back stitch
The back stitch is the hand alternative of the sewing machine straight stitch. It can be used to repair a seam. Insert a threaded needle (be sure to knot the thread) from below the fabric layers 1/8 inch to the left of where your stitching should begin. Pull the thread through the fabric until the knot is snug against the fabric. Then insert the needle 1/8 inch behind where the thread emerges. Then bring the thread up 1/4 inch beyond this insertion and pull the thread up snug. Bring the needle up 1/4 inch beyond the latest insertion and pull through. Continue stitching as far as needed.
The slip stitch
A slip stitch can be used to repair a seam from the top. Push a threaded needle (be sure to knot the thread) through the material on one side of the opening, and then on the other. Continue until the seam is closed.
The overhand stitch
An overhand stitch is useful for reattaching fabric parts, such as an ear or limb of a stuffed animal. Begin by pushing the needle diagonally from the back edge of the opening to the front. Then inset the needle behind the first stitch and bring it out a stitch length away. Continue until the repair is completed.
The cross stitch
The cross stitch will hold patches securely in place. Begin by sewing a series of angled stitches across the edge of the patch. When you reach the end of the seam or the outline of the patch, reverse direction and sew back over each of the angled stitches.