What’s in the Bag – Basic Tools for a Workshop

In Gear by DanLeave a Comment

When you are getting started, it’s hard to decide what to buy, or what you need to have in your toolbox or tool bag. So, I thought we’d have a quick look at the collection that most of us end up with at some point, or the basic tools for a workshop. In the future, we will add to this with specialty hand tools, power tools and more! Tag along and let me know if you think I missed anything…

Safety Stuff

  •  Safety Glasses
  • Ear plugs or Ear muffs
  • Dust mask
  • Basic first aid kit

Click here for more safety gear recommendations

Measuring and Marking Stuff

  • 12′ tape measure – 1/2″ wide blade, this one fits in a pocket and is light weight
  • Combination square – The head slide on the rule, so you can make multiple marks at the same distance. It also lets you check for square and mark at 45 degrees.
  • Rafters square – 16″x 24″ – a larger square for checking angles and marking larger items.
  • Speed square – 7″
  • 6″, 12″ and 36″ rules – measure, mark and draw straight lines

Hand Saws
It feels like the days of the handsaw are long gone, soooooo many electric saws to choose from… but the more I build things the less I think this. Am I likely to rip a board, or build a full piece of furniture with hand tools, not likely, but I do admire the guys who do. What I am recommending as a first purchase is a small and aggressive cross cut saw like the Stanley 20-045 15-Inch Fat Max Hand Saw. This type of saw makes quick work of cutting any wood to size. Short enough to fit in a toolbox, but a real work horse when you need it. Having this in my kit means I don’t have to drag out a power saw for a quick cut.

  • 15″ Hand saw – The FatMax from Stanley is aggressive and good for general use
  • Japanese pull saw – finer cuts
  • Coping saw – cut circles and other shapes

General Hand Tools
You’ll need a good hammer for hanging pictures, driving nails or knocking things apart. I like a 20 oz hammer for general use. You want to try a couple out to find one that “fits”.

When looking at hammers it’s important to remember that a heavy hammer will wear you out, but it does a lot of the work for you (it requires fewer blows to drive a nail). A light hammer requires extra blows, so it can be more work.

I also like the anti-vibration handles, but they cost a few dollars more. You also need to consider the use. Both types of claw hammer will work well for you. The curved claw hammer is a great hammer for pulling nails (the extra curve helps with leverage). Rip claw is better for helping pull things apart (the straighter claws let you wedge and pry more).

  • Hammers
    • Curved claw hammer – 16 oz
    • Finish hammer – 8 oz
    • Dead blow hammer – 1 lb
  • Screwdriver set, or bit set – (flat, Phillips, square, torx)
  • Basic Bench Chisels – 1/4″, 1/2″, 3/4″ and 1″
  • Pliers – slip joint, needle nose, side cutters
  • Utility knife
  • Pry bar – 15″
  • Level – 24″
  • Brad point drill bits (1/8″ to 1/2″ in 1/8″ increments) – great for wood
  • Twist bits – (1/16″ to 1/2″ in 1/32″ increments) – general use


Wrenches & Ratchets

  • Combination wrench set
    • Standard (1/4, 5/16, 11/32, 3/8, 7/16, 1/2, 5/8 and 9/16 inch)
    • Metric (6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14 millimeter)
  • Socket set with ratchet – 1/4″ & 3/8″ drive with ratchet handle and extension – Standard and Metric

Miscellaneous Stuff

  •  A Book of wiring instructions
  • Electric current tester – simple one for checking if the current is live
  • Staple gun – hand power
  • Clamps – (you never have enough) mixed sizes of adjustable clamps and clips
  • Saw horses
  • Portable work bench

Power Stuff

  • 1/2″ cordless drill/driver
    • These can be corded or cordless. If you go cordless, go for 18v to 24v for plenty of power. Look at combination sets
  • Jig saw
  • Circular saw with blades (71/4″ – 24 (rough) and 40 (smooth cross cut) tooth
  • Palm sander – 1/4 sheet or orbital
  • Shop Vacuum

A Place to Store Stuff

  • 5 gallon bucket with tool liner – These line the bucket with canvas pockets for storing everything. Easy clean up at the end of the day
  • Tool Bag – a canvas bag for holding a little bit of everything
  • Tool Box – You can choose a carry around box or a large tool chest, depending on your needs
  • Tool Chest – They lock, they have wheels, they take up space, but boy can you be organized

This is a general list to get you started. When shopping for tools, be a smart shopper. Do your homework. Buy the best tools you can afford, cheap tools will need replaced sooner than later.

So, what did I miss? What would you add to the tool bag?

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