Basic must have DIY tools and workspaces

Basic must have DIY tools - a checklist and work surface suggestions for the DIYer, via Funky Junk Interiors

Some may think being a junker type that I buy very little. Supply wise, that is true! However in order to mount, tweak or build anything, tools and a work area are an absolute MUST.

So what do you do if you need tools, but you don’t know what to get? And how much work area does one REALLY need?

Here is my own no frills must have list…

Cordless drill

pallet wood patio chair build via Funky Junk Interiors

If you could only afford ONE tool, this would be the one I’d say to splurge on. I have a Makita which I adore. It’s smaller scale and fits a woman’s hand like a glove. I also have a larger Panasonic which really has great power, but I find the Makita just as good. Here’s my guide… if you need two hands to hold something up, try and find something a little lighter weight yet is still a quality choice.

Cordless drills come two ways… with or without a chuck. I recommend to get a 2 pack so you have one of each. They are cheaper this way, as well as you’ll have one set up to predrill holes and the other to do the building with. MUCH quicker than changing out the bits constantly.

* a chuck requires a twisting motion to replace the bits – offers more options such as speed options and strength

* a non chuck has you changing out bits effortlessly – easier to use, not quite as powerful

Portable Cordless drill tool kit

my favourite tools

I adore my Makita cordless drill bit kit. What I love about it is the fact that you don’t have to go digging around for what you need. It’s like a purse of sorts. Everything is intact and promise me, you won’t need much more for the average build than what’s in this kit.

my favourite tools

The screwdriver bits come in different lengths, which is handy, but I admit to grabbing the long ones first. So if you find a kit with just the long, you won’t miss the short. 

Compound miter saw

Tools every DIYer needs - compound miter saw

If you only could have one saw, this would be the one. I love the fact that the saw sits on the table for stability vs holding a saw in mid air, having to balance the weight and the cut. A table top miter saw is the safest way to go, or at least to start with.

Hand held palm sander

Tools every DIYer needs - palm sander

There are two types you can choose from… the clamp on variety or the orbital (velcro type). I like both for different reasons. I find the orbital easier to change but like the motion of the clamp on better. I like having both on hand.

Toolbox for just screws


1-toolbox kits for the Hometalk MIilner event-009

How to build this toolbox HERE

Before I whipped up this toolbox especially for holding screws, I use to lug boxes around with me. The boxes contained bags of screws. It was rather messy to weed through. This is better. I can see at a glance which screws I’m running short on in order to restock too. I use this kit for my most commonly used screws I can’t live without. (prefer the drywall variety, even for wood)



Portable workbench post HERE

You need a place to work. I do most of my work in an overstuffed single car garage. It isn’t ideal by a LONG shot! But what I do to compensate for that is work outside whenever the weather allows. I actually prefer outdoors anyway.

The trick to making working outdoors is to have a portable table of some sort. I found this beauty at a thrift store for $10! But two sawhorses and a few planks will do the same thing. Just create a workspace you’re comfortable working in and your’e ready to roll.

Tools every DIYer needs - compound miter saw

And here’s my good ‘ol single car garage. It is nothing fancy. I have two Costco tables lined up on one side and the junk is all on the other. I did replace the garage doors with ones having windows and insulation, and also installed a baseboard heater and additional lighting. I do my cutting in the garage, but pull the builds outside when possible. Outdoors is dust free, and the lighting’s a whole lot better for photography.

My dream is to build a buliding section onto the back of the house with LOTS of tall windows, or just a separate barn styled shed out back. We shall see!

Good hearing protection


Don’t scrimp too much here, mine are around $45 and find them AMAZING. Cheaper doesn’t cut the sound nearly as well.

Other good basic tools / things to have:

Hammers. (I like having a few on hand because I keep losing them)

Jigsaw. (free hand cuts)

Tablesaw. (long straight cuts for big stuff)

Tape measures.

Straight edges.

Good eye protection – purchase more than one. It’s a pain looking through hazy glasses… they get scratched and cloudy with time.

A decent dust mask – you get what you pay for here. Better ones offer more protection and a better fit.

Good hand protection – when I work with reclaimed wood, I wear those rubber dipped gloves.

Clamps – holds wood in place.

Worktables – I use fold up Costco ones inside the garage.

Workmate – portable / collapsible worktable that is geared for easy clamping.

Good practices:

Wear tighter fitting clothing.

Tie long hair back.

Get help if you don’t know how to use a tool.

Practice before doing the actual work.

Work outside when you can – less dust to breathe in.

If you don’t know which brands of tools to get, I suggest to borrow from a friend to get a feel for what you might like. Or go into a store and hold what you desire to have. Make sure it’s comfortable in your hands and it offers all the options you’re after.

Creating Your Own Workshop – series HERE

For those that have followed my blog for a LONG time, you may also remember the Creating Your Own Workshop (with Miss Mustard Seed) I did many moons ago on this topic. Lots of good tips in that thread.

Tool collecting takes time. Purchase as you need, and in no time you’ll have a workshop anyone would be jealous of. :)

Which tools are on your own wish list?

Facebook Pinterest Twitter Google+ RSS

Categories: Tools & Building, What To Get
Tags: , ,

Post a comment!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. loved your post on tools! laughed when you said you keep losing hammers since I couldn’t find one yesterday that was right in front of me. Thought you might do like I’m doing and paint the handle of all hammers bright pink or orange so I can find them in the clutter of the project.

  2. I don’t think you know how talented you are? But you’re bravery and stories have inspired me to quit saying…oh, I can’t do that. To doing tons of stuff around my house! I doubt if I’ll EVER use a table saw, but keep your projects and great stories coming. You’re the best! Mimi

  3. Check, Check, and Check! I agree with your “must have’s”…and now, I MUST HAVE a cordless drill bit kit! I’ll bet that there’s a “father’s day” sale going on at my local hardware store….just in time!

    The only additions that I’d make are a pry bar (cat’s paw) and a small square. Thanks for sharing! xo

    • Oh yeah, the crow bar! (as I call it) LOVE those! (for ripping apart my messes haha) Yes, put that bit kit on your list pronto! No… just go get one. No list needed! You’ll be so thankful you did.

    • A table is so easy! You can either make one or just go pick up a Costco fold out for a quick fix. My ‘quick’ fixes have lasted 8 years and counting. :) Nice to drag outside on a whim too!

  4. When my Mother’s husband passed away, she invited me over to her help myself to tools in their work shop and take any tools I didn’t have already! Squeal!!!
    I already had a cordless Dremel with some attachments that is often used to clean up found/junk objects. I did take the corded Dremel and a ginormous kit of attachments for it. Your list reminded me to go pick up that extra set of ear protection that is in Mom’s shop…

    • How lucky are you! Handed down tools are the best! I have quite the assortment of nuts and bolts from my mom’s collection. Things I would never have purchased myself… makes for some fun playing!

  5. Excellent!! I have a very handy hubby who has a garage/shop full of every tool out there, I think, but I’ve yet to use many of them. This encourages me to learn rather than wait for him to do something for me. And to find tools that fit my hands and needs – thank you!

  6. Love your setup. I use my covered patio and have to be sure to cover all my tools up if weather is coming. Plus, it’s miseable in the winter, so mostly work on indoor stuff.

    • Oh yeah, covered patios are the best! Awesome for photography too as it’s in diffused sunshine. Mine that runs right off the kitchen is used all the time too, for things that will get too heavy to carry upstairs after the build. Building close to where your project resides can really be a big win.

  7. And the screw tote is an excellent idea! Been using my reclaimed fencing to make flower boxes… so will just make a screw tote too. Thanks, I LOVE your website.

    • I actually made that toolbox for decorating… but a mason jar happened to be in the garage and that was the end of that! Who knew toolboxes would be so handy for TOOLS? Ha! I highly recommend make one for your most used littles. You’ll be in LOVE.

  8. Well Donna, I would totally get all that stuff if you would only come down to WA and teach me how to use it all…LOL….Great post!
    Christine from Little Brags

  9. Holy smokes. I have all of that, minus the awesome ear protection. Oh yeah and the miter saw is still in the box. WHOOPS! Blame the hubs, twas a gift to him. So how lazy am I that I’m not making all of the awesome stuff you do? La-haaayy-zeee!!! Have a great weekend Donna!

    • Open that miter saw box pronto, saw something yourself (ask for help for the first try) and I guarantee you, you’ll claim it as yours! You won’t need to ask for help ever again! Just do it!

  10. Thanks for the great tool tips! I have a Mikita drill and it is great! The other tool tips are good to know, I’d like my very own! Now, if only you were my neighbor so I could get hands on experience from the expert :)

    • I had long planned to shoot videos on how to work with tools… I need to do that! Trust me, it’s as easy as working your washer and dryer! And you’ll be addicted to creating. WIN!

  11. Excellent list! I’m glad you included the safety stuff. I always wear gloves and ear protection.
    I agree with Kimberly, the next must-have is that drill bit kit!!! I’d love a table saw, but can always use Dad’s. Love the screw jar holder!

    • Once you have that baby, you’ll be running around like you won the lottery! Make sure you take pictures of it when it’s pretty and new… because it’ll be used OFTEN (and maybe even left in the rain by mistake in which everything rusts… oops!)

  12. Noi italiane guardiamo con stupore voi ameicane per come sapete utilizzare gli utensili: è straordinario!
    E tu fai sempre dei bellissimi lavori: complimenti! Ciao

  13. Hello !!!
    I love to see a beautiful woman with TOOLS !!!!! I am 62 years old and a widow. I spent years trying to get my husband to see that women CAN use TOOLS !!! He was never convinced !!! Even after I built a coffee table, and a few cool bookcases, he just couldn’t say “GOOD JOB!” to me !!! I kinda resent him still for it !! LOL I went on anyways !! I love my Drill/Driver !! That’s one of my most used tools ! I also love a miter saw as you have. Hammer, sander… check. Straight edge… check. Lotsa screws of different sizes….. check. SEWING MACHINE ….. check !!! LOL
    Keep up the great work, and never let anyone tell you you can’t do it !!!
    Love ya for it !!!
    Joline, Burlington, VERMONT

  14. This is a great list Donna and I totally agree with your first suggestion. Impact drivers are AWESOME!! Anything that can drill screws through cement board and into studs is a keeper.

    Another great tool is a torpedo level. It’s amazing how many times you just need a small level for hanging pictures, tile, etc.

    Hope you’re having a great day

  15. I’m a real big fan of the toolbox exclusively for screws. I think we’ve all had that problem of trying to keep nuts and screws in order. I know what I’ll be making this weekend.

  16. What brand and size of miter saw do you recommend? I have used my brothers and I cannot remember what size it was. I just love to see all of the projects you do. You are so talented and inspiring!
    Thanks, Anna

    • Hey Anna! I recommend you walk into a tool store and check them out. I prefer bigger over smaller so they cut more myself. I also like the ones that cut towards you, not just in one spot. When I upgrade one day, I’ll be getting the largest I can find! :) I don’t know all the sizes they come in so this is why I’m suggesting to go check them out.

      Brand… not sure. Just go for a well known brand name for certain is my suggestion. Checking online reviews could be a good idea as well. Or just ask the tool place which appears to be the best seller and why.

      Happy shopping!

  17. GREAT driver assortment, especially as its Makita and NOT “Fred’s bargain tools that break in 10 seconds”. I hate cheap tools. Super workbench list and I covet your B&D workmate. One day, one day…. You obviously have better skills than I because I would add a few tools that make up for flubs and miscuts – files, chisels, a hand plane, a rubber mallet with a white head (they don’t mar like the black ones do) and my fave, the rubber adjustable strap wrench . I live in the Bahamas and well, junk abounds. We call it beachcombing! Love your site! Thanks!

  18. I’m new here – just ran into you on Pinterest. Loved the post on tools. I have some basic hand tools, a Craftsman multi tool & scored a great rolling tool box @ Value Village for $24. Have been thinking about what to buy, so stumbling upon this post was serindipitous. I’m planning to add a level, a Dremel, a stripped screw remover & a jig (like Kreg) for drilling pockets to hide screws. Also, a nail gun seems like a handy tool to have. And eventually a paint sprayer.
    About losing tools… I’m thinking of dipping the handles in that rubberish goop. Comes in several colors. And should provide a good grip. Another thought is a pegboard wall, painted a fun color, with hooks to hang tools. Trace around the tools with a Sharpie so that when the tool is in use, you can see where to return it.
    I really like the idea of a separate screw/fastener box. I have one of those divided plastic boxes, but they’re a pain to get stuff out of.
    Thanks for the great info!
    Nancy in Kent, WA