Hand tools have many uses, and they do not require batteries or electricity to run. They are powered by you, and they are both reliable and durable. If you’re looking to upgrade your garage with a new set of tools, consider the most common types of hand tools mentioned in this article.
What are hand tools?
Hand tools are manually powered tools, often made for one specific purpose. Most of the common hand tools have been around for decades or even centuries, and they’re both reliable and affordable. If stored and handled correctly, these tools will often last longer than a lifetime.
The simplest forms of hand tools have been found in excavation sites all around the world and have been used since the early ages, to perform simple tasks such as drilling holes and cutting wood.
Below are some of the most common hand tools and their uses. You might find that these hand tools are more useful than they seem, and they are a great addition to every household. Not only can they be used for the most simple of repairs, but even more complex and specific-trade work and hobbies such as woodwork, metalwork or blacksmithing, leatherwork, and many more.
1. Allen keys
Allen keys, also known as hex keys or Allen wrenches, are torque-based tools used with screws and bolts that have hexagonal screw sockets. These are commonly used for bicycle and furniture repair. Allen key sets come as L-shaped or T-handled, but it is more common to find L-shaped Allen sets with a variety of key sizes.
Anvils are not exactly a ‘hand tool’ as they are heavy in mass and are used for striking hot metal against the anvil into the desired shape. An anvil is a metalworking tool that is squared-off on one end and rounded to a point at the opposite side. This might not be everyone’s go-to tool, but if you are working with blacksmithing and shaping hot metal, it is necessary to have one in your workshop.
The term awl covers a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and uses. It is often used in trades of bookbinding, leatherwork, shoemaking, woodwork, and even metal. It consists of a sharp screwdriver-like blade attached to a wood handle and used primarily for piercing the workpiece. Some awls, however, are even specialized for stitching such as with leatherwork.
A common wedge-type hand tool that comes in all shapes and forms for a wide variation for different uses. Axes are primarily used for chopping wood, and the choice of an ax will be determined by the use. From the firewood-cutting hatchet, all the way to the fireman’s ax, even to large felling axes for cutting down standing trees, there are so many different types of axes to choose from.
The brace, also known as a brace and bit, is a classic hand-operated tool that is still used up to this day. It consists of a ‘U-shape’ tool that requires the attachment of a ‘bit’, which is usually a drill bit, but other attachments are also interchangeable for this hand tool. This woodworking tool is handy for boring perfect holes with the precision that the electric drill might not always be able to accomplish.
The bradawl is a type of awl used for making intricate details and is commonly associated with the woodworking trade. It acts as a point-marking tool for drawing lines on a workpiece; a hole puncher for a pilot hole for nails and screws; and even for scribbling lines on sheets of metal.
Although chisels come in a variety of shapes and sizes, they are most notable for their metal beveled cutting edge attached to a wood handle. Depending on the trade as well as the uses, such as woodworking, masonry, and blacksmithing, chisels are used for making cuts, grooves, and holes in the project. Usually paired with a hammer or mallet, chisels are also used for making small intricate designs.
These are a must-have in any workstation or any project. Clamps are perfect for holding your workpiece in place. Whether it is on your workbench, installing a project, or even gluing two pieces together, clamps will do the trick. They come in all shapes and sizes and have different specialties for different types of work types.
A crowbar is a lever-type tool for moving heavy objects. They are handy tools that are commonly used for opening nailed-shut wooden crates or to pry apart wood boards. These are also used as a type of wrecking bar for demolishing, as well as for mining and farming.
A file is a metal hand tool made for removing metal, wood, and even plastic in small increments at a time. You can find files in a set, with each file holding a different edge. Finer files are used to smoothen a rough surface or return a blade to a sharpened edge. Different files are made for different projects, and each file leaves a distinct finishing texture on the workpiece.
When working in darker areas, it is necessary to have light to see what you are working on, or what tools you are using. Flashlights do the job. There are different types of flashlights in size, brightness, and portability. Some types of flashlights can even be wrapped around the user’s head/helmet to keep their hands free.
A hammer is a handy type of striking tool for a specific spot, commonly used for pounding nails into wood. Hammers come in different sizes, such as mallets and sledgehammers; useability depends on what you will be striking. Some hammers may only have one flat size for striking and at the other end a claw-type for removing nails or even a ball-peen for striking metal.
13. Hand drills
A manual hand drill is used for making holes in soft, thin, and vulnerable workpieces. Not only does it not require electricity, but by simply turning the rotating handle you can drill with little effort. A brace and bit is a type of hand drill, as well as the commonly known ‘Eggbeater’ hand drill. These all make use of the wheel and axle to lighten the effort of drilling.
14. Hole punchers
Hole punchers are commonly used for leatherwork to punch belt holes (and leave grommets), as well as for metal sheets and other materials. They come in different sizes depending on the size of the hole to be punched. It either comes as a single contraption, or in a set with different interchangeable parts and paired with a hammer to pound unto the puncher.
A type of wedge tool, the most common knife in any workshop is the utility knife. Small, compact, and sturdy, the utility knife is an all-around tool that helps with everyday tasks and even intricate work. Utility knives can have the blade retracted when not in use, keeping them portable and safe.
Ladders are required when working with extended heights—from replacing light bulbs, to painting ceilings, even to simply store an item at the top of your highest shelf. Ladders come with potential hazards when used for a situation incorrectly, so safety should always be a priority.
When it comes to bigger projects, a level is required to measure the surface of the workpiece. For horizontal projects, even though there are laser levels, the most common is the spirit level, also known as a bubble level. On the other hand, a plumb (although a horizontal level can also be used) is more appropriate for vertical projects.
18. Miter boxes
If you have no space for a bandsaw or miter saw, miter boxes are affordable and just as precise substitutes. Miter boxes are used for accurate cutting angles of wood, and other materials, to fit edge joints perfectly. Miter boxes are paired with a fine-tooth handsaw that fits in an angled groove within the miter box.
Planers are a small box-like tool with many components, these are used for flattening and smoothing out a wooden surface. Since these are manual hand tools, they are not only affordable, compared to their bigger, faster electric counterparts. But when paired with a sharp blade, you can shave to the finest detail.
Pliers are one of the most useful torque-type hand tools. They are used for holding, bending, straightening, and even removing different materials that cannot be done with human hands. There are different types of pliers that have now evolved for different jobs, there are even adjustable and locking pliers when firmer grips are required.
21. Pry bars
Pry bars are the younger brother to crowbars as they are flatter and smaller in size. Pry bars have similar features to crowbars with a curved end and a straight end with each end a claw to help with the removal of nails. Pry bars are used often in construction and come in many lengths and sizes.
Punches are small, narrow tools with a sharp tip at one end, and a larger blunter side at the other end. These tools are used for punching or cutting into the workpiece, different points have different textures. They are paired with a hammer or a mallet, this is used to pound the blunt side of the punch into the project.
23. Rubber mallets
Rubber mallets are a variety of the all-around hammer. The difference would be that its head is larger than the average hammer and made of rubber. This is to deliver softer blows without damaging the workpiece and is the best pick for shaping metal without leaving any marks.
Although there are many types of Saws, all have a metal blade with a serrated edge. Although there are power saws that use electricity. Crosscut saws, hacksaws, and many other hand saws do not. They are cost-effective, and with a sharp serrated edge, you can cut effortlessly through wood, metal, plastic, and other materials.
One of the most common hand tools, not only for the workshop but even for household tasks. Although they are only used for cutting, scissors are also made for specific uses. Sewing scissors, pruning shears, even suture scissors are types of scissors, but all are made of very different materials and have different uses. So specific projects may demand a specialized scissor type.
Screwdrivers are a must-have tool for almost every trade with the main purpose to tighten two workpieces together with a screw. As each screw slot has a different form, the paired screwdriver bit must also match the screw. Philips, Slotted/Flat-head, and Star are just some of the types of screwdrivers. You can also find a screwdriver body, usually magnetic, that comes with assorted screwdriver bits that are interchangeable.
27. Staple guns
Staples are used often in upholstery, cabinetry, and insulation, staples are used as a better substitute than nails, as they are more difficult to remove. A handheld staple gun is a convenient tool used to drive these staples into a hard surface such as wood, plastic, and other materials with a simple press of a trigger.
28. Tape measures
The tape measure is the must-have tool for any kind of trade. These are required for reading exact measurements of your project, may it be small or large. Retractable measuring tapes that fit in the pocket are the perfect tool and usually come in lengths of 12 feet, 25 feet, up to 100 feet, and even longer.
29. Tool belts
A tool belt is a handy piece of equipment for any trade. It is worn around the waist and allows the wearer to place the needed items carefully balanced. When arranged properly and with time, this allows the wearer to naturally grasp the needed tools while maintaining focus on the task at hand. This saves time and effort, especially when not in the workstation.
30. Try squares
Try Squares are essential especially in fabrication, notably in woodworking. They are tools used to check the 90° angles of your project, whether it is the inside or outside corner, edges, even the flatness of the workpiece. Try squares come in different sizes but have the same shape, a stock (which is thicker than the blade), and a metal blade with precise markings.
Also spelled as a vise, a vice is a semi-permanently mounted apparatus made of two parallel jaws, one is moveable, one is not. It is used by securing a project to be worked upon, such as sawing and hammering. Although the vice is usually made of cast iron and for working with metal, it may still be used for other materials. However, there are special vices that are mounted differently from the standard vice.
32. Wooden mallets
A wooden mallet is also a type of hammer, with a relatively larger head and made of wood, thus its striking face is softer than that of steel, similar to the rubber mallet. Because of this, it will not deform any material the same way using a steel hammer would. Wooden mallets are used primarily with woodwork; it is commonly paired with chisels for better control of the sharp tool.
Wrenches and pliers are similar torque-type tools. They are used mainly for loosening or tightening objects that use bolts, nuts, or anything threaded (such as pipes). Wrenches come in different sizes to fit the bolt/nut, they usually come in a combination of sizes in a set. Most common wrenches come either with an open end, or a box-end.