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Love tools? Need to stock a basic toolbox? Here are the top twenty necessary items to get your small project done.

(How many do you have?)

#1: Philips Screwdriver

A Philips or X-shape screwdriver is probably one of the most common tools in any toolbox. Get a screwdriver handle that accepts interchangeable tips, and you can cover a wide range of screw types and sizes.

#2: Flathead Screwdriver

A flathead or straight screwdriver is invaluable. Most light switch plates use straight screws, for example. Having the right size flathead can make a difference. So start with at least a set of three (small, medium and large) to be able to handle most jobs.

#3: Tape Measure

Your tape measure is indispensable for estimating material quantities, figuring out placement of objects, and calculating floor plans and furniture sizes. It’s always a good idea to measure more than once to make sure you’ve got it right.

#4: Level 
tools

Some people are good at eyeballing whether something is level or not. But this tool takes all the guesswork away. Remember: it takes only a slight error to make objects look off-kilter.

#5: Utility Knife

Cutting paint around windows that are stuck closed. Opening boxes. Scoring drywall. Trimming the edges of carpet. You’ll find so many uses for your utility knife that you’ll wonder how you ever got by without one.

#6: Hammer

Pounding nails, pulling nails, crowbar action, tapping things into place — it almost goes without saying that you need hammer. An expensive hammer is long and lightweight. Its leverage can assist you when you take that wall down.

#7: Putty Knife
tools

A putty knife is great for scraping dry glues and paints and for spreading putty, paste, and spackle. Buy a 1½-inch one for scraping, and a 5- or 6-inch one for spreading.

#8: Nail Set

A nail set is used for sinking nail heads below the surface of the wood. You can then fill the hole with wood putty, sand it down, and make the nail disappear. Your hammer never has to make an ugly dent in the surface you are pounding.

#9: Combination Square

This multi use tool can verify 90- and 45-degree angles for miter cuts. Use it to measure depths and short distances. Combination squares are great for scribing a straight line. A combination square also has a vial to make sure your project is level.

#10: Pliers
tools

The serrated jaws of pliers assist with holding objects firmly, as well as with pulling, pinching or bending metal.

#11: Adjustable Crescent Wrench

There is a screw built into the head of this wrench. Turning it adjusts the size of the opening, so that it fits onto most any hexagonal nut. Turning a nut with pliers just strips the edges, making it harder to get a good grip when tightening or loosening it.

#12: Wire Stripper

A wire stripper has a blade for cutting wire to the proper length. Wire strippers also have notches for scoring the insulation around wires of varying sizes. To make electrical connections, you’ll need to score the plastic insulation around a wire, then pull it off. A wire stripper makes the job easy.

#13: Hex Key Tool or Allen Key 

Some screws, especially bicycles and assemble-it-yourself furniture for which a flush screw is necessary, use hexagonal sockets. Multiple hex key sizes can be purchased separately. The leverage on these is better. But a jackknife-style provides everything you need in one tool. Your call.

#14: Power Drill
tools

A power drill is the ultimate luxury when tired hands have turned too many screws. Just be careful to stop when the fastener is tight. You don’t want strip the screw head. Don’t skimp on your drill — you will appreciate having a lot of power.

#15: Electrical cord

A rugged, well-insulated indoor-outdoor power cord will help you extend the limited cord of your tools to your job site. They’re good for yard work, too.

#16: C-Clamp

This tool can hold pieces of wood, metal, or plastic together when you need to glue, saw, or file them. Use a thin shim between the clamp and the object so the clamp doesn’t mar the surface.

#17: Flashlight

Necessary repairs can happen in dark, cramped spaces, and when the power is out. Plus, everyone loves to help by holding the flashlight for you. Flashlights don’t work without batteries, so have extras on hand.

#18: Ladder or Step Stool

Painting. Reaching the light bulb. Trimming the hedges. Stringing lights. Getting into the attic. You aren’t ten-feet tall. Many activities require a ladder.

#19: Broom and Dustpan
tools

When projects get messy, save your household broom from harsh debris by having a dedicated toolkit set.

#20: Music

Every job is made easier with music or talk radio. This is why hardware stores sell radios. A more rugged source of tunes means when you drop your hammer on it, you just pick it up and get back to work.

Photo credits: Susan Stieglitz, original photo on Houzz