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Essential hand tools for D.I.Y. beginners

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Want to get started with D.I.Y. projects but don’t know where to start? Here’s a helpful list of every hand tool you should need.


We explain what you need, why you need it, and provide tips from some of Bunnings Workshop’s most trusted community members.


This helpful advice from @Tara86 is also worth keeping in mind: “My advice for all beginners is to do your research before purchasing anything. Everyone’s D.I.Y. journey is different, so it’s important you purchase the tools best for you.”


If you need any advice, don’t hesitate to ask. We’re here to help.




What: A wooden or plastic handle with a weighted metal head that is rounded at one end, with a fork-like claw at the other.


Why: Used for driving nails into wood or removing nails with the claw end. Aside from your D.I.Y. projects, most flatpack furniture will almost always have a laminate panel that needs tacking onto the back with small nails.


They say: “The humble hammer is one of the most versatile tools and a must for all newbies. It builds, it breaks, it nails, and de-nails. It aligns, it forces. It makes dents or removes them. The hammer is so versatile that we have a saying in New Zealand: ‘If it can't be fixed with Number 8 wire and a hammer, it can't be fixed at all’. @woodenwookie 


Phillips screwdriver


What: This the screwdriver with the pointed cross shape at the end.


Why: Most people use Phillips screws because you can get a tighter fit than with flathead screws. Almost all projects require screws, and most screws are Phillips, so this is an absolutely essential piece of kit. It’s worth getting a selection of different sizes.


They say: “A Philips screwdriver is probably the most used tool in my possession - caravans have screws everywhere!” @Peggers 


Flathead screwdriver


What: The screwdriver with the straight flat tip.


Why: Older pieces of furniture tend to have flathead screws, which were the norm in the past, and so you’ll need this alongside your Phillips. It is also used as paint tin opener!


They say: “The Kincrome Ratchet Screwdriver is my choice, it comes with multiple bits that store in the handle and it has a reasonable grip. Much less brutal than an impact driver when the material may be a little fragile and some feel is needed to prevent stripping the screws.” @Brad 


Tape Measure


What: A flexible and retractable steel ruler for measuring lengths.


Why: Whether wood, metal, carpet or glass, you need to have measurements for any project. Things need to line up and fit together.


They say: “A good retractable tape measure with a long ‘Standout’ (ability to extend without bending), is essential… if the specs don’t mention the standout you will be frustrated when you need to measure anything away from you.” @TedBear 


Utility knife


What: Also known as a Stanley knife or craft knife, this is a sharp cutting tool comprising a handle with a small retractable razor blade.


Why: Used for cutting materials such as vinyl flooring, carpet or plastic sheeting, you can get a deep, straight, thin and accurate cut.


They say: “Handy for getting into packaging and trimming up your masking for painting while the blade will retract to go safely into your toolbox.” @Brad 




What: Also known as a panel saw, this is a solid flat cutting tool with a serrated edge.


Why: This is for cutting (sawing) through wood and timber. At some stage you could also add a jigsaw for smaller, more intricate cuts.


They say: “A handsaw gives you more options for projects - you don’t need to buy wood in an exact size if you can cut it yourself.” @prettyliving 


Adjustable wrench


What: Also known as an adjustable spanner, this is a wrench that can change the size of its opening.


Why: Almost always used to tighten or loosen nuts and bolts.


They say: “Buy good quality and a variety of sizes. Don't use them as hammers!” @Noyade 




What: They look like chunky scissors, but pliers have opposing jaws to grip, rather than cut.


Why: Used mostly for gripping, such as when tightening bolts, but also to remove items such as nails or screws from wood by gripping, twisting and pulling.


They say: “Pliers are ‘life-savers’ that can rescue many situations, such as removing a chewed out screw head or nail with no head left on. Just grab the top of the item and twist, or lever it out. Also great for holding things more powerfully than your fingers can while drilling, bending, etc.” @TedBear 


Spirit Level


What: Using an air bubble in liquid as the indicator, a level is used to show how parallel or perpendicular a surface is.


Why: Used on a variety of D.I.Y. projects, but especially when building decks or tables to ensure a flat, even surface.


They say: “Underated at first but critical if you aren't a fan of wonky things. This for me is a must have me has improved my accuracy game... While also ensuring all photo frames hung are level”. @diy_hausdesigns 




What: An L-shaped ruler used for drawing perpendicular lines at measured intervals.


Why: In theory you can measure both sides of a plank of wood, mark dots and then join them with a ruler, but there always seems to be some inexactness to that. A square will give you perfect lines at right angles every time.


They say: “Highly recommended, great for marking your cut lines so that everything will line up later on” @prettyliving 


Paint brushes


What: A tool with a handle and bristles used to apply paint.


Why: Either for paint, stain or varnish, you’ll need a brush to apply the finishing touches to a project. Wide brushes for big surfaces, narrow brushes for deft touches. And a dry brush to flick away dust before you start painting or varnishing.


They say: “Some may think all paint brushes are the same but over the years I’ve learnt that they defiantly are not and you really do get what you pay for. The better quality the brush the better the finish will be. Also when choosing a brush, find one that is specifically designed for the purpose you are want to use it for. For example, what type of paint you are using, or if you are using it to cut in corners. Find a brush that suits that purpose.” @prettyliving 




What: Call it a C-clamp or a G-clamp, this is an adjustable grip for holding things steady.


Why: Ideal for holding things together while the glue sets between them, or sometimes just an extra pair of hands for holding something in place while you work on it.


They say: “Never has a tool been more useful when making boxes or picture frames. This tool is indispensable when you are by yourself and need to join two pieces of timber to create the first join of one side of a box or cabinet.” @redracer01 


Putty knife


What: Also referred to as a paint scraper, this is a thin, flat, metal edge with a wooden handle.


Why: You need a putty knife for scraping wallpaper from walls, paint from wood, plaster from concrete, or any surface that needs scraping clean as part of preparation. It can also be used for applying filler or plaster.


They say: “While the 5-in-1 or 7-in-1 scrapers are the flavour of the month if you are trying to fix an old-style window and you don't have a glazier’s finger skills, a putty knife is great for removing old lose putty and with some practice replacing it, also good to use for filling wood.” @Brad 




What: Long steel tool with a roughened surface used for abrasion.


Why: Some materials are too tough to be smoothed with sandpaper and need something stronger to break down the edges. And sometimes when something doesn’t quite fit perfectly, a file can reduce the size minutely - a cut with a saw might be too big.


They say: “Get all the cross-sectional shapes available and buy good quality.” @Noyade 


Ruler and pencil


What: Just like in your school pencil case - a 12-inch steel rule and a lead pencil.


Why: Every project needs marking and measuring - and a pencil and steel ruler are your best friends.


They say: “Pencil marks can easily be sanded or wiped off. Pen can be permanent.” @Peggers 


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6 Replies
Kind of a Big Deal

May I add that another good use for a knife is for making cleaner cuts when using a saw. If you run the knife along your cut line on the face that you will see and then saw along it on the waste side of the line, the knife cut will provide a clean (pre-cut) edge,  whereas a saw blade can shatter the wood fibres and give a fuzzy edge. [While on the subject of clean cut saw edges, if you want a clean cut on the bottom surface when using a circular saw, set the saw depth to protude less than one tooth depth (unless using a very fine tooth saw). That way the teeth slice neatly along the cut line instead if smashing upward through it  breaking the edge as it does so.] 

Also, the pliers I was referring to in the article as Life Savers are Snap-lock pliers. They can do so much more than ordinary pliers.

Kind of a Big Deal


They say: “Buy good quality and a variety of sizes. Don't use them as hammers!” @Noyade 


Since I typed that - I am now the proud owner of a Kincrome "Shammer" - combined shifter and hammer. 😃


Shifting and SmackingShifting and Smacking

Kind of a Big Deal

Spirit Level: If you are on a budget, you can download a spirit level app for free on your smartphone.

Not as rugged as a real one and has some limitations in practical use, such as your phone needing to have a straight edge (phone buttons can get in the way), but it is at least handy since you will probably always have one on you. They are also good for setting things up or measuring unusual angles.  

Becoming a Leader

I'm going to open a can of worms, but what circular saw brand is the most reliable and durable?

Bunnings Team Member
Bunnings Team Member

Hello @Tyro 


I have an old circular saw from 2006 a Makita corded circular saw. I've lost count the number of times I've dropped it from the worktable. I've changed the plug in 2008 because the dogs thought it would make a great chew toy. I've had the carbon brushes changed, but other than that it hasn't missed a beat and still cuts true.


However, last year I started to notice a slight wobble when it starts up and winds down. I suspect that the axle bearing needs changing. Hopefully spare parts are still available, despite the rough treatment it's provided 17 years of solid cutting service.




Community Manager
Community Manager

Hi @Tyro,


You should be interested in this popular discussion from a while back - The great power tools debate - Which is the best brand? Feel free to join in the discussion and add your thoughts or questions. 


These articles should also be helpful:




Hope that helps.




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