The Best Tools for Your DIY Project

The Right Tools for the Job

Kate Taylor

I relocated my shop recently, and packing it up reminded me that years of building have left me with an awful lot of tools. Many of them are very specialized—and in some cases, pretty obscure to the average DIYer—but they're the ones I always reach for.

12-VOLT TEST LIGHT

A very simple tool that manages to take the guesswork out of jobs like debugging a vehicle electrical system. Ground the clip, and touch parts of the system with the tip. When the light comes on, you have power.
Uses: Automotive

IRONWORKERS SPUD WRENCH

Whenever I'm bolting together something big, I'll use my spud wrench. The handle is an alignment punch—stick it in a bolt hole, and wrestle things around until the other bolt holes line up.
Uses: Structural steel work

IMPACT DRIVER

Have you ever found yourself stripping the heads of stuck screws as you attempt to remove them? Striking an impact driver with a hammer forces the bit down into the screw head as it turns. Problem solved.
Uses: Taking things apart

1/4" SWIVEL-HEAD RATCHET

This is my go-to tool, because it can be used like a ratchet or a screwdriver, and the small frame can fit almost anywhere. Tightness of the head in the frame is key, though—it's nearly useless if the head won't stay in place.
Uses: General assembly and disassembly; automotive

DESOLDERING BRAID

I constantly find myself undoing something I've just done as a project design evolves. To undo solder joints, I apply heat and wick away the melted solder with the braid. It's also a valuable tool for salvaging components from old equipment.
Uses: Electronic, automotive