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Ideal workshop tools and equipment

Updated on January 11, 2015

This page will give you some help for planning what to put in your home workshop if you are starting off or to add to your collection of important and useful tools.

First of all, a toolbox

Tool boxes come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes, some robust, some not so robust. If you look hard enough, there will be a tool box suited to most different types of trade. Some ideal tool boxes for use at home are plastic ones with a removal top and deep bottom, large square boxes on wheels, small boxes with handles, tough fabric bags or metal ones with anywhere between 2 and 10 drawers. Also on the market are assortment boxes that are divided up into sections to put all of those "not always used but important items" such as fuses, raw plugs, electrical connectors, washers, nuts, screws, air fittings etc etc. If you already have some odd tools lying around, think whether they will best be suited to drawers or thrown into one big box and also how neatly you wish to store them. Once you have decided this, you have an idea of what sort of tool box it is you are looking for.

Tough fabric tool bag

This tool bag is ideal for storing all sorts of things such as hammers, files, screwdrivers, tape measure, spanners, a box of drills, spirit level, wire, all sorts of things. Everything can just be thrown in and can be taken anywhere around the home.
This tool bag is ideal for storing all sorts of things such as hammers, files, screwdrivers, tape measure, spanners, a box of drills, spirit level, wire, all sorts of things. Everything can just be thrown in and can be taken anywhere around the home.

Organising box

Ideal for storing all those small bits; electrical connectors, fuses, screws, jubilee clips, hose clamps, bolts, nuts, washers, raw plugs, welding tips, electrical tape, bits of string etc.
Ideal for storing all those small bits; electrical connectors, fuses, screws, jubilee clips, hose clamps, bolts, nuts, washers, raw plugs, welding tips, electrical tape, bits of string etc.

Metal tool box

Metal tool box with drawers and compartment in the top. Ideal for neat storage of spanners, screwdrivers, sockets & ratchets, files, hammers etc.
Metal tool box with drawers and compartment in the top. Ideal for neat storage of spanners, screwdrivers, sockets & ratchets, files, hammers etc.

Screwdrivers

Every good DIY-er has a good set of screwdrivers or different sizes and lengths. Some jobs need short stubby ones, others need long handled ones to squeeze through a tight gap. A good selection of screwdrivers with different types of head will put you in good stead for any DIY job. There are also insulated screwdrivers for doing electrical jobs as well as screwdrivers that have an LED inside to show whether there is power coming through wires. Choose the right type for your application.

Insulated screwdrivers

Insulated screwdrivers can be distinguished by the red and yellow coloured handles. These will protect you if there is any chance of power going through something. Always turn the power off first!
Insulated screwdrivers can be distinguished by the red and yellow coloured handles. These will protect you if there is any chance of power going through something. Always turn the power off first!

A vice

Every workbench needs a vice. A vice is a piece of equipment that has one fixed jaw and one moving jaw. The handle is turned and a screw moves the outer jaw inwards or outwards depending on how big the job is. They are one of the most useful pieces of equipment for holding things whether it is cutting a piece of wood, holding something while glue is drying, filing a piece of metal, cutting some pipe, crushing or squashing things. If you have a hot piece of metal that is too hot to touch, put it in the vice and do it up and the heat will transfer though the metal jaws and cool the job down quicker. Vices come in different shapes and sizes, so choose the right one for you. A common type is a mechanics vice.

Adjustable spanners

Not everyone wants a whole set of spanners and one or two different adjustable may suit those one off jobs you need to do such as the odd bit of plumbing or disconnecting the battery on a car. An adjustable spanner will fit any size nut or bolt within its maximum jaw width and although is not as good as a combination spanner, it will save space for sure.

Three sizes of good quality adjustable spanners give large scope to a range of one off big or small jobs.
Three sizes of good quality adjustable spanners give large scope to a range of one off big or small jobs.

Mechanics vice

This piece of equipment is bolted to the work bench and will help you out with more jobs than you ever imagined. It is an extra pair of hands.
This piece of equipment is bolted to the work bench and will help you out with more jobs than you ever imagined. It is an extra pair of hands.

Bench drill

Some jobs need holes drilling square and the perfect tool for the job is a small bench drill. These come in different sizes, some have 5 speeds, others have more. Some stand on the bench and some have a floor stand built onto them. An electric motor drives a pulley which drives a belt that is connected to another pulley. This turns a shaft inside which then turns the chuck with the drill bit in. The pulleys are stepped so you have the option to change the speed of the drill bit depending on the material type and drill diameter. A very useful accompaniment is a hand held drilling vice. Watch those fingers!

A bench drill is the ideal tool for drilling holes perpendicular to the job you need to do. You can drill wood, plastic, metal, and on some models can tilt the table to drill angles holes.
A bench drill is the ideal tool for drilling holes perpendicular to the job you need to do. You can drill wood, plastic, metal, and on some models can tilt the table to drill angles holes.

Drilling vice

A drilling vice is a must when drilling anything using the bench drill. Hold the work piece securely in this instead of losing your fingers.
A drilling vice is a must when drilling anything using the bench drill. Hold the work piece securely in this instead of losing your fingers.

Bench grinder

A bench grinder, also known as an off-hand grinder, is a grinder that is mounted to the work bench. It is extremely useful for doing small jobs such as grinding drills, taking the corner off something, putting a small chamfer along an edge, sharpening a lawn mower blade or even sharpening a pencil.

This bench grinder is higher up the range and has a built in work light to make it easy to see what you are doing. A very useful tool.
This bench grinder is higher up the range and has a built in work light to make it easy to see what you are doing. A very useful tool.

Battery operated drill

A battery operated drill is a very useful tool for drilling smaller holes and doing drilling halfway up the garden where the extension lead just isn't quite long enough. It saves a lot of set up time and tidy up time with regards to wires and extension leads. This type of drill is small and lightweight and ideal for doing things such as countersinking of holes, fast screwing in and out of screws and drilling holes around the house or in the loft. There are also no cables to drill through so the safety aspect is also thought of. Again, choose the size and power output for the range of jobs you are doing. A good benchmark would be either a 14v or 18v drill with a sophisticated charger to tell you when the battery is fully charged. Most battery drills come with a keyless chuck so there is no need to worry about forgetting where you put the chuck key.

Kettle

As any DIY-er or engineer will know, having a cup of tea on the go is an essential part of every job! Having a kettle in the workshop will save you getting in trouble with the wife when she makes a cup of tea and ends up with a black hand!

Lamp

Having a lamp on the workbench can be very useful, even in daylight. Having that bit of extra light focused on a certain part of the job you are doing will be very helpful and could mean the difference between an "alright" job and a "perfect" job.

Being able to see properly is always a bonus! And could also mean you get to finish the job with all your fingers!
Being able to see properly is always a bonus! And could also mean you get to finish the job with all your fingers!
Ideal for quick and easy small jobs anywhere.
Ideal for quick and easy small jobs anywhere.

4 1/2 Inch angle grinder

The angle grinder is a very useful tool and a 240v 4 1/2 inch (diameter of cutting disc) is ideal for home use. Some types of discs that can be purchased are flap discs for linishing metal or wood, metal cutting discs for cutting through metal, metal grinding discs for taking large amounts off a piece of metal, stone cutting discs for cutting slabs for the garden path, masonry discs for doing jobs on the house such as re-pointing. An angle grinder will always come in useful and having a couple of spares of each type of disc will mean you can always carry on with the job. The power output you want to look for is around 800w, this will comfortably do any job you throw at it.

Safety equipment

Safety equipment may not always be desired but can potentially save your life. A good pair of boots will save your toes if you drop anything or if the grinder slipped whilst you had your foot holding the job down. Safety glasses can be worn all of the time not to mention when doing grinding, drilling, cutting, chiselling or any job where material is being removed. Ear defenders are a must for doing noisy jobs such as using an angle grinder or circular saw. Gloves are a good idea to have, choose the appropriate ones to suit the range of jobs you do. For example, if you are doing small fiddly jobs with tiny screws and springs, it is not a sensible idea to wear a thick pair of rigger gloves. Disposable gloves are a good option for doing jobs on the car or anything that involves grease, oil or chemicals of any sort as these can have long term side affects that can ruin your skin for life. Guards on machinery such as a chuck guard on a bench drill may stop you having swarf hit your face, guards on grinders will help to stop sparks and small bits of wheel/disc hit you. Although guards and other safety equipment might seem like a hindrance but they have all been designed and made for a reason, to keep you and other people safe. If they are there, it is a wise decision to treat them with respect and use them. Remember never wear any loose clothing that can get snagged or caught in something spinning around, you can easily be drawn in and before you can even think to stop the machine, you have had a finger ripped off or worse. A good way to avoid this is to wear an overall that is relatively tight to your body and has no loose dangly bits.

Safety glasses

Ear defenders

Safety boots

These are best tried on first instead of bought online. Boots have a different fit to shoes or trainers so it's best to get the size and style right for your feet.
These are best tried on first instead of bought online. Boots have a different fit to shoes or trainers so it's best to get the size and style right for your feet.

Overall

All of the tools and equipment here can be purchased either from the internet brand new or used, or from DIY stores for relatively good prices. It is never a bad idea to read reviews on different products to see how people have found them before you decide you like the nice shiny drill that actually only has one speed. Also, spending that extra £5-10 could buy you a tool that lasts for life. Remember, safety first! Enjoy your new workshop!

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