Tools Every Man Needs
Sooner or later, you're going to come across a situation in which you need some type of tool. And it's of my opinion that it's better to have a tool and not need it, than to need a tool and not have it handy. So if you don't have at least a small tool box with the essentials, you may want to consider adding that to your shopping list. And if you have a small arsenal of tools, make up some excuse to add to it. My tool strategy is that you can never have too many tools.
This is my attempt to list the essentials, but by no means is it all-inclusive. This list is to give you a start, a jumping off point, if you will.
I will offer this, when buying tools, make an effort to buy the best tool you can afford. A good tool can easily last a lifetime if it is of quality and it is taken care of properly. I can tell you from past experiences, that nothing will anger you more than breaking a tool right in the middle of a project. Trust me, a cheap tool breaking in your hand will lead your mouth to spill out obscenities in mass quantities.
A claw hammer is an absolute necessity. With a hammer you can do anything from build a house to hanging that picture on your house's wall. For years hammers came with a wood handle, but these days, you can choose between wood, metal, or graphite (and problem more). My Dad swears by a wooden handle, but I remain partial to my metal handled claw hammer. Either way, a good hammer will last a lifetime. That wooden handle can be replaced if and when it breaks, and if you end up breaking a metal handle, you might should've been using a bigger hammer to begin with.
Lufkin & Stanley Tape Measures
I can't tell you how many times I've used my measuring tape. Sometimes I measure stuff just because I'm curious about something, or because I really want to make something fit. You'll never realize just how often you'll use your tape until you own one. Even my wife uses mine quite often (of course it's because she wants to hang some picture or make some IKEA furniture fit somewhere) which is kind of sexy.
My advice is, like with any other tool, buy the best tape you can afford. You don't want a flimsy tape, or a tape made of such cheap material that you'll break the tape in two after a few uses. I worked one summer in a manufacturing factory. I used my measuring tape probably 50+ times a day 5+ days a week. You find out real quick that those $4 tapes don't last very long. My experience lead me to a Lufkin brand tape. They are expensive up front, but they are of the utmost quality. I also own a Stanley measuring tape that has lasted fairly well, too. Either way, get the best you can afford. And make sure you get one that measures up to at least 25 feet, that should pretty much cover everything you'll need under standard use.
I wouldn't make this one of my first tool purchases, but I would indeed put it on the list. You can change out the blade types to not only cut wood but also metal and plastic. I just recently completed building a simple-designed gun rack out of oak. My jigsaw made it a breeze to build. This is where extra blades come into play again. The more teeth the blade has, the easier it is to cut curves. Thus, the less teeth it has, the better a straight line it will cut.
I personally own a Dewalt jigsaw and love it. It was the first Dewalt power tool I ever bought (I've always bought Craftsmen tools, but this one was on sale) and I will be buying Dewalt power tools from here on out. I say go ahead and pay a little bit extra for that yellow paint.
Also, I don't recommend going cordless with a jigsaw. When you're cutting material, you'll need continuous, full power. A cordless might start out strong, but it's cutting power is going to quickly diminish.
Dewalt Safety Products:
A few years ago, the words "Safety Glasses" weren't even in my vocabulary. But as I've gotten older, had some close calls, and even had to have a piece of grinded metal dug out of my eyeball, I've come to appreciate safety glasses. They may not seem like they're cool to wear, but walking around with an eye patch because you've lost an eye is not any cooler. You can't regrow vision, so don't chance it. It only takes one rogue splinter, metal shard, or any piece of material to hit just right to make your sight go black.
Spring for a pair of high-impact safety glasses instead of basic-impact. I found a pair of black-tinted glasses that look a lot like fashionable sunglasses, and since I generally do a lot of my projects outside they work out great. But for inside jobs, you want a clear pair. I recently tried on a pair of yellow-tinted glasses and fell in love with them. For years I assumed yellow lenses were ridiculous, but after testing a pair I became a fan. Somehow, the yellow makes everything brighter.
You may also want to consider a pair of safety goggles when you're shopping for safety glasses. They cover more of your face and offer nearly 360 degree of eye protection. You remember that piece of metal that I dug out of my eye? I was wearing a pair of regular safety glasses when that happened. Goggles may have very well prevented that little incident from happening.
Another core product in anyone's toolbox. So many products use screws that it just makes sense that you have a tool to remove them. You can go with a multi-bit screwdriver that includes many different ends inside the handle to help cover your bases. Or if you don't want to take that route, at least start off with a standard issue flat head and phillips head screwdriver.
For hand tools, I recommend Craftsmen. All of their hand tools come with a lifetime warranty, and they're reasonably priced for high quality products. I've taken some tools back to Sears to cash in on the warranty and was pleased with the experience. They gave me back brand new equipment and didn't hassle me over how or why they broke (I will admit misuse as part of the reason). It's a great deal.
I own a muiti-bit screwdriver (actually I've got several due to receiving at least one nearly every Christmas for the past 10 or so years), but I generally don't use them. I was at Sears one day doing some Father's Day gift shopping for my Dad, and came across a 30 piece screwdriver set on sale for about $20. I couldn't pass that up. I don't really need 30 screwdrivers, but I have them just in case. Also, you may want to consider a set of micro-screwdrivers for your toolbox. I've used those several times for car audio needs, as well as tinkering with small home appliance (namely my vacuum cleaner).
I recommend at least one set of standard pliers, needle-nose pliers, and vise-grips. You can generally find a 3-piece set of pliers for a relatively inexpensive price. Vise-grips are a bit more pricey, but a 3-piece set of those are handy to have. The different vise-grips sizes are invaluable when you need a third hand and no one is around.
Again, I recommend Craftsman tools for hand tools. Spend the money now, and your grandchildren will be using the same set you bought 60 years earlier. I keep a set of pliers in all my vehicles as well as in my tool box. Their uses are endless and can be used on bolts (carefully) when a socket or wrench set is not readily available.
Simply put, a power tool is useless if it can't reach the work area. Buy a decent one and take care of it, i.e. don't drive over it or cut through it, and it'll treat you right. I started off with a 50 foot cord as my first one. A 25 foot cord may suit your needs, you'll have to be the judge of that.
As a general rule, extension cords come in 25, 50, and 100 foot lengths. I know what you're thinking: I should just buy the 100' one and cover all my bases. While this is true, I would like to point out that it really sucks having to unroll, untangle, and reroll 100 feet of cord when you only needed 18 feet to begin with. Assess your situation and buy what you think is best. You can always buy another one if you outgrow the one you have.
I don't really have a good recommendation for extension cords as far as what's best, etc. I know that they make 'regular' extension cords and 'heavy-duty' ones. Other than the the larger gauge in the heavy-duty ones, I'm not sure if there is a difference. I personally bought the cheapest 50 footer that Wal-Mart had (which was about a third the price of the heavy-duty 50 foot one) and I have had zero problems with it. But I also don't use mine just a whole lot. You'll have to be the judge on this one.