The 5 Best Tools My Contractor Dad Ever Gave Me—and Why You Need Them, Too

published Jun 21, 2020
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My dad is a retired contractor who owns just about every tool ever manufactured. We often joke because even though he’s supposed to be retired, he still has about five of everything—measuring tapes, hammers, speed squares… they’re everywhere. Tools litter his workshop, truck, and the laundry room. (He has a separate set of “house tools” he keeps there!) My husband and I have been lucky enough to have him help us on some major renovation projects over the years, and in between, he’s gifted us some very necessary tools that he says will help with any future project that comes down the pipeline. Here are the five I’ve gotten the most use out of, and why you should own them, too.

Credit: Bosch

Cordless pocket drill/driver

You’ve probably been told before you need a heavy-duty cordless drill. And those are great! But this little pocket drill has been a game changer for us, and I’d argue that you could use this instead of a regular drill for most basic tasks. We use ours for everything in and around the house, and we’ve pulled it out for a few outdoor projects, too. That said, I wouldn’t necessarily use it for framing—it performs best when used on medium to smaller projects like installing cabinets, or hanging artwork and shelving. Its tiny, lightweight size makes it really easy to hold if you, like me, have small hands—plus, your arm won’t get fatigued if you’re working on a project that requires you hold the drill in the air for a decent amount of time. Following the example of my father, I now have more than one. And now I rarely use my big fancy power drill!

Buy: Bosch PS21-2A 12V Max 2-Speed Pocket Driver Kit, $87 at Amazon

Credit: DEWALT

Oscillating multi-tool

I legit smile when I use this tool because it really is that awesome. The blades are small, so it can easily fit into tight spots; that makes it the perfect tool for notching out trim or hard to reach spaces. It was constantly in my hands while working on our 1870’s kitchen where literally every surface was un-level and required lots of shims and trimming down. I also love it for smaller DIY projects around the house. I just installed a row of BILLY bookcases in my office and used it to cut out openings in the back of the bookcases to access electrical outlets on the wall. In addition to being a saw, it can also be used as a sanding tool.

Buy: 3 Amp Oscillating Multi-Tool Kit (29-Piece), $159 at Home Depot

Credit: Swanson

Swanson speed square

Absolutely any time we’re working on a job that requires any cutting, my dad grabs a pencil, a tape measure, and his speed square. It’s basically five tools in one handy little gadget that’s small enough to stick in your back pocket. The Swanson speed square is a protractor (used to make circles), a try square (used to check right angles on projects), a miter square (used to mark angles for cutting), a saw guide (used to… guide saws), and a line scriber (used to make semi-permanent guide lines in wood and other materials). That last one’s my favorite—I use the scribing function for smaller DIY and craft projects all the time. Yeah, that’s a lot of output from one humble little tool! If you’re confused, here’s a great video explaining how all of it works.

Buy: Swanson 7-inch speed square, $13.57 at Home Depot

Credit: Husky

End nippers

As an avid DIYer, I’m constantly working with old, junky things that are in need of a lot of TLC. I use these end nippers frequently while working on upholstery to remove staples that have busted in half. If the staples won’t come out with pliers, I can easily cut them close to the surface so that they disappear into the wood. I can also use them to grab tacks that are too small for my tack lifter. They’re also great for trimming any gauge wire, and I’ve even used them to cut penny tiles. My dad bought me my pair on a visit to Savannah, GA when I was in art school, and I remember he was so excited to introduce me to them. He knew how essential they were and was excited to pass the knowledge on to me.

Buy: Husky 7-inch end nipper, $12.97 at Home Depot

Credit: Bosch

Circular saw

I got my first circular saw while we were working on our kitchen. We were prepping the butcher block countertops and needed to make the most perfect cut in the history of saw cuts for our new undermount sink. My dad had been a bit rough with his tools over the years in an effort to move along quickly on large builds, and we discovered that the one he brought to help us out that day made its cuts at a slight angle. After multiple failed attempts at trying to correct the angled blade, my dad headed for the hardware store and brought back a brand new saw. My husband and I were so broke at the time—we were drowning in unforeseen kitchen expenses, paying a mortgage and rent at our new apartment in the city, and could barely afford gas. I’m sure gifting us that circular saw didn’t seem like a big deal to my dad at the time, but his actions meant so much to me. I’ll never get rid of that saw. Being my dad’s daughter is a gift, too, and I’m grateful to be learning from him.

Buy: Bosch 15 Amp 7-1/4 in. Corded Circular Saw, $108.78 at Home Depot