Last month, a friend of mine in Utah decided to buy his two teenage sons each their first tool kits for Christmas. Armed with a Harbor Freight 25% Off Friends & Family coupon, he went up and down the aisles, thinking about the chores his boys might come across, at least in their early lives, and he tossed the respective tools in the basket. Needless to say, the kids were excited when they opened their presents. They weren’t expecting anything remotely like it and, let’s face it, getting a first tool set is a profound rite of passage– for a boy or a girl.
It made me think about my own daughter, Miss D, who turns 20 this spring. For the first time in her life, she’s living away from home and starting to make her own way. Having a tool kit in the apartment surely would have its uses. So, what are the essentials for a basic first tool set for her? Here’s what I came up with, and what I plan to put together for her:
This may or may not fit in the tool box of choice, but it’s essential for the home, what with all the holes and screws in their future. Cordless, of course, so she can take it anywhere without having to drag an extension cord along. I chose this 3/8″ 18-Volt Cordless Drill/Driver and Flashlight Kit for a number of reasons. 1) She won’t be needing a 1/2″ for the tasks she’ll be doing; 2) It’s got plenty of power; 3) it’s rated at “4 Stars”; 5) It’s under $30 for the set. It’s a lightweight, powerful drill with plenty of torque for around-the-house jobs.
Probably just as much as the drill, I can see Miss D running into tasks that require wrenching. A 3/8″ SAE & Metric High Visibility Socket Set makes good sense because of the ease it’ll give her to tighten and loosen nuts n’ bolts. Coupled with a closed-end wrench to hold the other side, fasteners are no chore at all. This particular set is rated at “5 STARS”, has high-visibility markings so she can locate needed sockets fast, and also costs under $30. Like all Harbor Freight hand tools, this socket set has a lifetime warranty and will probably be in her tool box for the rest of her life.
I normally like using a ratchet, but when you run into a situation where it doesn’t fit, you need wrenches as a backup. Also, as I mentioned, I think closed-end wrench sets make great companions to socket sets when tightening or loosening bolts. So I’m tossing a 9-Pc SAE Wrench Set and a 9-Pc. Metric Wrench Set— together under $20– into her tool set.
There are those who argue that if you have these, you don’t need the other wrenches. I don’t belong to that camp. You miss out on the advantageous grip of the closed end and I just like the grip of a stationary wrench more. On the other hand, if none of your sized wrenches fit, these make for mighty fine pinch hitters. I’m giving Miss D this Pittsburgh Adjustable Wrench Set of 4— it’s like having 50 wrenches in one. And I’ll tell her how, when you’re using an adjustable wrench, the movable jaw is located on the side towards which the rotation is being performed. This reduces the chance of backlash. At under $15, this does the trick.
Although Phillips screws have pretty much replaced slotted screws in the fastener world, 20-somethings planning on dwelling in apartments will inevitably come across older domains with slots, so it’s no biggie to get a 8-Pc. Combo Screwdriver Set, especially with comfortably soft handles and magnetized tips at under $10! The flatheads can also be improvised for other uses like light prying, scraping and nudging.
Back in the day, the Old Man used to hammer pretty much everything, not just nails. A good, solid 16-oz. Hammer with Fiberglass Handle is all she’ll need to hang her picture frames, Jamaican masks and balcony lights. And at under $5, it’s a no-brainer to throw this in the kit.
Whether she’s spacing pictures on a wall, measuring space for a futon or cutting fabric to cover it, a dependable 25′ Retractable Steel Measuring Tape is a must. Carpenter’s marks every 16″ will also help her locate studs and the thumb lock holds measurements in place when she needs it. At under $5, it’ll pay for itself over and over again.
Thinking about how Miss D will often be alone at home while working on projects, I thought she could probably use some locking pliers. They come in handy when you need an extra hand, but only have your own two paws to work with. Extremely versatile, they can be used as pliers, a pipe wrench, an adjustable wrench, wire cutters, a ratchet or a clamp. I chose this set of 3 Curved Jaw Locking Pliers ’cause they pretty much cover any size job she’ll be facing, and they come with soft rubberized handles which will make it easier to wrench loose the more stubborn nuts n’ bolts. Under $10.00 and also covered with Harbor Freight’s lifetime warranty.
Needle Nose Pliers
My daughter likes to work on crafty projects from time to time, which sometimes entails tiny manipulating tasks. Also, there’ll be the occasional task where she has to work in smaller cavities. That said, I thought it would be a good idea to throw these 5-3/4″ Needle Nose Pliers in the tool box for good measure. They’ll also be good for whenever she needs to strip and cut wire (in my day it would have been stereo speaker wire), etc. At only $2, I couldn’t even get a Quarter Pounder for that.
I’m sure I’ll be adding other things as I think of them down the road. Depending on your kids’ interests, talents, vocations or lifestyle, you’ll probably want to deviate from this list a bit. Where you want to follow my lead is to head on over to your local Harbor Freight Tools to gather your tool set. The quality and prices are great, and you can’t beat the warranty on the hand tools! Make sure you visit HarborFreight.com first to grab your coupons.