The two main tool categories are power and hand tools. Power tools are any tool that relies on a power source such as battery, electricity, gas or something else other than human effort. Within each main type are many different tools with specific functions or purposes.
Another way that tools are classified is by job. In other words, tools are organized by the project such as floor installation, painting, woodworking etc.
Lastly, while not technically tools, fasteners (screws, nails, etc.) are integral to tool work in that they are necessary for completing jobs and projects that rely on tools.
Below is our epic tool guide listing out individual power and hand tools as well as fasteners and then a useful section setting out tools by job.
Different Types of Tools
A. Types of Power Tools
Other than a hammer, most folks own a drill. Given the amount of junk we need to assemble, a power drill is a must-have item. In fact, I probably use our drill more often than the hammer.
What is a drill?
A drill is a machine used to push an object or material into something in order to create an opening or space. Drills are often powered by hand, but can also be powered by electricity or battery. Battery-powered drills are most common these days. No more fussing with cords.
There’s an overwhelming number of drills to choose from; enough to make your head spin like a drill bit. There’s no need to spin, however, if you know the reason why you need this kind of power strips tool in the first place. Once you’ve drilled down your purpose, all that’s left is to consider among the three main drill types.
You can also find other types of drills categorized beyond the primary group. Drills differ in usage, power source, motor type, features, speed, and accessories.
We published an epic drill guide setting out all the different types of drills here.
Saws are a pretty broad tool category. Most saws are a power saw like the circular saw pictured above.
Generally speaking, what is a saw?
Saws are used to cut through things. The most common kind of saw is a hand saw, but there are also power saws that are powered by electricity, battery or gasoline. Saws can be used for many different things like cutting wood, tile, concrete and metal. Most types of saws are different based on shape and movement of the blade which dictates what it’s designed to cut.
We’re not going to list all the different types of power saws here because we published a separate guide on saws here.
Needless to say, power saws are a very popular power tool. Some folks own any different power saws – table, chain, circular, track, etc.
Speaking of those saws, do you know which type is the most popular? I’ll tell you anyway. It’s the table saw which is searched by folks on Google approx. 126,000 times per month in the US. The next most popular is chainsaw followed by circular, skill and track saws.
What type of power saw you opt for depends on what you do. A good starting power saw is a circular saw like the one pictured above because it is so versatile.
Chainsaws are an interesting saw to buy because unless you chop a lot of wood or make large stump carvings or demo houses regularly, there’s not a whole you can do with it. But what do I know… I don’t own a chainsaw. Maybe if I bought one I’d have that “aha” moment and wonder how I ever got along without it.
3. Power Sanders
What is a power sander?
A power sander will help you stay sane. It efficiently sands wood, tile and metal and are powered by electricity or battery.
If you think using a manual screwdriver instead of a drill is bad, think again. Sanding by hand versus using a power sander is nuts. I’ve hand-sanded my fair share of wood and there’s nothing like a simple power sander to save the day.
I realize there are some super expensive power tools out there but I’m often surprised hjust how inexpensive so many of them are as well. Power sanders (and drills) are such examples where spending $40 to $100 can make your life infinitely easier.
Before I forget, you should also know the example sander above is one of many different types of sanders.
4. Nail Guns
What is a nail gun?
A nail gun uses the power of a compressed air or gas to shoot a nail into something. A nail gun looks like a large pistol and is used for fastening wood or plastic materials.
Not every household has a nail gun, but if you frame or construct regularly, it’s a worth investment.
Actually, you can pick up popular nail guns for under $100 but if you want high quality, expect to pay a few hundred bucks.
These days many power tools are cordless, which is convenient. I’m not that keen walking around high up with a cord wrapping around my legs.
A closely related power tool is the staple gun which shoots staples instead of nails. For some homeowners, a staple gun may be more useful (Christmas lights anyone?).
5. Power Ratchet Sets
What is a ratchet?
A ratchet is a small hand or power tool with a gear on it that drives screws, nails, nuts and bolts into various hard materials. They function similarly to screwdrivers but are easier to use.
Not nearly as common as other power tools listed here, but if you use a ratchet set regularly, especially if you work on cars frequently, you might find getting a cordless power ratchet tool is worth it.
I doubt I’d ever get such a tool… a hand-powered ratchet set works just fine for me.
Here’s the thing about cordless… you have to keep them powered up. Every new cordless tool you buy you need to expand your power-up system so that when you do reach for the the tool it works. A cordless drill or ratchet set is useless if it has no power.
What is a lathe?
A lathe is a machine that uses a rotating motion to turn an object. Why use a lathe? With an object such as a chunk of wood or metal turning or rotating quickly, it can be shaped with shaping tools.
I first used a lathe in high school. I loved it. It’s amazing what you can make from a spinning piece of wood.
Lathe tools are also used for metal working, metal spinning, glass working, and woodworking. These tools are so-called because they’re used on a lathe, a shaping machine used for shaping a wide range of materials and used in a wide range of applications.
7. Compressor (Air Tools)
Air tools or pneumatic tools are power tools that can be used in construction, factory work, and even in home improvement projects and vehicle repairs. Powered by compressed air, these tools are perfect for use in remote locations with little to zero access to electricity.
One umbrella category of tools is air tools which requires an air compressor. This is heavy-duty stuff. Once you have an air compressor you can upgrade to a variety of air tools such as air hammer, wrench, ratchet, grinder, drill and others.
Actually, we put together a separate article explaining and setting out the different types of air tools here.
8. Air Tools
Once you have the compressor, you actually need to get the tools.
You can buy air tools individually or as kits like this 4-in-1 air tool kit that includes a drive impact wrench, drive air ratchet, air hammer with chisels and an air grinder.
This is a great air tool starter kit plus it’s conveniently all stored in one large case.
If you’re a power user, this is not for you. You’re better off buying high-end air tools individually so that you get the specs and capabilities you need.
See our detailed Types of power tools guide here.
B. Types of Hand Tools
What is a hammer?
There are many types of hammers but generally a hammer is definite as a tool to drive or pound something into something or pound holes into something. The classic example is pounding a nail into wood.
Hammers are one of the most common tools you’ll come across for a wide range of jobs from household to worksite. The different types may vary in size, application, shape, composition, and purposes but they’re all primarily used to drive nails through different surfaces including wood, plaster, and metal. They’re also used to forge parts together or dismantle them.
Aside from nails, hammers also go hand in hand with a few other tools such as screws, screwdrivers, fasteners, tacks, staples, and gel levelers.
While it’s one of the handiest tools you’ll find, the hammer can also be dangerous when not handled or stored properly. So be sure to follow safety precautions to avoid unnecessary injuries also, find out more about this tool at the link mentioned.
What are pliers?
Pliers are a tool for gripping items so they can be pulled, turned or twisted.
Pliers can be used in all types of construction, plumbing, and general repair so it only makes sense that it’s one of the most common tools you’ll find in a handyman’s toolkit. They’re used to securely grip, hold, bend, and cut a variety of objects.
As a simple lever, the plier uses its joint as a fulcrum and its jaws to exert a solid grip. It was initially used by the Europeans for holding burning hot metal near the heat source until it was discovered that pliers can also be used for many other applications.
You’ll find many different types of pliers that range in sizes, shapes, specialties, and types of material. However, they all boil down to three main groups: adjustable, non-adjustable, and locking.
What is a ladder? A ladder is a contraption with steps with the primary goal of getting higher up to reach something or get onto something such as a roof.
When we think of ladders, the image of an A-shaped ladder almost always automatically comes to mind. But there are many other kinds you’ll find that differ in length, weight, usage, versatility, and storage.
Knowing the different types of ladders and using the right one for the task is crucial to prevent accidental injuries and falls which cause nearly 32,000 deaths each year.
Ladders are extremely helpful for many around-the-house projects so long as you’re using the appropriate one for the task. Also, be sure to inspect for any potential hazard and follow safety precautions when climbing them.
What is a wrench? A wrench is a handy tool used for loosening or tightening objects much like a set of pliers. You’ll come across different types of wrenches for a wide range of home improvement projects. There are all-purpose models and those that serve specific purposes.
They also vary in the measurement standards used, types of material, and sizes. When it comes to wrenches, the most important factor is the size to ensure proper fit.
We put together a list of the different types of wrenches here.
What is a clamp? Clamps hold things in place. They can do so loosely or for tightening purposes.
There’s a right type of clamp for all types of projects from home renovation and woodworking to surgeries. Clamps vary not just in usage but also in their features and handle material.
When you need to glue together or hold down two or more pieces, clamps come in handy and free us up so we can get those pieces assembled.
6. Types of Measurement Tools
The modern society is spoiled when it comes to measuring tools. There’s a particular tool for measuring just about anything including distances, angles, water pressure, data, temperature, speed, time, ingredients, and sugar level.
This wasn’t always the case, however. Before the invention of the abovementioned tools, early civilizations had to rely on the different parts of their bodies to size things up.
Specifically, check out:
7. Tool belts
Tool belts have long been worn by tradesmen, soldiers, and gladiators before it became acceptable for the ordinary man to wear them. There are various types of belts that differ in materials and usage as well as features.
The type of tool belt a person wears depends largely on the nature of the person’s job since it’ll dictate the kinds of tools that will be carried around. The heavier tools require a heavy-duty tool belt that’ll also comfortably and evenly distribute the weight to prevent accidental injuries.
Check out our list of the different types of tool belts here.
What is an axe? An axe is a tool with a sharp blade on one end and a handle on the other end. Some axes have a blunt end opposite the blade for functioning like a hammer. Axes are used to chop, split and in some cases pound things.
Axes are some of the oldest hand tools ever used by man. They appeared over 1.5 million years ago and have been used in agriculture and wood-cutting as well as for butchering animals and slaying each other in battles.
Get to know all the different types of axes here.
What is a chisel? A chisel is a flat piece of metal with a pointed end that is used to remove material from something.
Chisels are used for woodworking, masonry and metal work. Each requires a specific type of chisel. In fact, there are multiple chisel options within each area of work.
Chisels have been used for centuries. It’s a very simple tool, but so effective that its design has changed little over the years except that different models and designs have evolved.
It’s a staple tool in many tool collections – especially for anyone who does woodworking, metalwork or works in masonry.
A nail is a nail is a nail, right?
Nope. There are nails for every conceivable project and material type that you wish to fasten. 29 different types of nails in fact. Check them out:
What is a nail? Nails are little pieces of metal that have a point on one end and a flat head on the other end. Nails are used to fasten things together by driving them into wood, metal or plastic.
What is a screw? A screw is a metal object with a sharp point on one end and threads on the other end for fastening to objects together. They fasten more securely than nails.
There are different types of screws and intricate parts that make a screw. We included a chart showing various types of screws, screw heads, bolts, nuts, and washers. This visual guide will help you understand that there can be hundreds of combinations of the screwhead and drive type.
Screws vary in screwhead shapes, drive types, and other features.
3. Lug nuts
What is a lug nut? A lug nut is used on a wheel to attach it to the tire.
Learning about the different types of lug nuts is important to make changing tires a simple task as well as to ensure safety while on the road. Lug nuts are small wheel fasteners that keep your wheels securely attached to the hub. They vary in shape and it’s important to note that a lug nut’s size and model varies depending on the car model.
4. Drywall anchors
Drywall anchors are simple fasteners that enable you to hang items on the wall. Using the wrong type of drywall anchor often leads to overloading which you’ll notice when the anchor appears to pull away from the wall.
Types of Gardening Tools
1. Types of Gardening tools
There’s a wide range of gardening tools to choose from but you can make things simpler by looking into what you’ll need for your gardening tasks. Activities typically involve digging, edging, lawn care, planting, pruning, and spraying.
Shovels are not just for digging. They can also be used for edging, trenching, transplanting, and snow removal. There’s a right shovel for each job as well as the type of soil and the size of the gardening task you’re dealing with.
We included a fantastic graphic to quickly show the different shovel options and even its main parts. We even added in other important details such as how shovels differ from spades and safety precautions when using shovels.
3. Digging tools
Digging is an unavoidable gardening chore which makes digging tools indispensable. Every gardener should also know that digging the right hole is crucial to a plant’s growth and survival so be sure to dig a test hole first and use only the right digging tools to operate with ease.
4. Lawn edging
Lawn edging is a meticulous, time-consuming, and an expensive task. To keep your lawn lush green, well-kept, and neatly trimmed, it requires regular watering, mowing, cultivation, and even repair.
There are different types of lawn edging tools to keep your front lawn healthy. These tools vary in styles, features, materials, and how they operate.
5. Pruning Tools
Pruning is the practice of cutting and trimming some plant parts such as the roots, buds, and branches. This is an essential part of gardening that provides numerous benefits for the plants such as enhancing the plant’s health and appearance and as protection for young plants. Pruning is also necessary for landscaping and for preventing injuries and property damage.
Despite its numerous advantages, it’s better to leave your plants unpruned than to incorrectly prune them.
Be sure to use the right pruning tools for the task. These tools vary in sizes, usage, features, and handle material. Also, another way to ensure proper pruning is to keep your pruning tools in top shape.
6. Bonsai tree growing tools
Growing Bonsai trees can be an expensive hobby. You need to invest in good quality tools and only use the right ones for the task. Otherwise, the wrong tool can damage both the Bonsai and the tool itself as well as greatly affect the result you desire.
7. Tree trimming tools
Tree trimming is part of routine maintenance both for aesthetic and safety reasons.
There are various tree trimming tools that make tending to trees a do-it-yourself project. These tools vary in length, usage, and features but are all about transforming your outdoor landscaping for a neat appearance.
8. Lawn tools
Lawn care takes a huge chunk of one’s time and can take a lot of effort. Lawn maintenance can also vary by task so it’s important to know what options you have to make your gardening chore quick and easy.
You can choose among manual, electric, and gas-powered lawn tools. Various tools also exist for serving specific gardening tasks.
Tools by Job
1. Hardwood flooring installation tools
Hardwood remains to be the top choice for flooring. It first became a flooring option in the 1600s when only the wealthy could afford them. Back then, the hardwood planks can only be installed professionally, too.
It’s a different story now when installing hardwood flooring can be a weekend project so long as you’re willing to spend the time and effort and have the right tools to use.
2. Tile flooring
What tools are used for tiling?
Installing a tile flooring yourself will save you hundreds of bucks and the task itself isn’t as hard as you’d imagine. You just need to make sure that you have all the right tools before getting down on the floor and cutting the tiles.
3. Cabinet making tools
Building cabinets is a do-it-yourself project anyone with basic woodworking skills can undertake. You don’t even need to buy expensive materials to start the task. All you need are a few simple tools and most of them you might already have.
Try out this project yourself and save thousands of dollars.
4. Fireplace tools
Fireplace tools are essential if you want to enjoy your wood-burning fireplace. They’re must-haves beside your fireplace hearth as you need to use them for burning fire and cleaning out the hearth afterward.
5. Drywall tools
Working with drywall is a do-it-yourself project that doesn’t require too many tools. The best part about it is that you may already have the essential drywall tools in your toolbox.
6. Gutter cleaning
Cleaning the gutter is part of routine maintenance many homeowners would like to avoid. They’re not too thrilled with the idea of climbing the ladder or the painstaking task involved with this household chore. However, if you have the right gutter cleaning tools and ensure proper cleaning procedures, gutter cleaning can be quick and easy.
7. Plumbing tools
Many homeowners often pay for professionals to deal with their home’s plumbing problems. However, if you have time to spare and willing to do the work, all you really need is basic tools to fix the most common household plumbing repairs.
8. Concrete tools
What tools do I need to pour a concrete slab?
Concrete or cement is a popular hardscaping feature that can be used in a wide range of applications so be sure to have the essential concrete tools at hand. They’ll come in handy when you want to hardscape your driveway or venture into any concrete-related project.
9. Painting tools
What tools do I need to paint a room?
There’s more to painting tools than just a handy paintbrush. There are various painting tools you can use for giving your room its much-needed makeover. These tools vary in usage and features and even the paintbrushes vary in purpose and bristles.
10. Paint removal tools
You think painting wall’s a tough job? Try removing existing paint on walls. If you want to paint your room a different color, you can do so but what you can’t do is to jump right on it and apply the new coat of paint on top of the old one.
You need to remove old paint first which can be tough since they’re designed to stick on walls. To ease your task, you need to use specialized paint removal tools and follow the correct methods of paint removal.
11. Wood cutting tools
There are tons of tools you can use for cutting wood but you need to make sure you’re using the right tool for the task. You’ll be dealing with wood for many do-it-yourself or woodworking projects so be sure you have the essential tools to make wood-cutting a quick and uncomplicated process.
12. Piano tuning tools
Pianos are huge investments so be sure to properly care for them by regular tuning. Piano tuning will not only lengthen your organ’s life, but it will also save you serious money from having to restring it in the future. Tune-ups can be expensive but if you don’t have the right skills and the piano tuning tools, this project is better left to the hands of professionals. Otherwise, you run the risk of damaging your piano.
13. Wallpapering tools
What tools do I need for wallpapering?
Dressing up your walls with wallpaper is an easier option to painting. The effect can be similar considering how there are plenty of options to choose from when it comes to colors, patterns, and textures. It’s also easier to get the job done since all that’s need are the right wallpapering tools and the know-how to using them properly.
14. Carpeting tools
Installing a carpet can be a daunting task. It requires time, effort, the know-how, and specialized tools to accomplish the job with ease and efficiency.
15. Vinyl siding tools
Vinyl is a popular choice for home siding because it’s tough, durable, maintenance-free, and looks great for home exteriors. Many vinyl siding comes with complete instructions which enable self-sufficient homeowners to install the siding themselves and save serious money as a result. The tools for installing vinyl siding are also fairly common and simple.
16. Sanding tools
You can easily tell the difference between a surface that’s been sanded and one that has not. Although sanding can be a drudgery, this finishing process rewards you with the benefits of a long-lasting finish and a smooth surface. Fortunately, there are various sanding tools to make this drudgery of a task easier.
17. Picture framing tools
For many avid DIY-ers, making a picture frame is one of the simplest and most common craft projects to undertake. The process is simple and the output can be used both for displaying a favorite photo or for home decorating.
18. Foam cutting tools
Foam is another common material for many do-it-yourself projects because of its versatility. So it’s wise to invest in foam cutting tools to make the process of cutting, carving, and engraving foams fast, accurate, and mess-free.
19. Grout removal tools
Removing chipped or discolored grout should be part of every homeowner’s routine maintenance and renovation project. Neglecting to do so opens your space to harmful bacteria not to mention an unsightly surface that’s difficult to clean. Be sure to use dedicated grout removal tools to make this chore easy.
20. Leather cutting tools
You’ll find various choices for leather cutting tools but you need only the essential ones for projects that require cutting leather. The actual process of cutting through leather is actually easy but what you want is to make smooth and accurate cuts. To do so, you need to use the right tools for cutting thick or thin types of leather.
21. Brick laying tools
Bricklaying requires knowing the basic principles of masonry, proper planning and preparation, and plenty of practice. When you’ve covered all these, the next step is to get your hands on the right brick laying tools to ensure ease and success for your project.
22. Finishing carpentry tools
Finishing carpentry is when you install finish woods, trims, crown moldings, wainscoting, stairs, windows, wall paneling, built-in bookshelves, fireplace surrounds, and other design elements for aesthetic purposes. The skill involved takes years of practice but you can still take on this task yourself as long as you have proficient carpentry skills and the right finishing carpentry tools.
23. Fence building tools
Installing a fence around your home provides numerous advantages such as having some privacy or a sense of security and increasing your property’s value. Anyone who’s willing to do the work and with some basic carpentry skills can take on this project. You also need to do a significant amount of preparation and to ensure you have the right fence building tools for the task.
24. Car wash tools
Give your car some tender loving care with regular car washing using only the right car wash tools and the right washing technique. You’ll find the results can be much better when you do it yourself as compared to paying for it.
25. Granite cutting tools
Granite is not just a very dense, hard, and durable rock. It’s also beautiful and expensive. Most homeowners pay for professional installation which adds up to the cost. However, many self-sufficient homeowners have discovered that they can take on the job themselves as long as they follow safety precautions and use specialized granite cutting tools, thereby cutting down on major expenses.
26. Window cleaning tools
Cleaning windows can be a big job especially if you have a two-story home. It’s hard work and time-consuming, but if you’re willing to do it yourself instead of paying professionals to do it, you should invest in a set of window cleaning tools to get the job fast and achieve your desired result.
Brief tool history – When were tools invented?
Tool use among humans goes as far back as 2.6 million years when the earliest stone tools known as the Oldowan were made in Gona, Ethiopia. These stone tools were only as big as a fist and were primarily used for pounding and cutting through tough animal hide to consume the meat and marrow.
For nearly a million years, the hominids made such stone tools whenever the need arose but dropped them behind after using them. Such tools were also useful in allowing our distant ancestors to be more adaptable to a wide variety of habitats.
The tools and our species evolved roughly 1.8 million years ago with the era of the Homo erectus. They used rudiment hand axes and cleavers and carried the tools around with them instead of just dropping them behind.
We’ve come a long way since then but we’re still as reliant (or even more so) on a wide variety of tools to get us through the day. Even the most basic and simplest of tools have helped push our civilization forward.