A Man’s Life in Tools: A Journey
By The Editors

Tools fall into the “better to have and not need than need and not have” category of life necessities. But tools are like wisdom – you accumulate them with age. So here are the tools you need as you rise through life.

A Man’s Life in Tools: A Journey


Tools are the little gods you worship when the job turns out right. Well done, you.

But use them as they are intended. Using a hammer when you needed a wrench is the difference between owning a tool and being one.

Tools are an essential part of the male journey.

A man’s need for tools increases as he ages and his responsibilities expand.

That’s where this list comes in. Men need to level up as they gain years and wisdom. So must their tool set.

Now understand, a contractor or handyman will have an entirely different set of professional-grade tools. You are not them and this is not that, so forget about the hardcore stuff.

Also, this list does not take into account any outdoor tools, from chainsaws to hedge clippers to weed whackers – that’s a different set of problems.

These are the basic, indispensable domestic go-to’s any guy will need as he ages:


You’re either still stuck at home using your dad’s ultimate set of tools or you’re holed up in a dorm or off-campus dump. Aside from giving the keg tap some love taps and maybe hanging a Steal Your Face banner, your needs are modest.


Adjustable wrench


Phillips and flathead screwdrivers

Utility knife

Heavy-duty scissors

Duct tape

Approximate number of accumulated screws, nuts, bolts, and nails: 4



This raises the stakes because you may find yourself doing simple repairs the landlord is too apathetic to get to. Swapping out the splintered toilet seat (don’t tell). Tightening the handle on the oven door before it comes off in your hand. Your first year in an apartment is the rookie league of fix-its.

All  Level 1 tools plus:

A set of Allen wrenches (plus any leftover from assembling Swedish TV stands)

A few new size varieties of those screwdrivers

Needlenose pliers

A small level


Tape measure

A small toolbox or toolbag to keep everything together

Approximate number of accumulated screws, nuts, bolts, and nails: 37


Triple-A for do-it-yourselfers for the first six months, then a call to the big leagues when you face your first real repair or installation. The double-dare is swapping in a new faucet. The triple-dog dare is a ceiling fan install.

All Level 1 and 2 tools plus:

Cordless drill with full bit set

Socket set

Hand saw & drywall saw

Vice grips

Plumber’s wrench & plumber’s tape

Wirecutters & wirestripper

Old-school steel multi-level toolbox

And … your first toolbelt

Approximate number of accumulated screws, nuts, bolts, and nails: 228


All Level 1, 2, and 3 tools plus:

Shop-vac (for cleaning up Legos before you step on the damn things)

3-foot (minimum) level, or laser version

Second tape measure to replace the lost first one. Ditto for missing screwdrivers, hammers, wrenches, and the socket size you need right this second but don’t have because someone never put it back.

Super glue

Soldering iron and possibly a blowtorch, though you will use both maybe once

Wire tester 


Putty knife (for spackle but also good to scrape a grill in a pinch)

Standing tool cart plus a pegboard and vice for the basement workbench

Approximate number of accumulated screws, nuts, bolts, and nails: Not easily counted because they’re spread out in multiple baby food jars and cigar boxes.


All Level 1-4 tools that have been borrowed and lost by your kids over the years or no tools because from now on you’re paying a handyman to do all that crap or a full workshop full of tools because you finally have all the time you need to do all those projects you’ve been talking about for all those years.