I'm not gonna lie: I have a lot of tools. If you walk into my basement, you'll see a fully-equipped studio/shop that allows me to come up with original how-tos and teach folks to make unique things for their homes. But, scads of power tools, craft supplies, or fancy software are a luxury, not a necessity.
If I could only have five tools in my arsenal, I wouldn't choose a single power tool. Okay, well, maybe my table saw, but only because it's so versatile, and really fun to use. But there are inexpensive hand tools that work just as well.
With that in mind, here's Curbly's top five DIY best buys: five things we think every passionate homeowner should have. Not an essential home maintenance kit, but five things that'll help you create your own original pieces of furniture, home decor, and art. All under $20 USD.
Note: this list does not include consumable supplies like glue, sandpaper, or hardware. Nor that DIY essential, the cordless drill/driver. It's not a complete list, but if you start with these, you're gonna be good to go for lots and lots of projects.
Coping saw. This guy is a gem. I have a big ole band saw, table saw, miter saw, and a handheld jigsaw, circular saw, and angle grinder. But if I could have but one, for cutting both curves and straight lines, a coping saw is the one to have. It's not fast work, but it's precise, and that's essential. Furthermore, they can cut not only wood, but metal, plastic/pvc, and foams. You could use it to cut the subtle curves of the letter light, or the playful shape of the asterisk clock.
Clamps. There's a saying in the woodworking community, "You can't have too many clamps." They ain't joking. Clamps allow you to hold things together while glue dries, which is most always preferrable to using mechanical fasteners like screws or nails. Grab a few bar clamps in 10-14" lengths, a couple of those .99 spring clamps, and you won't be limited in taking on creating stuff from wood. These also serve as a safe way to hold stuff if you don't have a vise or when drilling small items. Try them on the mod birdhouse or Melanie's easy DIY indoor planter.
Calipers. This might be a surprising choice, but once you have them, you'll be amazed by how much you reach for them. I love the ability to measure small things, like internal and external dimensions, to make sure things fit nice and tightly. They're also essential for figuring out the best size of hardware to use, the inside dimension of that piece of PVC or galvanized pipe, or to remember exactly how big those bolts you bought a few years are. I couldn't have made the tree branch iPod dock without them. If you have a few more bucks, a fractional dial set is definitely worth the price.
Staple Gun. From DIY upholstery, fabric projects, to working with electrical or speaker wire, as well as the poultry netting for outdoor projects, nothing's better than a straight-up manual staple gun. Try it on basic reupholstery projects like Shelly's coffee table bench or modern stool project.
Screwdriver set. Obvious, right? Well, sorta. Besides, you know, driving screws, a multiuse screwdriver set is also awesome for all sorts of tinkering: opening stuff up, replacing batteries, getting under stuck paint can lids. Get a set with an awl end for marking, creating divots to start nails and screws, punching holes in paper.
Talk about bang for your buck. If you make anything, you'll reach for them constantly. Guaranteed.