I have been asked by several people to make a basic list of tools that women should have and should know how to use. I don’t think that this list is exclusive to women, but there are a few things that should be considered carefully due to smaller hands and a difference in shoulder/hand strength.
Everyone should have a toolbox. It might be the old style “tackle box” or it might be a more open 5 gallon pail variety, but there should be a place for everything to be centrally located. Put everything you need in the box and see if you can easily lift it or move it up and down stairs.
1. Hammer. There are actually different types of hammers, and most are sold by weight. I recommend a claw hammer (as opposed to a club or a ball peen). The claw hammer has a face on one side for driving a nail and the other side has a claw to remove nails. The best way to find a hammer you are comfortable with is to go try it out. There will be different sized grips, different types of grips (wood, plastic, rubber, etc) and the weight will be different.
2. Pliers. I recommend two types of pliers; needle-nosed and pump pliers. The needle-nosed style is good for bending wire and working in a tight location. The pump plier has a rivet that slides, which allows the jaws to change size. This type of plier is used to grab and turn nuts and bolts.
3. Screwdrivers. Everyone should have both flat-head and Phillips screwdrivers in a couple sizes. The tip itself should be smaller/larger and the length of the shaft should be smaller/larger. More and more furniture that you assemble yourself (Ikea) uses a Hex screw, so having Hex/Allen keys in a variety of sizes is also helpful.
A small power screwdriver with variable bits is really helpful and saves your wrist if you have a lot of screws to install, which leads me to….
4. Power Drill/Driver. A power drill/driver with a variety of drill bits and screwdriver bits is invaluable. Use the smaller bits to drill pilot holes for screws, then the driver bits makes installation of the screws easy. There are battery operated drills that are very light.
5. Level. I have both a foot-long level and one that is 4 feet. This provides me with the most flexibility for my projects.
6. Tape measure. I recommend a retractable self-locking metal tape measure. Getting one of at least 12’ allows for most basic work, but a 25’ takes care of almost every job.
7. Odds and Ends. This category includes everything from duct tape to carpenter’s glue, to screws and nails. There are small kits that include a variety of screws and nails and picture hanging hooks. You will also need sandpaper in a variety of grits. I also like to have paint brushes in several sizes in a basic tool box. And finally, everyone should get in the habit of using safety goggles when using tools.