5 DIY Tool Must-Haves + What You Can Do With Them

by Grace Bonney

The most important part of any DIY challenge is having the right tools and the right plan in front of you. There’s no shortage of DIY projects, inspiration and ideas on the web, but I’ve found that the emails I get about DIY these days are still about what tools to buy and why. So this morning I thought I’d share what I consider to be the 5 major building blocks of any great DIY kit. Aside from the super basics (scissors, glue, paint) these are the tools I think are versatile and easy enough to use that everyone should invest in them. They’ll come in handy not only for individual projects, but for basic, small-scale repairs around the house, too. So if you needed a gift idea for summer birthdays or just a little nudge to get your summer upcycling, crafting and home decorating off on the right foot, this roundup is for you. xo, grace

*What are your go-to tools and tool brands? I tend to get my brand-specifics from trusted artist and shop owner friends, but I also always look at user reviews under products online to see if there are models to avoid. If you’ve got a tip or trusted tool to share, please add your thoughts below!

Click through for all 5 DIY Toolkit Basics after the jump!

Staple Gun: I could write a novel about my love for staple guns. While the largest versions can be a bit unwieldy, I find the moderately sized ones are perfect for basic upholstery projects around the home. Attaching fabric to window valances, reupholstering chairs, or changing your living room ottoman is a snap with my favorite go-to tool.

What can you do with it? Here are a few of my favorite projects:

DIY Vertical Pallet Garden

DIY Floral Garland Mirror

Upholstered Ottoman

Glue Gun: The glue gun is an often maligned DIY tool. Written off as the gateway to chintz and a world filled with pipe cleaners and pom poms, the glue gun has WAY more potential than just frilly craft projects. I prefer a full-sized glue gun to the minis. They’re not as tiny and easy to tote, but the larger glue stick sizes make for a longer life and more coverage than the little guys.

What can you do with it? Here are a few of my favorite projects:

DIY Moroccan Wedding Blanket-Inspired Pendant Lamp

DIY Cat Toys

DIY Woven Balsa Lampshade

Iron: I can’t remember the last time I used an iron for actual clothes. Not because my clothes don’t need ironing (They do. Badly.), but because I tend to break out my iron for DIY projects more than clothing touch-ups. The key with this tool is being sure to select the right setting for each project. Having a fine spray of mist come out when you don’t need it can ruin an iron-on, so be sure to pay attention to your project instructions closely.

What can you do with it? Here are a few of my favorite projects:

DIY China Pattern Pillows

DIY Embossed Velvet Placecards

DIY Applique Pillow

Rotary Cutter: I didn’t learn the beauty of a rotary cutter until I started working more with fabric around my home. Whether you’re prepping fabric or paper for a project, this is the BEST tool for dealing with larger amounts of a material. The reason I love this tool so much (it’s often overlooked on supply lists) is that I feel it makes fabric-based projects (a huge favorite in the design community) more approachable. If you find yourself with yards of fabric and want to cut them to a manageable size to use for curtains, a table runner or anything else that’s teeny-tiny, this will make your life MUCH easier. It works for paper (and wallpaper!), too, so don’t forget this little guy can work a lot of wonders. (Note: you’ll want to keep your fabric and paper cutting projects separate unless you want to sharpen your blade. Cutting paper sometimes dulls the blade so keep 2 of these bad boys around if you plan to cut both frequently)

What can you do with it? Here are a few of my favorite projects:

DIY Pipe and Leather Wine Rack

DIY Embroidered Mitered Napkins

DIY Roller Blinds

Corded Drill: There are an infinite amount of chat rooms and comment sections online that debate which types of drills are best. But when it comes to any project around the house, I come down firmly on the CORDED side of the fence. Here’s why: any project that requires some real muscle will drain your cordless battery QUICKLY. And nothing kills the pace of a project like having to wait over and over for a battery to charge. So whether you’re putting together an IKEA cabinet (with a handy Hex Bit Kit) or building your own kitchen banquette, this item is a must.

What can you do with it? Here are a few of my favorite projects:

DIY Plexi Accent Shelf

DIY Leather Loop Cutting Board

DIY Copper Branch Floor Lamp

DIY Tiered Hanging Pots

Suggested For You


  • PLEASE don’t use the same rotary cutter for fabric and paper! Once you use it on paper, it won’t work as well on fabric, and it’s sooo annoying to have to go through and snip all the “skips” in the cut that the nicked and dull rotary cutter missed!

  • Agree with all of these, though confused by needing a cordless drill? I’ve built furniture/serious wooden shelves in all of our closets/drilled through metal and glass/everything with my awesome cordless drill for the last six months and I’m still on the first battery charge! I wouldn’t have been able to do most of my projects with a corded drill (at least, not comfortably).

    • Becca

      The first charge?? I have never EVER been as lucky as you. I’ve tried all 4 of the top drill brands and each one gives out quickly on any project that requires a lot of torque. If you’re willing to share the brand name, I’d love to know!

      Grace :)

  • Same principle as never using your fabric scissors to cut paper. Have 2 separate pair (or more). Paper dulls blades like crazy and for fabric cutting, particularly if you do a lot of sewing – change your rotary blades often. Dull blades cause imprecise cutting (pulling, etc.). Blade sharpeners aren’t terribly effective in my experience, but admittedly, I haven’t tried one in about 5 years so maybe they’ve improved.

  • I totally agree on the corded drill! I just finished a project having to use both corded and non and the corded drill is my fav! Less effort to use and nothing more frustrating than running out of juice with non corded half way thru the job.
    If I had to pick most all around power cutting tool the jigsaw rocks and for us girls easier to use and handy for all the little things like cutting cork bulletin boards.
    Non power tool fav is an Exacto knife

  • I’m all about the cordless Makita drills. They’re not great for projects where you need to drill 20 large holes with a forstner bit, but their ergonomics beats a corded drill any day. Getting into tight spaces or drilling upward is much easier without a cord hanging down. And for the clumsy among us, one less tripping hazard.
    Also, the battery life is good enough for any DIY project and if you have a second battery you’ll always have one that’s charged. I’ve used these for years in professional wood shops and highly recommend them.

  • I’d unfortunately have to disagree with the corded drill – an outlet isn’t always handy, extension cords are a hazard for clumsy feet or underfoot dogs/pets/kids/significant others, and a good cordless drill battery should last a LONG time! I LOVE my Ryobi 18v lithium, and it came with a spare battery – so if one does happen to run out when you’re working on project, just swap it with the other battery (so no waiting on charging).

  • I’ll second the Ryobi lithium. My main objection to cordless drills used to be weight, especially when having to use for an extended time overhead, but the lithium batteries are significantly lighter and less bulky.

  • Couldn’t DIY without my trusty Dremel tool!
    It drills, it sands, it cuts, it polishes, it…no, darn, it doesn’t make coffee.

  • where and what is the best source to find out about how to use all the tools that is provided with the Dremel? I have done some searching on line but it only confused me more.

  • Celeste, I kind of make it up as I go along, then if I need to do something specific and can’t figure out how or what kind of attachment to use I look it up.

  • Loved the “heart clapsy bangle” DIY session, it is just special! I myself is not someone who is a fan of fancy and expensive stuffs, this bangle looks very easy to make and can match any clothes. Thanks for the sharing!

  • Loved the “heart clapsy bangle” DIY session, it is just special! I myself is not someone who is a fan of fancy and expensive stuffs, this bangle looks very easy to make and can match any clothes. Thanks for the sharing!

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