20 Different Types of Hand Tools & Their Uses (with Images)

Flathead Screwdrivers Vs Phillips ScrewdriversAt some point, most people will use even the most basic hand tools—from hanging a picture to installing shelves, most of us will need a simple tool kit at home. But even the most seasoned DIYer might have questions about specific tools or might be in the market for a collection of must-haves to keep in his toolbox. So, what do you need?

Different types of hand tools include screwdrivers, hammers, pliers, and wrenches. Depending on your needs, each of these has a different use, and most are not interchangeable. Knowing what hand tools are and their intended purpose is essential for anyone looking to build or repair nearly anything.

Different Types of Hand Tools & Their Uses

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Click on each tool in the list below to jump to the designated section or you can also continue reading.

Hand Tools List

Many hand tools are common enough that even if someone doesn’t know what a tool is called, they probably know what it is and how to use it. Let’s look at some of the more indispensable hand tools and information on the many varieties.

1. Screwdrivers

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One of humankind’s most time and labor-saving inventions, the humble screwdriver has made nearly every living human being’s life a little better. Screws hold just about anything better than a nail does, so it makes sense that the screwdriver is a keystone of civilization. While there are many varieties, there are three main types of screwdrivers.


Probably the most common screwdriver, the Phillips-head variety is used to drive screws with a plus-shaped indentation on their heads. Having two blade-like structures at right angles allows the Phillips-head screwdriver to bite the screw more securely, preventing the tool from slipping off to one side.


Nearly as common as the Phillips-head, the slotted, or flathead, screwdriver is about as basic as a screwdriver can be. The tool’s flat tooth fits into a slot on the screw and helps the user turn it with much more ease than would be possible with fingers.

The downside, and why the Phillips is preferred, is that the flathead screwdriver easily slips out of the screw’s slot, which can be frustrating. Worse, an errant screwdriver can easily cause damage to surfaces.


A breed of specialty screwdriver, the star screwdriver works on screws with a matching star design. These are often used for security purposes: the idea being to prevent a thief with a screwdriver from having easy access. As a star screwdriver is unusual, your average criminal probably doesn’t have a complete set of these in his cat burglar bag.

In an age of technological wizardry, we now have access to screwdrivers with interchangeable bits. The best of these multi-bit units offer ratcheting action, allows for the storage of bits in the body of the tool, and are even magnetized.

One of these will take up less room in the tool bag, and it’s easier to find the right screwdriver when all you have to paw through is a small collection of bits.

Read also: Flathead Screwdrivers Vs Phillips Screwdrivers

2. Hammers

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The earliest tools man created were hammers of a sort, and while technology has made them lighter and stronger, there isn’t a great deal of technological advancement available for a heavy thing you use to hit other things with. Still, we have different varieties of hammers, and the task you’re undertaking will dictate the tool you choose.

Claw Hammer

Most hammers have a front and a back, including the nail-hitting side and the nail-removing side. That two-pronged claw on the back of nearly every hammer you’ve ever seen is vital, as it allows you to remove an errant nail without damaging the surface it’s nailed into.

While every experienced hammer-wielder has his unique techniques, everybody uses the claw. Claw hammers also come in many sizes for big projects or small projects.

Specialty Hammers

Tons of things need hammering, but they’re not all the same. A ripping hammer has a straighter claw, allowing for quicker (though more brutal) nail removal. It is also commonly used for simply ripping apart (hence the name) two wood pieces.

There are hammers explicitly designed for roofing, hammers with shock-absorbing grip, and dead-blow hammers (for use with, say, chisels). There are even wooden hammers specifically designed for working with chocolate.

Ball Peen Hammers

An iconic hammer, the ball peen is recognizable even to people who’ve never used one. This one has two heads – one round and one flat – and is generally used in metal-working.

The flathead might be used with chisels, while the ball head (the peen) helps round off metal edges.


A robust and heavy-duty tool, a sledgehammer has a handle as long as an ax’s and is used almost exclusively for breaking things, such as concrete, rocks, and brick.

There is nothing subtle about this tool but it will make quick work of in-home demolition when compared to a simple claw hammer.

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3. Pliers

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This deceptively simple tool is a wonder in and of itself. Just about everyone has used a pair of pliers, and among those people, few would argue against the tool’s usefulness.

Simply put, pliers are created when two metal pieces – each acting as a lever – are joined together at a fulcrum point. This multiplies the pressure you can exert with your hand, enabling you to do things your bare hands could never.

There are pliers for cutting, crimping, for use on brake springs, and even for specific tasks within an aquarium. Some (called channel locks) are adjustable, and some have specialty tongs for, say, removing nails or, in the case of the needle nose pliers, getting into tight spaces.

For being a simple tool, the humble pair of pliers has evolved into many, “many species”.

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4. Measurement Tape

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Perhaps the most critical tool in constructing anything, the measurement tape is what you use to follow the age-old wisdom of “Measure twice, cut once.”

Unless you’re cutting firewood, the cuts you make in nearly any material need to be done to precise measurements. Don’t eyeball anything.

Tapes come in many sizes, from a tape length of 12 inches (30.48 cm) to over 30 feet (9.14 meters), and specialty measurement tapes can be hundreds of feet long.

Nearly all tapes sport an internal spring mechanism that automatically retracts the tape when you’re done, and a lock that will hold the tape open while you mark what you need to on your materials.

Every builder, DIY-er, contractor, and carpenter has his preferred tape, but not one of them will operate without any tape at all. The importance of measurements in any building project cannot be overstated.

With this in mind, don’t skimp on the purchase of this particular tool. You will regret doing so.

5. Wrenches

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Like pliers, wrenches provide torque and allow the user to turn (or prevent from turning) a bolt or nut. Unlike pliers, wrenches come in specific sizes.

While the same pair of pliers can turn a half-inch nut and a quarter-inch bolt, wrenches are not interchangeable. The advantage is that wrenches (especially box-end wrenches) can cover more surface area of the nut or bolt, providing more torque than pliers can.

There are three main types of wrenches:

  • Open-end – Grips the nut or bolt on opposite sides and usually has a gripper on both ends of the tool in different sizes.
  • Box-end – Holds the nut or bolt in 360 degrees, and the so-called box is actually a full circle that surrounds the nut or bolt.
  • Combination – Usually sports an open-end on one side of the tool and a box-end on the other. The combination wrench is easily the most popular of these three.

Also read: Why Are “Snap-On” Tools Expensive?

6. Hand Saw

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Like most tools, a saw is something to be chosen depending on the project. But at its root, a saw is a hand tool with a serrated metal blade. Anything past that gets into specialization.

A saw’s use will be determined by the size and number of its teeth more than any other factor, so as with many things in life, you’ll need to choose the right tool for the job ahead. A few options include:

  • Hacksaws for cutting metal: They usually consist of a curved body and a straight, thin blade. It is easily removable from the body, which is good since its thinness means it dulls rather quickly.
  • Pruning saws for landscaping, either cutting trees or smaller plants: You will choose a heavier saw for a tree limb thicker than your thigh, but you’ll need a smaller version of this to prune the smaller branches of your ever-widening crepe myrtle.
  • Ripping saws for wood. These are probably what people picture when they think “saw.” Usually a straight, tapered blade with serrated teeth and a curved wooden handle, the ripping saw is incredibly versatile. Its relatively large teeth mean a rougher cut, but it works on lumber, plywood, and even tree limbs.
  • Coping saws for intricate work: These smaller, bow-shaped saws sport teeth that are very small and a blade that’s quite thin, which allows for delicate cuts. The coping saw is used for cutting complex, often decorative shapes into your woodwork.

There are keyhole saws, wallboard saws, and any number of others as well.

While it’s tough to find one tool of any kind that does it all, a good, versatile saw is the REXBETI Heavy Duty Folding Saw. (Amazon aff link).  It cuts various materials and folds up small enough to fit in your toolbox or even your work belt.

7. Utility Knife

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Another indispensable hand tool in the list is the utility knife, also called a box knife or box blade. This consists of a metal body with a retractable razor blade inside.

The blade is easily interchangeable for when it dulls, it retracts with the flick of a thumb, and most models offer degrees to which the blade can be exposed. If you’re afraid you might cut something too deeply, pull the blade back into the body and lock it in place for a shallower slice.

Because the business end of this tool is often an actual razor blade, one must use extra care. Never put this knife back in your tool bag or pocket without retracting the blade, and be sure to keep a sharp blade in the knife.

A box knife with a dull blade is inefficient, but it can also be dangerous when its dullness makes its cutting path erratic.

8. Axes

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An ax is a hunk of metal with at least one sharp edge mounted on a haft, or handle, often made of wood, but also can be a synthetic material. This tool requires a lot of effort to use, but it accomplishes big tasks.

More than a few tools in this list boast a big group of variations and specializations, and axes are no different. There are axes for cutting wood, cutting ice, bone meat (in a butchery), and so on. But there are many kinds that have different uses, so your choice will be governed by the job you’re doing.

For working with wood alone, there are many kinds of axes. Hatchets are small axes easily wielded with one hand and much more portable and storable than their larger counterparts. Splitting axes split wood along its grain, and felling axes cut against the grain. This is the ax used to cut down a tree.

There are also broad axes, carpenter’s axes, even the adze, which is often used as a sledgehammer or a hoe, though it is still an ax. The big difference here is that an ax’s blade is parallel to its handle, where the adze is perpendicular.

Mattocks, pickaxes, double-bit or double-sided axes, and the lathe hammer are a few of the many other kinds of axes available.

Finding the right tool for the job is a bit more complicated when it comes to axes because there are so many different kinds, but that just means that what you eventually settle on will be exactly what you need.

9. Pry Bars

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This tool, along with the crowbar (mentioned later), can be confusing if for no other reason than what it is called varies from region to region. For our purposes, a pry bar is a flat metal tool used for prying.

Generally, it has one straight end and one curved end, and each of those ends has a claw usually used to aid in nail removal. These are used in construction more often than in demolition, as opposed to the crowbar, which is most often a demolition tool.

Pry bars come in many sizes but are generally smaller than the crowbar. They are versatile and sometimes offer adjustable lengths, allowing for more or less torque when it comes to the actual prying.

10. Staple Guns

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Staples are more difficult to remove than nails, making them better choices for some projects like upholstery or cabinetry since they offer a bit more security. The downside is that staples are more visible than nails, so they are not ideal for finishing work.

The staple gun you choose will depend on the task and your budget. For example, more expensive pneumatic staplers run off a compressor, making them great for larger projects.

However, this would not be the tool you’d want if you’re stretching canvas in preparation for creating an oil painting. An electric staple gun is an option, but perhaps the most common is the manual gun that works much like the stapler on your desk at work.

The manual staple gun usually looks something like a capital R and uses a spring-loaded action to drive the staples into the work surface.

These are used in roofing, arts and crafts projects, fencing, and insulation work, among many other jobs.

Related: What Is The Difference Between Nail Guns And Staple Guns?

11. Hand Files

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At its most basic, a hand file is a metal, hand-held tool used for shaping materials like metal or wood. Like most things in the world, the file has evolved into many different specialty versions of itself, and like so many other tools, your choice of file will be dictated by the task you are undertaking.

Most files have self-explanatory names:

  • Round file
  • Flat file
  • Triangular file
  • Half-round file

Most files have a tang at one end that allows them to have a handle (usually wooden) mounted to them, making them a bit easier to control.

This can be very important when it comes to more intricate jobs and ease the discomfort of holding a metal file for long periods if you’re on a big task.

There are rasps – a kind of extra-course file – for farriers (people who shoe horses), nut files for luthiers (guitar builders), and files designed explicitly for sharpening chainsaw blades.

But unless your project is specialized, a couple of round files and a pair of flat ones, all in different sizes, will probably keep you covered. Check out this set on Amazon.

12. Vise

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Two slabs of metal with a screw that pulls them together – that’s all a vise is. And yet, it might become a tool you can’t live without.

The most common iteration is the bench vise, which is semi-permanently mounted on a workbench. It’s a clunky, heavy, usually cast-iron piece of equipment, and it holds things in place for you while you work on it. A good many tools on this list will eventually be used on something being held in place by a vice.

There are vices for different jobs, and some of these end up being made of non-metal materials to keep from damaging the object being held in place.

Specific kinds of vises exist for woodworking, and these mount in different ways to allow for varying uses of the vise and the object it’s holding. An investigation is needed before purchasing a vise. Like just about anything else, there are many different features available as well.

13. Anvils

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If all you know of anvils is that sometimes they get dropped on the bad guy in cartoons, you’re missing out. The anvil is an incredibly versatile tool. The mass of even the smallest anvil means they’re not exactly hand tools, but when you need an anvil, there is no viable alternative. Anvils are often used in metalworking and blacksmithing.

Generally, an anvil is a heavy piece of equipment that is used to shape metal. When hot metal is placed on top, such as a sword or knife straight out the furnace, the user will strike the hot metal with a mallet, shaping it against the anvil.

Their usual shape is by having a squared-off end on one side and a rounded end on the other to allow for different tasks to be carried out on the anvil. For instance, if you are trying to work a crease into the metal you’re shaping, you’ll use the square end as its sharp corner will allow you to fold the hot, malleable metal over it.

With anvils, bigger is better. The more mass your anvil has (the bigger it is, the heavier it is), the better it will be at taking the hammer blows. In turn, more of your energy will be dispersed into your work. Simply put, the heavier the anvil, the less force you have to use to shape your metalwork.

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14. Scissors

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Perhaps more than any other tool on this list, scissors offer specific types for specific projects. Also, more than any other tool here, using the wrong scissors will damage both the tool and the project you’re working on.

Did you ever borrow your Mom’s sewing shears to cut something out for a homework collage, only to have her become upset? She knew that sewing shears are for sewing and nothing else. She wasn’t crazy, and she wasn’t wrong.

The materials used in scissors and configurations of the blades or handle length are what decide a specific pair’s intended purpose. The safety scissors you used in second grade may look similar to tin snips, but their uses are far different. As their name would suggest, those tin snips are used on tin and other thin metals.

Scissors designed for gardening alone make up their own list:

  • Pruning shears
  • Loppers
  • Hedge clippers
  • Grass shears

Surgical scissors, pinking shears, cigar cutters, even kitchen scissors made for cutting meat and other foods are just a few of the many different kinds out there.

You probably won’t ever use surgical scissors on a roofing job or while building a bookcase. Still, anything is possible, especially given how many different kinds of scissors are out there. Keep looking, and you’ll find exactly the right pair for your job.

15. C-Clamps

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Any woodworker worth his salt has probably told 100 different people that you can never have enough clamps. Not surprisingly, there are seemingly endless varieties of clamps, and even though a c-clamp is one of those varieties, it also comes in many different shapes and sizes.

Generally speaking, a c-clamp is a curved piece of metal with a screw in the bottom of it. The screw has a flat surface on its top so that the clamp can be placed appropriately, such as on two pieces of wood being joined together. It is then screwed into place. The flat surface prevents the screw from piercing or otherwise damaging the work surface, and when correctly applied, the clamp will prevent unwanted movement in all but the most extreme circumstances.

C-clamps are most often used in woodwork and welding, and you’ll choose the size you need according to the size of what you’re working with.

A C-clamp’s most common use in woodwork is holding two or more pieces of wood in place while the glue dries or freeing up your hands while you nail things together.

This is an underappreciated tool, to be sure. Most DIY-ers have found themselves in need of a c-clamp at some point, and when one isn’t handy, things get complicated.

This is one of the few tools you can pick up without knowing a specific task you’ll use it for because you will eventually need one.

Have several sizes on hand, too, because having the wrong size clamp is just as problematic as not having any clamp at all.

16. Crowbar

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Unlike the pry bar, the crowbar has a rounded body and is usually longer and heavier. It is often a demolition tool, so it is sometimes called a wrecking bar and is not a tool for delicate work.

It’s generally heavier than the flat-bodied pry bar, making it the better choice between the two for dealing with more massive objects.

You might also hear crowbars referred to as pinch-bars or goosenecks, among other monikers. The crowbar is for prying rocks loose, for budging heavy things, for smashing through glass or drywall even.

While a good and versatile tool, this is a less common piece of equipment than its sibling, the pry bar.

17. Hand Planer

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While the advent of power tools such as routers and sanders has pushed planers to the back of the collective construction mind, these tools are still useful. Some woodworkers even prefer them to their non-human-powered counterparts. While every tool on this list needs maintenance, the hand planer is worthless without a sharp, well-honed blade.

Simply, a planer is a tool that drags a cutting surface over the face of wood to smooth or flatten it. If you want rounded corners instead of sharp ones, a planer will help you round to whatever degree you like.

Fore planes and smoothing planes are often used together and are comparable to coarse-grit and fine-grit sandpaper, respectively. These are for removing wood.

Jointer planes are longer (some up to 3 feet long / 0.91 meters) and are generally for straightening wood.

18. Mallet

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There will be those who argue that a mallet is just another variety of hammer. Technically, sure. But the real difference is that the mallet’s head, which is larger than the average hammer’s, is typically made of rubber or wood.

However, there are mallets made from different metals for specific tasks. Stonemasons, among others, also employ plastic mallets.

The metal of a hammer’s head can cause damage to a softer surface like pine or perhaps a laminate or wood floor.

The mallet offers the blunt force of a hammer but delivers it less severely, allowing for some subtlety in your task.

19. Chisels

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A chisel is made of metal, and its discerning feature is its beveled cutting edge. Not surprisingly, there are different chisels for different jobs.

Cold and hot chisels are used in metalworking, with the blacksmith using the appropriate one for the heated or cooled metal on which he’s working. Masonry chisels and stone chisels are generally heavier, with the masonry variety most often used in demolition, such as on a jackhammer.

A longer hand tool, the chisel requires another tool in order to work – in this case, a hammer. While you might be able to shave the smallest, softest piece of wood with just the chisel, Michelangelo needed a hammer to go with his chisels because he was sculpting marble.

You’ll likely find the same for your own work and should look for a sturdy chisel that feels good in your hand.

20. Level

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There are levels that use lasers, and those are neat and do the job, but all a level really needs is an air bubble in a liquid. So-called spirit, bubble, or torpedo levels feature a clear tube with liquid and a bubble inside. Line the bubble up between the lines marked on the tube, and you know your surface is level.

Longer levels are for larger projects, perhaps building trusses for house construction, and there are combination levels/squares that aid in truing up angles.

While there are endless lengths available for different applications, no tool bag is complete without a basic, nine-inch bubble level like the CRAFTSMAN 9-Inch Torpedo Level, which embodies “simple, done well.”


Hand tools have been around longer than cities or agriculture, so their worth has been demonstrated over and over. Making use of them involves some degree of know-how, but having that knowledge will yield excellent results over time.

Everyone has their own ideas of what hand tools are. However, most people familiar with hand tools and their uses would agree that many of the tools mentioned in the list above could be considered primary needs for any toolbox or workshop. The keyword here is specialization, so you’ll want to have a goal in mind before deciding which tool you’ll need.

Related: Types of Power Tools | Types of Carpentry Tools | Hand Tools vs Power Tools


Hi there! My name is Jack and I write for ToolsOwner. I have a passion for everything related to tools and DIY projects around the house. You often find me in my workshop working on new projects.