Hand Tools

I own and have personally used all the hand tools listed below and recommend them highly without reservation. Everything I list here I consider worthy of professional daily use. Personally, if I am going to buy a tool which I am going to really use a whole lot, I don't mind paying for quality. I have found that it will often save you a lot of aggravation in the long-run. Besides, a well designed tool really can make your work more enjoyable, or at least less stressful.

Adjustable Wrenches
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Crescent AC110V 1-5/16-Inch Jaw Capacity 10-Inch Adjustable Wrench
I have used this adjustable wrench quite a bit and it has proven very useful. It has a nice finish and feel to it and is of excellent quality. I've used it on house jacks, plumbing fixtures, automotive repairs and more. Fortunately, unlike many other Crescent brand tools, these adjustable wrenches are still made in the USA. The original 'crescent' wrench is, in my opinion, can be regarded as among the best adjustable wrenches out there. I have no regrets on my purchase, that's for sure. (Paid about $17) [Made in USA]

Hammers
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Estwing E3-20S Ripping Hammer with Metal Handle
My dad owns several Estwing hammers which he's had for years. Since he was not ready to part with them yet, I opted to buy my own. I selected the 20 ounce model with smooth face and rip claw, which I feel is the best choice for an all-purpose hammer. This hammer is strong, has great balance, comfortable to use, and attractive too. I've used it for framing, trim work and various other projects extensively the past few years. I expect it to last the rest of my life and if/when I have a son, he'll have to buy his own as well while he waits for me to give up mine. I have my eye on an number of other models as well. (paid about $28) [Made in USA]

Estwing Big Blue Chisel-Edge Rock Pick E6-22BLC
This brick hammer has seen extensive use repairing a foundation wall, building concrete piers under a house, constructing dozens of stone steps on several different projects, constructing four stone and block retaining walls and more. This tool has performed beautifully and is a joy to use. I quickly forgot the money I spent on it as it has been an invaluable tool which will likely never need to be replaced. My friend owns several of them as well and feels the same way. The quality of Estwing tools makes them easy to recommend and keeps me coming back for additional models. (paid about $30) [Made in USA]

Levels
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Empire Level EM81.10 10-Inch Magnetic Torpedo Level
This is empire's premium, top of the line torpedo level. Its frame is made from thick, solid aluminum and the vials sport a nice blue color. This model, like some of their other models is guaranteed to be accurate. If ever it looses its accuracy the company will replace it for you free of charge. This level is unique among their other models in that, rather than having a magnetic strip on the bottom it features three powerful rare earth magnets which is what I was looking for. They sure are strong. This has become my favorite torpedo level. (Paid about $18) [Made in USA]

Mallets
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Estwing DH-12 Rubber Mallet
I've used this mallet for masonry and carpentry extensively. It's also great for a multitude of odd little tasks when you need a bit of extra force but don't want to risk hitting the surface of the object with something as hard as a metal hammer. It actually is useful as well for tapping the end of a pry-bar lightly to help break something stubborn loose or even for driving certain types of chisels. It has taken quite a beating but has many years of life left. I'm surprised at how well the head has managed to stay on the wooden handle with what I put it through. Other 'cheap' brands have separated within just a month of use and needed to be re-glued. This one is definitely worth it. (Paid about $14) [Made in USA]

Vaughan RM24 14-Inch Professional Rubber Mallet with Flame-Treated Hickory Handle
I am extremely happy with the quality of this tool. It has two heads, one of which is non-marring for painted areas etc. I also have an Estwing solid rubber head mallet which also sees a lot of use. This one however has a heavier feel to it and has replaceable striking faces. I like having both styles which are handy for different purposes. (paid about $18) [Made in USA]

Prybars
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Vaughan B215 15-Inch Long Original SuperBar
This tool has endured several years of HEAVY usage. I literally removed thousands of nails with this tool and separated hundreds of pieces of lumber among other things. I carefully honed its edges once after a huge project and now its sharp as a knife and virtually as good as new aside from some cosmetic wear obviously. It is my absolute favorite pry-bar of this type. (Paid under $12 shipped) [Made in USA]

Vaughan B215L Original SuperBar, 21-Inch Long.
I liked the original 15" so much that I bought two of the 21 inch versions when they were on clearance at Home Depot. I can't imagine being more satisfied with them. I was saddened however to see that they would no longer be available at home depot due to a deal with Estwing. Fortunately they are still pretty widely available. (Paid about $13 each including tax) [Made in USA]

Trowels
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Marshalltown 1GSFP 11"x4-1/2" PermaShape Flat Golden Stainless Trowel with Wooden Handle
This is a great trowel to use for masonry/concrete. I used it for doing a little plastering/drywall work too and it was great although there is a different model especially suited for that purpose. It seems to be very well constructed with an alternate soft grip handle model also being available. Although the golden stainless models are more expensive than the regular steel ones it is worth the extra cost if surface rust is a concern for you. (paid about $20) [Made in USA]