THE 10-MINUTE GUIDE TO ...

WORKBENCH ESSENTIALS

What’s on your toolbench? Experts share their favorites.


Every tinkerer, weekend DIY’er, and professional has a tool palace. Whether it’s a beat up, passed down toolbox or a shiny, well-organized workbench in the garage or a trusty pickup truck box.

But what tools should you stock? We asked Brianna Ganskopp from Craft Thyme and Stuart Deutsch from ToolGuyd to share their must-have workbench supplies.

10 minute guide workbench essentials

BRIANNA GANSKOPP (CRAFT THYME)

CraftThyme.com | (DIY projects, interior design, landscaping, agriculture)

Craft Thyme workbench

1. 4-Foot Aluminum Level

You wouldn’t want to know how many times we have knocked levels off projects, so plastic just won’t cut it. Four feet is long enough for most jobs and acts as a wonderful straight edge when cutting wood.

Recently we used our level for new raised beds in our hilly landscape and to mark cutting lines across corrugated metal panels.

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2. Post Level

Another level? Yup, this handy little level will get you in nooks and crannies and tell you if you are level vertically and horizontally. At the same time!

We used our post level to check our progress on a timber and pea gravel staircase we are building into the tiered garden beds. Perfect for checking each riser.

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3. Post Hole Digger

Holes need digging. These do that. If you find the right pair they will often measure how far you have dug.

Our new composting privacy fence should be going up this fall, so we’ll be using this a lot.

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4. Mattock

It’s a hoe. It’s an axe. It’s amazing. For the less upper-body-strength-inclined it can make short work of digging. Loosen the soil and then shovel it up!

We work on renovating our 1927 home in the winter and renovating out neglected yard in the summer. The mattock is slowly terraforming our hills, paths, and garden beds.

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5. Self-Centering Tape Measure

Slightly different than a regular tape measure, but oh so much better. When you measure a wall that comes out 63 and 3/4 inches and you want to know what the center is? Then you simply look at the bottom of the tape and it comes back with … BAM … 31 7/8. No brain necessary.

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6. Foam Brushes

From everything from paint to stain to crafts to carefully placing herbicide, a foam brush is your friend. We’ve even used the handle as replacement dowels for bunkbeds.

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7. Dawn Dish Detergent

Soap should always be in your toolset. Poison ivy, grease, mystery substance from under the fridge when moving into an old home. A few drops in water make a perfect aphid spray.

Dawn handles all that and cleaning up after four kids. It is the one name brand we can’t help but go to!

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ABOUT THE EXPERTS

Currently set in Asheville, NC, Craft Thyme is a lifestyle blog by Brianna Ganskopp and Adam Reagan that focuses on DIY interior design, seasonal decorations, landscaping, and urban farming. The site provides first-hand crafter experiences and reader-friendly step-by-step guides aimed at spreading followers' self-crafted artisan success … with a bit of cheeky humor and crafting fails mixed in for good measure.

Craft Thyme logo


Stuart Deutsch (TOOLGUYD)

ToolGuyd.com | (Tool reviews, robotics, electronics, functional fabrication projects)

ToolGuyd workbench

1. Test Lead Holder

Organizing frequently-used cables can be a hassle. These guys keep cables up and off the bench, but still within quick reach.

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2. Super Lube Grease

One regular-sized tube of grease gets misplaced often, and having more than one is wasteful. I keep a packet or two in different locations where I might need them.

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3. Ratcheting Spline Wrenches

I chose one from Proto. It's a great upgrade to basic ratcheting wrenches, plus made in USA.

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4. Misc. Hand Tools

I have a smattering of hand tools, purchased from Zoro, that I have come to rely on. From ratcheting spline wrenches, ratchet adapters, precision pliers, socket extensions, and inspection mirrors.

Proto is my go-to brand. They are big step up from consumer brands, and while they cost more, they’re more affordable and easier to find and buy than other industrial brands’ offerings.

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5. Hole Punch Kit

I have 2 sizes of Roper Whitney hand punches, and am planning to buy a bench-mounted punch for larger holes. They’re quicker, quieter, and easier than drilling holes of the same size in sheet metal. Just be sure to keep a hole size and tonnage chart handy.

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6. PCB Holder

I accidently came across this circuit board holder. And while not as versatile as “third hands” for certain soldering tasks, it’s quick and easy to use. Don’t be fooled by its appearance — it’s weighty and solid.

I thought I would need to buy another to support longer PCBs with, but one has proven quite capable thus far.

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7. Soldering Reel Stand

A soldering reel stand is a nice-to-have convenience. It fits standard soldering spools. There are also double-decker spools that can hold two reels in the same footprint.

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8. Screws and Other Fasteners

Tired of not having the right fastener size when prototyping, I ordered a wide selection of economy socket head cap screws and shaft collars and built my own assortment.

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9. Ball Pein Hammer

A nail hammer is good for driving nails, but you need something else for striking tools, such as center punches, cold chisels, pin pinches, and the like. Ball pein hammers are also good for shaping metal in a pinch. Vaughan’s wood-handled ones offer a good balance between quality and cost.

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10. Bin Cabinet

This 20-drawer cabinet will help you contain some of the clutter that’s bound to be spread all over the place on an active benchtop. Get one that’s deep enough to hold certain hand tools — something I could never do with my older plastic drawer organizers.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Stuart Deutsch, Ph.D. is a tool reviewer and tool news writer at ToolGuyd. He has a passion for amateur robotics, electronics, and functional fabrication projects (e.g. test fixtures). While far from being a specialty, he has been working towards more advanced testing system fabrication, involving pneumatic actuators, manual and automated controls, sensors, and linear motion components.

ToolGuyd logo


BRYAN BECK (ZORO PRODUCT TEAM)

(Residential construction, remodeling, woodworking)

Zoro workbench

1. Claw Hammer

For nail driving, nail pulling, … or general venting of frustrations.

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2. Speed & Framing Squares

In carpentry: use a speed square for marking cuts on wood, and drawing or measuring angles.

Use a framing square when laying out larger angles or square cutting marks on wider lumber, stair stringers, quick squareness check of decks, or walls.

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3. Basic Screwdriver Set

Make sure you have slotted and Phillips screwdrivers.

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4. SAE Ratcheting Wrench Set

Good for most common fractional sizes and faster than standard open-end wrenches.

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5. Locking Pliers

Good for an extra hard grip on things versus regular pliers.

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6. Side Cutting Pliers

For cutting or stripping wire, cutting plastic ties, or strapping.

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7. Chalk Line

Handy for marking lines over a long distance, transferring marks, or use for reference lines.

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8. Cordless Hammer Drill / Driver & Multi-Piece Bit Set

Best for drilling holes in wood or concrete and driving fasteners. Add a set with various drill bits, driver tips, and nut drivers for different tasks.

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Shop drill bit sets


9. Bar Clamps

Great for holding items together and an extra set of hands when you need them.

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10. 4-Foot Level

Useful for making things level and plumb on projects. Also makes a great straight edge. This one from Stabila is my fave.

Shop levels


ABOUT THE EXPERT

Bryan Beck has 20+ years of experience in residential construction and remodeling, as well as residential and commercial garage door installation/repair. He’s been in product support for almost 10 years, the last 3 with Zoro's in-house product experts — the Technical Product Team. He stays busy with side jobs, woodworking tasks, and the ever-present projects around his own home.

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