25 essential tools for engineers

These are the 25 most essential tools you'll ever need as an engineer. Get tooled up.
Christopher McFadden
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One simply cannot engineer without tools. These are some of the most essential pieces any self-respecting engineer needs to have at hand.

The following list is far from exhaustive and is in no particular order.

1. Every self-respecting engineer has a good wrench


This wrench allows you to organize your tools in a way that makes it easier to find the right one at any given time. It also comes with a carrying case that can be easily stored when not in use. You can choose from 7 options to buy the perfect set that suits your needs.

Wrenches are essential tools for any self-respecting engineer. They are vital for turning nuts and bolts and are incredibly useful for any task that needs you to 'get a grip' on something.

Wrenches come in a few 'flavors,' with each type being more specialized than others; some are for specific tasks. They include the following, but in reality, you'll want to have a collection of each (or get a decent set).

2. Jacks are great tools for lifting stuff


This car jack is a device that lifts heavy vehicles up to 5 tons in less than 2 minutes. It also comes with a portable ergonomic-designed electric impact wrench. It allows you to change the tires easily.

Depending on your needs, a good jack will go a long way. They are great for anyone who likes to tinker with their car but also have many other applications. They come in a variety of forms.

3. Carry all your stuff in a rugged bag or toolbox

Rolling Tool Bag

The Rolling Tool Bag is a must-have accessory for anyone who loves the outdoors. It is made of polyester material and comes with a telescopic handle and a waterproof cover. Its compact size makes it easy to store in your backpack or car trunk when you’re not using it.

With all these awesome tools at your disposal, you are going to need something to carry them all in. Just make sure it's nice and rugged to take all the punishment it's bound to receive throughout its lifetime.

Whether it's a bag or box is a completely personal choice and will depend on the number of tools you intend to carry around.

4. A good trusty saw is a must


This circular saw comes with a powerful 15-amp motor that gives great speed for faster cuts, Then, there’s a spindle lock for easy blade changes. The dust blower ensures you get better visibility.

A good saw is essential whether you need to cut wood, stone, or anything else. They come in a variety of forms but generally fall into either the toothed blade or disk types.

Saws tend to come in specific sizes and shapes and can either be hand powered or motorized for maximum cutting power.

The good old-fashioned hand saws are the most common and the simplest/most satisfying to use, in our humble opinion. These are ideal for small tasks, wood cutting, and of course, living out your dream of becoming a 'proper' lumberjack.

Jigsaws are great all-purpose saws that are perfect for cutting awkward shapes like curves but can also be used to cut straight lines.

Circular saws are power tools that come in cordless or corded varieties. These tend to be used for more hardcore cutting like masonry and metal cutting.

There are also band saws that are powered by a single motor and use a continuous band to cut through anything (within reason). These tend to be used for cutting meat, metal, and wood.

5. Jumper cables are always handy

Jumper Cables

The 16-foot jumper cables are perfect for any car. They have a carrying case that makes it easy to store them in the trunk of your car or in your garage, and they can be used as an emergency backup power supply when you need it most. Ideal for trucks, SUVs, full-size cars, mid-size cars, and small/compact cars.

Jumper or booster cables are great for those who like tinkering with cars. Better quality ones tend to be able to handle bigger batteries, offer high-quality insulation, provide surge control, and are a good length.

6. A good quality flashlight is always a good idea


The main purpose of a tactical flashlight is to provide enough power for the user to see clearly and use it in a variety of situations where the user might need it. This tactical flashlight is usually bright enough to light up an entire room or outdoor area. It is designed to be tough and durable.

When you need to throw some light on a situation, a good torch is invaluable. They come in many shapes, sizes, and power but a good hardwearing metal-cased one is always a good investment.

There are some good guides out there to help you narrow down your choice.

7. Pliers, enough said


Pliers are a set of tools that can be used for many purposes. These 8-set pliers have an ergonomic design so you can use it for long periods without getting tired or feeling uncomfortable. They also have a non-slip grip.

Pliers are essential tools for any engineer to have in their arsenal. They are very simple tools by design, and you'll want a selection of different types depending on the task at hand.

Pliers are ideally suited for plying (manipulating) something - hence the name. You'll be using them to bend or grip things, "crimp" wires, squeeze something, or hold something that is small, sharp, hot, corrosive, or anything that your fingers are too weak, too big, or too awkward to hold in place. As you'd expect, they, like many other tools, come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

8. Protect your eyes with some eyeglasses or goggles

Safety glasses

These safety glasses are designed to be protective, built to last, and customizable for ultimate comfort. They are ideal for work and play. They should be worn whenever you are working with tools such as saws or power tools.

With all the drilling, hammering, cutting, and sawing you're going to be getting up to, you'll want to make sure to protect your eyes from flying shrapnel. If you don’t want to permanently damage your eyesight, you should get yourself a decent pair of safety goggles.

They come in a wide variety of styles but generally fall into the categories of full-face visors, safety glasses, goggles, or foam line/sealed safety glasses. The choice is up to you.

9. Keep things level with a spirit level

Spirit Level

The Spirit Level tool is a versatile device that can be used to measure angles on multiple surfaces. It has a vial that adjusts to the angle of the surface it is being used on. Built to last for a long time.

If you want to make sure something is perfectly level, or vertical for that matter, you'll want to get yourself a decent spirit level. Although there are a plethora of smartphone apps out there, you might not want to get your phone dirty or risk damaging it.

Spirit levels come in various forms, but good ones will generally have unbreakable vials with some form of magnification and luminescent fluid. You'll also want to make sure they have a low tolerance which should be specified on the device for normal and reverse positioning.

You will also want to make sure they have a strong profile weight; 500g/m is usually considered enough.

10. Every engineer needs a good hammer


The steel head of this offers superior durability and firm grip to provide maximum comfort while using the tool. The smooth surface provides means there are fewer marks left on it post usage. An extremely affordable and an essential device to have in your kit.

The hammer. An age-old tool with many, many uses.

If you are going to be hitting something, breaking something, or assembling things with nails, you'll need a good ol' hammer.

It's always advisable to buy a good quality one as they will tend to last a lifetime and are usually an excellent investment. As you'd expect, they come in a variety of forms depending on the intended task.

11. You can't talk about hammers and not mention chisels


This chisel is a versatile tool that can be used for various purposes - from shaping the wood to sculpting metal. It is also available in various sizes so you're sure to find one that suits your needs. This tool is made out of high-quality material and has a durable handle that provides a firm grip.

A chisel is a relatively simple yet indispensable tool. They consist of a chunk of metal, usually with a wooden, plastic, or rubber handle, that has a beveled cutting edge designed for cutting and shaping stone, wood, or even metal. Chisels, like other tools, are ancient in origin and have stood the test of time.

They are primarily intended for use during pairing, joint cutting, or carving out materials for many tasks ranging from sculpting stone to carpentry.

They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, with some specialized for heavy-duty work like fence-building and frame construction which tend to have more robust rectangular cross-section blades.

They also vary widely in width, length, and the hardness of the blade material. You'll want to have a nice selection of different shapes and sizes, but a good chisel will last you a lifetime though you might want to invest in Whetstone, or other sharpening devices, to keep the cutting edge sharp.

12. WD-40, need we say more?

All-purpose Lubricant

This all-purpose lubricant is designed to offer protection against corrosion and moisture-induced short circuits. It comes with a smart straw for easy application. It comes with corrosion-resistant ingredients that safeguard metals against corrosion.

Does it move? Should it? Then you'll need some WD-40. This amazing all-purpose lubricant is great for getting rid of squeaks, loosening stubborn bolts, and so many more applications.

13. Metal files are simply a must

Metal Files

This high carbon steel blade is designed with a soft-grip rubber handle to provide a safe and comfortable grip. It is ideal for wood and metal applications. It is made of alloy steel, meaning it's meant to last for the long term.

Anyone who frequently works with metal will attest to the utility of a good metal file. They are unrivaled for shaving, rounding off, or generally filing down anything metal in nature.

In short, they are an engineer's best friend and ideal for making that just slightly oversized rivet fit. They come in a variety of forms, and you'll want a nice selection depending on the task.

14. Measure twice and cut once

Tape Measure

This tape can be used to measure lengths up to 16 ft. It can also be used in many fields such as construction, engineering, and surveying. You can rest assured about getting precise measurements with this tape.

Need to measure the length of something? Make sure you have a tape measure at hand. Most are spring-loaded and compact, so they won't take up much room in your fancy toolbox or bag.

15. A good dust mask will protect your delicate lungs

Dust Mask

This dust mask is a device that helps in healthy breathing. It is made of nylon, which is one of the most commonly used materials for making masks. A suitable and extremely important accessory for woodworking purposes.

From asbestos to lead-based paints, there is a plethora of airborne stuff out there just waiting to cause you harm. Why not get yourself a decent dust mask to spoil their plans?

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recommends using a disposable or cartridge-type half mask with a filter with a P100 rating.

16. Screwdrivers are another essential tool


A compact and portable screwdriver that you can use anywhere in the house or office. It is also strong and durable so that it lasts for a long time without breaking. It is made from high-grade raw materials and has 36 types of bits in total.

Screwdrivers are another essential tool for engineers. As you'll already know, they are designed primarily for turning and driving screws into things.

They come in many different shapes and sizes but tend to fall into two main types -flathead and Phillips. As you'd expect, you'll want a nice selection of them to cover most tasks.

17. Don't forget to protect your ears


These earmuffs are made of lightweight materials and are slim in design. They offer comfort and a firm headband that keeps the ear cups in place. The earmuffs are designed to be comfortable for long-term use.

Why risk permanently damaging your hearing whilst tinkering away? Earmuffs, earplugs or headphones provide excellent protection and don't have to be super bulky.

Shop tools, chainsaws, and circular saws can operate in excess of 100 dB, and anything in excess of 85 dB is known to cause damage to your ears. Try to choose a set of earmuffs with a high-noise-reduction rating (NRR) or between 23 and 33.

18. Get yourself a decent vise


This vise is perfect for clamping and fixing workpieces with ease. It can hold a variety of objects of different shapes and sizes with no problem at all. The jaws are also durable and sturdy to ensure that the vise will last for a long time without any issues.

Vises are essential in any kit for many tasks like cutting the length of pipe, bending or shaping things, or generally holding something tightly in place. They come in either stationary or swiveling varieties, but for heavy-duty work, you really want a forged-steel one.

If you plan to do a lot of cutting, it's best to get a V-shaped jaw one. For moderate pounding, choose one with an anvil on the back.

19. You can't go wrong with a good power drill

Power Drill

The versatility and ease of use of this cordless drill have made it one of the most popular tools today. It is also easy to carry around since it doesn’t require any cords or outlets. It sports a soft grip for ease of working.

When muscle power just isn't good enough, power drills come to the rescue. They are very versatile tools primarily designed to provide powered assistance when drilling holes or driving screws into things.

They can either be cordless or corded and are ideal for drilling/screwing into metal, plastic, wood, brick, stone, concrete, glass, and tiles. They will tend to come with a set of varying lengths and types of drill bits (more on those later).

They usually come equipped with a slip clutch that allows you to adjust the amount of torque applied to the 'business end' of the drill.

"Drills may have a fixed speed setting, 2-speed settings, or variable speed depending on how hard you squeeze the trigger. Variable speed is most convenient as it allows a drill hole to be started easier without the bit moving all over the place. Also, lower speeds should be used with larger diameter bits to avoid overheating the bit due to friction." - Dengarden.

The right drill for you will depend on the task at hand, so you should do some research before buying one.

20. You'll also need some decent drill bits to go with that drill

Drill Bits

Drill bits are one of the most important tools in any DIYer's toolbox. These drill bits come in different sizes and can be used for a variety of purposes. They are designed to perform well at fast speeds with their ultra-high strength and durability.

Of course, any decent drill is useless without a good selection of drill bits. These, as you'd expect, come in a wide range of sizes and shapes depending on their intended use on particular materials.

In reality, you'll need a variety of some or all of the following. Here we'll cover the most common ones but note there are many other specialty ones.

21. A mirror on a stick is surprisingly useful

Inspection Mirror

This inspection mirror is a tool that can be used in any field of work. This mirror has a 360-degree rotation, which makes it easy to use. Also, it is a shatterproof mirror, which makes it durable and safe.

Whether you are trying to inspect hard-to-reach places or want to find a loose screw during vibration testing, a humble mirror on a stick is incredibly useful. They don't need to be anything fancy, but one that can be adjusted at different angles is ideal.

Dentist-type examples are fine, or you could cobble your own one together. It's up to you.

22. Don't worry, we haven't forgotten about duct tape

Duct Tape

This duct tape is a strong adhesive that sticks well to itself but not well to other surfaces. It is also durable and waterproof. This makes it the perfect material for many different uses.

Ah duct tape, aka gaffer tape. The internal fix-all for any and all problems. You should always have some on hand as you never know when you'll need it.

23. A good quality utility knife will pay dividends

Utility knife

This utility knife has an auto-changing mechanism that allows for smooth retraction. It also has an anti-slip handle that provides a firm grip during use. It can be widely used for different purposes.

A good quality utility knife (Stanley knife) is indispensable for so many different things. Their sharp and replaceable blades are great for cutting things like wood, cardboard, or other materials like vinyl or plastic.

Simply put, no self-respecting toolbox is complete without one. They come in various forms, from retractable to the fixed blade to break away.


A caliper is a device that measures the thickness of materials. This one is made from polished stainless steel with 4 different models available. It can measure the thickness of wood, metal, and plastic.

Tape measures are great and all, but you can't beat a pair of calipers for precision measuring. They can be analog or digital (digital are quicker to use).

If you find yourself using CNC mills, 3D printers, CNC routers, or laser cutters, calipers are a must for ensuring your material dimensions in software are consistent with the material’s actual dimensions.

25. An air compressor is also a good idea

Air compressor

An air compressor can be used in many different ways in your home or business. It can be used to inflate tires, dry paint, remove ice and snow, blow up balloons, and more. This one is pretty easy to use and has multiple uses.

Air compressors are another invaluable tool in your arsenal. They are great for a variety of jobs, from inflating tires to operating nail guns!


They come in a variety of forms, from large stationary compressors to smaller portable ones. Large stationary compressors tend to be high-horsepower monsters with large air tanks intended for long periods of uninterrupted use.

Smaller portable compressors have smaller tanks and tend to come with handles or wheels to easily move them around. Portable compressors tend to come in a few distinct forms. Whichever you go for, they are all ideal for light, quick work like airbrushing and powering nail guns, etc.

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