Hand Tools

Basic Tools

Broad Axe (Hatchet)

A hatchet (from the French hachette, diminutive form of French hache, ‘axe’) is a single-handed striking tool with a sharp blade used to cut and split wood. Hatchets may also be used for hewing when making flattened surfaces on logs; when the hatchet head is optimized for this purpose it is called a broad axe.

Hatchets are taxonomically differentiated from hand axes by the addition of a hammer head and/or a head 1–3 pounds (500 to 1,500 grams) in weight. Although to most of the world a hatchet and an axe tend to mean the same thing.

Hatchets have a variety of uses, such as tasks normally done by a pocket knife when one is not present. The hatchet can also be used to create a fire through sparks and friction. Hatchet throwing is increasing in popularity. There is an increasing number of people learning to throw a hatchet.


A chisel is a tool with a characteristically shaped cutting edge (such that wood chisels have lent part of their name to a particular grind) of blade on its end, for carving or cutting a hard material such as wood, stone, or metal. The handle and blade of some types of chisel are made of metal or wood with a sharp edge in it.

In use, the chisel is forced into the material to cut it. The driving force may be manually applied or applied using a mallet or hammer. In industrial use, a hydraulic ram or falling weight (‘trip hammer’) drives the chisel into the material to be cut.

A gouge, one type of chisel, is used, particularly in woodworking, woodturning and sculpture, to carve small pieces from the material. Gouges are most often used in creating concave surfaces. A gouge typically has a ‘U’-shaped cross-section.


A hammer is a tool meant to deliver an impact to an object. The most common uses are for driving nails, fitting parts, forging metal and breaking up objects. Hammers are often designed for a specific purpose, and vary widely in their shape and structure. The usual features are a handle and a head, with most of the weight in the head. The basic design is hand-operated, but there are also many mechanically operated models for heavier uses, such as steam hammers.

The hammer may be the oldest tool for which definite evidence exists. Stone hammers are known which are dated to 2,600,000 BCE.

The hammer is a basic tool of many professions. By analogy, the name hammer has also been used for devices that are designed to deliver blows, e.g. in the caplock mechanism of firearms.

Utility Knife

A utility knife (also known as a Stanley knife, boxcutter, X-Acto knife, or by various other names) is a cutting tool used in various trades and crafts for a variety of purposes. Designed to be lightweight and easy to carry and use, utility knives are commonly used in factories, warehouses, and other situations where a tool is routinely needed to open boxes, packages, or cut through tape or cord.

Crosscut Saw

A crosscut saw is a saw that is specially designed for making crosscuts. A crosscut is a cut made horizontally through the trunk of a standing tree, but the term also applies to cutting free lumber.

Crosscut saws have teeth that are designed to cut wood at a right angle to the direction of the wood grain. The cutting edge of each tooth is angled back and has a beveled edge. This design allows each tooth to act like a knife edge and slice through the wood (in contrast to a rip saw, which tears along the grain, acting like a miniature chisel). Some crosscut saws use alternating patterns of the cutting teeth along with others, called “rakers”, designed to scrape out the cut strips of wood. Cross saws have much smaller teeth than rip saws.


A screwdriver is a tool for driving screws and rotating other machine elements with the mating drive system. The screwdriver is made up of a head or tip, which engages with a screw, a mechanism to apply torque by rotating the tip, and some way to position and support the screwdriver. A typical hand screwdriver comprises an approximately cylindrical handle of a size and shape to be held by a human hand, and an axial shaft fixed to the handle, the tip of which is shaped to fit a particular type of screw. The handle and shaft allow the screwdriver to be positioned and supported and, when rotated, to apply torque. Screwdrivers are made in a variety of shapes, and the tip can be rotated manually or by an electric motor or other motor.

A screw has a head with a contour such that an appropriate screwdriver tip can be engaged in it in such a way that the application of sufficient torque to the screwdriver will cause the screw to rotate.

Socket Wrench

A socket wrench is a wrench with interchangeable heads called sockets that attach to a fitting on the wrench, allowing it to turn different sized bolts and other fasteners. The most common form is a hand tool popularly called a ratchet consisting of a handle with a ratcheting mechanism built in, so it can be turned using a back-and-forth motion in cramped spaces. A socket has a cup-shaped fitting with a recess that grips the head of a bolt. The socket snaps onto a male fitting on the handle. The handle supplies the mechanical advantage to provide the torque to turn the socket. The wrench usually comes in a socket set with many sockets to fit the heads of different-sized bolts and other fasteners. The advantage of a socket wrench is that, instead of a separate wrench for each of the many different bolt heads used in modern machinery, only a separate socket is needed, saving space.

The other common form factor is a power tool version in which a socket set is used with an impact wrench. The wrench is usually powered pneumatically, although electric versions are not uncommon. Hydraulic motor versions are rare outside of heavy industry. The sockets for impact duty (called impact sockets) are made with higher bulk and strength than those for hand-tool duty. They are typically finished in black oxide rather than the chrome plating typical of the hand-tool variety.

The principal application of socket wrenches is to loosen and tighten fasteners such as nuts and bolts.

Nut drivers also use a female socket to envelop and drive a male fastener head. From an etic perspective they are a variation of the socket-as-wrench theme, but they are not emically classified in English by the name “socket wrench”.

Steel Square

The steel square is a tool that carpenters use. They use many tools to lay out a “square” or right-angle, many of which are made of steel, but the title steel square refers to a specific long-armed square that has additional uses for measurement, especially of angles, as well as simple right-angles. Today the steel square is more commonly referred to as the framing square. It consists of a long arm and a shorter one, which meet at an angle of 90 degrees (a right angle). It can also be made of metals like aluminum, which is light and resistant to rust.

The wider arm, two inches wide, is called the blade; the narrower arm, one and a half inches wide, the tongue. The square has many uses, including laying out common rafters, hip rafters and stairs. It has a diagonal scale, board foot scale and an octagonal scale. On the newer framing squares there are degree conversions for different pitches and fractional equivalents.

Carpenter’s squares are very much like steel squares.

Spirit Level

A spirit level or bubble level is an instrument designed to indicate whether a surface is horizontal (level) or vertical (plumb). Different types of spirit levels may be used by carpenters, stonemasons, bricklayers, other building trades workers, surveyors, millwrights and other metalworkers, and in some photographic or videographic work.

Alcohols such as ethanol are often used rather than water for a variety of reasons. Alcohols generally have very low viscosity and surface tension, which allows the bubble to travel the tube quickly and settle accurately with minimal interference with the glass surface. Alcohols also have a much wider liquid temperature range, and won’t break the vial as water could due to ice expansion. A colorant such as fluorescein, typically yellow or green, may be added to increase the visibility of the bubble.

Some spirit levels are capable of indicating the level of a surface between horizontal and vertical to the nearest degree. An extension of the spirit level is the bull’s eye level: a circular, flat-bottomed device with the liquid under a slightly convex glass face which indicates the center clearly. It serves to level a surface across a plane, while the tubular level only does so in the direction of the tube. The most sophisticated spirit levels are guaranteed accurate to five-ten-thousandths (.0005) of an horizontal inch at the center per vertical inch at either end.

Carpenter Pencil

A carpenter pencil (carpentry pencil, carpenter’s pencil) is a pencil that has a body with a rectangular or elliptical cross-section to stop it rolling away. Carpenter pencils are easier to grip than a standard pencil, because they have a larger surface area. The non-round core allows thick or thin lines to be drawn by rotating the pencil. Thin lines are required for high precision markings and are easy to erase, but thick markings are needed to mark on rough surfaces. The lead is strong to withstand the stress of marking on such surfaces. The pencil is robust to survive in a construction environment, for example when placed in a bag together with heavy tools. The core is often stronger than in other pencils. Carpenter pencils are also used by builders, because they are suitable for marking on rough surfaces, such as concrete or stone. This shape and lead density aid in marking legible lines with a straight edge that are clear and easy to follow with a saw blade.

Carpenter pencils are typically manually sharpened with a knife, since sharpeners for round pencils do not work. Notching the middle of the lead with the corner of the file makes it possible to draw two parallel lines at once.

Similar pencils (called ‘jumbo pencils’) are sometimes used by children. A pencil that is designed for a child rather than a carpenter would have a softer core, enabling the user to draw with less physical effort. Carpenter pencils are sometimes used by artists and designers to draw a thick line easily when needed. For instance, Old English letters are easier to draw with a carpenter pencil than with an ordinary pen.


Drill Bit

Drill bits are cutting tools used to create cylindrical holes. Bits are held in a tool called a drill, which rotates them and provides torque and axial force to create the hole. Specialized bits are also available for non-cylindrical-shaped holes.

The shank is the part of the drill bit grasped by the chuck of a drill. The cutting edges of the drill bit are at one end, and the shank is at the other.

Drill bits can be made in any size to order, but standards organizations have defined sets of sizes that are produced routinely by drill bit manufacturers and stocked by distributors. A comprehensive drill and tap size chart lists metric and imperial sized drills alongside the required screw tap sizes.

Hole Saw

A hole saw (also styled holesaw), also known as a hole cutter, is a circular saw designed to cut through relatively thin workpieces. It is used in a drill.