7 Underrated Simple Tools

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Your toolkit might be filled with laser levels and other high-tech equipment, but there’s something to be said for the tried and true tools that have been around for decades. While the latest new gizmo can sometimes save you time and give you a more accurate result, there’s a reason some of these tools have been around since before there were electricians. Most of these old favorites are great multi-tasking helpers, able to fill in for a number of more specialized tools. How many of these do you have in your toolbox?

Pocket-Sized LED Flashlight

Today’s tiny version gives you a brighter and cleaner light than last century’s full-sized version. They both fill the same useful niche in your tool arsenal, though. Electricians are all about bringing the light, but that sometimes means working in dark corners and spaces. Peering between walls for wiring or checking out old basement fuse boxes? A portable light source is key.

Eye Protection

You may not consider it a tool, but a great pair of protective eye goggles are a must for every toolbox. It will protect your eyes from dust in basements, keep sawdust away on construction sites and save your eyes from flying debris of all types. They’re never appreciated until they’re needed, but a good pair of protective goggles or glasses are a must for every handyman.

Red Sharpie

Buy a pack at Wally World. Snag one from your kid’s backpack. No matter how you get one, always keep at least one red sharpie around at all times. You can use it to mark drywall, draw lines or drill-holes on stainless steel, indicate cut lines in wood and even indicate measured distances on aluminum siding. For a multi-surface marker that marks on all colors, you can’t beat a common red Sharpie.

Chalk Line

How do you mark a perfectly straight line? Sure, you can use those high-tech pinpoint lasers to create the perfect line across entire rooms, but there’s a lot to be said for a tool that’s hundreds of years old. Stretch a chalked piece of string between two points, snap the string and you’ll have a perfectly straight line marked and ready for cutting or other work. Why spend money on fancy tools when the simplest ones do a perfect job?

Tape Measure

It’s hard to improve on a proven product. Tape measures have been around for decades. The only basic improvements that have been made on them have been in the casing. Instead of a silver stainless case to hold the metal tape, today’s versions are sometimes housed in easy-to-spot bright yellow, red or orange. They still do the same job, though: pull out the tape to measure a distance, then push a button to make the tape reel itself up inside the case.


Take a tour of antique houses in New England and you can see the results of doing carpentry without the use of a level. No matter how well you eyeball work, eventually you’ll have something hanging at an angle. While the spirit level was invented in 1661, it didn’t come into common use until much later. Builders used to use old bottles filled with water as a sort of level, but they still relied on eyeballing the results. Today’s levels are clearly marked to create perfectly level lines, giving carpenters, plumbers, electricians and other contractors help in doing quality work.

Plumb Bob

What a level does for horizontal work, the plumb bob does for vertical tasks. When running lines and fitting wires between joists, it can be important to have a perfectly vertical line. A simple tool that’s been around for thousands of years, the plumb bob has been used at least since the Egyptians built the pyramids. Consisting of a piece of string and a weight, gravity causes the line in the plumb bob to fall straight down toward the earth, creating a straight line you can mark or copy.

No matter how much you love new tech, you’ve got to have some tried-and-true classics in your toolbox. What’s your favorite low-tech tool?


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