My Favorite Framing Tools

Along the same lines as the old adage “the clothes make the man”. Maybe tools don’t make the carpenter, but boy can they make a big difference in efficiency and reducing frustration.

In this post, I have included pictures of many of the incredibly useful tools and accessories I used in the framing of our house. I will try to link to most of them for your convenience so their will be some Amazon Affiliate links.

The hammer pictured above is a DeWALT DWHT51138 Mig Weld Checkered Framing Nailing Hammer. I love this hammer. Before we even started the house I had seen it at a home store several times and just loved it. It was priced more than some others around it, but a few dollars, in the long run, isn’t worth worrying about if it’s a great product. Let me tell you it is. It feels great in your hand. They have designed this hammer to be a workhorse. The top part is mig-welded on both sides to the handle. You can swing this hammer very fast and with the weight balanced as it is it hits with the force of a much larger traditionally designed hammer. The handle material has a great grip to it and the slight curve at the end gives you a reassuring feeling of not slipping away under a hard swing.

Sure a hammer may be an enduring symbol and tool of a carpenter, but most modern framing and construction is done with air powered tools. You need a good maintenance free compressor so you aren’t fussing with it frequently. This one I picked up at my locals Lowes. Kobalt 0300841 8-Gallon Portable Electric Horizontal Air Compressor It has a good mixture of power and mobility. The handle is a nice height for pulling around and although you can pull it everywhere the second handle on the tank makes it not too bad to pick up when you have too. Don’t forget to always drain the tank after every day. I made the mistake of not doing it when it had been very humid and rainy and my valve on the bottom ended up rusting out. A couple dollar replacement valve did the trick though.

To go with the air compressor you need some nailers right. I am not a professional carpenter that was looking for a framing nailer to last for many years of house framing. I was looking for a good value and I think that is what I found in this Freeman P4FRFNCB Framing/Finishing Combo Kit with Canvas Bag 4-Piece Pneumatic Nail Gun Set of 4 with Framing Nailer, Finish Nailer, Brad Nailer & Narrow Crown Stapler. It comes with these four various nail guns and a sturdy bag to put them in. Reviews, when I bought it, were pretty good. I do remember one mentioning it being heavy but hey again I’m not going to be using it for years just long enough to finish the house right. It went through some rough times and I had very few misfires. I shot nails from Home Depot and Lowes no problem. Just remember to add a few drops of gun oil each day of use. Something else nice is each nailer has an attached dust cover over the air hose adapters. Nice touch!

A pro framer or my own father would probably recommend a worm-drive type saw, but they are really heavy and that kind of power may be good for lots of long rips of boards but for my needs this type of saw pictured works great. I got this one 16 years ago as a “guys” wedding present and it has worked great ever since. This model doesn’t seem to be available anymore except with a European type electrical plug on the end. This one seems to be the closest modern one to the one I love. Makita HS7600 Circular Saw, 7-1/4″

Tape measures. Got to have them. I recommend at minimum 2, DEWALT DWHT34036L 100-Foot Closed Case Long Tape for things like squaring up the walls across the house, and DEWALT DWHT33373L 1 1/8-Inch x 25-Foot Short Tape, 10-Foot Stand Out for most everything else that you keep in your tool belt. Also, it is a good idea to have a third one like the shorter one to keep by your cutting station for a helper who is making your cuts or for when you have misplaced the one that should be in your tool belt.

Most house framing projects probably don’t require any kind of electric drill but some of our unique architectural element definitely would. Most projects around the house and even building our huge chicken tractor I only needed the aid of my 18 volt Makita. I knew this drill would have lots of necessary “grunt” when I needed it and should last for many years. Even large 8 inch screws for our insulated roof panels never required the hammer drill feature. It is pretty light and includes an attachable handle grip but I have never used it. I did purchase mine at Home Depot but you can also get it a little cheaper and delivered free on Amazon. DEWALT DW511 1/2 in. (13mm) 7.8 Amp VSR Corded Hammer Drill

Heavy duty electric cords are great! Hard to have too many of them. The heavy gauge yellow one in the picture was the backbone of our power for many months. We had a temporary power pole sitting only about 30 feet from the house so I ran it to the house and split everything off it from there. You could get fancy and use real structural electric wire and build a distribution box but not me. Certainly don’t skip here. A heavy duty quality cord will stand up to much abuse, months of outdoor exposure, and the high electric draw of several simultaneous power tools. Here is a green version of my cord. Outdoor Extension Cord 50ft 10/3 Triple Outlet 3 Prong With Lighted Ends 10 Gauge Power Extension Cord Power Your Major Appliances (50 ft Triple Tap, green)

Chalk lines are a necessity. Generally their are two choices, red or blue. I got both because who knows you might need them and having a contrast can be very important if they need to cross paths. They are different though and most people may not know that and why. Blue doesn’t stay around very long maybe a week but red can last up to 2 months even outside. While I am covering things to make marks on stuff we can’t forget the handy carpenters pencil.

If your house framing isn’t plumb and level, well you’re wasting your time and every step beyond this stage is going to be made more difficult and potential dangerous. You could definitely get by with a lesser level but when I was buying my tools and I wanted quality that would last and man is this thing beautiful too. This exact model may not be available anymore. I got it this from Loews for around $50 I believe. One of these two choices looks to be the closest. Empire EM55.48 Magnetic I-Beam Level or Empire Level E75.48 48″ True Blue Box Level It’s a great idea though to have a small level that is always at hand in your tool belt. Stanley 42-291 8 Inch Magnetic Torpedo Level

I would highly recommend having a speed square Empire Level E2994 7-Inch High Definition Rafter Square for your tool belt and a larger 24 inch one Starrett FS-24 Steel Professional Framing Square, 24″ x 16″ Length for squaring up walls too each other. I also purchased the larger silver 12 inch square pictured but found I never used it. It can be great it you are cutting your own rafters but we used trusses.

A pry bar can your best friend getting you out of a bad situation. There is always a need to separate two boards, pull a nail, of give a little lift to a wall. Make sure to get a flat bar Vaughan B215 15-Inch Long Original SuperBar and a cats paw bar Estwing Nail Puller – 12″ Double-Ended Pry Bar with Straight & Wedge Claw End – DEP12 for those nails you may need to dig out if below the surface of the board.

I didn’t go out and buy a fancy new utility knife. This is an old one I inherited from my dad. You could probably find one with a “grippy” rubberized handle, but if you are going to be carrying it around in your tool belt everyday you want a simple smooth one like this. Stanley 10-099 6 in Classic 99 Retractable Utility Knife, 1-Pack It will pull out of its pouch much easier.

Before we started framing I had seen this table and was pretty interested. It quickly stretches out and fold back together and fits in the bag. You can use anything as the work surface. I used a 4 x 8 piece of 3/4 inch plywood. It held lots of tools and miscellaneous parts and my laptop at times. It was an anchor on the job site to put things and keep them off the floor. It tears down very quickly and hold LOTS of weight if needed. The carrying bag unfortunately is not terribly durable. The material is thin and the stitches tore on mine. So if you put it in there often it won’t last long. You don’t really need the bag though it holds together fine. You can just set it on a shelf on its side or stand it in a corner. It appear s the larger size I have is no longer made by the manufacturer. I can only find a 2 X 4 size. It would still be a great size to work on and two of them could be made into a huge job-site table. Centipede Tool K100 6 Strut Expandable 2′ X 4′ Portable Sawhorse and Work System Kit

There are lots of choices for sawhorses, you can even just make you own from scraps of lumber. This particular one though I can really recommend. It quickly folds up, but I think most importantly the legs are quickly and easily adjustable for uneven surfaces. Sure if you are inside or on a driveway you are fine but I found I was often working on uneven ground. Also you can raise or lower it to match the height of the tablesaw at your cut off station. Dewalt DWST11031 Adjustable Metal Legs Sawhorse

I don’t have a specific recommendation here for a broom just have one to clear the days sawdust away or get standing water off the floor after a heavy rain.

This job-site table by Husky is nice to mount a table saw. It has the rails you can see to attach the saw or some clamps to hold lumber. It is very light and has removable legs but I never bother to take them off. The handle on the other side in this picture makes it super easy to carry about. Husky 1.8 ft. x 3 ft. Portable Jobsite Workbench

I picked up this double bevel 12″ table saw at Harbor Freight on sale. I wanted a good table saw but didn’t want to spent $400 on one that I’m going to use everyday professionally. This has much of the same features including the laser guide for about half the price. I used it to cut framing lumber, but also using a fine tooth blade to cut flooring and trim boards. 12 Inch Double-Bevel Sliding Compound Miter Saw with Laser Guide

It’s great to have on hand a hand saw in situations where you can’t get any powered saw into the space. I like this small 15″ size. It’s not so long the end is flopping about and the handle is comfortable at least if you are having to use it in an uncomfortable situation. DEWALT DWHT20544L 15-Inch Standard Panel Saw

I will never recommend a particular tool belt to anyone because that is such a personal choice. Some people want to carry everything around with them so they may want lots of pouches and attached suspenders to hold the weight. Others may want a very minimalist set of tools on them at any one time. I might just recommend trying on several at your store of choice.

I really like this reciprocating saw. The whole outside has a texture and feel to it. It is super easy to change out the blades. No tools or key need. You simply flip the grey lever up in the front and it pulls out. The trigger also has a very smooth pull as it progressively speeds up the blade. I haven’t had many of these to compare but this one is my favorite. RYOBI RJ186V 12 Amp Reciprocating Saw

Ramset powder actuated guns are a must for attaching your framing to the concrete in the basement. This is the only one I have ever had or used. I never had any misfires or trouble of any kind with it. This model has a palm hold on the end to hold it down and a trigger to fire. A simpler model you have to hit with a hammer to fire is available for about half the price if you want to save some dollars. I will say though having two hands on it to steady it and not having to swing a hammer at it made me feel more comfortable. The special nails and the 22 shells are usually sold in the store right by it. ITW Brands 40066 .22 Caliber Trigger Shot Tool

Okay, maybe I wouldn’t call this a tool, but something like this crate is great for holding miscellaneous boxes and screws or small tools. I like this better than a bucket because you can see through the sides on this to see whats at the bottom without having to empty the whole thing.

This last tool would be very specific to to your build if you are using Zip system siding or not. I am including it in my framing section because it was integral to the walls going up quickly and the house getting dried in. I attached and taped the seams of the siding while each wall was still laying down. It made the walls a little bit heavier and you may not want to do this if it is windy, but for us it was awesome to stand up a wall and have it be done except for the final siding. It seems the best place to get it presently is through Home Depot and they may have to order it for about $99. This all in one tool dispences and then has a textured roller to fix the tape to the board.

Next time we will get our framing lumber delivered and insulate the basement walls.

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