21 Tools Worth Splurging On
Feeling extravagant? You could pay less for most of these tools, but if you're willing to splurge you'll get a lot of bang for your buck.
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Tool Bag That Says “Aah”
Hauling tools around can be a real pain in the a…arm. Digging for the tool you need is another hassle. The Tradesman Pro Wide-Open Tool Bag by Klein Tools solves both problems. The padded handles and shoulder straps make it easy on the back and hands. And the wide-mouth, stay-open top keeps your tools visible and easy to grab.
The bag is big enough to haul the hand and power tools you need for most any job but small enough to easily carry and store. The interior has 33 pockets for organizing small tools, a zipper pocket big enough for a laptop, and space for a battalion of cordless tools, batteries and chargers. The exterior has six large pockets — four with flaps — and two mesh bags for larger items. The molded plastic bottom keeps your stuff dry, and the ballistic nylon construction says “I’m here to stay.”
A Sledge You Can Count On
We expect a lot from our sledgehammers. We want an indestructible head and a handle that can withstand overstrike. We also want a tool to be the ideal weight: heavy enough to bust through concrete yet light enough to swing all day. With most sledges you get two out of three, but one company has upped the score. DeWalt EXOCORE sledgehammers feature composite carbon fiber handles that are durable and seemingly immune to overstrike damage. The handles — which are about two-thirds hollow — lighten the weight and help absorb shock. The sledgehammers are available in 8-, 10- and 12-lb. versions and cost $50 to $60. Check out these concrete demolition tools and tips.
A rotary tool is one of the most versatile tools you can own, and the Dremel 4300 boasts the most powerful variable-speed motor in its product line. It’s also the first Dremel rotary tool with a three-jaw chuck, enabling you to change accessories without a wrench. With its 360-degree grip, improved airflow design and a pivot light to illuminate your work, the 4300 is the Dremel tool you wish you’d bought years ago. It’s only $99 for the tool and a boatload of accessories, so go for it. Learn how to sharpen a chainsaw with a rotary tool.
Have a Blast with Yard Cleanup
We have a gas-powered leaf blower, but I hate to start it, and I got tired of begging my husband to do it for me. So I resorted to a broom to clean off our deck, stairs and paver patio. Not anymore. I bought this cool battery-powered blower, and what used to take me an hour or more now takes 10 minutes or less! I start up on the deck, work my way down the stairs and then blow all the debris from the patio out into the lawn or away from the driveway. I paid about $40 for the Ryobi ONE+ 18-volt model P2190 without the battery. (I use the batteries from my husband’s other Ryobi 18-volt tools.) The blower is light and has enough battery life to do everything I need to do. No more gas-powered blowers or brooms for me! — reader Jan Lehman.
Stellar Shop Vac
Now that’s a shop vacuum. With its 6.5-peak-horsepower motor and 16-gallon capacity, the WORKSHOP WS1600SS sucks up water at a rate of a gallon every second. Its low center of gravity and large wheels make it stable over rough terrain. And though it’s a beast, you’ll be surprised at how quietly it runs. Maybe your shop vacuum works perfectly fine. But now that you’ve seen this bad boy, go ahead and splurge. It’s only about $200.
Flooded basement? Know what you can clean up yourself and what to leave for the pros.
A Saw for the Ages
When I was a framing carpenter in Denver back in the day, pulling a mammoth “worm-drive” saw out of your truck and going to work was the sign you’d reached the big leagues. These monsters required Popeye forearms and a diet of canned spinach to operate, but they could cut through anything and were virtually indestructible.
The DeWalt 60-volt MAX circular saw (model DCS575T2) is the cordless equivalent of these vintage brutes. It has a lot to love. Like all worm-drive saws, the left-side blade position makes it easy to see your cutting line. It’s a workhorse: The 60-volt battery coupled with DeWalt’s thin-kerf FLEXVOLT blade (specifically designed for cordless saws) creates a saw that’s fast and powerful. It can churn through materials up to 2-1/2 in. thick and cut bevels up to 53 degrees. The safety button is easy to access. Read more about the features of this saw here.
We spend our hard-earned cash for special shoes to help us golf, run and bike. So why not a shoe to help us do yard work? Kujo Yardwear shoes were developed by a guy fed up with slipping while mowing his lawn, weary of heavy boots for digging, and tired of wet feet. His goal: a shoe that was lightweight, breathable, flexible and comfortable, yet durable and water resistant with good traction. I “test walked” a pair for a week and found them to be functional and comfortable. They offer good support and traction, yet the shoes flex easily. The waterproof sole and lower rim kept my feet dry in damp grass, while the upper mesh let them breathe. The shoes are available in men’s and women’s styles.
It may be surprising to discover that work boots are much more than steel-toes and laces. There are specialized boots for almost any DIY job, and we’ve rounded up 15 of the best.
Go-To Cutting Tool
Driven by an efficient, rechargeable 4v MaxLithium battery, the self-sharpening blade on the WORX WX081L ZipSnip electric cutter handily cuts through carpet and other tough materials. Weighing only one pound, the ZipSnip is compact and easy to control, helping you get a precise cut every time. Bet you never thought you needed electric scissors, did you? Now you know you do. Especially if you’re removing old carpet.
These beautiful chisels are handmade with blades as thin as possible to enable the kind of precise dovetail joints once made by craftsmen of a bygone age. Intended for detailed work, they are not the kind of tool you can just wail on with a hammer. And at prices starting at $75 each, they’re not for everyone. But if you’re looking to step up your joinery game, you need these. Learn how to get the most out of the chisels you already have.
Air mattresses, inflatable beds, tires, balls, swimming pools — we spend a lot of time fiddling with hand pumps and air compressors. Black & Decker has made life easier with its Multi-Purpose Inflator. This football-size tool can be powered three ways: 120-volt AC, 12-volt DC (via cigarette lighter adapter) or 20-volt rechargeable battery (it’s part of the B&D 20V MAX system.) And it’s packed with lot of great features:
- Onboard storage for power cords and air hoses;
- A niche for holding a needle valve, tapered nozzle and Presta valve adapter;
- The ability to deflate air mattresses and other inflatables using the hose attached to the end of the inflator;
- A digital gauge for checking the existing air pressure and setting the target pressure (with automatic shutoff).
Before you set out on your next outdoor adventure, be sure to check out the following 10 cool camping gadgets.
Random Orbital Sander
What does a $275, top-of-the-line, six-inch random orbital sander get you? More power, fewer swirl marks and less fatigue. The Bosch 1250 DEVS features a beefy 6.5 amp motor with variable speed control. Its integral pad-dampening braking system and microcellular backing pad result in a smooth, fine finish with fewer swirl marks. Paired with a soft grip, the sander’s vibration control suspension system reduces vibration so you can work longer without feeling fried. Sanding’s a dirty job. Why not splurge a little so you can get it over with sooner? Check out these tips on how to sand wood faster.
Super Surge Protector and Power Strip
Awhile ago, I created a power charging station where I could amass a bunch of my battery chargers. All the chargers were connected to one power strip. It did help organize my shop, but it always bugged me that all those chargers sprang to life when I turned on the power strip even when I only needed to charge one battery. Not a big deal if the chargers are empty, but I often leave batteries sitting in the cradle until they’re needed again. I solved the problem by buying a power strip that has a separate switch for each outlet. There are a few brands available online. I bought the Tripp Lite model TLP76MSG. Six of the outlets are switched while one stays on all the time, and all seven have surge protection.
Digital Tape Measure
No more squinting at hash lines or difficult math with fractions. This $30 tape measure takes the guesswork and error out of measuring. Its large digital display can switch between U.S. or metric units, and you can store three measurements for future reference. And, the eTape makes it super simple to find a center measurement. Just measure the whole, then hit the “split” button and the eTape will tell you the center point. That alone is worth the price of admission.
How’s your measuring mojo? See these measuring tips and techniques for DIYers.
Two Overachieving Painter’s Tools
I love my 5-in-1 painter’s tool. It’s a putty knife, roller cleaner, scraper, chisel and pick all in one. When I finally wore it out and went to buy a new one, I found even more multi-talented tools. The Purdy 10-in-1 folding multitool ($12) has a jackknife-style design. In the open position, it’ll clean rollers, spread compound, scrape away old paint and putty, cut tape and cardboard, and even open beer and pop bottles. In the closed position, it will drive popped drywall nails below the surface, open cans and drive slotted screws for switch plate covers.
I also discovered the Red Devil 19-in-1 painter’s tool ($10). It does everything the Purdy knife does but also has five screwdriver tips stashed in the handle and cutouts in the blade for handling four sizes of nuts and bolts. — editor Spike Carlsen
Delta 18-Inch Laser Drill Press
At around $1,200 it’s one of the more expensive floor drill presses in its class, but look closely at the Delta 18-900L’s advanced features that make it worth the price. Its laser crosshair, for example, enables pinpoint accuracy, while its auto-tensioning belt-drive system allows for easy adjustments while drilling. Plus it’s got 16 speeds for drilling through wood, plastic or metal. And you’ll love this drill press’s sturdy feel and roomy work table that you can angle up to 90 degrees, left or right. Still working with a bench-top drill press? Splurge and get what you really want. Work more efficiently with any drill press with these two simple jigs.
Makita Robot Vacuum
Wouldn’t it be nice to turn off the light, close your workshop door and come back the next day to clean, sawdust-free floors? That’s possible now with the Makita DRC200Z Industrial Robot Vacuum. This brawny machine has a 2.5-liter capacity and is powerful enough to suck up nuts and screws. Though built for commercial use, at about $1,100 it’s not that much more costly than what you’d pay for a genteel robot vacuum designed for living spaces. Totally worth it. Here are 12 more awesome smart appliances you can buy today.
Milwaukee M18 Combo Kit
Did you know you can buy 15 Milwaukee power tools with compatible lithium ion batteries all in one fell swoop? Milwaukee’s M18 15-Tool Combo Kit includes 15 cordless power tools, four 4.0Ah batteries and a six-bay charger. So dump your mismatched, used and abused tools and splurge on a set from a company known for durable, hardworking products. Get the entire set for about $2,000.
While you’re overhauling your power tools, why not also rethink how you’re storing them? See these clever tool storage ideas and projects to keep your tools organized.
Briggs and Stratton Q6500 Generator
The Briggs and Stratton Q6500 is lot of generator at a great price. Actually, that’s not entirely true, because it only weighs 128 pounds (without fuel). That’s almost half the weight of other generators in its class. Briggs’ decision to design it with an easy pull start, not an electric start, helped greatly reduce the weight.
This generator has an on-board inverter, which supplies a clean power that won’t damage sensitive electronics. This is a great feature if you lose power at home and need to run some appliances, most of which (maybe all these days) have electronic controls. It’s also a great way to keep those tools running on the job site and still safely charge a phone or tablet. Click here to read more about the features of this generator.
The Smartest Small Table Saw
At about $1,800, a SawStop Contractor Saw will cost you more than a typical table saw. But then again, how much are your fingers worth? SawStop’s patented safety system brings the blade to a complete stop within five milliseconds of sensing contact with human skin. That’s a tenth of the time it takes a car’s airbag to deploy. Instead of a potentially debilitating injury, the operator walks away with a minor cut. Priceless. Until you can afford this splurge, see these tips on how to safely rip a board using any table saw.
Indestructible Coffee Maker
Time to ditch that beat-up old coffee thermos and ramp it up a bit with the new COFFEEBOXX single-cup brew system. This job-site coffee maker works with any K-Cup packs. It has a three-foot retractable cord and a huge 2-1/2 liter removable water tank. The drip tray detaches for taller mugs, and there’s a separate hot water line for making tea or instant soup.
Above all, the COFFEEBOXX is rugged; it won’t break if you drop it…off a cliff. It could even be used as a step stool in a pinch, unless you weigh more than 1,500 lbs.! And how many coffee makers are equipped with stainless steel tie-downs? (I bet your thermos doesn’t have tie-downs.)
Thermal Imaging Camera
When you need to see what’s hot and what’s not around the house, there’s no substitute for a thermal imaging camera. The FLIR E6 detects temperature variations, allowing you to spot drafty windows, insufficient attic insulation, electrical hazards, leaky pipes and other areas needing repair. Particularly helpful is the device’s Multi-Spectral Dynamic Imaging feature. It lays a photographic image over the infrared display so you can clearly decipher where the issues are. You could potentially justify its $1,998.99 price tag by estimating your energy savings over time. Or you could just splurge and buy it because it’s so cool. Here’s how to seal up those leaks you’ll find around the house.