10 Must-Have Products for Savvy DIYers
Becoming a savvy DIYer means gaining a lot of skill and knowledge. It also involves owning many cool and interesting products to make your life easier. Check out these 10 must-haves.
Be a stonemason—No special skills required!
If you love the look of stone but don’t have the bucks to hire it installed by a pro or the skill (or courage) to install it yourself, check out Boral’s Versetta Stone panelized stone veneer.
Believe it or not, there’s no mortar involved. The key is a tongue-and-groove interlocking system with a concealed flange that anchors each 8-in. x 36-in. panel to the wall with screws or nails. The panels are made of lightweight aggregate materials but look like real stone. Use the panels anywhere inside or out. They can be attached to masonry, studs or 1/2-in. sheathing. Outside use also requires moisture barrier and a few more steps to deal with moisture.
Cutting is simple with a circular saw and a diamond blade or any saw designed for cutting masonry. You’ll have to calculate the number of special “universal corners” for inside or outside corners and, of course, how many panels you’ll need. Go to boral.com for help with that as well with finding a supplier. Expect to pay $12 to $15 per sq. ft. It comes in bundles so be aware as you research buying this product.
Keep your tootsies toasty
To save money, I keep the temp in my shop down low when I’m not in it and crank up the heat when I am. But even when the air temperature hits 70 degrees F, the concrete floor is still Minnesota-cold. I tried a space heater under my bench, but it broiled my shins and still left me with cold feet. So I recently bought a foot-warming mat, and now my feet stay toasty warm. Plus, it uses a fraction of the electricity and is a lot safer than a space heater. Cozy Products makes the mat. I bought mine at amazon.com for about $50. The folks at Cozy suggest putting a chunk of cardboard underneath it if you use it on flooring that could fade from the heat, like carpet or wood. — Mark Peterson, Contributing Editor
Protect your brainpan
Nobody is a fan of hard hats. They’re just not very comfortable, and they tend to fall off unless you’re standing completely upright.
For those jobs where a hard hat isn’t required but there’s still some danger of whacking your noggin, try a bump cap instead. It doesn’t provide as much protection as a hard hat, but it’s not nearly as cumbersome, and it fits just like a baseball cap.
Bump caps can protect your melon when you’re climbing around a cramped attic, working in a tight crawl space, or whenever you’re near a clumsy coworker who has a bad habit of dropping tools while working off a ladder.
Click here for 10 tips about safer, easier DIY work.
Premier pocket hole jig
A little while ago, I dropped my old pocket hole jig and broke it. This turned out to be a blessing because I went out and picked up Kreg’s new K5 jig. Wow, what a difference!
Working with this new jig is like working with a altogether different tool—a much better tool. The spring clamp adjusts to any thickness of wood in seconds. The wings that support larger components also double as storage bins. The setting block makes adjusting the stop collar on the drill bit super easy.
I thought the dust collection port was a little hokey at first, but it really does save a lot of time since I don’t have to remove the bit and blow away wood shavings several times for every hole. It even inspired me to take on projects that I wouldn’t have attempted with my old jig. I bought the K5 on amazon.com for about $130. — Mark Peterson, Contributing Editor
If you are looking for something closer to the entry level, try Kreg’s R3 set.
Magnetic pick-up tool
With the TEKTON 7617 50-lb. Telescoping Magnetic Pick-up Tool in hand, there’s no need to panic when you drop that important one-of-a-kind screw or star washer. You can easily find it, whether it’s in the grass, way under the workbench, even underwater. I use mine to clean up job sites after roofing and quickly pick up nasty spills of screws or nails on the shop floor. The 3-piece set is available for about $17 at amazon.com. — David Radke, Contributing Editor
Learn about some of the best household cleaning products here.
Big-time back saver
I have only one son left at home, which means I’m running out of helpers to move heavy objects, so I got myself a hydraulic lift table on wheels. I initially bought the table to help me get large projects from my workbench down to the floor, but I didn’t know how handy it would be. I’ve used it for loading stuff into the back of my truck and moving heavy tools, like planers, from lower shelves up to my workbench. I’ve even used it to raise and lower projects for ease of painting.
My only complaint is that the table only reaches 29 in. while my workbench is 34 in. I bought mine at a Northern Tool & Equipment store for $190. The table can handle 500 lbs. and has saved my back numerous times. It was a lot cheaper than raising three boys. — Mark Peterson, Contributing Editor
Practical job site power strip
The Stanley 32050 FatMax Power Claw is a clever power strip built into a clamp. It can grab on to a stud, rafter, sawhorse or ladder. Hang it wherever you need power. This strip works great at keeping extension cord connections off the ground. That’s convenient, but it makes even more sense if you’re working outside on a wet surface.
The Power Claw has three grounded outlets and a 15-amp breaker. Buy one at amazon.com for about $27. There’s also a 13-amp version available for $20, but spend the extra money to avoid nuisance trips.
World’s smallest drill press
Don’t get any ideas about using this tool for heavy-duty drill jobs. But this little drill guide is ideal for on-site tasks like drilling perfectly straight holes in stair treads for balusters, drilling into pipe or dowels, and controlling the uniform depth for a series of holes for railings.
You can move it around on larger work like stair treads or screw it to a temporary base and then bring smaller work to it. And it’s not a huge investment–only $30. You use your own 3/8-in. or 1/4-in. drill that attaches to the guide. The one shown is an older Wolfcraft 4525404 that sells for about $30 at amazon.com. But go to amazon and search for “drill guide jig” and you’ll find several other versions to choose from.
If you already have a drill press, check out 14 tips for getting the most out of your tool.
One great featherboard
Keeping firm pressure against the fence while ripping a board on a table saw is the key to getting a straight cut. Before I got the Ridgid MagSwitch magnetic featherboard, I was clamping a homemade featherboard to the edge of the table. Trouble is, the setup was cumbersome, and I usually had to fuss over getting it set right–a little too much pressure, not enough … you know what I mean.
Using this magnetic featherboard is like the opposite of fuss. It’s so simple to position, lock and unlock that it’s a pleasure to use, so I use it more often—and get better cuts. Magnets hold it really tight to a cast iron saw table, and a turn of the knobs quickly releases the grip. I bought it for about $50 at Home Depot and have zero regrets. I love it. — David Radke, Contributing Editor
I get slivers like teenagers get pimples. Sometimes I don’t even realize it until the next day when they start to fester. With my aging eyes (I’m over 40++), it’s not so easy anymore to wrestle with that sliver and get the tweezers even close to it. This visor magnifier changes the whole playing field. Now I can zero in on the sliver and see way more of my face than I want to.
Of course, from time to time there are other things that come up that you can do with this magnifier, like changing watch batteries, fixing small electronics and jewelry repair. At $6 you can’t go wrong. It’s available at widgetsupply.com (No. XWT1-42C). — David Radke, Contributing Editor
Next, check out our favorite pro-recommended tools DIYers should use, too.
Every product is independently selected by our editors. If you buy something through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission.