Top Gifts for the DIYer on a Budget
Because DIYers are used to doing things themselves, they don't care how expensive gifts are. They care about how useful their gifts are. Take a look at some of the most useful, budget-friendly gift picks.
Every editorial product is independently selected, though we may be compensated or receive an affiliate commission if you buy something through our links.
Companies send us all sorts of tools and gadgets to review; my office is full of them (no, I’m not complaining). When the Screwpop Company sent me its key chain utility knife, I was intrigued but not excited. I stuck it to my metal desk intending to give it more consideration at a later date. Since then, I’ve used it almost daily to open letters, dog treat packages for Roxy (she comes to work with me every day) and, ironically, packages containing other products for review.
The genius is in its size and simplicity; it’s not much bigger than a standard utility blade. I’m going to buy a few more to keep with my bicycle, ATV, tackle box and camping bin. The Screwpop Utility Knife 2.0 is available for about $10 at screwpoptool.com and other online retailers. — Mark Petersen, Associate Editor
I’ve always relied on small blocks of wood to set the cutting depth on my table saw blade. Even though I labeled each block, they would inevitably get knocked onto the floor and swept into the trash, and I’d have to make another one.
I no longer have that problem because I picked up a set of Mag Shims from FastCap. Mag Shims are 1/8-in. magnetic spacers. If you need a blade height of 7/8 in., simply stack seven spacers, and raise the blade to match. They also work great for setting the depth on router bits and drill presses. I stick them right to the backside of my fence, so they’re always at hand and never get lost. A pack of eight 1/8-in. spacers and two 1/16-in. spacers costs $25. Buy a set at fastcap.com. — Mark Petersen, Contributing Editor
It seems like everything I buy these days has a cord. My desk, car and toolboxes are full of them. Sure, some products say they’re cordless, but that just means until the batteries run out and they need to be charged ? with a cord! I’ve tried a few cord management methods, but Nite Ize Gear Tie Cordable Twist Ties are my favorite so far. They’re little rubberized cables that hold their shape when wrapped around cords. They have a stretchy loop on one end that fits over a USB plug, which keeps the tie attached so it doesn’t get lost. My cord conundrum has officially been solved. The ties are available online and at home centers. I got a four-pack of 6-in. ties for $8. But other lengths are available. — Vern Johnson, Art Director
These mittens are great, not only do they fit somewhat like a glove, but they are comfortable, tough, water resistant and, best yet, warm. The inside of the mittens pairs up the index and middle finger and gives the ring and pinkie their own compartment. You can pick up lumber and actually carry bigger tools to the job site with some dexterity. You’re not going to be picking up dimes or nickels off the sidewalk, but that’s not a job for mittens anyway. They’re so good that they usually sell out before the season ends, so order early. Find the Kinco Lined Pigskin Mitt on Amazon today.
These gloves for auto repair will help protect you from working with hazardous materials.
This smart little tool does a lot?it works as a wire stripper, sheathing cutter, wire bender, measuring gauge and a wire nut wrench. But what it really excels at is stripping sheathing from nonmetallic cable (Romex). The little tooth inside slices through the sheathing as you slide the cable through. The tooth won’t damage the individual wires, and because it’s inside the tool, it won’t slice your fingers like a utility blade could. Buy an Ideal Lil’ Ripper Stripper online or at home centers for about $6.
You’ve probably used halogen work lights. And you’ve also probably burned your fingers on them, cussed the fragile bulbs and sweated from the heat they generated. Now there’s an alternative.
The Husky Portable LED Work Light is cool to the touch, can take abuse, won’t heat up a tight work space and costs about $40. I’ve been using it for various small projects, and I love it. Especially the fact that I can knock it around a bit. And since it’s got an LED, its power use is minimal.
All that is great. But one thing you need to know: It can’t match the brightness of your typical halogen work light. A traditional halogen work light might produce 8,000 lumens, 10 times the output of this light. But for small jobs or tight spaces, it’s just the ticket. — editor Ken Collier.
If you’ve ever dreamed of building your own cabin, you should read Cabin Lessons: A Nail-by-Nail Tale. It’s written by our very own Contributing Editor Spike Carlsen. He and his wife, Kat, found a challenging but beautiful piece of land on Lake Superior and built their dream cabin on it together. Cabin Lessons recounts their entertaining and instructive story of building together, with plenty of lessons for a would-be cabin or house builder. It’s also a meditation by a kind, modest and genuinely funny guy on building a marriage, a blended family and a life. You’ll be grinning. Guaranteed. Get yourself (or someone you love) a copy at bookstores or online. It’s from Storey Publishing and it’ll run you about $15 at major booksellers.
As a siding contractor, I carried a permanent marker in my pouch at all times. I used it to mark stud locations, keep track of measurements and scribe the cutting lines on the siding. I bought them by the dozen because it only took a week or so for the tips to wear out. Now Sharpie makes a marker for pros that lasts 50 percent longer than before on abrasive surfaces. It also works better on wet and oily surfaces. Get the Sharpie Professional for $2 at The Home Depot. — Mark Petersen, Associate Editor
Protective headphones equipped with a radio have been around for a while. Some models offer an auxiliary jack so you can plug in your phone or MP3 player, but good luck keeping that irritating cord plugged in for more than five minutes at a time.
ION has solved that little problem with its Tough Sounds Hearing Protection Headphones with Bluetooth & Radio. Now, while mowing the lawn or running a chain saw, you can tap into your Bluetooth-equipped device and listen to your own tunes or a podcast. These headphones have a built-in rechargeable battery that lasts up to 20 hours per charge.
Sure, a funnel works great at keeping fluids from spilling all over, but when you’re done pouring and pull it out of the hole, the fluid leftover in the funnel drips all over the place. I use this Hopkins FloTool On-Off Refill Spout (No. 10101) to keep that from happening. I have one on my windshield washer fluid and antifreeze containers and one on my gallon jug of chain saw bar oil. There’s no mess and no cap to fumble around with—just twist and pour.
Hopkins FloTool also makes a Spill Saver Oil Spout (No. 10107) that fits quarts of oil. I’m not sure I know where my funnels are anymore.
Checkout a flexible funnel for working on vehicles and lawn mowers. — Mark Petersen, Associate Editor
I have two sets of chargers for all my electronics and always keep one set at work. That way I don’t have to climb under my desk to unplug a cord when I want to go mobile. I just discovered this Sugru product, which works great for securing my collection of cords so they don’t fall on the floor every time I take home my laptop or tablet. It can also be used to repair frayed cords, or add protective bumpers to a phone or camera.
Sugru feels like Play-Doh when first removed from the package but cures into a silicone rubber that adheres to a variety of surfaces. A three-pack will cost you about $12 at home centers and some discount stores. Find out about more uses for Sugru at sugru.com. — Vern Johnson, Art Director
If you spend a lot of time working and playing outdoors in the winter, good gloves are a must. These Kinco insulated work gloves really stand up to the test. Even sled-dog mushers swear by them. The pigskin palms are very tough and don’t get stiff after they’ve been wet. The insulated lining works surprisingly well, and the cloth back lets your hands breathe. They’re available with safety cuffs (easier to slide on) or elastic cuffs (keeps snow out better). Buy these gloves on Amazon today. Next, see five more pieces of work wear that will keep you warm in winter.
Electrical tape will always be useful for certain applications, but for a strong, flexible, watertight connection that won’t ever unravel, you can’t beat liquid tape. We used it a few months ago to fix a bunch of frayed electrical cords in our shop, and so far it’s held up great. It’s also perfect for protecting wires on motorcycles, snowmobiles, ATVs, cars, trucks and trailers, or any connection that’s subjected to vibration or exposed to the outdoors.
You’ll need to apply a few coats of liquid tape to get a good, thick layer (five minutes between coats), and it’s a little messy to work with, so plan on a few drips. The product shown here is made by Gardner Bender and is available in black, red, green and white. You’ll find it for $7 in the electrical department at home centers. — Josh Risberg, Set Builder
I have to admit that when it comes to swinging a hammer, I’m a bit out of practice these days. With air nail guns designed for every task, my hammer gets very little use. And since buying a Porter Cable Mini Impact Palm Nailer (model No. PN350), I use my hammer even less.
This air nailer is small enough to fit into my nail apron and powerful enough to drive an 8d sinker nail in less than two seconds. The compact design gets it into corners and spaces where my gun nailer or hammer can’t go. It’s available at The Home Depot — David Radtke, Contributing Editor