The Ultimate Gift Guide for DIYers
Whether you’re shopping for others or making up a wish list for yourself, help is right here.
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If you’re in need of a compact router table that can be easily stored away, look into the Rockler Convertible Benchtop Router Table. The X-style frame clamps to a workbench or table and stays put while in use. It can also be mounted onto a wall and folded into the wall for storage.
You can buy the router table with your choice of a midsize router insert plate or a compact trim router insert plate (or both plates for an extra $20). The plates are removable so you can use your router freehand with either one. This compact router table is full of features that are well worth the $200 price tag. Plus: Check out more ways that you can make your workbench work harder.
I’ve gone through a few shop aprons in my years as a woodworker. Most of them had at least one feature that I didn’t like; pockets in the wrong place, too short, too long, uncomfortable, or just didn’t hold up well. The Best Damn Work Apron from Duluth Trading Company, however, lives up to its name. It’s comfortable, with wide straps that don’t dig into my neck or shoulders, so I can wear it all day. Around the shop, I don’t carry lots of things in my apron—a pencil, a 12 ft. tape measure and a small square—so it’s mostly to protect my clothes. The apron reaches just past my knees, protecting my clothes from most messes.
There’s only one front pocket, which is up high; perfect for a pencil. The other four pockets are at hand height. They’re slanted and near the apron’s sides, so they don’t get filled with sawdust. That also leaves the apron’s front free for wiping dirty hands. Lastly, the Best Damn Work Apron is made of tough canvas material, with high-quality hardware, making the $50 price tag a bargain.
These 3D wall panels by Inhabit turn a bland wall into a dazzling accent wall. They go right over your existing drywall and attach with wallpaper adhesive. You can make the wall tiles seamless by applying joint compound between the tiles, and you can paint them any color with latex paint. The tiles are molded from a byproduct of sugarcane processing, so you can have a stunning wall and feel good about being so green. The panels cost about $3 per square foot.
Pocket hole jigs are pretty simple, with one caveat—all the adjustments. You’ve got to fiddle with the drill collar and the drill guide, choose the right screw and clamp your material into place. The Armor Tool Auto-Jig handles these four steps for you. Just clamp in a board and the Auto-Jig adjusts the drill collar and the drill guide, and indicates which of its color-coded screws to use. It makes the process fast and foolproof. The Auto-Jig Pocket Hole System is available online for $140. Next, check out our top 100 home hacks all DIYers should know.
If you want the simplicity of IKEA cabinets but a style IKEA doesn’t offer, check out Semihandmade, a company that makes doors and drawer faces to fit IKEA cabinets and hardware. Using IKEA’s software, create a cabinet plan for your kitchen, bath or media room, then go to semihandmade.com and choose your doors, drawer faces and panels. They’re available in many custom styles, including a paint-it-yourself version. Built for a seamless fit, the doors, faces and panels come predrilled and ready to install. Then you order your cabinet boxes and hardware from IKEA and you’re ready to go. A set of fronts for a small cabinet costs about $86.
I’m not much of a wine drinker, but I do have two toddlers who love to paint, spill ketchup and climb up the couch with fruit punch in spill-proof cups that never seem to live up to their claim. I’ve been amazed by how well Wine Away gets rid of these common red stains.
I recently put it to the test with a sample piece of carpet and half a bottle of red wine. After I soaked up most of the wine with an old towel, I sprayed on the Wine Away and watched as the red faded away. This stuff is incredible; if you have a lot of light-colored carpet and furniture, you might want to have it around just in case. Wine Away is available for about $7 online and at home goods and hardware stores.
As winter approaches, everyone starts to spend more time indoors, even the bugs. This makes fall a great time to use an insect barrier spray like Ortho’s Home Defense Max. It creates an invisible wall that pests won’t be able to cross and live to tell the tale.
Spray it on your foundation, the baseboards inside your home, and between the floor joists in your basement or crawl space to create a complete barrier. It’s easy to apply with the battery-operated sprayer, and according to Ortho, it’s safe for kids and pets once it’s dry. You can get the 1.33-gallon jug with the powered wand at home centers for $16. Next, get to know these go-to pest prevention tips.
Garden hoses always used to be a hassle to lug around and to store at my farm. GrowGreen hoses have been the answer to both problems. Thanks to the lightweight material, the hoses expand with water pressure and retract when empty. A 25-ft. hose retracts to less than 10 ft. long. When the job’s done, I spray the water out of them and toss them into a bucket.
Standard masks just aren’t comfortable for long periods of time. They tend to get sweaty, so I end up taking them off—and they certainly don’t work when they’re not on your face. The RZ Dust Mask is made of light mesh fabric and has a pair of straps that keep it in place, comfortably. Beneath the mask is a replaceable filter. The discharge valve lets your breath go out instead of up, so it doesn’t fog your protective eyewear. Next, check out 11 products we’re buying on Amazon this month.
It’s hard to appreciate the value of a good caulk gun until you’ve tried one. And this Albion B12 is the best I’ve ever used. The beefy trigger means less hand strain with stubborn adhesives and provides excellent flow control for a neat bead. And since this tool is built like a tank, I expect it will outlast me. Some builders also like the rotating cradle. But I couldn’t avoid turning it upside down, which allowed the caulk tube to fall out. No problem: I simply locked up the swiveling mechanism with glue.
For driving or drilling in the tightest spaces, a right-angle attachment is a lifesaver. The Milescraft Drive90PLUS is my favorite because it’s tough enough to use with my impact driver. And that makes driving screws easier. Other right-angle attachments are only rated for 250 in.-lbs., while this one can handle up to 1,500 in.-lbs.
The FastCap Glu-Bot glue bottle makes nearly every aspect of using wood glue a whole lot easier and neater. The wide base prevents tip-over spills and the cap is stored right on top of the bottle, so you should never lose it. It comes with a wide-blade tip and a pointed tip that can be swapped in seconds. But the best part is that you don’t have to wait for the glue to reach the nozzle. Just hold the bottle upright and squeeze to force the glue to the nozzle. (This is especially great for vertical glue-ups.) When you release the bottle, glue is sucked back out of the nozzle, which minimizes the mess.
The Magswitch Workholding System is awesome. It’s built around releasable magnets that solidly lock onto table saws or other machines—as long as they have an iron table. To release the magnets, just turn the knobs. This starter kit comes with a base, two switchable magnets and a reversible feather board. There are lots of other attachments available, or you can use your imagination and come up with your own jigs.
If you’ve ever set your table saw to make a 45-degree bevel cut for a box or picture frame and ended up with gapping miters because the markings on your machine were half a degree off, you need this Wixey Digital Angle Gauge. Just set it on your table, zero out the display and then stick the magnetic base onto the blade and adjust the bevel. The digital readout will tell you the angle of your blade down to one-tenth of a degree.
Twenty years ago, I took a chance on this odd-looking framing hammer (below right). Glad I did. Besides the perfect balance and feel, it has some nice extras. The steep claw angle gives ample leverage for pulling nails, and the claws are pointed so I can dig out sunken nails. A magnetic nail slot lets me start a nail where I can’t reach high enough to hold the nail. My wood-handled version costs $67 at japanwoodworker.com; the Ohsho Claw Hammer Middium on the left is about $46 on Amazon. Here are 19 tech products that will make DIYers drool!
CliC reading glasses have three features I love. First, the solid plastic neck strap is adjustable at the temples so you can slide them until they fit your face perfectly. The lenses are much higher quality than the cheap ones I used to buy. And lastly, I love the magnets that snap the frame together over your nose (hence the name “CliC”).
CliC glasses (starting at $30) come in six magnifying powers from 1.25 to 3, and in many different colors and styles. I’m now on my third pair, upgrading the magnification as time marches on. They’re always right there around my neck when I need to cheat—perfect for the shop!
When summer finally rolls around again, I’ll be in my garden every day, pruning, harvesting and maintaining the crops. My Chinese garden shears make pruning thicker stems and harvesting veggies a breeze. They’re part of the SE SC616 three-piece set I found online. I use small shears to clip herbs, and I keep a larger pair in my shop for trimming leather or other tough material.
Why lug around a heavy compressor and hose just to fill tires? All you really need is a battery-powered inflator. There are many versions available, some costing less than $40. My favorite is the more expensive Milwaukee 2475 Compact Inflator, which automatically shuts off when the tire is at the correct pressure.
My Triton SuperJaws XXL Portable Clamping System is by far the most versatile tool in my shop. I use it on every single project. It’s a reliable third hand or a clamp when I’m doing a glue-up. When I need a quick work surface, I clamp a scrap of plywood between the jaws. The system folds up for compact storage, but mine is in use constantly and never gets put away.
Almost every week I hear from someone who built their DIY skills using Family Handyman as a guide—skills that bring a lifetime of satisfaction, savings and independence. If you want to give a skill-building gift, now’s a great time.
My ISOtunes PRO Bluetooth ear-buds have become almost as essential as my tool belt. Aside from noise-canceling, ANSI-certified hearing protection, they provide 10 hours of great sound quality between charges. They let me take phone calls without dropping my tools, and they never slip out of my ears. These earbuds are tough, too. They’ve been battered, snagged on nails and subjected to extreme heat, cold, rain and grime. No problem. If abuse ever wrecks them, I’ll definitely buy another pair.
The Hybrid LED Color Range Work Light from Ryobi features variable color temperature, allowing you to adjust the light quality to your work space. It improves color perception—a big benefit for painting—and it reduces eye strain from working in bright white light. The ability to warm up the light as well as dim it can keep you working comfortably longer. The work light features 360-degree light head rotation and includes a tripod mount. It’s cordless, but it can also be plugged into an extension cord. This light is available at Home Depot for $80 without a battery. It’s part of Ryobi’s 18-volt ONE+ System, so you won’t need the battery if you’ve already invested in the system.
I keep three essentials in my shop apron: a pencil, a tape measure and a small combination square. A 4- or 6-in. square can handle 90 percent of my shop needs: making layout marks, checking assemblies for square and setting up tools. A little square doesn’t create much extra bulk in my apron, and at less than $10, it doesn’t break the bank either.
Making trips from the lumberyard often requires driving with boards and sheet goods hanging out over the tailgate of a 6-ft. pickup bed. You could use a ratchet strap at the bed anchors to keep your materials from sliding around, but ratchets end up getting tangled in the strapping, and in tight quarters ratcheting can be difficult.
If you place the Cam Jam XT aluminum cord tightener between the anchors and wrap the cord around the lumber, pulling the cord through will engage the cam and secure your material. The Cam Jam cord tighteners make this process easy and take up less storage space than my ratchet straps.
InstaTrim is part trim, part caulk and part weather sealant. And for some situations, it’s a true problem solver.
InstaTrim is a V-shape strip of 1/2-in.-wide plastic, backed by a bead of adhesive caulk. To install it, remove the peel-off tape, position the strip, then press it into place. The self-centering “wings” along the edges flex to create a tight seal. Since InstaTrim goes on dry, it can be painted immediately. It’s perfect for sealing moderately large gaps (up to 1/4 in.) and leaving a clean, smooth bead. It’s ideal for sealing wall and floor gaps around tubs, for covering gaps around toilet bases and sealing windows and doors.
For good results, you have to first remove all existing silicone caulk, especially in bathrooms and other wet environments. InstaTrim is available in six colors.
Still using lock washers? Get a grip—pick up some thread adhesive instead. It’s been around a long time, but amazingly, pro mechanics are still the biggest users. All DIYers tighten nuts and bolts, right?
Thread adhesives are better than any mechanical locking system for two reasons. First, the liquid plastic fills all the gaps between the threads so the threads stay locked together. And second, the plastic seals the metal against corrosion. There are many formulas for all kinds of tasks, but the most common are the red and blue Loctite thread adhesives—red for permanent bolts and blue for removable ones. (Loctite is the dominant brand; Devcon is another.) The red and blue types cost about $6 for a 6-ml tube.
An oscillating multitool is the kind of tool that goes unused for months and then saves the day in some oddball situation. For me, that usually means cutting metal or wood in tight quarters. Over the past couple years, I’ve tried a dozen oscillating tools. The Rockwell Sonicrafter F80 is unique in letting you select the oscillating angle: The blade makes short swings when you need precision, wide swings when you want to get aggressive. It also packs more power than most (4.2 amps). The Sonicrafter F80 accepts blades of any brand. Next, check out some really cool tech add-ons for your car.