Our editors and Field Editors choose their favorite tools, the ones they’d most like to give and receive, for our Handyman Gift Guide. They’re guaranteed to make your DIY work easier and more fun.
A bagful of basic tools is useful and might start a kid or adult on a productive DIY path.
When I was about 12, my grandma bought me a toolbox full of tools for Christmas. I didn’t realize it then, but it was the best gift I would ever get. It was the start of a lifelong love of tools and fixing things, and I hope to someday pass on the same gift to my sons.
Jeff Pappas, Field Editor
Use it to keep your coffee, tea and hot chocolate warm while working.
I love coffee. I like it hot, and I prefer to drink it from a ceramic cup rather than a plastic mug. I was thrilled when my wife bought me this electric coffee warmer. I keep this one in my shop, and I’ve got another on my desk. I’ve had this for 12 years and it remains my favorite Christmas present ever, which is proof that it really is all about the little things in life. (Perfect for tea and hot chocolate too.) Available for $10 to $25 at discount stores and online. Find coffee mug warmers through our affiliation with amazon.com.
Mark Petersen, Contributing Editor
Keep your extension cord plugged in and ready to go, yet stored neatly out of the way.
My garage has seen a lot of improvements over the last few years, but my favorite upgrade—by far—is the retracting extension cord reel. Instant power now and instant self-storage later. I use it almost every time I set foot in the garage, whether I’m woodworking, changing the oil or charging up my cordless mower. And even non-DIYers will love it: My wife uses it when she vacuums her car or inflates the kiddie pool. Prices start at about $50 at home centers and online through our affiliation with amazon.com.
Gary Wentz, Senior Editor
Family Handyman subscription
I have given gift subscriptions of The Family Handyman to friends and relatives, and with almost every issue, one of them calls to tell me what a great idea or project they have found in the mag.
We did not ask Gary to write this (really!). And he wasn’t the only one who wrote to tell us about giving gift subscriptions of this magazine to favorite people. That’s a compliment of the highest order. Thank you!
Walnut cutting board
The best gift I’ve ever given is the walnut cutting board I made for my son and his wife for their wedding (Photo).
Want to make a somewhat similar chopping board? Here's how to make a wooden chopping board
Utility knife blades
Need a great stocking stuffer? A package of 100 high-quality razor blades for a utility knife tops my list. Your favorite DIYer will never run out of sharp blades and can replace them when needed.
The jaws of these special pliers move parallel to each other, allowing you to use it as an adjustable wrench as well.
How many times have you needed a wrench but found yourself with just slip-joint pliers? Sure you can loosen the nut or bolt with pliers, but you’ll also hack it up something awful.
The Knipex Adjustable Plier Wrench solves that problem because it’s both a pliers and a wrench. The adjustable jaws always close in a parallel position so you can loosen or tighten hex or square nuts and bolts without damage. And you can use it just like ordinary pliers too. Available in two versions: 7-in. (No. 8603180; about $35) and 10-in. (No. 8603250; about $40) at tooldiscounter.com and through our affiliation with amazon.com
Rick Muscoplat, Contributing Editor
Eliminate guesswork with this reliable stud finder.
The ProSensor 710 is unique in the world of stud finders because instead of just one little light that tells you where studs start and stop, it has 13! Wherever there’s wood, lights fire up to mark the exact width of the stud. No more guessing. I’ve always been skeptical about stud finders because I’ve always found them frustrating and unreliable. Not this one! Buy the ProSensor 710 for about $50 through our affiliation with amazon.com, or check it out at franklinsensors.com.
Travis Larson, Senior Editor
Combo with lithium 18-volt batteries and a great service agreement and price.
Here’s a gift guaranteed to please even the most discerning DIYer. This two-piece combo kit fromRidgid includes a compact drill plus an impact driver, both powered by Ridgid’s new HyperLithium 18-volt batteries. It’s the ultimate DIY setup for driving screws and boring pilot holes in asnap. And both tools are covered by Ridgid’s lifetime service agreement that even includes freebattery replacement! Just remember to register the tool within 30 days of purchase. The kit isavailable at Home Depot for about $179.
Jeff Gorton, Associate Editor
Simple thank you
My favorite gift is a simple “thank you” from my wife and daughter for being their handyman husband/dad. Every cut, every project, every new undertaking is done with even more love after that.
I’ve given away more than 100 wood pens that I make on my lathe. They take about an hour to make, and the parts cost about $5. They’re always a hit (Photo).
All-purpose pocket tool
I gave my 19-year-old college sophomore a Leatherman pocket tool. He doesn’t have any other tools at college, and that’s OK. With a good Leatherman, he’ll be able to take care of almost any emergency, but he won’t be tempted to spend time on “fun projects” instead of studying.
This lithium battery driven screwdriver turns in response to the motion of your hand.
Black & Decker’s MAX Gyro is a totally new concept in cordless tools. It’s a small cordless screwdriver that responds to your hand motion—no trigger required! If you turn your hand slightly clockwise, it goes forward slowly. Turn a little more, it goes faster. Turn your hand counterclockwise, it goes in reverse. The result: exquisite speed control. It’s got 4 volts (plenty of oomph) and lithium rechargeable batteries, which hold their charge for over a year. Unlike all other screwdrivers, the Gyro has “cool” written all over it. The list price is about $50, but you’ll find it for about $40 at big-box stores and through our affiliation with amazon.com.
Ken Collier, Editor in Chief
Smoke detectors wear out. For safety check yours and replace them when needed.
Many of the people on your gift list live in homes with ancient smoke detectors that might not even work. So use your handyman skills and replace their old detectors with new ones for about $25 each. Because the electronics wear out, smoke detectors should be replaced every 10 years. Boring? Yep! But what could possibly be a better gift than saving someone’s life?
Travis Larson, Senior Editor
These handy snips will cut just about anything.
We probably have a dozen pairs of Fiskars scissors in our house, but these Fiskars Shop Boss Snips are my favorite. They cut just about anything: carpet, sheet metal, wire, rubber, cardboard, chicken bones—you name it. They’re my go-to tool for opening those blasted blister packs that encase everything these days. For about 20 bucks, they’re a fabulous addition to your kitchen tool drawer or garage; sturdier than scissors, more convenient than snips. Get a pair at larger retailers or through our affiliation with amazon.com.Ken Collier, Editor in Chief (the boss)
Park your car in your garage perfectly every time.
Photo courtesy of Smarthome
Some people use a hanging tennis ball, but I’ve got a new and improved parking buddy: Smarthome’s Laser Garage Parking System. The laser unit mounts on the garage ceiling, and you can position the bright red laser beam so it shines down on your dashboard when your car is in the right spot. Each time you enter the garage, a motion detector triggers the laser, and when that spot on your dashboard lines up with the laser, you’ve landed your spaceship. Give this to the parking-challenged people in your life. It’s powered by A/C (adapter included) or a 9-volt battery. The two-car model (about $20) and the single-car version (about $15) are available at smarthome.com or through our affiliation with amazon.com.
Elisa Bernick, Associate Editor
Custom scratch awl
The best tool I ever gave was a scratch awl complete with a handle of exotic wood that I turned on my lathe. The best gift I ever received was a shop door sign from my kids that said “Dad’s Shop.”
Light up somebody’s DIY life
This is the most useful gift I’ve ever received. It’s a baseball cap with three LED lights in the brim. It’s comfortable, puts out plenty of light, and the light is always aimed at what you’re looking at. I lost mine about a year ago and my family didn’t take the hint last Christmas. I’ll give them another shot this year, but if I have to, I’ll buy it for myself. It’s about $22 at gemplers.com or through our affiliation with amazon.com.
Chris Phelps, Field Editor