Best Tools of 2019 (According To Pros)
Our favorite pros let you in on their secret, go-to tools for electrical, plumbing, painting and any other jobs you’re doing.
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Our favorite pros let you in on their secret, go-to tools for electrical, plumbing, painting and any other jobs you're doing.
We asked professional woodworker Marty Dyck to name a favorite tool he's purchased in the last year. For Marty, the answer was easy: He loves his new DeWalt 1/4-in. Impact Driver, which he says he uses hundreds of times daily. The tool's durability is impressive, and Marty finds it easy on the wrist with a great range for hard or soft wood.
Al Hildenbrand, a master electrician, has several favorite tools. But the one dearest to his heart and the workhorse of his stable is the Greenlee GT-95 electrical tester. It’s durable and easy to use. The feature that sold Al was the ability to test for a hot wire without the need for a known ground. You simply hold the tester in your hand and touch one probe to the wire you want to test. Push the test button to see if the wire is hot. The GT-95 also features a GFCI tester, a non-contact voltage tester and a continuity tester, in addition to a digital and LED display for reading voltage.
This hooked knife is intended for linoleum and vinyl flooring work, but Dean Sorem, a tile setter, likes it for a host of other tasks. He uses the sharp point to lift misplaced or ill-fitting tiles, and to score backer board. At $5 a pop, you really can’t go wrong keeping a few of these handy knives in your toolbox.
“I picked up the use of a lino knife from working alongside a seasoned jack-of-all-trades flooring installer," said Dean.
When you use a router table or shaper to produce a decorative edge, it’s critical to simultaneously press the board down and into the fence while you’re pushing it forward. One of our readers, a pro woodworker, discovered that Board Buddies are perfect for this task. The rollers are shaped to push in and down, maintaining even pressure against the board, the table and the fence.
Like most woodworkers, Dave Munkittrick relies on sharp chisels and planes for his livelihood. He has a large collection of sharpening tools, but his favorite is the WorkSharp system, which sharpens chisels and plane blades quickly with no mess. The best part is that you don’t need any practice to get a razor-sharp edge.
“I used to put off sharpening because it was such a hassle. With this machine, sharpening is a quick task, not a project," said Dave.
Costas Stavrou, an appliance repair pro, has a ton of cool specialty tools for appliance repairs. But this Dremel tool is the one that often gets him out of binds. Costas fits his Dremel with an abrasive cutoff wheel to remove the heads from stuck sheet metal screws, cut through rusted-on laundry hoses and remove corroded appliance parts.
“This little tool has gotten me out of some bad jams," said Costas.
When Jeff Timm installs paver patios and driveways, he focuses on top-quality workmanship in the most efficient way possible. This giant triangle is perfect because it allows him to quickly and accurately chalk square layout lines. He could do the same thing using the 3-4-5 triangle method, but this is faster. Just align the chalk line with the edge of the triangle and snap the line. The triangle folds to take up less room in the truck.
Jeff Gorton, a longtime handyman, is hard on boots. Unfortunately, the dirt, gravel, stones and pavers chew up the toe box before the rest of the boot wears out. But he found a solution. He coats the toes of his boots with Boot Guard, and it really works. With a $12 investment, you can save your favorite $100 work boots from premature replacement.
“Tack rags are good, but you need to vacuum to get a really smooth finish," says Bill Nunn, master painter. So Bill vacuums everything before he paints it. He thinks the brushes that come with shop vacuums are too stiff, though. “They can scratch the surface and don’t pick up fine dust,” he says. That’s why he replaced the dusting brush on his shop vacuum with a horsehair brush.
The DeWalt 60-volt MAX circular saw (model DCS575T2) is a cordless worm-drive circular saw with 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. And the safety button is easy to access.
The editors here love Chinex bristle paintbrushes. But it's not just us. Our set builder doesn't use anything else, and the pros we talked with agree that paintbrushes made with Chinex bristles are nearly perfect. They work equally well for oil-based and water-based paints. But the best feature of Chinex bristles is how easy they are to clean. Many of the new formulations of water-based paint dry quickly and stick tenaciously to other types of synthetic bristles, leaving you with a tough cleanup job. Chinex bristles solve this problem. Paint rinses out easily, giving you a brush that's 'like-new' clean. Corona, Wooster and Purdy make brushes with Chinex bristles.
Diamond hole saws are no secret to tile setters. Diamond grits embedded in the perimeter of the hole saw cut through tough materials like stone and porcelain tile, making short work of what used to be a difficult task. The 1/4-in. hole saw is really handy if you need to drill mounting holes in tile for grab bars or other fixtures. The set we recommend includes a guide and a bottom seal that allows you to contain a pool of water around the bit to keep it cool and eliminate dust.
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 one-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.