My inbox has been filling up with gift guide requests, suggestions, and lists, and some of the mentioned products are indeed very good ideas. However, do you know what types of tools make for the best gifts? The products, gear, and tool upgrades I would want to buy or receive myself to use all the time.
There are quite a few tools that I very thoroughly enjoy working with, but I forced myself to narrow it down to just 5.
These aren’t exactly glamorous compared to some other gift ideas, but wouldn’t you prefer to give or get something that will be used, rather than an “oh, that’s… nice” product that goes right into a closet?
This is part 2 of a series. For part 1, check out: 5 Must-Have Tools for New Parents
Thank you to The Home Depot for being a ToolGuyd sponsor.
Husky Adjustable Height Work Table
In no uncertain terms, this Husky work table is a beauty of a work table, and I also think it’s a fantastic buy given its features and sturdiness.
The work table has an adjustable height mechanism, and it comes with both leveling feet and casters in case your usage needs change over time.
With a 300 lb weight capacity and sturdy framing, you can use this as a workbench, computer desk, or anything in between.
You have some decisions to make – choose your size (46”, 52” 62” lengths), color (white or black), and whether you want drawers or not.
Husky’s exceptionally well-padded packaging ensured mine (thank you Home Depot!) arrived in perfect condition. I would not hesitate to order another one online.
Husky Adjustable Height Workbench is so Much Nicer Than I Expected
Milwaukee Tool Scissors
Office scissors are no match for plastic clamshell packaging, or pretty much anything you might need to cut in a workshop or around the home outside of printer paper.
Plastic clamshell packaging and anything else that you might want to cut with scissors, are no match for these Milwaukee scissors. (Although to be fair, sometimes I still need a knife for the most stubborn of plastic product vaults.)
I used to keep tin snips around for general purpose cutting tasks, but not anymore thanks to these Milwaukee scissors.
Growing up, my parents kept heavy duty all-metal scissors in the household junk drawer, and we used those scissors for everything. These Milwaukee scissors are the ones my kids will reminisce about in 20+ years.
There are two versions – straight and offset. If you don’t have a preference, I would gently steer you towards the offset scissors, although we have and use both. If you can’t decide, get one of each.
Buy Now: Straight Scissors
Buy Now: Offset Scissors
Buy Now: 2pc Set
Husky 27oz Dead-Blow Hammer
Dead blow hammers are the answer to so many frustrations. Something’s stuck? Give it a whack. Installing wire or metal shelving? Give it a whack. Does a wood board need coercing? Give it a whack.
A dead blow hammer is specially designed with a shifting weight inside the head, and this serves to absorb shock and recoil with every strike. It’s an experience most tool users are immediately sold on once they try a dead blow hammer for themselves.
Why this hammer? I was sorting through the hammer selections at my local The Home Depot store and was amazed at this dead blow’s size. Most dead blows are a bit weighty, and even if they deaden the recoil quite a bit, they can be heavy and tiring to use. Instead, this one felt lighter and more compact. I bought one on the spot.
If you pick up different rubber or non-marring mallets, you’ll see what I like about this – it’s a comfortable size that’s easy to swing, but still substantial enough to pack a usefully punchful wallop.
This is like the 5″ petty knife you use when a paring knife is too small and a chef’s knife is too big.
On top of all its anti-recoil benefits, this Husky has a soft face to help prevent marring struck surfaces. Sure, you might think you don’t need a dead blow hammer – go ahead and use a steel-faced hammer if you want to put some dents in whatever you’re striking.
If you have your doubts, seek it out the next time you’re at a Home Depot store and give it a feel.
Ryobi 18V One+ HP Brushless Combo Kit
Ryobi’s new 18V One+ HP compact brushless drill and impact driver won’t win any competitive awards based on power, speed, or innovative features, but this combo kit nonetheless represents their best cordless power tool system entry point yet.
I am really excited about this new lineup. The drill and impact driver are both compact and reasonably powerful, and seem to be the most uncompromised Ryobi tools I’ve ever used. New and upgrading users will likely love the power to weight ratio of these offerings.
There are less expensive ways to get started with a drill and impact, or with Ryobi’s 18V cordless power tool system. But when filtering through all the options, I sought to answer one question – what would I have wanted to buy or receive when I was upgrading from a far less capable cordless drill 15 years ago, and which cordless system would I have wanted to enter at that time? This kit is the answer.
If you’re looking for something different, or would recommend something different, I’d love to hear about it in a comment below.
Husky Utility Pouch
All of Husky’s tool bags and accessories deserve a call-out, but I am particularly excited about this one. (I have a review in the works – please let me know if you have any questions!)
I picked one up on impulse last month, and this is just perfect as a compact tool tote. It measures 5″ in diameter and has a total of 10 tool pockets, plus a drawstring top.
It’s wide enough to stand upright without tipping over, and tall enough to ensure common hand tools don’t fall out unintentionally.
This isn’t a game-changer, but it’s definitely a frustration-solver.
A mallet? Scissors? A compact tool pouch? Yeah, I know – I told you these wouldn’t be very glamorous! But, I stick to these recommendations.
If I had a time machine, these are among the top tools and equipment I’d bring back to my younger self.
If you’re a DIYer, or you’re shopping for a DIYer, what other recommendations would you have for tool or workshop upgrades?
I run two of those tables one in the shop and one in the kitchen. In a small apartment kitchen its a game changer. Set at a height works well as a dinning table. Raise it up to use it as an island at any height you could need. Prep, frosting cakes, piping macrons. Fully adjustable island the way of the future.
Before long shop plans will be referred to as recipes.
For the electric version of these adjustable tables you have to buy the top separate, or make one, but the benefit is that you can set it with three different height presets. With a push of a button it will go to whatever height you set. Could be especially nice if it’s a multi-function table.
For a DIYer or weekend warrior a tape measure with fractions can be a game changer. It’s something that’s easy to take for granted, but most people don’t know how to quickly and accurately read a tape measure.
Here’s my list. I consider all of these excellent tools, extremely handy and unusual enough that it’s unlikely most DIYers would have them:
– Knipex pliers wrench.
– Wera 11pc screwdriver set – or the 6pc wood handle Felo set.
– M12 Ratchet kit.
– Milwaukee 4.5″ compact square.
– Pull saw from Lee Valley. (There’s several good ones at different price points).
Worksharp knife sharpener.
Leatherman – Skeletool or the Free P4 are my picks.
Titan swivel-head bit ratchet.
Very good choices!
I would a ratcheting screwdriver with a package of hex heads.
My favorite gift for graduations or new homeowners.
Ha! I almost did too. I was trying to keep my selection diverse and figured I already had screwdrivers covered, twice.
In that case: A Rolgear ratcheting screwdriver.
I bought one of those husky work benches a couple years ago on clearance at Home Depot for 199.00. Great work bench/ desk. I also own the Milwaukee scissors. Highly recommended.
I use one as my office desk at work. Good price and when I retire it will be useful in the shop.
Harbor Freight has a small organizer(sku 95807). 18 1/2” long- 3 1/2” tall- 6 3/4” wide. Made by Storehouse, sells for $5.99. A little wider compartment than most organizers, i like mine. The Dewalt folding table is very handy. The Dewalt bit/ nut driver set in the Yellow top tough case. Always ready, very handy & light.
Looking for US made products? Woodpeckers has many unique US made products.
Honestly, while I like a lot of other Milwaukee tools – I don’t like those scissors. Probably the least favorite scissors I own.
What’s wrong with them, and what do you use instead? I have them and love them. They’re very heavy duty; opening blister packages isn’t the blood-drawing ordeal it used to be.
If there’s something better though, I’m all over it.
Maybe Stuart can do a review on the Leatherman Micra scissors multi tool. See if the scissors will open clam packaging shells. Always have scissors with you, on a tool that can fit on a keychain.
The Micra have always been on my radar, but I have always been hesitant. Something about the style is less compelling to me than other mini multi-tools from Leatherman, Gerber, and others. If you insist, maybe this will be year I finally buy one.
I got my wife a micra ages ago. She has had it on her keychain for years and forgets it is there. If she needs something cut, she usually just hands it to me.
I guess I’ll just go ahead & purchase one. The endless packaging, will be a good test. I like shears over a knife on things like pet food bags, shears do a much neater job. Seems like everything has a zip tie that needs removal. And i can explore some uses for the other multi- tools.
I realize the Micra is probably marketed toward the female gender. But the pet food bags I open are for a female dog, so that should exempt me!
I have a set of Clauss 18081 shears in my shop. I love them. I think it would be worthwhile to add them to your comparison list.
The Micra is actually pretty good! I was given one more than 15 years ago, it was one of those advertising things where a company had some made up with their logo marked on it. I ended up keeping it in my office desk drawer and I was surprised how many times I used it for simple tasks. Yeah I have better tools but then I’d have to get up and get them. I still have it, I think it’s surprisingly well made and functional for how small it is. It would be super handy to toss in a backpack, suitcase, or a lady’s purse…it’s small and light enough not to be a burden like some bigger multitools can be but it’s still useful for simple jobs.
I’m really a fan of the Lee Valley Clamshell scissors. The look like they took crash scissors and ground off the safety tips. Slightly serrated and work great for plastic packaging.
Koko The Talking Ape
I’m with Doug. Crash shears work great for opening those plastic packages. I’m sure the Lee Valley model works great, but ordinary crash shears work great too; the foot that Lee Valley removed doesn’t really get in the way.
Also, the dedicated package opener on those little Gerber Dime multitools works pretty well too, and they’re small enough to go on your keychain. A little clunkier than SAKs though.
We have a few of the Cutco scissors. They are very hearty and separate for easy cleaning.
For decent (made in China) take-apart scissors at a reasonable price – try these Henckels – (less than $13 at BB&B with a 20% off coupon):
The kitchen shears we really like are made in Japan (or were when we bought them) – but are not take-apart or cheap
Correction – It looks like the newer model Shun shears do indeed separate for washing. I may have to buy a pair if and when our older model gives up the ghost.
Vaughan SF12 dual soft face hammer, very handy for wood projects and surprisingly inexpensive
Nupla or Trusty-Cook dead blows in various sizes. I just got a Nupla 10027 dual soft face and steel face 2 lb and it’s going to be very handy for an upcoming kitchen demo I believe.
Veto or Klein tool pouches are a nice upgrade
Knipex cutters or pump pliers
Stabila 81S torpedo level, great value for my favorite small level
For the gardener: Felco pruners or loppers, or Silky or Fanno pruning saws
I have 5 or 6 Trusty-Cook dead blows. Very nice. Nupla is good, also.
Personally, I hated the husky utility pouch. I liked the concept, but found it overly tippy, a little too deep, and hard to get your hand down into if a short tool or something small falls into.
I have been looking at that work table, but I can’t find a seller in Europe. Does anyone know one or a similar product?
I love those milwaukee scissors and have a few of the husky pouches on order. A few things always near me: milwaukee fastback utility knives, komelon 12′ fractional tape measure, a small 12oz straight claw hammer (estwing) and some of those small circular magnetic parts trays.
Great topic Stuart!
Those magnetic trays are must haves. I’ve recently stumbled upon a magnetic wrist strap for holding bits or fasteners but haven’t really given it a serious try yet.
Milwaukee scissors are very good–the metal goes clear through the handle–maybe I should say that the handles are wrapped around the metal–whatever. It means you can “cut” some really thick and stiff stuff with them–can even lay the scissors down on concete w something too heavy in them and “whack” the handle w a hammer and cut what you shouldn’t. We have broken dozens and dozens of brands of scissors due to them just having a plastic loop handle….
Those Milwaukee scissors are the real deal…..
I’d like to know how they compare to the Wiss either the stubby 7” or reg size set. I’ve been using the Wiss 7s and they’ve been great but need to replace them.
I have two of those Husky workbenches, one is my computer desk in my game room, the other is in my workshop for gunsmithing tasks. The adjustable height option is a game changer.
That Ryobi set is great, and being in the One+ platform. However I really hate 1.5 AH batteries for most purposes. I know a 2 AH is not much different, but still.
I would recommend instead the DeWalt Xtreme Drill and Impact combo (w/ 2 2AH batteries and charger) Currently it is $20 more than the Ryobi at Lowes, but I have seen it for $30 less than the Ryobi at times.
Power and quality are fantastic and they are so light and comfortable they are my first choice to use. I move on to the 18/20v only when I have to.
While you are not buying in to an expansive battery platform, if you decide you need or want more powerful tools, you can at least use the same charger for DeWalt’s 20v stuff.
The DeWalt 12v screwdriver would also be on my list.
Koko The Talking Ape
Yeah, I was curious about the Ryobi brushless set. I wonder how they compare to those DeWalts you mention, and also the Milwaukee M12 set that goes for a little less money actually.
I guess I could look up the specs, but specs lie, and even if they didn’t, they don’t tell the full story.
Looks like a pretty nice list. The only thing that puzzles me is the Ryobi set. I’d think someone who was “upgrading” their workshop probably already has a cordless drill, making that pair of entry-level tools somewhat redundant, and certainly not much of an upgrade. I do think that would be a great set for a homeowner or someone who was just getting into DIY though.
Items that came to mind for me when I thought about workshop upgrades:
1) clamps. you can never have too many clamps.
2) a nice vise
3) Knipex Cobras and/or the parallel-jaw pliers.
4) a bench-mounted grinder or sander. If you don’t have one those are a super handy tool. And if you already do have one it never hurts to have another since you can keep different wheels/belts on each one for different jobs.
The aforementioned Ryobi set is brushless, so its performance is more inline with prosumer rather than entry-level. As mentioned, yes there are less expensive options, but no other brand has as wide of a variety of tools on the same platform as Ryobi.
(I personally went the less expensive route, however. Skil has been good on expanding their lineup, both in 12v and 20v, but whether they’ll still be on the same platform a decade from now is unknown.)
My thoughts were that the Ryobi set was too cheap/basic to be considered a “workshop upgrade”. When I think “workshop”, I’m not picturing the average homeowner’s garage. I’m thinking someone who is either a professional or a serious hobbyist. And everyone I know who fits that category already has a nicer drill/driver set than the Ryobi mentioned, so for them to “upgrade” beyond that one would have to suggest quite a nice drill.
I feel so relieved that so many of you guys agree with most of my purchases.
First thread in a while that didn’t cause me any VISA card induced anxiety.
Buy some lumber, that will give your card shock waves.
Is that a challenge?
Nope, i’m not up to any challenges of any kind.
Just costly atm. Prices for raw lumber are crazy right now.
I was replying to/teasing Jim Felt.
He’s basically saying “phew, my Visa card is safe as I already have all this stuff and am not feeling compelled to buy anything new.”
“Is that a challenge?” = “I can try to change that!…”
My bad. Seems I misread the banter.
Koko The Talking Ape
They used to make handle-less deadblow hammers. Just a cylinder covered with soft plastic, and filled with steel shot. Just the thing for easing furniture joints together. I wonder what happened to them. I’ve thought about making my own from galvanized steel nipples.
Koko The Talking Ape
But there’s not really a supplier, seems like. Sears doesn’t list it. Home Depot still lists it, but says its out of stock, and it’s been that way for months, maybe years. Nupla doesn’t list it on its website, and they may have discontinued it. Amazon has a few for $30 and up, which is robbery.
For opening clamshell packages, I’ve had good luck with the “open it” from Zibra. Although it looks like they have totally redesigned the product and the original versions are going for 70 bucks on Amazon. The originals do a great job of opening packaging, although I am often annoyed with the gimmicky screw driver and blade built into the ends of the handles. The blades have a sort of off-set to them that let the clamshell packaging pass through them in most cases. Although sometimes it can still be a struggle.
The new versions appear to have been redesigned and I’m not sure if the new design is actually better.
The manufacturer’s web page is enjoyzibra.com and you have to scroll past the paintbrushes to find the new version of the cutters.
You can get them on amazon
“insanely over priced old version”
I might pick up the newer version just to see if they in fact improved it. One annoyance in the original version was the occasional chance to pinch your hand if the handles closed suddenly on the exiting cut of the plastic clamshell. Perhaps the new version addresses that.