I checked Amazon this morning and I found a new deal of the day, featuring a whole lot of hand tools from a brand I’ve never heard about before. Those generic tools are entry-priced and have basic designs that I’m sure are at least usable.
You can do better than those basic entry-level tools – a lot better.
When I first expanded my tool kit, I focused on increasing functionality, which meant spending my small budget on more entry-level tools. I eventually started upgrading the tools I used often.
Following are some of my favorites. Most of these tools aren’t easy on the wallet, but they’re high quality tools that offer long-lasting and improved-performance.
Back when I had a more modest budget, these are the types of tools I would have gifted to myself or requested from others.
Do you think other hand tool upgrades belong on this list? Please let us know in comments!
Knipex Pliers Wrench
If you don’t already own one of these fantastic tools, you probably don’t need one. Maybe you can make do with “parallel jaw” pliers from another brand. I’ve tried other brands’ pliers, and the Knipex Pliers Wrench is simply better.
It’s pricey, but I’ve used mine enough to have more than justified their expense. I started off with the 7″ size and then followed with the 10″. Or it could have been the other way around – I forget.
They’re great for turning fasteners, squeezing parts together, and gripping things. Don’t let the smooth jaws fool you – these tools have incredible clamping and gripping power, thanks to the high leverage design.
You can – and should – shop around, but the pricing never really gets better than ~$45 and up per tool.
Buy Now via Amazon
See Also: 10″ Pliers via Amazon
Irwin (NWS-Made) Diagonal Cutters
Ooh, I love these cutters. I believe these PowerSlot cutters are the last NWS-made pliers or cutters in Irwin’s hand tool lineup.
They cut even hard wire materials remarkably well and are comfortable to use. The question isn’t about whether you should buy these (assuming you do need or want higher-leverage diagonal cutters), but about which size you should buy – 7″ or 8″?
NWS and Felo Fantastico pliers are also available, but cost a little more. Irwin’s specially-made-for-them handles are quite comfy too.
These are a great addition to any tool box.
Estwing Claw Hammer
I really love Estwing’s made in the USA hammers. Sure, you can find better and more-featured hammers, but not at this price. The 16 oz size is a good general around-the-home hammer for use on smaller nails.
I prefer the curved claw hammer over the rip claw hammer, but the rip claw version is less expensive, enough so that you could put the difference of a couple of dollars towards a separate cat’s paw nail puller.
Need a harder-hitting hammer? Go for the 20 oz.
Amazon’s user reviews give it an 89% 5-star rating – how often do you see that?
If you’re not convinced, give the handle a squeeze at the home center, and no it’s not at all silly to carefully swing it around a little to feel the balance.
Klein Long-Nose Pliers
There are so very many long-nose pliers you could choose from. Klein is a strong brand, and I’ve had good experiences with their pliers. If you’re looking for something that’s strong, durable, and well-sized, these are a good choice. This model, D203-7, has a built-in side-cutter, which I usually find useful in long nose pliers.
See Also: Let’s Talk About Long Nose Pliers
Irwin Demo Screwdriver Set
Everybody needs at least one pair of demo screwdrivers. This Irwin set of a Phillips #2 and 5/16″ driver isn’t remarkable in many ways. In fact, it’s quite similar than most of the other demo screwdriver sets I’ve used or come across.
So why buy this particular set for $10, when others can be found for around the same price? That’s easy – the handles are exceptionally grippy.
These Irwin screwdrivers are up for whatever demanding tasks you can throw at them, while also being an easy match for everyday fastening applications.
For those of you who have a Menards store near you, you can get the 7” Knipex pliers for $41.75 and the 10” for $44.38. Please note that this is the final cost AFTER the 11% mail in rebate. The rebates are about $5 and $6 and some change, respectively. And you HAVE to spend the rebate check at Menards. Sorry but I’m not sure if the rebate would apply to online orders.
You can get the rebate from purchasing items online but the rebates have to be used in store.
Thanks, I wasn’t sure.
Correction- The rebates will both be $5 and some change for both sizes.
Home depot will also match the rebates if you have Menards locally and ask at the customer service desk for the rebate form. Good way to get 11% back at HD if that is where you prefer to shop.
You can also use https://www.homedepotrebates11percent.com/
In my experience, rebates work (without any extra hoops) a robust 0% of the time – though I gave up on them a long time ago. Are they better these days, or still just a crappy trick?
The worst part about them is to forget to mail them in before the deadline. Especially when that was the only reason you bought whatever it was you bought. Then, it takes such an incredibly long time to get them, I usually forget about them. And then when they arrive in your mail, you throw them away thinking they’re just an ad…… because you forget you were expecting a rebate.
But really, the Menards rebates are straight up legit.
I’ll only get them if it’s a big ticket item at Menard’s. Otherwise it’s not worth the hassle. If they were closer to me I might do it more. Plus you have to buy something from them within a certain time period, and it’s not very long. But if you go there a lot I think it’s fine.
The menards ones seem fine, just a hassle. I have done a significant amount in rebates from them over the last few years, and I only had 1 issue with the gift card/rebate certificate getting lost in the mail. They sent me another one when I filled out the online form for it.
I usually ignore rebates from companies unless given at point of sale immediately, just not worth the hassle. I was surprised to learn that menards actually seems okay (besides the rebate hassle of mailing in stuff, which is still annoying).
Menards runs their own rebate fulfillment center, and I have never had a problem getting them or using the certificates you get.
Remember that HD runs a similar 11% rebate if a Menards is nearby. https://www.homedepotrebates11percent.com/#/home
Is it worth burning a stamp to get 50 cents back? No. But it is worth it (to me) to collect all the free-after-rebate junk they have when the 11% isn’t running and then get the money back in a rebate.
But I usually stay far away from tools there.
Never new HD had the 11% rebate. Nice to know this. I agree, Menards isn’t the place to go to for quality tools but they’re ok for a few other things. Thanks
The mix of tools at Menards is a little eclectic, but they have some good stuff. It’s the only place near me that I can walk in and buy Knipex tools (and the prices usually aren’t unreasonable and they are occasionally on sale without a rebate).
They also have a good selection (stocked) of Bosch saw blades and driver bits – much better than I can find at my nearby HD and Lowes (I live close enough to all 3 that I can go to them all in a single trip if necessary – although I don’t go to Lowes very often).
They have also been stocking Craftsman now. I’m not that interested in it in general, but they have had good prices on the VersaStak/Tstak cases (and I don’t mind the red color and the Craftsman branding).
Yes. I agree Menards has better prices on miter and jig saw blades. I can always find Mechanix gloves cheaper there. Wood glue and Irwin clamps too. And dog toys!!!Menards online offers a whole lot more than what they sell in their stores. It’s become a regular stop when looking for the best price on particular items.
I’m not a huge fan of rebates, but I’ve never had an issue with a Menards rebate. They give you a rebate receipt and you can grab the rebate slip from the store or website. You just fill out the card, send it in with the rebate receipt, and wait about 4 weeks.
It’s the easiest rebate system I’ve used besides instant rebates. And I’ve done graphics card rebates where you have to fill out an online form to even get the rebate form sent to you and then have the original reciept, UPC code from the box, and the blood of a yak born under a red moon.
Note, if you didn’t know, you can even request a form to get 11% off the previous week (maybe it’s two weeks, I can’t remember) if they have the 11% this week.
They do have one of the better rebate systems. They know most people are too lazy to follow through on them so they do it just about non-stop.
I’ve written about it on ToolGuyd before, but usually after the holidays, like March or so, they’ll mark down Knipex tools like the 7″ Knipex to around $30 and have the 11% rebate on top.
No guarantee they’ll do it this year though.
Throughout the year they’ll knock up to $5 off random Knipex tools too. You have to keep your eyes open.
For the Menards shoppers, wait until January, that’s when they have their Bag Sale. Anything you can fit in the bag is some % off, usually at least 15%. And it’s not a rebate, it’s taken off at the register.
These are on sale.
I see a price of $45.12 on Amazon.
Home Depot has it listed at $35, but you can’t buy it for in-store pickup, it’s not available for in-store purchase, and it’s out of stock online for shipping or delivery.
It looks like that was a Cyber Monday deal that expired or sold out fast.
That’s weird, I literally checked both links before I posted it.
Maybe someone bought the last home depot pair and amazon quit price matching it.
This shows that the price was good today (I think it’s only refreshed once a day “~7 hours ago”, so it won’t show down to the minute).
I bought four pair from Amazon on Friday that were delivered today. This morning, when I saw they were being delivered today, I checked Amazon again and the price was still $34.99. As of now though, the price has gone back up to $44.28, so they changed prices some time today 🙁
I’m glad I got these though. Christmas presents for my Dad and my father in law and step father in law. Oh yeah, I got four… Merry Christmas to me too, LOL.
I’m not a big fan of rebates but Menards rebates are great. I do them all, large or small, they add up. You should be getting back 11% in store credit in just about everything you spend there. They also have lots of other rebates too. I just bought a $159 exterior door, BF sale for $139 with a $40 rebate. I stacked all my rebates from about $1 to about $45, 13 in total for a total of around $130. Rolled the door out of there for $19.72 out of pocket with a $40 rebate coming to seed my next round. Last year I played this game to get the $160 Delta table saw for about $80. The rebates are easy to do, although they take a few weeks to come back.
Here’s some additional tips for everyone:
1. They run about one week a month, sometimes more frequently.
2. If you made purchases the week before the 11% rebate you still get the rebate, just ask the customer service desk for a rebate match form.
3. 11% rebate sales run Sunday to Saturday. If the current sale is not a rebate sale but ends on a Saturday you know an 11% rebate sale is starting Sunday.
4. Home Depot matches the 11% rebate at stores in markets with Menards in the same market area. HD puts it on line and can easily be found by searching for “Home Depot 11% rebate match”. Works for Dewalt, Milwaukee, etc.
I try not to make any major purchases at these stores, unless some other more superior sale is going on, where I’m not getting 11% back.
I forgot to add:
5. You can put more than one rebate in the same envelope.
Home depot will also match the rebates if you have Menards locally and ask at the customer service desk for the rebate form. Good way to get 11% back at HD if that is where you prefer to shop
also, when cash the rebate check in, it take it off merchandise before tax so your tax bill is lower.
I picked up the 10″ pliers wrench and an Estwing hammer at the (now closed) Albany, GA Sears in 2016. They offered a 40% military discount for Memorial Day that year, so needless to say I got a bargain. Last I checked Sears still offers a 20% military discount on tools. That is, if you can find a Sears. I have one kinda near me, coincidentally in a now-closed mall Landmark Mall in Springfield, VA).
you can get the irwin versions of the pliers wrenches from lowes for less than $20 each. and they are functionally identical, though a little more clunky looking.
If diameter is a concern in needle nose, NWS’ are narrower than the Klein’s and fantastic, as you noted in the linked article ?
I’ve been lusting over the Knipex Pliers Wrench for several years, but its purchase never seemed justified…… until yesterday!
I was searching for a gift for a good friend yesterday and I decided on the new black version of the 10 inch Knipex Pliers Wrench. My friend really appreciates high quality products, so I’m sure he’ll love them. In the process of ordering them, I decided treat myself too…. so I did! I can’t wait to get mine and give my friend his!!
P.S. What’s the ToolGuyd view of the new black version of the Pliers Wrench? To me, it looked like a more refined version for about the same cost.
The Estwing 20 oz rip hammer is the best hammer ever made. I have never met a pro who understands why people use claw hammers, including myself, though. They do everything worse than a rip hammer, why on earth do people like them? This is actually something we discuss on jobs every time a claw hammer shows up, no one has figured it out.
There are some tools you will find on every jobsite. The Estwing is one of them. If you don’t own it, and use a hammer, buy it.
I cant agree more about the rip vs claw comment and I feel the opposite when it comes to the estwing infeek like it’s just outdated. Newer hammers made with alloys are able to put less weight balanced right on the head so you get just as much force without all the elbow strain. You dont have to go buy yourself a stiletto to reap the benefits of the modern era there are cost effective alternatives
I’ve got two of those eastwing hammers. I thought I lost one so bought another. No regrets at all. I think they are great little hammers
If you use the menards card you get an additional 2% off each purchase.
The total is given as a rebate quarterly,. Also men menards gives me a different
Under $10 gift for my birthday. Live less than a mile from home depot, but
Drive the extra couple of miles to m ed nards often. Menards also has a weekly
1000 dollar sweepstakes that you can enter weekly. No lowes is really close th o
Me….relative to the other two.