We asked our editors for some gift guide ideas and the first to respond was Deren. Here’s his gift guide that is perfect for home improvement newbies.
In our part of the United States, low-priced “starter homes” are selling right and left. Impressive deals abound and new home buyers are rightfully benefiting from great market conditions.
In the spirit of new-home ownership, I assembled a list of 6 tools perfect for home improvement newbies. With these items you will be well on your way toward a comprehensive workshop for an array of products.
A few comments on selection criteria:
1. I have used all of these tools myself (or perhaps a slightly older model) and find them impressive to say the least.
2. My selections are based on VALUE. I hate pointless product features; they only appeal to people who don’t know what they are doing. My selections are not top-of-the-line, all the bells and whistles, have-to-take-out-a-loan-to-purchase tools.They get the job done for a great price.
3. Below I will share the product link, but I won’t explain every last facet of the tool. I figure Amazon does a better job at this. I simply tell you why I find the product to be such an impressive buy.
So, here we go!
Zircon StudSensor i60 Center-Finding Stud Finder
What It Is: A stud finder is, quite simply, a tool for pinpointing the location of wood (and in some models, metal) structural elements behind drywall, tile, or most other wall surfaces.
When You Use It: A stud finder is essential for many home improvement projects. Installing crown molding, baseboard, chair rail, putting in closet inserts, hanging heavy items on the wall; all require identifying solid backing.
Why I’m In Love With The Zircon i60:
1. The Zircon i60 is light-weight. Since you will be holding it to a wall or ceiling repeatedly, light-weight and maneuverability are essential for comfortable use.
2. The electrical current sensor. The Zircon i60 notifies the user when an electrical current is present in the wall, allowing you to avoid penetrating wiring when installing the fastener.
3. The Zircon i60 uses LED lighting displays, not LCD. LED (you know, the little colored light) is much more durable than LCD (like your digital watch screen). My stud finder takes a lot of abuse, and LCD would just not last in my toolbox. Besides, unless you want to download music videos and watch them on your stud finder, an LCD is overkill.
Bessey D-BKWH Quick-Change Folding Utility Knife
What It Is: A utility knife is an all-purpose cutting tool that uses removable, disposable razor blades.
When You Use It: Ummm, any time you cut something? I use mine to sharpen a pencil, cut through plastic sheeting or cardboard, open a tube of caulking, etc.
Why I Am In Love With The Bessey D-BKWH:
1. Extremely quick blade change. I mean, I can change a blade in under 6 seconds, no joke. (I actually timed myself. I admit, I am a total tool nerd…) Simply unsnap the lock bar, slide out the main clasp, change the blade, slide the main clasp back in and snap the lock bar in place. Done. No need for a screwdriver or any other tools.
2. Safety. Throughout the blade-change process, you are never exposed to difficult movements that create a cutting danger. I have used utility knives that force you to slide locks adjacent to the blade. Can’t tell you how many times I nearly severed tendons trying to open a stuck slide lock.
3. The Bessey D-BKWH folds in half when not in use, allowing for safe and simple storage in a pocket or a tool belt. When working on my projects, I simply slide this knife into my jeans pocket at the beginning of the day, and never think about it again until I need to use it. When a need arises, I just grab it from my pocket, flip it open, and I’m ready to go.
4. Once flipped open, the knife is ready to go. I can’t stand the knives that force you to slide the blade in and out. So often the slide gets stuck, creating great annoyance when you have to disassemble the knife just to fix the sliding mechanism. No hassle like this with the Bessey D-BKWH.
Newborn Bros & Co #111 1/10GAL Hex Rod Caulker
What It Is: A caulking gun, or caulker, is a tool used for dispensing any product out of a tube container.
When You Use It: Use a caulking gun for an array of projects that require caulking or adhesive. I use mine mostly for caulking paint-grade trim and adhering wall paneling.
Why I Am In Love With The Newborn Bros Caulker:
1. Durability. I dare you to break it. It’s more durable than Tiger Woods’ image. Oh, wait…
2. It showcases a whopping two features: A puncture tool and a spout-cutter. Both are used to open a new tube of caulking or adhesive.
3. I love simple tools, and this is the poster-boy for simple and effective tools.
DEWALT DW929K-2 18-Volt 3/8-Inch Cordless Compact Drill/Driver Kit
What It Is: A drill/driver is the workhorse of your toolbox. It runs on a rechargeable battery and allows you to install different drill or screwdriver bits.
When You Use It: Use it any time you need to screw or drill on a project.
Why I Am In Love With The DEWALT 18-Volt Compact Drill:
1. A drill/driver is all about balance.This drill simply “feels” right in your hands. Not top-heavy, not bottom-heavy; just right.
2. The 18-volt battery gives you plenty of power and charge duration for almost any projects.
3. The extra battery charges quickly to keep your project going. (Extra battery is, well, extra and not included).
4. At 4.5 lbs., this drill/drive is lighter than the standard 18-volt version.
5. I have had my model for almost 8 years and have never, ever had a problem.
Porter-Cable CFFN251N Two Nailer 2-1/2-Inch Finish and 1-1/4-Inch Brad and Compressor Combo Kit
What It Is: A combo kit features everything you need to dispense either finish nails or brads. The power source (compressor), hose and the actual finish or brad nailer. A finish nail is usually 1.5″-2.5″ in length and 16-18 gauge, whereas a brad is smaller, usually 0.75″-1.25″ in length and 16-18 gauge. The two guns in this kit both use 18 gauge products.
When You Use It: In all types of finish carpentry, from building furniture to installing trim and molding.
Why I Am In Love With The Porter-Cable Combo Kit:
1. Cost savings. Buying these products in a kit saves you at least $50.
2. Guaranteed to function well together. After all, they are the same brand and specifications.
3. Rugged, to say the least. I have had this combo kit for nearly 5 years. I can’t tell you how many times I have dropped my nailers with no effect. In fact, the only issue in 5 years was the eventual failing of the hose. This is to be expected.
4. Simple. The compressor has only two adjustments: On/off and air pressure. That’s it. I love it.
Note: You may want to pick up an extra hose or two so you don’t have to place the compressor in the same room with you. It is loud.
DEWALT DW716 15 Amp 12-Inch Double-Bevel Compound Miter Saw
What It Is: A miter saw is a single-blade, fixed cutting tool used to cut an array of materials (depending on the blade you are using) at an array of angles.
When You Use It: Any time you need to make a cut and you can bring the material to the saw. I have used mine extensively for finish carpentry and general household projects. I even used it to cut salami once, but that was a joke during a Christmas party and it really gummed up my blade.
Why I Am In Love With The DEWALT 12-Inch Double-Bevel Compound Miter Saw:
1. Like a good friend, this saw is always there, ready to go to work, without complaint or fuss. It just works, over and over.
2. I prefer the accuracy of a hinged miter saw over a sliding miter saw.
3. The fence configuration and 12-inch blade allows you to cut almost any material against the back fence instead of laying flat. This significantly improves accuracy.
4. Set-up and calibration is a breeze.
5. Blade change is simple and quick.
Deren S. Monday has spent over a decade in the residential and commercial construction industry, and is a graduate of the Construction Management Department at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. All this talk of tools makes him want to upgrade his workshop… Deren is the author of Your Cheap Kitchen Remodel: A Guide to Your Affordable Dream Kitchen.