By Jeff Beneke
Whether it is for a holiday, birthday or other special occasion, every do-it-yourselfer needs some basic tools to help accomplish his or her projects. And everyone shopping for that DIYer needs some great gift ideas to help them find the perfect surprise.
Here are nine great gift ideas that are sure to please anyone who enjoys tinkering around the house. If you are shopping for someone who has a bare-bones tool collection, take a look at Must-Have Tools for the Home Workshop. But if you want to find a useful gift that may not necessarily pop up on someone's wish list, the suggestions below ought to do the trick.
Or, to be precise, a couple of them. Sawhorses, that is. I use sawhorses for just about every home improvement project imaginable, it seems. I use them for assembling things and painting things. I set a piece of plywood on them to create a temporary workbench. I put some thick pieces of lumber on them to create a scaffold. And, oh yes, I also use them for sawing.
I've made and bought a lot of sawhorses over the years, but my favorite set by far is from Trojan Manufacturing (Trojan horses; get it?). Trojan makes heavy-duty metal legs, which you turn into sawhorses by adding a length of two by four lumber to each. They offer two models; the TS-27 and the taller TS-35, which is my choice. I don't think I'll ever have to buy another set.
OK, this might not win any awards for sexiest gift, but what's wrong with showing how much you care with a gift that could save someone's eyesight? Anyone who operates power tools or swings a hammer should put on eye protection before they begin. It is such an inexpensive and simple step to take, yet thousands of eye injuries occur each year on people who didn't take it. And one big reason why they didn't take it is because they didn't have safety glasses.
I use a pair of polycarbonate clear lens glasses that fit over my prescription glasses. They cost about $5. There are a greater variety of options for someone who doesn't normally wear glasses. Look for glasses that meet ANSI standards and OSHA compliance.
I once paid a mechanic $50 to shut off the "check engine" light in my car. That seemed excessive, so the next time it happened I just disconnected the battery cables for a moment, then put them back on. Worked just as well.
Then a friend suggested I get an engine code reader. I bought an Actron CP9125 for about $60. Now, when the "check engine" light comes on, I plug the code reader into the data link connector at the bottom of my dashboard. It gives me a code number, which I can cross check against a list of code explanations and, bingo, I know what the problem is (and it is almost always too minor to require repair). The code reader also turns off the warning light without having to mess with the battery.
Have you ever stopped to count how many inflatable tires you have in your garage, and elsewhere around the house? Cars, bikes, lawnmowers, utility carts, trailers, and motorcycles all have tires that need a fresh supply of air from time to time. All those air mattresses and soccer balls also need to be filled.
A simple air inflator can be purchased for under $50. These small units are a little slow, but it sure beats racing off to the filling station or hunting around for a manual pump when something needs inflating. If you are feeling a little more generous, upgrade this purchase (at about double the price) to a small air compressor, which both fills tires quicker and can be used to operate a variety of air tools.
My 20+ year old 12V Panasonic cordless drill is still going strong, compliments of a new battery I bought for it a decade or so ago. Unfortunately, it now is owned and operated by my daughter. I replaced it with a 15.6V Panasonic, which worked fine for about five years before the batteries stopped holding a charge.
The price for replacement batteries was steep, so I decided to buy a 12V Bosch drill with two lithium-ion batteries. I'm happy I did. This little drill/driver weighs just over two pounds and easily fits in my tool belt (or even my pants pocket, for that matter), yet it is strong enough to handle just about any task I can throw at it. The batteries hold a charge for a long time. Great gift, whether for yourself or someone else.
And, speaking of building a tool collection, if your gift recipient has yet to buy much more than a screwdriver, this might be the time to spring for a large set of hand tools that will take care of just about everything that tools are needed for. One great set is the Crescent CTK170CMP, which has 170 pieces and sells for around $100. It has socket wrenches and all the necessary sockets and extensions, and assorted pliers, wrenches and pliers, all packed in a single case.
It's almost always much cheaper to buy sets of tools than to buy them one at a time.
I'll bet you've never thought about knee pads as a gift idea, but I'd like to suggest that you do. Anyone who tinkers in the garage or does home improvement projects spends a lot of time on their knees. And we don't give it much thought until (a) we plant a knee on a sharp object, or (b) our knees start aching. Knee pads could prevent injury in that first case, and they can drastically reduce the chances of the knee problems developing in an aging body. Trust me, I speak from experience on this.
I've gone through many work lights in my time. The cheaper ones use a standard incandescent bulb, which typically breaks every time you drop the thing. Once, I broke three bulbs in an hour or so. Rather than replace the bulb again, I replaced the whole light. I bought a Bayco 17-watt fluorescent work light, which I've now been using for at least seven years without once breaking a bulb. It provides plenty of light when crawling under the car, and I really appreciate that the bulb doesn't get hot. It's one tough light, and it makes one great gift.
My old, cheap and only moderately effective car jack passed away several years ago. Lousy as it was in jacking up the side of a car with any speed or consistency, I missed it badly. So this year I talked to some mechanics and did my research and concluded that this heavy-duty Kobalt jack would make a good replacement.
And it has. This guy lifts a tire off the ground on my car in a matter of seconds. Without a car jack, I had been reduced to using the puny jack that came with the car, which required probably 10 minutes to reach the same goal. And this jack stand, which I picked up at Lowe's, came in a kit with the two 3-ton jack stands shown. Anyone who does any work on cars would welcome this kit as a gift.