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You have your hammers, screwdrivers, drills, and saws: a nice start on the tool collection needed for your hobbies and house work. But there are lots of other chores that demand more specialized tools. Whether you're running new wiring through your home or building a doll house, replacing windows or polishing your fine gold jewelry, there is a perfect tool for each task. Here are five tools that savvy homeowners might consider adding to their hardware collection.
Electrical Test Instrument Kit
Do you have a basic understanding of electricity and how it works? Do you sometimes pursue hobbies like modding out your own PC? Then you might be in the market for a multimeter. This device is a meter box with two electrical probes that tests voltage, current, resistance, capacitance, and more. It can be used to troubleshoot all kinds of electrical problems with motor controls, house wiring, power supplies, or balky appliances.
The Craftsman Test Instrument Kit ($89.99 with $6.99 s&h or free pickup, $10 off) also includes an infrared thermometer that by itself sells for around $70. The thermometer is useful in dealing with electrical problems, helping you identify faulty wiring in breaker boxes or outlets without actually touching anything. It's also great for checking the temperature of food on the grill.
Most of us accumulate tools that run off of electrical power, but people who use power tools a lot — especially professional builders — find that it's much better to use tools that operate off of compressed air. Why? They last longer, are lighter, can vary in speed and torque, and don't carry the threat of electrical shock or fire. Compressed air tools thusly obtain said compressed air from (you guessed it!) an air compressor. A good compressor will supply air — measured in pounds per square inch (psi) — steadily with enough capacity — measured in cubic feet per minute (cfm) — to keep the tool operating without pause.
The compressor is useful in other ways, too, from filling up car and bicycle tires to blowing out old mortar from between bricks before repointing. The Porter Cable C2004 Oil-Free Pancake Compressor ($169.99 with $6.99 s&h, a low by $15) provides up to 165 psi of air. It is gas-operated, with a large 4-gallon tank, yet weighs less than 30 lbs. and runs at a relatively quiet 75.5 decibels.
Home maintenance and hobby work often require you to grind, sand, cut, sharpen, or polish small items like chainsaw blades, railroad cars, jewelry, and the like. The rotary tool, best known by the trade name Dremel Tool, is the answer to these tasks. This device rotates like a drill, but at a much higher speed, and the hand piece is much smaller (about the size of a tennis racket handle) allowing for fine control.
Most rotary tool kits come with a variety of bits for different tasks, including sanding disks, burrs, saw blades, drills, and polishing pads. With them you can clean your golf clubs, cut model railroad track, build a derby car, carve a pumpkin, distress your jeans, and more.
The Dremel 8000-03 10.8-Volt Lithium Ion Cordless Rotary Tool ($73.49 with free shipping, a low by $4) would make a fine addition to your tool collection. It's wireless but comes with a long-lasting lithium-ion battery, and is therefore lightweight, and runs at variable speeds up to 35,000 rpm. It also includes 40 different accessories.
You've probably run into this problem before: you're sanding a piece of furniture and you just can't get into the corners. Or perhaps you're working on a window frame with mullions that a large sander can't handle. These tasks were made made for the oscillating tool.
This tool, which is usually not much larger than an electrical toothbrush, works much like barber's clippers, moving its blade back and forth in a very small range. When a saw blade is installed, this small saw oscillates, making it the perfect tool for jobs like cutting holes in drywall for electrical outlets or trimming baseboards to fit new flooring. It can also handle tasks like cutting copper tubing and fiberglass. With a grinding attachment, it will cut through old grout like magic. Or, with a sanding attachment, it can reach into the sharpest corners and bring them down to their original wood.
The refurbished Rockwell Sonicrafter 20-Piece Oscillating Tool Kit ($47.99 with free shipping, a low by $8) carries a 2-year warranty and comes with a 10-foot cord and 20-piece starter kit.
A shop vac can be handy in so many ways: blowing leaves, cleaning out your garage, unclogging your sink, vacuuming out your grill and fireplace, sucking up spills, tidying up around the pool, detailing your car, and pulling loose hair off your shedding dog. (OK, we only wish that last one was true.)
A good shop vac should both suck and blow (and blow with some velocity, so you can clear the grit out of your garage) and have a good capacity so you don't have to empty it once a minute when cleaning up after a flood. The RIDGID 16-Gallon Wet / Dry Vacuum ($49.88 with free in-store pickup, a low by $60) has a 5-horsepower motor, a 16-gallon tank, a built-in drain, utility and car nozzles, and a 7-foot hose.
Whether you intend to build model planes or your own greenhouse, wire your house for sound or assemble your own PC, these five tools will make the job easier and more professional. But if you're not finding something to pique your home repair heart, then be sure to keep an eye on our tool deal page for future offers.
Front page photo credit: The Little Guest House