2012 Holiday Tool Guide

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Hi everyone!  Should I ask is your turkey thawing, or are your running shoes unlaced and the coffee pot set for 4AM Friday morning?

Now I'm a big believer in Black Friday for one simple reason: It's the best time to buy tools.  Tools rarely go on sale, and never do deals for good tools get marked down like they do this Friday.

So as you are putting together your game plan, here's a my Holiday Tool Guide of the different tools that make the best gifts.  

Top 5 Stocking Stuffer Tools ($5-$20)

Need a gift idea for someone on your list, but don't want to give another sweater that never gets worn?  Every builder would love these stocking stuffers - and if they already have it, no worries!  Having two of these items is never a bad thing!

1. Tape Measure - for a DIYer, a 16' long tape measure is perfect, small and light but extending long enough for any furniture building project.  If they are doing work on the house, you may want to go up to a 25' or 30' tape.

2. Carpenter's Square  - A humble triangular shaped tool - either metal or plastic - can make projects so much straighter!  These come in a variety of sizes with a 6" and 12" most common.  I use a square to mark cuts, to guide saws, and check for square while I'm building.  

3. Clamps - Clamps will do the job that you won't or can't.  A clamp can hold a board inches from a dangerous saw blade, hold a board overnight while the glue dries, or just hold a board when you don't have an extra hand.  My favorite clamps are the speed clamps, but I find myself using all sort of different styles to get the job done safely and easily.

4. Countersink Drill Bit - You'll be amazed at what you can build with a simple countersink bit. The countersink bit does two things - it predrills a pilot hole to prevent your wood from splitting and it drills a larger indentation for countersinking your screw heads.  That way you can go back and hide the screw head with wood filler. Opt for a countersink bit set so the builder can quick change from drilling to driving screws!

5. Paint Brush - a good high quality paint brush can really make a huge difference in the finish of a project.  Splurge on a nice brush that can be cleaned and used over and over again - a good brush can last years and years!  For different projects, different widths come in handy - anything from a 1 1/2" up to a 3 1/2" are versatile enough to work on just about any project.  Also consider a cabinet roller kit.

Top 5 Small Power Tools ($50-$100)

1. Drill.  Who doesn't need one?  Even if you aren't building yet, you'll need a drill for hanging curtains, assembling stuff, or fixing things around the house.  If you do have a drill, you can build just about anything.  I know lots of people have asked their hardware store to cut boards for them, and went home and built furniture with a countersink drill bit and screws.  

When you look for a drill, I suggest for a general purpose drill, finding one between 12 and 18 volts. Any smaller and you will have power problems.  Any bigger and the drill becomes heavy and cumbersome.

Next, find a drill that fits in your hand.  Something that is comfortable for you to use and you can easily handle it.  You are going to use this drill alot - might as well get one that is intuitive for you to use.

Budget is always a concern.  On drills, put your money into the batteries.  A lithion-ion battery can deliver as much as twice the power and four times the use between charges!  

If you can get a combo pack of two drills - one smaller and one larger - this is the perfect setup for building.  Load the larger drill up with the drilling bit, and the smaller with the driving bit, and you'll cut tons of time off your projects by not having to change bits and wait for batteries to charge up.

2. Circular Saw.  A circular saw is a must have for any home owner.  You can use it to make straight cuts consistently and easily.  They are fairly inexpensive, and even if you have a miter saw or table saw, you'll still use a circular saw for hard to reach areas or longer cuts or angles that are too steep for your mitersaw.  The circular saw is the first saw you should invest in.

Look for a circular saw that fits your hand and is easy for you to use.  I like the motor mounted on the right of the blade with a smaller foot to the left of the blade because I'm right handed and right-eye dominant.  Find a saw that suits you and is easy for you to use.  Also pick up the right saw blades for the material you are using.

3. Jigs Saw.  Jigsaws are a little less intimidating to use, but won't cut a neat straight cut like a circular saw will.  Jigsaws are great for cutting curves and arches, or finishing cuts made by a circular saw.  These are great to have on hand and are less expensive than other saws.  A great gift idea for sure!

Most important part of successful jigsawing?  Having the right blade.  Pick up a few stocking-stuffer jigsaw blades to go with the saw.

4.  Kreg Jig.  May people have told me that the Kreg Jig has changed their life!  Hard to believe a little blue tool can do that - but once you use one, you'll be amazed!  It's a must have!  I definitely recommend the full size jig - it's worth it!

5. Power Sander.  Nothing says I love you more than a power sander.  Because it means you've seen how much hard work goes into hand sanding, and you cared enough to invest in an easier way to finish projects!  Even if your loved one isn't building, a sander is used to refinish furniture.

Top 5 Large Power Tools ($100+)

Want to really make their Christmas special?  Why not give a gift that will give back to your for years and years?  Remember that tools are an investment that will pay you back for the rest of your life.

1. Compound Sliding Miter Saw.  This is the tool that makes cutting easy, precise, and safe.  Invest in the most expensive one you can - it's an investment I recommend saving for.  

2. Table Saw.  Table saws aren't necessarily a must have for a DIYer, but they sure are nice!  A table saw gives you complete building freedom.  If your builder builds with lots plywood, consider a tablesaw as a gift.

3. Kreg Master Toolboxx.  For the Kreg Jig junkie - the Kreg Master Toolboxx is a super deal!  It contains 4 jigs, clamps and other goodies, and over 1000 screws in an easy to store and use toolbox.  Retailing separately for $415, at $299 it's a steal!  Hurry up though - only limited quantities are available.

4. Power Tool Combo Packs.  When you buy a combo pack, you get a break on price because they share chargers and batteries.  This Holiday season, expect to see great deals on Power Tool Combo packs - just get a kit with the tools you want in it!  I recommend at least a drill and a circular saw, two drills are nice!

5. Nailer Combo Kits. Having a nailer isn't necessary, but once you have one, you'll love it!  An 18 gauge is most versatile, but it's nice to have a crown stapler as well.  Look for killer steals on Nailer/Compressor Combo kits this holiday season to simplify everything from hanging crown moulding to nailing backs on furniture.

** All images from Homedepot.com

** Tools shown are for example purposes only.  I am not recommending or endorsing these exact tools.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and a safe Black Friday! 

PS - Congrats to Brandie for winning the Kreg Master Toolboxx!


I don't have a sliding conpound miter saw, but I love my regular miter saw! They were actually less expensive than I expected, and I REALLY have appreciated it. I'm scared of circular saws (maybe irrational, but I hate them) since things always seem to end up unsupported and hard to clamp down and the saw is heavy and hard for me to line up perfectly, so the miter saw is amazing.

I also have a Kreg Jig Jr (the two hole one without the built in clamp) which is really great if you can't justify the money for the full size one - I've still been very happy with it as long as you have a good clamp to use with it.

What are your feelings on bandsaws? A Friendsuggested I look into a bandsaw instead of a table saw and since I dont use plywood all that often I was thinking about it. But are they useful? I know they are good for small cuts, but are they useful for other stuff as well?

Bandsaws are very useful for some things, and if space is tight they're better than a table saw because of their versatilty. I don't have one, but I use my dad's a few times a year for cuts I can't do on my table saw.

You can use it like a table saw for ripping and cutting to width, if you buy a good one, but you'll need to use a hand plane to clean up the edges. That might not be the route you want to take. A band saw can't take the place of a table saw for production, if say, you're building a library's worth of bookshelves.

I would add to your list, not at the top but at least on the bottom, a router. I don't own one yet but it is on my Christmas list. It will give you a lot of versatility.


Happy Thanksgiving!
At rockler.com, I found the Kreg R3 system for $39.95. It is the small 2-hole jig with a clamp pad adapter, drill bit, square driver, allen wrench, assorted screws/plugs and a carry case. If you add in shipping that would be about $45. (clamps are extra) This is what I bought as my very first Kreg a few years ago, and found it in stock at Lowes. I didn't see these on the Lowes web site today though, but your local Lowes may carry them.

Usually in-stock at Lowes, you can find the Kreg Mini (19.95 - includes a 1-hole jig, drill bit, and square driver), plus a 2 3/4" Face clamp for $19.98, which would come to a total of about $40.. I have invested $160 to buy 4 sets like this, and I like to use them for doing lots of pocket holes "assembly line" style on large projects . And having several face clamps is so useful, I have found them well worth $19.98 each!

I've been woodworking since 1974, and there are some tools, both old and very recent acquisitions, that I can't live without.
1) A nail-gun combination kit that includes a pancake compressor, stapler, brad nailer, and finish nailer. Complete it someday with a framing nailer and there isn't a project you can't tackle.
2) A quality table saw. I have a Bosch 4100 because I want portability. It is accurate to 1/32" on repeat cuts. Love this saw!
3) A combination 12" mitre saw with laser guide. The laser is something you can add to any mitre saw for around $20, and it is extremely helpful.
4) Clamps in all sizes and types. You cannot have enough clamps!
5) 18 volt cordless drill with 3/8 chuck.
6) A quality 1/4 sheet sander
7) A 14" band saw (not as expensive as one would think and extremely useful for furniture makers.)
8) An oscillating drum sander, especially great if you have a bandsaw
9) A large shop vacuum connected to a Dust Deputy (by Oneida) to help keep the shop clean. A clean shop is a safe shop.
10) A pocket hole jig (for all the reasons Ana lists.)
I lied, #11 is a HVLP paint sprayer. I have a Grayco unit and it is fantastic!