Happy Hardware Holidays

2011-12-20 by . 1 comments

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While Santa may know a thing or two about creating toys, the elves at Home Improvement Stack Exchange are obsessed with the tools he’s using.

So it’s only natural that when someone asked Santa:  “What should I get my handy friend?” that he’d turn to us to make a list and check it twice.

We’ve come up with a list of inexpensive toys every DIYer and homeowner can use.  The entries below are ordered by their popularity with our community, so the gifts at the top are regarded as the best you can buy on a limited budget.

Non-Contact Voltage Tester

Every time an electrical question is asked and somebody mentions buying a tick tracer an angel gets their wings. Not only that, but it could help you from getting your wings.  They also come in handy for finding that nasty Christmas light that went out and caused every light to quit.

Buy the kind that has an automatic shut off. Some designs make turning these off and staying off almost an impossibility.  Notable brands are Klein, Fluke, Ideal, Greenlee, and GB; since this is a safety item don’t try to a save a couple bucks on a generic version.

Speed Square

Before you think about purchasing a power saw, buy a speed square. It’s a perfect straight edge, with a nice lip to grab your piece. Has any angle you might encounter in framing already marked on it. Doubles as a ruler in a pinch and can be used as a portable miter box as well.


Small, versatile, and handy carry-all tool. It’ll rip, tear, and pry just about anything and it’s virtually indestructible.

Mini Tubing Cutter

Great for cutting copper tubing, especially in tight places.


Torpedo Level

While not quite as useful as it’s longer brothers, the torpedo level is a nice tool to throw in your toolbox for quick checks.  Most have features like a grooved bottom for leveling pipes, and a magnetic base for leveling metal.  The magnet is also handy for storing the level in an easy to find location.


Much easier than trying to hold the flashlight or finding a recruit to hold it for you.

Magnetic Wristband

Another nifty convenience item, this gives you some place to put those fasteners you just removed or the next couple you’re going to put up. It’s probably healthier than the traditional method too (screws in the mouth).

Bucket Organizer

Put those empty joint compound buckets to good use. Rather than carrying a huge toolbox around the house, instead grab the bucket and throw in a few extra tools for the project.

F4 Tape

If you’re looking for something amazing that the DIYer may not have seen before, F4 tape is a great choice. This isn’t tape, it’s an emergency repair miracle. It has a tensile strength up to 950 PSI. Handles high temps, corrosion, and is pretty much weather proof.  It’s similar to electrical tape; it fuses to itself so it can wrap just about any shape.

IR Thermometer

Warning, everything in your home will need to have its temperature taken after you own one of these.  Point and shoot, it’s like magic.  If they have a laser pointer in them, they also double as a cat toy.

Multi-Bit Screwdriver/Nut Driver

Everybody needs plenty of screwdrivers, and having the correct size screwdriver can save you time, aggravation, the screw head, and the skin on you knuckles. If you need something quick these are great. Keep one in the kitchen drawers for an easy find when you need a fast screwdriver. There are several different types and each have their advantages. You can usually get one while you’re standing in line at the hardware store.

Kill A Watt

Now you can find out just how much those holiday lights are sucking.  Tells you just about anything you want to know about the device you’ve plugged in:  Volts, Amps, Watts, Hz, VA, KWH, Power Factor.

Laser Level

These are great for hanging closet shelves, clothes rods, pictures and mirrors.  There’s a wide variety of models and a huge price range depending on the features.

Plumb Bob

Everyone has a level, but for high accuracy, a plumb bob is better and covers a longer distance with ease. Great for hanging doors, better for building a deck.

Bench Cookies

For the woodworker, these “cookies” provide a nice way to raise a piece just off the workbench for routing, sanding, staining, painting etc.

DIY Pencils

Better than any other pencil you’ve ever owned.

Modular Plug Crimper

Cuts, strips and crimps RJ-45, RJ-11 and RJ-12 modular plugs. If it could only untwist and align the wires, this thing would be perfect.

Great for chopping up those standard length cables, to make custom length cables. You’ll never have to coil up excess Ethernet cable again.

Duct tape

Sure, every DIYer has a roll of duct tape hanging around, but its versatility means that all the non-DIYers will “borrow” it too.  For an added challenge, you can create a stocking from duct tape, and then fill it with a gift from this list.


Happy Holidays from all of us at DIY.StackExchange.com, and The DIY.SE blog team

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  • Do the pencils come with the Stack Exchange Employee?

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