Top 10 Cool DIY Tools

By: Chris Obenschain

When things leak, break or need to be torn down, these tools are essential. See more pictures of must-have power tools.

Do-it-yourselfers are easy to shop for. For any occasion, a cool tool makes a perfect gift. But the challenge is picking the right tool for their arsenal of DIY supplies. Unless you're a DIYer yourself, you probably don't know much about their chosen hobby -- especially if you'd rather call a repairman (or your father, husband or boyfriend) than pick up a hammer.

Leave it to TLC. We know what handymen would love to hang in their workshops, and our list of the coolest 10 tools includes only items that they'll actually use. We'll tell you about work lights that can take a take a tumble and still illuminate the darkest corners of any workspace. And, we'll explain why a multitool will be the only thing your on-the-go DIYer will ever need.


On the next page, we'll explain why some little tools can make a really big impression.

10: Small but Mighty Tools

Even if the DIYer in your life keeps his toolbox well-stocked, we guarantee there are some little but awfully useful things he lacks. Everyday items like pencils, pencil sharpeners, clamps, funnels, bit sets and electrical tape make great additions to a DIYer's tool collection, and they're sure to come in handy on virtually any job or project.

If you want to give your DIYer a gift he'll love, wrap up these items inside a sturdy bucket -- and if you're feeling especially generous, include a gift card to his favorite home improvement store.


9: High-quality Measuring Tape

Does your measuring tape pass muster?
Does your measuring tape pass muster?

Regardless if your DIYer is measuring the length of a bedroom or establishing the circumference of a kitchen table, he's going to need a tape measure. We're not talking about one of those flimsy $5 tools. The best tape measures cost a little more (around $25), but they're worth every penny. A good measure will reach a length of more than 25 feet, and the tape should feel firm and steady, even when stretched to its farthest lengths. The tape measure should also have a bit of flexibility so it can measure around curves and corners, too. Most DIYers already have one or more tape measures, but they could always use another.


8: Multitool

A multi-tool is a DIYer's best friend -- or best travel buddy, if you will. The great thing about a multitool is its portability. Virtually any tool a DIYer could need is packed into a small, transportable unit. While he won't be able to use it to tear down a wall (mini sledgehammers don't pack much punch), your DIYer can whip it out to conduct impromptu furniture repair at a friend's house or open a bottle of wine. These handy little tools typically contain:

  • pliers
  • serrated and standard blades
  • miniature saw
  • wire stripper
  • hard wire cutters
  • Phillips and flathead screwdrivers
  • file
  • corkscrew
  • bottle opener
  • scissors

They're the perfect tools for everything from minor car problems to appliance repairs. Best of all, they're small and lightweight (despite the impressive number of tools they contain), so they're ideal for a DIYer who doesn't want to carry his toolbox with him all the time.


7: Jigsaw

If your DIYer likes to build as much as he likes to repair, a jigsaw is a must for his workshop. Jigsaw blades cut up and down instead of side to side, allowing him to cut curves in wood, plastic and metal -- something that's impossible to do with traditional saws.

Higher-end models usually contain a precision control system that secures the blade and prevents it from bending or wandering. Choosing a model that includes an adjustable dust blower will ensure those pesky shavings won't obstruct your DIYer's view, meaning he'll be able to work both more efficiently and safely.


6: Portable Work Light

Has your DIYer ever tried to fix something but couldn't see what he was doing well enough to finish the job? Well, if you supply him with a portable work light, he'll never again have to worry about working under imperfect lighting.

A work light illuminates those hard-to-reach places and keeps your DIYer working long after the sun has set. Most portable work lights are made from industrial-strength materials, so they'll keep shining no matter how many times they get knocked over. Many models also come with adjustable brightness settings so he won't risk blinding himself when lighting close quarters.


5: Electric Screwdriver

An electric screwdriver saves you time and pain.
An electric screwdriver saves you time and pain.

It doesn't matter if the DIYer in your life is a novice or a pro, an electric screwdriver is something he'll love to have on-hand. Regardless if he's mounting shelving, assembling furniture or simply retightening the screws of some loose, old fixtures, twisting a screwdriver for minutes at a time gets old (and will probably give him serious hand cramps).

An electric screwdriver shortens mundane, uncomfortable tasks into no-hassle jobs that take mere seconds to complete. Using the tool is as simple a pushing a button. Models with an automatic spindle lock will allow him to manually start and finish turning each screw to prevent stripping, and directional controls will help him disassemble projects as quickly and easily as he builds them. Attachable nosepieces grant access to narrow, hard-to-reach spaces that, if he were armed with only a standard Phillips or flathead, would make him want call a repairman -- an act that's sure to shame even the most novice handyman.


4: Sledgehammer

Yes, the image of a DIYer with a sledgehammer might be a little cliché, but that's because these demo-ready tools are indispensable anytime you need to tear down something. Can you imagine demolishing a wall with a ball-peen hammer? No -- for that kind of job you're going to have to call in the big guns (or one really big hammer). In this case, size does matter, which is why a sledgehammer belongs inside every self-respecting DIYer's tool shed.

We must advise, however, that unless the person wielding this smashing tool is a professional bodybuilder, you should go with an 8- to 10-pound model -- not a 16- or 20-pounder. The smaller of these giant hammers is capable of doing anything the big version can, and your favorite handyman won't risk throwing out his back.


3: Laser Level

Any DIYer will tell you how important a good level can be. From accurately hanging pictures to checking the alignment of doors and windows with the rest of a building, levels are an indispensable tool. But there's only so much a bubble or a simple pendulum can tell you, which is why laser levels have become so popular. They can do everything a standard level can do, only better. Yes, most laser levels still rely on the old technology, but reading one is as easy as looking for a beam of red light.

Basic laser levels are fairly inexpensive (between $15 and $100), but if your DIYer could use it, you may want to consider investing in a self-leveling unit that needs little input or adjustment. Self-leveling units save time are more reliable that standard levels, though they cost anywhere from $100 to $1,000.


2: Circular Saw

A circular saw is one power tool a DIYer can't live without.
A circular saw is one power tool a DIYer can't live without.

So what if they can't cut in curves? Circular saws are easy to use and, with the right blade, can quickly cut straight through just about anything. A standard blade can slice through any type of wood on the planet, and if you want to rip through metal without a high-powered blowtorch, a circular saw with an abrasive blade is your best bet. These ferocious-looking tools can even tear into demolition work as long as a nail-cutting blade is attached, so if the DIYer in your life ever needs to cut into, well, anything, he's going to need a circular saw.


1: Duct Tape

You know it; he loves it. Duct tape is the standard go-to adhesive for every DIYer, and with good reason. This shiny silver material can be used to cover holes in everything from boots to screen doors, and if the tape is applied properly, this sticky adhesive can last for years. It's even required cargo on all space shuttle missions! No, it's not going to permanently patch a leaky radiator hose, but it'll probably work long enough for your DIYer to get his car to the shop. Duct tape is something no handyman can ever have enough of, so it should always be stocked in his toolbox.

Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • Johnson Level and Tool. "Other Nuggets." 2010. (Nov. 11, 2010).
  • McAdam, Daniel. "History of Jigsaw Puzzles." American Jigsaw Puzzle Society. (Nov. 11, 2010).