Not too many power tools can be stowed away in a kitchen drawer and also put a hole in a brick wall. Bosch has been releasing pistol-sized 12-volt drivers since 2006, and the tools got ridiculously useful with the addition of a masonry-punching hammer function. At 1kg, this one's zippy 9.5mm chuck bites on a bit and kicks a little when you pull the trigger. It's got oomph. But owning it also means you have no excuse as to why you can't hang a pot rack, assemble a bookshelf, or tighten up a deck rail.
Don't kid yourself. There is not room in your life for a compound sliding miter saw. And using dad's old Disston for a few crosscuts in 2x4s conjures the unpleasant illusion that you're building a boat, really badly. But you've got boards to shorten. Give yourself a chance at a passably straight cut — in seconds — with Milwaukee's cordless 12-volt jigsaw. The battery's charge lasts for enough cuts to rip plywood into a set of pantry shelves, and a tool-free lever pops the blade out like an ejected shell casing. Change the blade. It's fun. And it's probably already dull.
Most stud sensors are such inaccurate pieces of trash that you're better off sliding a magnet across the wall, hoping it'll stick on some ferrous fastener buried back there. To keep your walls from looking like drunken homemade pegboard, try the Ryobi TEK4 stud sensor, a measuring tool with some actual thought behind its design. A decent backlit LED screen actually shows you information — like, the edges of the stud, and whether you're about to encounter live voltage. It probably works as well as it does because of its rechargeable 4-volt lithium-ion batteries. If it's between this and the half-dead AAs in a typical studfinder, you might as well just drill where your knuckles knock something that doesn't sound hollow.
The suburban man may pop by the church/temple/mosque at some point in the weekend, but everybody knows the real religious experience begins when he smells that two-stroke incense and hears the angelic chant of his self-propelled lawnmower. Toro makes a sweet machine — the 22-inch Recycler, despite its lame name, has a 149cc Kohler overhead valve engine, which fires up without the need to prime or choke (that's a cut above your standard Briggs & Stratton). The self-propulsion is an old-fashioned fixed bar, not one of these weird sliding handles. As the big rear wheel rolls over uneven terrain, with the mulch system spitting minced fescue across your lawn, and the mower heaving its own 81 pounds acoss your acreage, nothing could distract you from this moment of divinity.
You can do a lot of things really well with a Dremel — you can make clean plunges in drywall for a new electrical box, you can cut sliding door tracks to a perfect fit, you can shape bushings for your go-kart wheel axles, and you can cut off bolt and screw shanks whether you're building something or taking it apart. The 8220 12-volt tool, with its 5000 to 30,000RPM and a 360-degree grip, gives you plenty of power to do all these things. In an hour, it's battery recharges, and then you can tackle some of its questionable uses — you won't be the first Dremel user to think pumpkin carving or pedicures require a power tool.
Do you really need a tool that can drive down a fastener with 1700 kilograms force centimetre of torque at 2850 RPM? Probably not. But the mood may strike you, at home one Sunday afternoon, to hide out beneath the deck for an hour. With a beer. Alone. Take your impact driver! Its rattling ratchet mechanism, just popping away on a fully secured bolt, it makes a hell of a racket and it really sounds like you're getting some work done. And who knows, maybe someday, that old deck will start to loosen from its ledger board, and you really will need you to drive in another 8-inch carriage bolt. Then, lo and behold, you'll have the perfect tool for the job.
You may have heard of these strange oscillating multi tools, capable of excising grout from tile, scraping away crumbling caulk and putty, or sanding a floor within a hair's breadth of a baseboard. You have probably also learned that the established leader of the category — the Fein Multimaster — costs hundreds of dollars between the tool and its accessories. Don't panic! The Skil 1400-2 is a decent substitute. It shares some basic DNA with another great oscillating tool, the Bosch MX30E, and it's about a third of the price. The only problem is the Skil-branded accessories are a little shoddy, but that's OK — the tool's universal 12-pin connector works with superior Bosch-branded accessories. Now go on, trim that door frame so you can fit some new flooring beneath it.
There's a reason every reciprocating saw on any jobsite, regardless of brand, is referred to as a Sawzall. Milwaukee's 13-amp version of the tool is clearly the best one available. And this particular Sawzall (er, Super Sawzall) has a rotating head that helps the tool's demolition blade work its way back to bite through the odd screw still holding old cabinetry to a wall, the posts flush against the house that are propping up a porch rail, or the old runs of obsolete iron pipe still wedged between joists, uselessly decorating your basement's ceiling.
String trimmers are one of those outdoor tools that actually make sense to use with a battery. (That's generally not the case, for, say, lawnmowers and chainsaws.) The 36-volt cell on this weed whacker has a dial that lets you choose between max power or max runtime. It's not just a gimmick, either — the top setting works best for brambly, woody stems, and the lower settings do a fine job cleaning up stray grass blades crowded against the mailbox post. Plus, when you flip it sideways to edge the driveway, there's no engine to drool fuel down your arm.
Pointing a laser gun at something to take its temperature is a lot of fun, and it's also occasionally useful. How hot is your grill? How hot is that little drafty spot by the kitchen door, on a winter morning, compared to the parts of the house that aren't bleeding heat? The 4-volt tool measures between -20C and 310C, and it can store up to 10 different temperatures in its memory. You can add real data to some classic scientific experiments — under sunshine refracted through a magnifying glass, at what degree do various trespassers around the home and garden begin to sizzle?
[Esquire] Republished with permission.