10 Power Tools Every Man Should Own

Tempting as it may be to covet plunge routers, nail guns and compounds sliding mitre saws, they're just not right for most guys. But a tiny drill is something no junk drawer should go without.

Here are 10 power tools a regular homeowner should have on hand. We put this list together as an instalment in Esquire's excellent Best Month Ever.

1. Bosch PS130-2A Hammer Drill/Driver ($US159)

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.

2. Milwaukee 12-volt jigsaw ($US177)

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.

3. Ryobi TEK4 Stud Sensor ($US50)

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.

4. Toro 22-inch Recycler Self-Propelled Lawn Mower ($US300)

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.

5. Dremel 8220 12-volt Max High Performance Cordless Rotary Tool ($US95)

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.

6. DeWalt 20-volt Max Lithium Ion Brushless 3-Speed ¼-inch Impact Driver ($US279)

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.

7. Skil Oscillating Multi-Tool ($US80)

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.

8. Milwaukee 360-Degree Rotating Handle Orbital Super Sawzall ($US200)

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.

9. Black & Decker 36-volt Lithium String Trimmer ($US170)

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.

10. Ryobi Professional Infrared Thermometer ($US70)

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.


Comments

    I think the dualsaw could replace a few of those tools already

    Battery power on nearly all of them?
    I'm all for going green, but sometimes you need power and battery powered tools just don't perform the same, or at least mine don't.

      I find my cordless drill completely runs out of charge just sitting in the cupboard for a couple of weeks. Is this normal or is it just a crap drill (it's a cheapie).

        That's normal behaviour. That why things like dust-busters sit in a cradle, on charge all the time.

        Depends on the battery chemistry. If you still have one with NiMH or NiCad, pretty normal for them to self discharge at 20% or more per month, increasing as they get older. Lithium batteries should only be self discharging at 2-3% a month.

        Self discharging at a fast race generally indicates the battery is on it's way out.

          Buy a cheap timer to plug in to your wall socket (about $10), attach powerboard with all your tool chargers plugged in and set the timer to turn on for 15-30m per night. This will keep those old NiCad and NiMh batteries charged up and ready to go.

            Except NiCad suffer from the memory effect, which means you're going to have that issue instead.

              Aargh! I wish people would stop talking about "memory effect" when it comes to NiCad batteries. It doesn't happen in all but a very few, incredibly specific conditions. What people refer to as memory effect is actually a result of over-charging and therefore heating up the battery and altering the battery chemistry. A decent battery charger for whichever chemistry you're using is the answer. They don't have to be expensive, but even if they are they can save you the hassle and expense of replacing batteries designed not to fit any other group of tools.

                I'd like to see where you got this information, memory effect is in fact a real issue with ni-cad batteries, and is not caused by overheating, (overheating can damage the batteries though) Besides that point the answer for everyone is to buy tools with lithium batteries, Milwaukee has a 2 year warranty on all batteries and 5 years on the tools, you cant go wrong there.

            Brilliant, I've been thinking about connecting it up permanently. Didn't even think about the timer - will get onto that this afternoon. Very sick of having a flat battery in the drill.

            Great idea!

        Most rechargeable batteries have a self discharge rate, the older the battery, the faster it is.
        coupled with age degradation as well.
        so yes, it could be normal dependent on the age of your battery.
        you may also have a single cell in the pack that's crap, that drain all the rest.
        if your tool is unused, keep the battery separate and remember to throw in on charge every 2 weeks to keep it fresh.

      exactly, the plug in Dremel tool is loads better then the cordless one for all but the most basic of jobs..

      like the look of that studfinder though....

    Why the Thermometer? (other than seeing if something is hot or not)

      I got a $500 dual probe and laser thermometer from work
      Testo 826-T4 awesome for cooking and just pointing at stuff with the laser pointer (like peoples foreheads - sniper shots! haha)

    Pretty rubbish list if you ask me.

    I realise this was reposted from another site, but could there have been a bit more care in making sure it was relevant?

    The Bosch Hammer/Drill Driver isn't available in Australia as far as I can tell. And probably woefully underpowered for masonry drilling as most cordless hammer drills are.

    Jigsaws are great for curved cuts, but crosscutting with one? Stuff that!, you'll spend more time tidying up the ends than anything else.

    Dremels are woeful at cutting off steel, or anything with a reasonable diameter. Fine for small stuff, crap at anything else.

    Impact drivers are nice to have (I do have one!) but most people can probably get by with a decent drill/driver combo.

    Oscillating tools, ok at some things, bad at most and never, ever, good at anything.

    Reciprocating Saw - I use one with the SES, never needed one at home though. Definitely more useful for demolition than anything else. Unless you're renovating, I don't see why you would need one. Get an angle grinder if you need to cut metal off, or a circular saw for timber.

    Infrared Thermometer - I use one to measure snake enclosure temperatures. If you can think up of a use for one around the house Jaycar sells one for $30 that will probably do you, or $40 you can get it with a non-contact voltage detector (which you absolutely should have if you drill into walls!)

    As for the rest, if you have one already and find it adequate, keep it. If it's not, do some research on what you need first.

      "Oscillating tools, ok at some things, bad at most and never, ever, good at anything."

      I bought a Fein Multimaster some years back (before there were cheaper alternatives). I get the impression that the low opinion of this type of tool may be a result of low power (and possibly overall quality) as the Fein tool is a great piece of kit and has made quite a few jobs a fair bit easier than they would have been with the non-reciprocating tool alternatives. The replacement blades are damned expensive though!

      I agree the list is not very well thought out, I use these tools everyday for work so I guess it's a bit easier for me, Milwaukee makes a hammer drill/driver that is available in Australia and works great for bricks/blocks but its average in concrete, but there are plenty of cordless hammer drills that are just as good as corded ones and have great battery life, Bosch 36V, Panasonic 28V even the Panasonic 14.4v can drill a 20mm hole in concrete quite easily, you just have to make sure it is a rotary hammer drill and most cordless ones will do the job.
      I would disagree very much about the oscillating tools, there are a lot of jobs that can be done a lot faster by using one of these, I have the Milwaukee 12Vand the fein multimaster for bigger jobs, there is no better way to remove grout from tiles or cut metal or wood that has already been installed.

    Why can't women own them?

      If the article has been about the 10 Hairstyling Tools Every Woman Should Own would you have asked why men can't own them? No man would, because he doesn't care. You're trying to turn a simple article about power tools into a world equality and sexism debate. If women really think this sort of garbage is important to push a point on it's no wonder they can't win't win equality, because the very act of doing so reveals the trivial and useless nature of the discussion, instead of actually raising something that's important.

        Mr F, I dislike the gendering of hobbies, products, sports, all of it. It's important because the way we use language is important. There is not one reason why this had to be the tools men had to own and why it couldn't be just the tools people had to own. While I'm here, I should have also asked why *every* man has to own them? What about the dudes who couldn't give a fiddle or a fig for power tools?

          It's the whole "cry wolf" thing - the more nit-picking over non issues like this the more people will get sick of hearing about it, come to think all sexism issues are trivial high horsing like your argument and be less likely to listen when there is actual discrimination going on.

    I just bought an Ozito rotary hammer drill with SDS+ 5kg for $109 at Bunnings (3kg model is only $49!)

    BEST EVER POWER TOOL!

    It is a hammer drill and power drill and a jack hammer all in one!
    FREAKING AWESOME!

    Oh yeah and battery powered stuff sucks...go electrical for sure
    or petrol for lawn mower, whipper snipper etc. if you can

    Batteries just do not last! run out half way through and after a year they don't recharge or hold charge anymore

      Batteries do last on power tools. You just have a buy a good one like Makita. I have a Makita 18v cordless impact driver for about 5 years now. And the battery still powers my impact driver just fine.

        I thought I got a good one, it is a Bosch 18v cordelss.
        It came with two batteries, but one is shot won't hold charge or it won't charge at all...lasts 2 mins of drilling then goooooooorn

          Did you buy a blue Bosch or a green Bosch? The blue are the professional tools and are much, much better than the green non-pro tools.

    Pretty sure the only tool you need is duct tape and a stanley knife...

      MacGyver would only need a paper clip, some string and a rubber band...

      As someone who use to sell power tool I will clarify for you. The old nickel cadmium (NiCad) and nickel metal hydride (Nimh) batteries needed regular used (discharging and recharging) of the batteries to keep them at optimal performance. NiCad can take a full discharge where Nimh should be charged as soon as there is a noticeable drop in power. Li-ions are out of my field of knowledge as they were not available when I sold power tools. I use to sell a lot of cheap powered tools with 25m extension cables for a tool that could be used infrequently and still be reliable.

        sorry meant for the post of Christians above

    Add a post hole digger and jackhammer and you're away laughing.

    Where's the circular saw and angle grinder?

    If turning your weed eater sideways to do the edging makes it leak fuel down your arm you should take it straight to a small motors mechanic and get it fixed. I have a little Sthill one that has been working good for 5 years now no matter what i do to it.

      Dan... some (I don't know about most) whipper-snippers have a vented cap, they are usually supposed to be used Right handed, edging left handed with a full tank can make them leak a little fuel out of the cap vent... (Also using left handed puts the hot exhaust "pipe" in places where it can turn a shirt to a smoking mess, or the skin of the forearm all blistered...) I still use a 20 year old echo, may need a little tune-up every now and then, but it still runs reliably.

    I've always wanted 10 different battery chargers for my power tools...not.

      Picked up the Ryobi ONE + Series drill and Jigsaw, and will be getting a few other tools in the series as well. the benefit is that they use the same battery so you can have one or 2 batteries for all your tools. The battery charges pretty quickly too < Hour.

    The new brushless powertools and LiIon batts means you can cut the cord but as far as value goes i doubt the BOSH will be decent value and for the same money you will be able to buy one of the new FUEL 10.x/12v brushless Malwaulkee's that were anounced and will beat the sox off the BOSH. But for the money these days your always better off going for the 18v stuff. Some of Makita and Malwaulkee's stuff isnt much bigger than the MINI line up. The new Malwaulkee dual charger means you can mix and match either battery with the same single charger too! The only time the mini stuff is much good is where wheight is an issue, usaly when doing overhead work, often inside and then a cheap OZITO LiIon 4v driver will do the job from Bunning's for as little as $30...

    PS: Bang for buck the RIOBI One+ is amazing value, the kits ($339 a bag of tools or $249 for a drill/driver combo) are way good value and the drill won the US website Popular Mechanics 2011 best value drill award. Ive been using the recently purchased drill/driver to rescrew in my hardwood fence pailings with screws and its been amazing how great this cheap as chips solution was! The trimmer was returned and the current blower sucks (on a small battery anyway) but all the rest of the tools are both reasonably priced at about $99 a tool skin (no batt/charger, tool only)...

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