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My favourite handyman tools

Bruce Dahms
The list author says: "If you're shopping for power tools, established brands like Bosch, Makita and Milwaukee generally offer quality and reasonable value. However, brand consolidation, “house brands” and the trend towards globalized manufacturing have all conspired to make tool shopping a bit more challenging than it used to be.

For example, over 30 years ago, my dad owned a Skil brand circular saw. Back then, it was such an innovative tool, he called it a “Skil saw” – not a circular saw. My dad also owned a Black & Decker finishing sander and corded drill. I inherited both of these tools, and they’re still in working order.

Times have changed. Today, Skil is owned by Bosch. Black & Decker is now the parent company of Porter Cable, Delta and Dewalt. Like Skil, the Black & Decker brand still exists, but these brands now appear on low-cost, mass-market tools typically found at your local Wal-Mart.

Low-cost tools do have their place, but if you really want a reliable tool, you shouldn’t skimp on quality. If you can’t afford quality, then consider buying tools that are either reconditioned or gently used. If you need a special tool for a short-term project, see if you can rent or borrow it.

My list only includes tools I’ve used, and available through Amazon. This list isn’t complete. For example, my contractor-type tablesaw is missing since it’s an orange one that's only available through a certain home improvement store. Every handman should have a circular saw, but my Porter-Cable 324MAG isn't listed since it's now out of stock.

Because there are so many products on the market, invest the time to read some tool reviews yourself before you head for the store. Places to start are websites like consumersearch.com, toolsofthetrade.net, and the yearly tool review published by The Taunton Press. If you know a tradesperson, ask for their advice too, but keep in mind that some of these folks will only buy tools of a certain color, regardless of the reviews!"
DEWALT DW703 Heavy Duty 10-Inch Compound Miter saw
DEWALT DW703 Heavy Duty 10-Inch Compound Miter saw
"Before buying this, I considered a sliding compound mitre saw (SCMS). Since I already have a tablesaw, I decided a SCMS would be overkill. After adding a pair of Dewalt quick release clamps, this meets all my needs (it’s far more accurate than my old radial arm saw). Changing the blade is a bit of a hassle since a Torx wrench is required to loosen the blade cover. Mine was made in Taiwan."
DEWALT DCF610S2 12-Volt Max 1/4-Inch Screwdriver Kit
DEWALT DCF610S2 12-Volt Max 1/4-Inch Screwdriver Kit
"For turning screws, a much better choice than the noisy and slow DCF815S2 impact driver. Even with 12 volts, this unit has enough torque to destroy a screw head. In the hand, it feels more balanced than the Milwaukee and Bosch competition. Also, it can stand upright on its battery base. Mine was made in China."
DEWALT DCD710S2 12-Volt Max 3/8-Inch Drill Driver Kit
DEWALT DCD710S2 12-Volt Max 3/8-Inch Drill Driver Kit
"Lighter, smaller and therefore more usable than the previous generation of Dewalt cordless 3/8” drills. The two-speed motor has plenty of power. The keyless chuck holds onto larger bits better if they have the newer 3-flat shank. Feels better than the Milwaukee and Bosch 12V drills. Mine was made in China."
Milwaukee 6509-22 Sawzall 11-Amp Reciprocating Saw
Milwaukee 6509-22 Sawzall 11-Amp Reciprocating Saw
"An engineer at Milwaukee Electric Tool Corporation (METCO) invented the Sawzall back in the 40's, so why buy an imitation? It's well balanced and light enough to hold overhead. With the right blade, the 10 amp motor can handle virtually any material. Changing blades is child's play. When you open the case, it smells like a real machine. Mine was made in the USA."
Bosch 4100-09 10-Inch Worksite Table Saw with Gravity-Rise Stand
Bosch 4100-09 10-Inch Worksite Table Saw with Gravity-Rise Stand
"If you really need a portable saw, this one is a keeper. Unlike most other saws, this has a rear splitter that moves with the blade. Blade is easy to change, and the front controls are smooth. Motor has a nice soft-start feature. Fence locks on tight. Light enough to haul up a flight of stairs, but like any portable, needs outfeed stands to break down large sheets safely. Mine was made in Taiwan."
Bosch TS1005 Zero Clearance Insert Assembly
Bosch TS1005 Zero Clearance Insert Assembly
"The Bosch 4100-09 needs a high-quality narrow-kerf blade, and a narrow-kerf blade requires a zero-clearance insert."
Bosch TS1003 Table Saw Left Side Support Extension
Bosch TS1003 Table Saw Left Side Support Extension
"My 4100-09 table saw is outfitted with both the TS1003 on the left, and the TS1002 out back. They both help make it easier and safer to rip long board and break down sheet goods. Before I fold up my saw, I remove the rear support. The TS1003 left-side support is however, a permanent accessory."
Bosch 1617EVS 2-1/4 HP Variable-Speed Router
Bosch 1617EVS 2-1/4 HP Variable-Speed Router
"I use this 12 amp router in and out of my router table. If it’s running at the right speed, and the cutting depth is modest, it works fine in a table. Out of the table, the 2610991389 chip shield and optional RA1172 vacuum fitting are both needed to keep the dust down. A plunge base is available in a kit, but I figured I’d never use it. My motor unit was made in the USA."
Bosch RA1165 Under-Table Router Base with Above-Table Hex Key
Bosch RA1165 Under-Table Router Base with Above-Table Hex Key
"Instead of the plunge base, Bosch recommends this new base for mounting a 1617 motor under a tabletop. It’s similar to the RA1160 base, but without the handles. It also supports an above-table hex key, but since you can’t turn the fine adjustment screw without first reaching down to unlock the base, I find I never use the key. Add a pair of 2610991389 chip shields and pull the dust from above."
JessEm 05001 Rout-R-Table Stand for All Router Table Systems
JessEm 05001 Rout-R-Table Stand for All Router Table Systems
"Well-designed and easy to assemble. Feet have a non-slip insert and offer up plenty of adjust for uneven floors. I made my own top from two slabs of 1/2” MDF. Fourteen hex screws connect the top and base. Powder-coated aluminum with steel fittings.  Mine was made in Canada."
JessEm 4100 Router Fence
JessEm 4100 Router Fence
"This fence connects to a pair of rails. Three bolts connect each rail to an extruded aluminum angle that in turn connects to the underside of the tabletop via four screws. The rails and angles are around 15" long. Tall knobs lock the fence to the rails. When these knobs are tight, the fence will not budge. With the dust port hooked to a Shop-Vac, dust isn't a big issue. Mine was made in Canada."
Bosch 1591EVSK 6.4 Amp Barrel Grip Jigsaw
Bosch 1591EVSK 6.4 Amp Barrel Grip Jigsaw
"The 6.4 amp motor has plenty of jam. Variable speed and electronic feedback system are extremely useful.  Blade ejection is a snap. "Precision control guides" keep the blade from bending or wandering. The footplate is heavy, easily adjusted, and has a plastic overshoe. A vacuum adapter is available. The adjustable "blade orbit" is somewhat redundant. Mine was made in Switzerland."
DEWALT DW160V 3/8-Inch VSR Right Angle Drill
DEWALT DW160V 3/8-Inch VSR Right Angle Drill
"Compared to the Milwaukee 0370-20, the Dewalt has a safer, less sensitive switch, and is easier to use two-handed. The keyed chuck is surrounded by a notched safety shroud. Getting the key into the chuck through the shroud requires a bit of finesse. Despite the modest 3.7 amp motor, hold on tight - it can easily snap a number 8 screw. Mine was made in Mexico."
Bosch 1800 4 1/2-Inch Angle Grinder
Bosch 1800 4 1/2-Inch Angle Grinder
"I have the 1710 model. It has a 7.5 amp motor. It’s reasonably light, quiet and vibration free. I usually have a metal cutoff wheel attached. Mine was made in Germany."
Makita 9903 8.8 Amp 3-Inch-by-21-Inch Variable Speed Belt Sander with Cloth Dust Bag
Makita 9903 8.8 Amp 3-Inch-by-21-Inch Variable Speed Belt Sander with Cloth Dust Bag
"There are many reasons to like this particular belt sander. The 8.8 amp variable speed motor has plenty of torque. The unit is fairly hefty and the top is flat, so it can be clamped upside down to a table and used hands-free with the switch locked. With the bag off, a Shop-Vac can be directly connected, but don’t expect it to take care of all the dust. Mine was made in Japan."
Makita 2012NB 12-Inch Planer with Interna-Lok Automated Head Clamp
Makita 2012NB 12-Inch Planer with Interna-Lok Automated Head Clamp
"I actually have the old model 2012 version of this planer. I use it, and it meets my needs. About five years ago, the 2012NB was still one of the top planers on the market. Since then, Dewalt has released their DW735. If I was seriously into woodworking, the DW735 would be on my wish list. But, even when my local big-box store marks down their Dewalt tools, the DW735 is still an expensive machine."
DEWALT D55151 14 Amp 1.1-HP 4-Gallon Oiled Twin Hot Dog Compressor
DEWALT D55151 14 Amp 1.1-HP 4-Gallon Oiled Twin Hot Dog Compressor
"This was in a kit with a 16 gauge Dewalt air nailer. Got rid of the nailer and hose, and picked up a Porter Cable hose and nailer instead. Label on mine says 15 amps – not 14. Haven’t tripped a circuit breaker yet. The motor isn’t quiet, and the whole unit tends to creep across the floor when it’s running. I always drain the tanks and store it in the original box. Mine was made in China."
PORTER-CABLE FN250B 3/4-Inch to 2-1/2-Inch 16-Gauge Finish Nailer
PORTER-CABLE FN250B 3/4-Inch to 2-1/2-Inch 16-Gauge Finish Nailer
"Great time-saver. Takes seconds to load nails. Has never jammed on me. Air exhaust deflector rotates 360 degrees. Simple, effective depth adjustment. Nose doesn't block line of sight, and rubber tip is removable. No need to upgrade from the red single sequential action trigger. Mine was made in Taiwan."
Makita DA4031 10 Amp 1/2-Inch Angle Drill
Makita DA4031 10 Amp 1/2-Inch Angle Drill
"Not a hammer drill, so not the ideal solution for concrete. Angled head and 10 amp motor are perfect for punching holes through old rafters, joists or studs. Very heavy, so you’ll need two strong arms. Handle rotates 90 degrees left and right for horizontal work. Expensive, so look for a used example. If you can find a case, consider yourself lucky. Mine was made in Japan."
DEWALT DW840 7-Inch Medium Angle Grinder
DEWALT DW840 7-Inch Medium Angle Grinder
"If you need to remove a lot of metal, consider a 7” grinder. I bought this reconditioned from my local Dewalt outlet. It has a 13 amp motor, and is quite smooth once it's up to speed. The switches on these units have been known to fail, but so far I haven't had a problem. Mine was made in China."
DEWALT DW411 2 Amp Palm Grip 1/4-Sheet Sander with Dust Canister
DEWALT DW411 2 Amp Palm Grip 1/4-Sheet Sander with Dust Canister
"Relatively quiet and comfortable. With a Shop-Vac connected to the optional vacuum adapter, dust isn't a big issue. Does a better job flush sanding than the Makita 1/4 sheet sander I used to have. Bought refurbished with a case. Mine was made in Mexico."
DEWALT DC011 Combination Work Site Radio and 7.2-Volt to 18-Volt Pod-Style Battery Charger
DEWALT DC011 Combination Work Site Radio and 7.2-Volt to 18-Volt Pod-Style Battery Charger
"Mine came free with another Dewalt tool (I had to pay for shipping). Think of it as a giant charger that happens to sport a radio and clock. Unplug it, and the main and backup batteries will eventually die. Radio reception is fair, and my old MP3 player sounds fine when connected to the auxiliary port. Most importantly, the girls on my daughter’s soccer team think it looks cool."
DEWALT DW904 12-Volt Cordless Pivoting Head Flashlight
DEWALT DW904 12-Volt Cordless Pivoting Head Flashlight
"If you have a cordless drill, look for a compatible flashlight. Fitted with a Xenon bulb, my son figures this one puts out one million candlepower. He's probably not far off. Sure, it won’t float if you throw it in a lake, but it’ll certainly reduce the need to visit your local Dollarama for batteries. I've had to replace the bulb once. Mine was made in China."
PONY 50 Clamp Fixture for 3/4 Inch Black Pipe
PONY 50 Clamp Fixture for 3/4 Inch Black Pipe
"A set of four bar clamps will suffice for most glue-up jobs. Pick up some 3/4" x 6' sections of black pipe from your local hardware store. I have the model 5003 clamps. They're made in the USA."
PONY PIPE CLAMP PAD FOR 3/4" OR 1/2" PIPE Clamp - 8 PACK by Peachtree Woodworking PW6091
PONY PIPE CLAMP PAD FOR 3/4" OR 1/2" PIPE Clamp - 8 PACK by Peachtree Woodworking PW6091
"These fit the 5003 Pony clamps and many other Jorgensen clamps. They're durable, easy to remove and stay put when they're mounted. Mine were made in the USA."
Bench Dog 10-005 Feather-Loc Single Featherboard for Table Saws and Router Tables
Bench Dog 10-005 Feather-Loc Single Featherboard for Table Saws and Router Tables
"If your tablesaw happens to be orange, you'll really like these featherboards! Seriously though, featherboards are a mandatory accessory for any tablesaw. Use them to keep material tight to the fence near the front of the blade. Don't use them anywhere near the back of the blade! Stack a pair when you're cutting thick stock. Mine were made in the USA."
Johnson Level & Tool LC48 48-Inch Level Case
Johnson Level & Tool LC48 48-Inch Level Case
"Invest in the best 4' level you can afford. I have a Johnson beam level that was made in Canada. A case like this is a worthwhile investment for an expensive level. It takes two hands to open. Mine was made in the USA."
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