I am always on the lookout for a great deal on a useful tool that I can add to my toolbox for just a few bucks. Even better than that are tools that I see and make me say “I didn’t know what that was called,” or “I didn’t know you could even buy those!” I am listing out some of my favorite inexpensive tools that I suspect you might not own or even thought of buying.
Google search links are provided for all of these tools if you want to buy online, but you can also check your Harbor Freight or Northern Tool for a good deal. The nice thing about these sorts of tools is that inexpensive versions are often fine for a non professional user. I think any of these would make a good stocking stuffer, though I may follow up with a longer post for stocking stuffer tool ideas a little closer to Christmas.
Tire Tread Depth Gauge
I decided to get one of these after my car failed an inspection for having worn down tires. You may have heard of the penny trick where you compare your tread depth with Lincoln’s head on a penny. The employees at the tire stores will have these instead of pennies, but there is no reason you can’t have one as well. A great place to keep it would be in your car with your tire pressure gauge. Then, anytime you top up your tires you can take a quick look at your treads too. The photo shows a version with a numbered gauge, but I personally prefer the kind with the color coded depths.
Non Contact AC Voltage Sensor
I personally will not go near an electrical box without one of these non contact AC voltage sensors. You can get these in a wide range of prices, but the cheap ones seem to work just fine. Also, you won’t cry too much if you drop your cheap one in the attic or wall and lose it.
Even if you aren’t doing AC wiring, one of these can give you the piece of mind that you won’t accidentally hit any live voltage when you are working near wiring in your attic or wall.
These are called electrician’s scissors but I was actually introduced to them through my work in telecommunications where they are affectionately called “snips.” Its honestly surprising to me that you don’t see these everywhere because they are sharp enough to cut a penny in half (though I wouldn’t recommend it) but also have a fine enough blade to cut paper. They really shine at cutting ropes and wires. You would not want to do telecommunications wiring without a pair or two, but they can make any handy-person’s life a little easier.
The higher end versions tend to be made of stainless steel with stripping notches. If you don’t need the notches, or are OK with normal steel you can save a few bucks. I have not used anything but the Klein version of these and suspect that cheap imports would not live up to the name brands.
Razor Blade Scraper
A glass scraper is an inexpensive tool that will make replacing the registration sticker on your car a breeze. I have also found it handy as a precision scraper when doing finishing work and its great for removing stickers from things, as long as you are careful about the angle. I found it to be a perfect tool for getting extra glue out of corners when gluing up furniture. It goes without saying to keep these out of reach of children, but I have seen plastic versions that should work just as well on glass, but probably have limited use for other tasks.
Magnetic Parts Tray
If you don’t have one of these yet you probably need one. While it might seem obvious the benefits of having a place to put nails and screws when you are taking something apart so you don’t lose them. The parts tray is also great for safety because it will help you keep those same nails and screws out of your yard or house when doing demolition, and off the floor so that little feet don’t find them.
What have I missed?
These are some of my favorites from the last few years. If you have something you think belongs on the list please mention it in the comments!