I like tools a *lot*; my favorite gifts (both given and received) have been tools. So I thought: Wouldn't it be fun to put together a guide for folks like myself who want/need gifts for loved ones & themselves?
Aside from five items here (each marked with an asterisk), I own and have used all of the stuff below extensively. My filter: It's gotta be a tool; it's gotta be a pleasure to use and/or be exceptionally useful; and it's gotta be something that you might not think about or stumble across otherwise.
And so, without further ado: My favorite tools of 2016!
Planning & Strategy.
- A serious particulate respirator. You know those paper dust masks? They're BS, and you'll never look back once you use a real respirator.
- Eye protection! I have a pair of these. I've had foreign objects (metal, sand) removed my my corneas on more than one occasion - it *sucks.*
- Workflowy. The free version is everything you'd ever want out of a list app - iOS or web access, supports hashtags and sharing, etc. It's a *great* tool for task & information management.
Making & Manufacturing.
- Lie Nielsen's No. 102 Low Angle Block Plane. This is probably the most beautiful tool I own, and is an absolute pleasure to use.
- A good lithium-ion cordless drill and, crucially, an impact driver to match. I have a Makita setup similar to this one, and I've gotten TONS of use out of it. I also have their cordless vacuum, which Ada considered to be hardcore bachelor gear at first but eventually warmed to :)
- A Festool setup. I have a plunge saw, dust collector, orbital sander, and a bunch of their track. It's not cheap, but it's super handy and both their organization system and the integration between the vacuum and the tools is amazingly tidy. My only question with it currently is: Can I, via some dust hose and some custom manifolds, make the dust collector play nicely with my miter saw & table saw?
- A Paslode finish nailer. The fuel-battery combo lasts a long time, and it's *really* nice when you put a piece of trim up and there aren't any dings from out-of-practice hammer skills.
- Circuit Classics,* Boldport Club,* and Shaker Workshops chair kits.
Maintenance, Repair & Operations.
- A Benchmade Mini-Griptilian knife with a tanto combo edge. There really isn't any question: This is the best pocket knife ever.
- Mechanix gloves. I always thought these were gaudy, but I got a few pairs recently and they're definitely my favorite gloves ever. Don't stress the logos - they're great.
- Knipex cobra pliers. I have one of the crescent wrench style and one of the channel lock style. They're both *awesome* - WAY more functional than traditional pliers.
- A good sharpening setup. I started with Thomas Lie-Nielsen's Complete Guide to Sharpening and a simple DMT diamond whetstone, but if you're doing much woodworking then a selection of waterstones is really nice to have. And if you're really serious (I haven't gotten this far myself), get a Tormek T4* or that nice looking manual Russian setup.*
- A Maratac Tactical Gaffer's Bag. I barely used this thing for years, but I've gotten a bunch of use out of it lately. Particularly good for if you're literally hanging off of a rope, but useful other around-the-house situations as well.
- The Ashley Book of Knots, which is a classic. Grog Knots (iOS) is also excellent.
- A proper tool cabinet. I have a Waterloo similar to this one in my home office, and I kinda can't imagine what I'd do without it.
Distribution & Logistics.
- The Container Guide.
- Wm. J. Mills' canvas briefcase. This is kind of a transitional bag - a nice practical balance of casual professionalism.
- A good eye mask. The Mindfold is outstanding.
Inspection & Testing.
- Mitutoyo digital calipers. You *need* calipers.
- A triple folding loupe. Comes in really handy.
- A set of Stabila levels. I bought mine without the case, and I'm pretty sure it would have been worth the extra $40.
- A laser level. I have the PLS180, and used to have a PLS3. These save *tons* of time.
- A cheap granite surface plate. Super useful for any basic inspection, and also a nice neutral backdrop for photos of industrial-ish parts.
- I know I've plugged these before, but Robert Caro's The Power Broker and The Years of Lyndon Johnson, preferably on audiobook, are *really* amazing. Working while reading = the best.
- Wireless in-ear headphones. Listening to corded headphones while doing real work is a PITA - these are *much* better.