Tools for a Cool Yule

By Kate Riley December 2, 2009

One observant reader wrote to me the other day reminding me that I never followed up on my first article about my DIY supply closet.  Now that it’s December, it seems time to talk about my favorite tools that I’ve used over the past few years.  I’m also including my wish list for 2010, especially since I know my secret Santa is reading.  (Hi shmoopie.)

I’m not one of those gals who wants jewelry for Christmas.  Nope, not me.  My Christmas list includes some serious gadgets for advanced levels of home improvement and furniture fixin’.  I’m just one of those chicks who really digs tools, so you’ll have a tough time labeling me as any sort of damsel in distress. 

When I see pictures like this from the war era, and I am reminded that my affection for power tools is not something strange to my gender or new to my generation.  Au contraire.  In fact, I know that most of you who read my musings or write your own DIY blogs have a deep affection for power tools as well.  

rosie riveter Source: Getty Images

Here’s a look at some of the tools I consider important for my own DIY projects. 

Note, this list is not exhaustive, nor is this list anything near what a professional might possess.  These are just my personal favorites and the tools I frequently use.  Perhaps these will give you a few ideas for gifts for yourself or a fellow DIYer.


Cordless Drill/Driver & Bit Set

dewalt combo

I have a DeWalt just like this one.  They are expensive, but worth it.  I use this for everything, from removing seat cushions to assembling furniture to drilling holes with the bit kit.  Cordless, powerful, wonderful !   I couldn’t live without it. 


Craftsman Shop Vac

shop vac

We bought this years ago when we added on to our house.  I consider it essential for cleaning up sawdust and other construction debris after working in my garage/shop. 



step ladder

I’m vertically challenged, so I’m always scurrying up my step ladder to paint walls, caulk trim, or decorate in high places. 


Set of Phillips and Flat head screwdrivers & set of non-slip Pliers.

 screwdrivers and pliers

Basic screwdrivers are a must have, but rather than a set you can always buy a six-in-one like this one.  Three kinds of pliers come in hand for removing nails, staples, and hard to pull teeth.  Kidding about the dental work part.   


SkilSaw with multiple blades

skil saw

Great for building, and when cutting thick pieces of wood in a straight line.  We just used ours last week to cut a table in half.  Grrrrr. 


Measuring Tape and a Level

measuring tape and level


Wide Beam Flashlight and 100 ft Extension Cord

flashlight and cord



Ratchet Wrench with Sockets & Hex Keys (Allen Wrenches)

ratchet wrench kit



Don’t forget crescent wrenches too (not pictured)


Heavy Duty Staple Gun, Light Tacker Craft Staple Gun & Hot Glue Gun


A couple of staple guns and a hot glue gun are a DIYer’s best friends.  


Particulate Respirator & Safety Goggles

respirator Safety first.  ‘Nuff said.




Hammers & Mallet

hammers and mallet

The hammer is obvious, but the mallet is a great tool for working with delicate nailheads and pounding paint cans closed without damaging the metal rim, also for driving dowels or chisels. 




Utility Knife and Wire Stripper/Cutter

utility knife and wire stripper

Wire strippers are great if you plan to do any electrical, like rewiring a lamp or hanging your own fixtures.



Vise and Clamps

vise and clamp

Both useful for holding your project steady as you saw, screw, drill, or hammer. 




Electric Sander

bandd sander

For getting down to the nitty gritty and smoothing out those wood surfaces. 


Hacksaw and Handsaw Combo

hack saw hand saw

For quick jobs working with metal, wood, and plastic. 


Compound Miter Saw

miter saw

For cutting all sorts of wood and trim at just the right angle.




Hole Saw Kit

hole saw kit

Not essential, just really cool.  These handy attachments work with your drill to give you perfect circular cuts when you need them.  I just recently acquired mine to drill cord holes in the back of my cabinets.


The tools above are the tools I own and use a lot.


Here’s my Secret Santa Wish List of Tools for 2010


Dremel Stylus Multitasking Detail Tool

dremel stylus

With tiny sanders, scrapers, and blades, this baby knows how to multitask. 


Electric 18 gauge Brad Nailer

electric nailer

Gimme gimme for all that detail trim I want to add next year.


Detail Sander

detail sander

Oh, the finger cramping I could avoid with this handy gadget. 


Magnetic Nail Setter


…and the thumbs I’ll spare with this tool.




Variable Speed Jig Saw

variable speed jig saw

I can only imagine the possibilities !


Folding sawhorses 

folding sawhorses

I need these just to set up another work bench in my garage – they are great for painting, sanding, stripping or staining large pieces like doors, windows, or trim. 




Upholstery Stapler

upholstery stapler

Me want for reupholstering those chairs in my garage !


If you’re thinking about upgrading your own tool kit, my friends over at One Project Closer are always a great resource for up-to-date home improvement coupons for Home Depot, Lowes, and Sears. They’re always reviewing the latest tools on the market, so hop on over and take a tour around. 

If you’re looking for links to these tools I’ve mentioned, many of them are on my DIY Tools list and Wish List at my Amazon store.  Of course, many of them are also available at your local home improvement stores as well. 

So for all of you tool lovin’ nail poundin’ skilsaw cuttin’ nail gun firin’ DIYers out there, tell me, did I miss anything ?  What did I forget ?  What tools do you consider essential ?  Got any great links for hot new home improvement gadgets I need to add to my wish list ? 

And one final thing, has anyone bought or used a power paint sprayer ?  I’m seeing a lot of bad reviews online for anything priced under $100 dollars, but I’m looking around for a good one to save time on future painting projects.  Help !


  1. We bought a paint sprayer for about 200.oo thinking it would be great and save us lots of time when we were painting our screened in porch before putting our house on the market…nope! We had a huge mess b/c of the fine mist it put out and we used 3 times as much paint as we should have b/c it just wouldn’t cover it. We did not like the experience at all. We took it back and vowed never again. The clean up of the machine was also a big pain. I was not at all impressed and was slightly dissapointed b/c I had all kinds of future projects in mind!

  2. We bought a paint sprayer years ago for about $100. We used it to prime (both sides) and paint lumber to replace the ceiling of the front porch of our then house. It did an okay job, but was horribly loud – even with ear protectors! Achingly loud. Clean-up of the machine took two hours with two people working on it. Never used the nasty thing again, and sold it in the tag sale we had when we moved.

    We rented one not so many years ago when we wanted to paint a shed at another then house. We figured we’d try the big heavy thing. It was great! We started at the back of the building to get used to it, and that was good because we needed to get used it like crazy! By the time we got to the front, we were pros. Clean-up wasn’t bad at all. If we ever need to paint anything huge again, we will rent the professional model.

    As for tools, I love my biscuit cutter. It is easy to use, and you can really affect good seams as well as some pesky repairs. Great tool. I also love my nail gun and compressor. So much fun! Cuts the job time to nothing. The best little tool I have is a magnet on a stick. Picks up all the nails, screws, brads, tacks, you name it that I am constantly dropping. The best recycled thing I have is an empty plastic Folger’s coffee can. I use it to paint. The plastic cans have a handle part that is easy to hold. I pour in a bit of paint, climb on the ladder, and it is so easy to cut in. Holds more paint than the little cups so I don’t have to continually stop and add paint.

  3. Thank you SO much for doing this. I have been dying to buy some power tools and was not sure in what I should buy for myself. Hubby loves his tools too much to let me borrow them. I am gonna save money and just buy them myself. I want to outdo him… :)

  4. You are a girl after my own heart. Only add one of those fancy paint sprayers and it will fit me perfect. Love those tools. Be sure to check out my giveaway that I am having.

  5. I am chomping at the bit to get a paint sprayer but I can’t seem to find a reasonably priced one that is well reviewed.
    My go-to brand of choice is Dewalt but that quality comes at a price, well-deserved though it may be, my teaching salary doesn’t often allow for it.
    I have that B&D jigsaw and I loooove it! Be sure to tell Santa it’s at the top of your list!
    I would also add a bandsaw to the list. It’s great for detailed cuts like letters that a jigsaw can’t always get to.

  6. Great list! I have a lot of these items but would love several more. I do have a paint sprayer that I really like. Porter-Cable PSH1 Gravity Feed Spray Gun, I bought that one because we have a Porter-Cable air compressor so this would work with it. Whichever way you go brand wise, I would recommend the High Pressure, Low Volume for less waste. And one year for my birthday I got the folding sawhorses. Several of my friends were amazed that I would want something like that but I love them! And the year I got the DeWalt Compound Miter Saw was wonderful. I’d really like a table saw but need to clean out an area to store it first. Which is hard with all the things I have stored to work on!

  7. Well, this looks like my husband’s list! I’m really a girly girl when it comes to tools and projects that require them. I will say that while I like jewelry, I’m more the comfy pj or pile of books for Christmas type.


  8. So funny! between my husband and I we have most every tool on your list. We love us some power tools!

    My husband and I painted our kitchen cabinets with a pneumatic power paint sprayer. I don’t remember the name but they were all metal and made more for like auto body painting than painting furniture. If you use household paint in them you have to thin the paint down with some penetrol (oil based) and there’s another similar thing for latex paints.

  9. ahhh tools! I get all tingly and my heart beats faster when I see tools. My husband thinks Im crazy-he’s sooo not into tools-so somebody has to in the family. I only have a drill, palm sander, detail sander, miter box, electric stapler, power paint sprayer, & a leaf blower (it works like a vacuum too)-I sooo want a Dremel & a JigSaw. ahhhh just thinking about it makes me giddy!

  10. I’m so proud of myself! I have all but 5 of your items on both lists combined, although all of mine look a bit more worse for the wear. I also have a band saw and a scroll saw, so does that give me extra points? And I’m putting that hole saw kit on my wish list for sure. Nice to know I’m well-equipped to create chaos!

  11. My hubby has all your tools, I’m too afraid to use any type of electric saw at this point :) Re paint, I was set to purchase a sprayer at HD, the $300 one because of what we needed to accomplish. I was quickly talked out of it by a few paint people at SW. All said it is tricky and you can end up with a huge mess, you need lots and lots of practice. Well, was really discouraged and stumbled upon a painter with a really cheap quote, thousands less then what all the others had quoted me. However, I think you could pull it off, you just need somewhere to really practice with the paint. You could also try craigs list. When I was looking for a sprayer, there was a lot of people like myself whom bought a really nice sprayer, used it once then put it on CL, just a thought. Good luck to you!!

  12. I have a black and decker detail sander from walmart. Bestest thing ever. I use it to sand everything! It’s like $39 now. You can buy it on ebay for $25. The sand paper for it is only $1.99 a pack (which includes 3 different grits). So worth it. It is sooooo easy and powerful. The sandpaper has holes in it so it can breath and let off some of the pressure without eating through the sandpaper while sanding. Must have.

  13. These are great! I love my tools so much, though I won’t be adding to the collection for some time as I don’t have anywhere to put these things. But I’ve been wanting a jigsaw or something that will help me make a litter box for my cats that’s the right size and has the opening on the long side of the box. It may sound silly but it’s on my to do list.

  14. Your post made me laugh… my BF just had this conversation last week… I have most of the tools on your list and I know Santa is bringing me the Dremel 4000 with all the extra attachments for Christmas, I can’t wait to unwrap it…LOL… I know because I had to pick it out… BF is totally tool illiterate… I did my homework and the 4000 is the newest technology and fits the bill for what I want it for…

    when I want to buy my honey gifts I go to the kitchen section… we always say there is something wrong with this picture…

    hope all your wishes come true.

  15. Just got an electric sander for my birthday! My friend thought my hubby would be in the doghouse for sure. No way, brownie points!! Yee haw!

  16. We’ve had two paint sprayers that were under $100 and they both quit working after a few uses. Definitely stay in the $100+ range, and try to get something with metal rather than plastic parts.

  17. I would love to get a nailer too. Same reason. Much better than an electric staple gun. I bought a lovely, rust/orange chenille, super soft, to do my rec room sofas and haven’t had the health & strength to get to it for a couple years now.
    Here’s hoping by the time I do get around to it the fabric wont have disintegrated. haha

    Stand back gents; I’m a lady with Power Tools and I’m not afraid to use them!!


  18. luckily i have a handy hubby, i have 95% of those tools. the only thing i dont have is a cool staple gun (mine is ancient) and the dremel. we use to have one but it was stolen…

  19. Ohhh…I didn’t even know detail sanders existed! I must have one! That Magnetic Nail Sander is pretty sweet too. I am the queen of home improvement accidents (Just ask my previously missing left toe nail) so this would probably really save me.

    Thanks so much for sharing Kate! I now have something to ask for from Santa!

    Have a great day!

  20. I love your blog! The magnetic nail setter is new to me. I have never seen that before. I MUST have one! lol I have about half the tools on your list….it’s a really great list. Thanks for sharing.

  21. A belt sander is fantastic for the smaller things, or edges. I’ve had the hold-the-board-between-your-knees-and-sand experience and it leaves something to be desired. And who wants to sand anything manually with sandpaper? But speaking of paint srayers, I need to put that on the Christmas list.

  22. Okay, the folding sawhorses are too cool! We stole some regular old saw horses from next door when the trashy people lost their house and left all their junk behind. They came in handy, but I know the hubs would like folding ones. :) He loves his tools, and he even has a DeWalt T-shirt that his mom gave him a few Christmases ago. ;) Good list!

  23. I have that same sander – love it – and those same saw horses. My wish list includes a miter saw this year – love power tools. I have a pretty good supply now, just need to expand and refine.
    Can’t offer much on the painter though –
    Happy Holidays –

  24. We have a sprayer we got a Harbor Freight on sale for less than $75 ( They also sell it at Rockler. It is fabulous. It paid for itself in just a few uses when painting 3 6-panel doors, 2 sets of paneled bifold doors, our front door and 5 cabinet doors. Totally awesome and NO BRUSH MARKS! It takes a little trial and error to get the right mixture and consistency, but after that, it’s a breeze to use. We picked ours because it got great reviews online…Good luck and Merry Christmas!

  25. Your post, although it did not include this item, reminded me of a family story. One year my brother put a stud finder on his Xmas list. My mother picked that item to buy for him. She went out on the internet to search for a good one. You can just imagine the non-building-related hits she got!!

    A lot of good items on your list. Some I have, some I can see now that I need. :)

    Just found your blog and am thoroughly enjoying it.

  26. Wow, you have a lot of toys…I mean tools. I have a long ways to go to catch up with you. I am now the proud owner of a hammer, a couple screw drivers, a wrench/plier set, a miter saw, a jigsaw, a power sander, and a drill. Ohhh how I want more, though.

    Love the 1940’s photo by the way :) .

  27. you and your friends should check out the webiste you can set up an account for you and your friends, it chooses who your recipient will be, you can ask your recipient anonymous questions, and you can even shop for your wishlist and everyone has access to it. it really is a genius idea- esp since i might ask to not get my sister as a recipient… :)

  28. lol i was not expecting all the big scary “man tools” that my husband would use.
    i’m more of the “junior miss” collection of tools…you know, glitter- puffy paint- stickers- ;)
    maybe i’ll raid the tools shed tonight and see what happens!

  29. Wow, girl, you know your tools! I really NEED that detail sander, really. The only thing I’d add is a laser level, I just used mine to hang some holiday art above the sofa!

  30. The girl knows she has some tools:) I am my own leveler. It is a joke in my house that I can spot things when they are only 1/8 of an inch off. It is some kind of crazy thing in my head that I can see when things are not level. I wish I wasn’t like that though. It can make ya crazy;)

  31. Great tool list! We’ve got most of the listed items but I would love to have an upholstery gun – I just made a dog bed and that tool would have made it so much easier. One tool to add to your list would be a table saw. We got ours this past April and have used it SO much more than we thought we would.

  32. I bought my husband a spray painter because he hates painting with a roller. It was horribly loud, and a pain to clean. He used it once. Grrrr! I could have bought myself a coupound miter saw with the money I laid out for his had-to-have paint sprayer.

    I have a Dremel and you will loooooove it! Make sure you get an extra kit with a lot of different drill bits. I didn’t think I’d use the 100 piece kit I got as a gift to my gift and I was so wrong. If you don’t get the screw holder tool use a pair of needle nose pliers. I do that because I like having more control over the screw or nail that I’m driving in.

  33. Wow!!! Be still my beating heart!! This is my dream list… Now if I could just have my dad and sis stop stealing, “borrowing”, my tools!!!

  34. I’m not a power tools girl, but I do love scrapbooking tools. I think you might like this : an eyelet setter.

    I’d recommand the crop-a-dile big bite, and a cheap manual one in case you get the occasional hard to reach spot.

    Crop a dile :
    Manual setter : (you will also need a punch like this one for light material :

    You could install eyelets on leather or fabric projects. The possibilites are endless!

  35. I have to agree on the spray painter. Our neighbor used theirs to stain their fence, we used twice as much and it didn’t cover the way doing it with a brush did…you could totally tell the difference between my hand painted and my husband’s spraying. It was also a total pain to clean!! We ended up just buying our neighbors a new one and keeping the gunked up one and haven’t used it since! It also sprayed stain on our vinyl siding which we haven’t been able to get off yet! Grr!!!

    We have a dremel, but I am just starting into using tools so I haven’t experienced it yet. We have a circular saw, now I am wondering what I can do with it!
    Your ideas always inspire me! I want to be an efficient DIYer like you! :)

  36. I am reading your backposts and this one made me feel really good….I have every single tool mentioned with the exception of the magnatic nail holder. :) I LOVE power tools and just tools in general! ( I think it should be required of women to use a power drill at least once in their lives!) lol
    Thanks for sharing your tool collection…..and your wish list. :)

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