I think it is fair to say that do-it-yourselfers have a certain fascination walking through the tool department at their favorite home center. If it’s been sometime since the last trip, it is almost like a pilgrimage.
Yesterday, I made such a journey, and as someone who was in the contracting business for more than 20 years, I am still amazed at the latest and greatest tools and gadgets. Below are just some of my finds in no particular order:
1 - Lighted Mechanical Pick-Up
As the name suggests, this is a thinly shafted straight tool with a light and claw at its tip. You can open and close the claw with a simple controller at the top, making it easy to grab that nut we’ve all dropped in that impossibly tight space.
2 - Inspection Camera
This is a snake-like device with a camera at its tip. Typically used for inspection of pipes, it can surely be used to find that thing we keep dropping in that not so straight unreachable spot. Some come with magnet clamps to retrieve small objects, and should you need it - photo and video capability. In fact, one even generates a WiFi signal compatible with your mobile phone.
3 - Multi Scanner
A handheld device that can do deep scanning to locate both wood and metal studs in walls. It can show the direction of floor and ceiling supports as well as locate the joists, all while displaying information on a small digital screen.
4 - Digital Inspection Non-Contact Thermometer
This is one of those interesting tools with a lot of utility. It uses an infra red light to inspect almost anywhere that is temperature sensitive; from inspecting welds on plumbing joints, to heat sensitive parts of engines, to inspecting the temperature of the that roast in the oven.
5 - Laser Level
This is a device that uses a laser to help make sure your project is as level as required. What is particular useful about this device is that in can, at the same time, make sure that a fence post is both level and plumb. While not inexpensive, some even have rotary leveling capacity and multi-plane leveling capacity.
6 - Radio and Job Chargers
These are becoming a necessity on the jobsite. With the advent of more powerful batteries, more and more power tools are battery operated, so fast charging is a must. In addition, these chargers are Bluetooth enabled so you can stream music up to 100 feet or more.
7 - Strap Clamp
A unique hand tool that will probably come in handy in more ways than you realize. Anybody that has ever glued something together, and then needed to mechanically hold it while the glue sets has made use of clamps. They come in all sizes and shapes, but the strap clamp is special. It has a strap up to 20 feet or more that can be placed around the entire perimeter of the thing you wish to hold together. The strap is flexible and can be made to go around almost any geometric shape.
8 - Digital Plan Measure
This is sort of an electronic cross-over, but it operates mechanically. It is an instrument that can be used to accurately measure distances on construction plans. The tool has built in scales or it can be programmed for custom scales. It allows for easy measure—linear, volume, or rectangular measurements. It facilitates easy conversion of measurements from feet, to inches, or to metric.
9 - Pipe Bending Tool
This is indispensable if you are a do-it-yourself plumber. Pipes often need to be bent to fit an opening, sometimes even requiring a compound bend. You can spend more than $6000 for a power tool or less than $50 for a mechanical tool to bend your pipes.
10 - Chalk Line
The chalk line is one of the most overlooked tools. Straight edges or rulers are limited in length. A chalk line is simply a colored powered chalk coated string in a mechanical container that allows the string to be unrolled and mechanically re-rolled. The string is many feet long, with a hook at one end. Pull the string tight to the other end, and snap the line - a perfectly straight chalked line appears in your favorite color.
Moral of the Story
A trip the tool department never ceases to amaze for the both inexperienced and serious do-it-yourselfers. It is like going to the grocery store for just a quart of milk and coming home with a basket full of exotic vegetables - I mean tools, for which you now need to find projects.