GIVING DIY tools and accessories as Christmas gifts might seem a bit of a lumpen, but small handy pieces of good household DIY kit offer fertile hunting grounds for practical, impressive looking gadgetry.
WATCH YOUR STEP
The terms ‘useful’ and ‘practical’ could prove the sledge-hammer of death in a fragile romantic relationship. If you’re covertly gifting to the house rather than the individual (a favourite ploy of frugal husbands with a dangerously misplaced sense of humour) — start packing in November, it’s going to be a frosty New Year.
It’s worth pointing out that recent research by retailer Tesco UK, has discovered that 2 in 3 women shop for DIY goods in store. This is three times the figures of just 10 years ago. I prefer to confine my gifting in this area to amateur starters rather than the experienced make ‘n’ menders, unless tipped off by make and serial number. Tools are collectors’ items when you’re deeply entrenched in DIY, and the wrong buy is likely to raise little more than contemptuous tense smile from the splinter-flecked veterans of the garage.
lCheck what the person already has. Multiples are just a waste of money.
lMatch the size and weight of the piece to the person’s abilities and skill set.
lAlways consider the strength and size of the person you’re buying for. lAnything with a battery, or even running from the mains, takes some dexterity and physical wrangling.
* Keep the receipt. Times are just too tight to be touchy about returns.
Power tools might seem an unusual gift, but they are staple work-horses that new home owners will be thrilled to have on hand. Restrain yourself to modest, proven classics.
You can’t go wrong with a powered screwdriver with reverse action, variable torque and ‘spindle lock’ to allow it to be used without power. They’re easy to use, suited to thousands of jobs and relatively inexpensive. If you’re gifting a cordless power tool, you’ll want something that runs and runs or the user will scream your name to the stars every time it stutters to flat. Lithium ion technology gives a gentle fall off in power (up to 18 months), so that the tool will stay charged for long periods. Alternatively choose a tool package that includes a spare battery.
The lowest price quality lithium-iron screwdriver I could find was the Xtreme 3.6V at Argos, a steal with 9 bits at €26.99. Throw in another €13 and include a pivot action with a Black and Decker that’s a lovely compact size for even a lady’s hand. €39.99. Wall mounted chargers and carrying cases will kick the price up another €20-€30 but are extremely useful for regular DIY warriors storing and accessing their tools. Basically the greater the voltage the better the performance.
Other small power tools to consider include the ‘mouse’ sander — a diminutive genius that sits in the palm of the hand with dozens of uses and a pointy end to slip into awkward areas. ROKs Palm Sander is just €16.99, 105W of power with free sheets to sweeten this cheap deal. Woodie’s DIY.
Jig-saws offer precision finishes and to the millimetre cuts, ideal for anyone wanting to attempt small home projects, and a good starter tool for a competent teen. Ryobi relatively new players here in Ireland, but well respected by amateurs and pros alike, have a wide choice for every pocket with a variety of cut depths, wattage and speed, including a clever laser guided jigsaw (WLJC800) for €33. Woodie’s. If you want to invest more, pendulum action jig-saws allow for more cutting speed.
There’s always the latest this or that in hammer, spanners and other hand tools, but quality and brand are essential. Comfort of use is important too, and there are all sorts of small modifications that can make a tool a favourite. In hand tools, large diameter handles (rather stumpy to look at) give extra torque to the user and a soft grip keeps them from slipping in use. Men can become especially fascinated by collecting great tools, so see if there’s one key item they are hankering for.
Screw-driver sets are another home-run. Variety is key to attack every type of job, so look for a set that includes heads for pozidrive, philips, torx and slotted varieties of screw head in chrome-vanadium steel. That terrace of large or small in a boxed set will raise some pleasing gasps for a younger DIYer and standard drivers are useful for everyday jobs and precisions are ideal for fiddly turns, such as wiring plugs. A magnetised head will help the user to keep the screw in play and VDE/insulated models will give them some limited protection if they hit a live cable.
Expect to pay in the area of €30 for a screwdriver kit in a good brand such as JCB. If you can rally another €30, what about a dedicated home-tool kit such as the MacAllister 23-piece Home Tool Kit, complete with everything from hammers to levels, to pliers, hacksaw and tape, making it ideal for a starter home? From B&Q.
BOXES AND GADGETS
If you think your recipient is already well supplied with equipment, an extra tool box is always welcome, and those that double as a sturdy low step are multi-functional diamonds. Stanley, kings in this field, make a superb range starting for as little as €17 for a good 16” box with 2 integrated trays in the lid, metal latches and a tote tray to carry small parts directly to the job (2000 Series). Woodie’s DIY carry the Tactix range of boxes, so cheap they would make great wrapping for other DIY tools and presents at just €10 for a 20” box. For granite-jawed toolers, the Contractors Box from Stanley can operate as a stool and workbench and wheels into position to take an armful of power tools. Very macho at €60 and even tested to 60km of high speed rumbling about.
If there’s one thing no home should be without, it’s a laser level. Brilliant for hanging everything from shelving to wallpaper, you can also find this technology built into other cutting tools. We fancy the Bosch PLL5 laser level with horizontal, vertical and digital levelling lines. It’s light and easy to attach with a magnetic plate for perfect adjustment, and boasts a bright 635nm laser diode for a particularly clearly visible laser line. €39, suppliers nationwide.