TOH Picks the Best Tools For Mom
A tool-savvy editor checks out the latest gear and builds a mother's DIY gift bag
Face it. She doesn't want a vacuum cleaner. And that food processor you bought her in 1997, well, that's still in the wrapping paper.
What she really pines for is her own tool kit. No, I'm not talking about one of those pink makeup-case look-alikes filled with wimpy "girl tools." I mean a respectable-looking bag, bulging with some of the best tools on the market for both women and men. The fact that some of the tools also have ergonomic grips, or are made with high-tech metals to reduce weight but not power, just means that Mom's new favorites will also be the ones Dad always reaches for.
Best Tools for Mom (1-6)
1. Stiletto's 10-oz. finish hammer packs the punch of heavier, 16-oz. models without the extra heft. For that we can thank the titanium head, which also acts as a shock absorber to cut down on recoil and arm strain. Its curved hickory handle provides a comfortable grip for smaller hands.
Price: $84.95 at stilettotools.com.
2. The Felo Bit Boy 374 from Bondhus is a ratcheting screwdriver that holds eight bits in a pop-up carousel built into the tip of its rubber-gripped handle. A powerful magnet in the tool's shaft holds the bits in place to make swap-outs simple and helps steady metal fasteners on the driver's tip.
Price: $27.40; see bondhus.com for dealers.
3. Rubbermaid Tough Tools' adjustable wrench is perfect for basic plumbing repairs. The smooth, moveable jaws firmly grip nuts and bolts sized up to 1¼ inch. A cushiony rubber coating on the long, 10-in. handle helps prevent slippage for greater leverage.
Price: $9.99; see rubbermaidtoughtools.com for dealers.
4. The 2-in. putty knife from Marshalltown has a small, flexible steel blade for applying glazing putty to windows, spreading joint compound into hairline cracks in the wall, and patching screwholes. A flat rosewood handle provides a comfortable grip to reduce hand fatigue.
Price: $8; see marshalltown.com for dealers.
5. The nonslip, rubber-gripped handle on OXO's Quick Draw utility knife swivels open for simple blade replacement. A spring-loaded cartridge inside holds extra blades so she'll always have a sharp edge at the ready.
Price: $7; see oxo.com for dealers.
6. Silky Saw's Woodboy 240 fine-toothed Japanese folding saw works on the pull stroke, rather than the push. A thinner blade makes for faster, more accurate cuts with less sawdust, and because the reverse motion mimics her everyday behavior (think cutting meat with a steak knife), it's easier and reduces fatigue.
Price: $51; see silkysaws.com for dealers.
Best Tools for Mom (7-12)
7. Leatherman's Juice C4 is a pocket-sized toolbox—with everything from needlenosed pliers for grabbing small parts where your fingers can't reach to a corkscrew for impromptu picnics. A knife, wire cutters, four screwdrivers, scissors, a small saw, and the indispensable bottle opener are also packed into the petite, 3 1/4-in. steel chassis.
Price: $55; see leatherman.com for dealers.
8.The Lefty/Righty 25-ft. tape measure from FastCap clearly labels fractions down to 1/16-in. on both sides of its steel rule, so Mom doesn't have to crane her neck to read the numbers. A pencil sharpener is built into the base: an ingenious solution, considering the importance of a precision point when laying out accurate measurements. And an erasable notepad on the side of the tape measure's case is handy for jotting down numbers and notes.
Price: $8 at amazon.com.
9. This 24-in. True Blue e70 level from Empire is made from aircraft-grade aluminum, so it's super lightweight, but also sturdy enough to withstand a fall from a ladder. Rubber cushions on its face and corner edges prevent the level from scratching painted walls and also give it traction when laying out lines.
Price: $35; see empirelevel.com for dealers.
10. The Vise-Grip 10-in. GrooveLock pliers have a press and slide button that lets Mom quickly adjust the lower jaw around whatever she's fixin' to grip and then locks it in place. The all-purpose serrated jaws fit securely around flat, round, square, and hex-shaped workpieces. Great for grabbing pipe for plumbing repairs.
Price: $22; see irwin.com for dealers.
11. The original 12-in. combination square from Starrett works as a try square for marking 45-degree miter cuts, a depth gage, a small level, and a steel rule; eliminating the need for a bunch of individual measuring and layout tools.
Price: $58; see starrett.com for dealers.
12. Store it all in this sturdy and stylish bag from Klein Tools. The 12-in. canvas carrier has a hinged, steel-framed mouth that opens wide enough for Mom to see all her tools stacked neatly inside. Stitched leather handles are attached to the bag with steel rivets so they'll never snap off. And buckle closure straps keep everything secured inside. The bottom of the bag is reinforced with moisture-resistant vinyl.
Price: $64; see kleintools.com for dealers.