No matter where you work — whether it's in a shop, or in the kitchen — when the job gets messy, there are few better ways to protect yourself and your clothes than a sturdy apron. Knife & Flag Work Aprons ($80-$120) are made from durable 16- or 20-ounce canvas fabric, with leather straps in a cross-harness design, and double-stitched seams, so you know they're built to resist some serious punishment. Available in either a split-leg design, or a one-piece design, they come in denim, olive, and black colors. With plenty of pockets to hold all your stuff, brass clasps, rings, and buttons, and fine workmanship, they're probably the last apron you'll ever buy.
Whether you're tearing something down, or building something up, there are few tools more handy than a reciprocating saw — and the DualSaw Dual Blade Reciprocating Saw ($200) takes your standard reciprocating saw and turns it up to 11. As the first and only dual blade reciprocating saw, the DualSaw will make quick work out of just about any cutting task. With the ability to cut at two stroke lengths, it is the safest, smoothest cutting reciprocating saw available. It has less kick back, better stability, less vibration, and better control than any other reciprocating saw you can find.
There's nothing wrong with the tape measure — unless, of course, you're trying to measure something quite lengthy by yourself, trying to measure something over your head, etc. For those times, you need this Bosch DLR130K Digital Distance Measurer ($75) Using precise laser measurement technology, this handy tool reports accurate results down to the 1/16 of an inch, even for distances 130 long. It also offers four measurement systems — we particularly like the fractional inch measurements, which keep us from having to do feet to inch conversions in our heads — and offers a continuous length more for those really big projects.
Most artists like signing their work — and just because you chose woodworking as your artistic outlet doesn't mean you shouldn't get to put your John Hancock to it. With this Signature Branding Iron ($220), you can do exactly that. As you might imagine, it's a completely custom piece — you upload a detailed image of your signature, wait 6-8 weeks, and your personalized branding iron will arrive at your door, ready for you to heat up and sear your name into your work permanently.
It's tough to think of anything other than Leatherman when considering a multi-tool — and for good reason, their history of making useful tools contained inside pliers started when they invented the things. The Leatherman Rebar ($75) is a nod to that heritage, though it's not without a few modern touches (things like the replaceable 154CM wire cutters). Measuring just four inches in length when closed, it packs pliers, a crimper, multiple knives, a file, a saw, small, large, and phillips screwdrivers, and an awl with a thread loop. Oh, and let's not forget the ruler, bottle opener, can opener, wire stripper, or lanyard ring, nor the stainless steel body and black oxide finish.
Thanks to our smartphones and tablets, gyroscopes have become more and more commonplace. So why not put them to use for more than just rotating our photos and playing games? The Black & Decker Gyro Screwdriver ($30) does. Thanks to an internal gyroscope, it automatically senses whether you want to go in forward or reverse, and at what speed, all based on how much you turn your wrist. It can operate at up to 180 rpm and apply up to 35 inches per pound of torque, making it plenty powerful enough for most jobs, and it sports a built-in LED lamp to let you see what you're screwing — which is almost always a good thing.
Let's face it, no one likes to spend their weekend doing chores — Saturdays are for sleeping and Sundays are for football. But the Makita LXT Cordless Autofeed Screwdriver ($420) makes quick work out of your household tasks, so you can get back on the couch where you belong. Its compact, ergonomic, lightweight design makes it easy to use, even for long periods of time, while its high capacity and screw compatibility suits it for a variety of tasks. The 4,000 RPM four-pole motor has plenty of speed, making it great for decking, drywalling, and more.
Whether you're framing a house, building a deck, or just hanging up some wall art in your apartment, it's important to have a tool that does most of the work for you. For that reason, a hammer with a heavy head can be your best friend — but also a source of fatigue if you're lugging around a bunch of tools. The American-made Vaughan Stealth Hammer ($50) gives you the best of both worlds: a lightweight hammer that swings with the force of a tool twice its weight. It features a 17-ounce, smooth-faced steel head with a magnetic nail starter, a side nail puller, and a straight claw that can handle just about any carpentry-related task you throw at it.
Nothing makes a tough project go by faster than a few good, cold beers — so give your tool chest a bottle opener worthy of sitting with the rest of your tools, the Milwaukee Bottle Opener Wire Stripper ($10). With a wide, cushioned, ergonomic handle that provides plenty of leverage, opening up a bottle has never been easier. It's made to be as durable as the rest of your tools, so no matter how much you put it through, it'll keep working. Plus, it has the added benefit of a wire stripper (for some reason), so it's really two tools in one.
Since 1857, Klein Tools has been making American gems like this Klein Leather Tool Bag ($98). Made entirely of thick, tanned leather, this rugged, pocketless bag sports a large compartment for gear, reinforced ends, a double-ply base with steel studs, and triple-riveted rolled loop handles. Use it to tote your hand tools for the next 50 years or just use it to store your magazines in the living room.
There's nothing worse than when you're halfway into a project and you realize your power drill or driver can't make an angle — it can be frustrating, and even dangerous. With the Milescraft Orbiter 360 Degree Drill Attachment ($24), no angle is too extreme, and no space too tight. This handy device attaches to the chuck of your drill, and both halves rotate 360 degrees, allowing it to face virtually any direction. It accommodates any 3/8-inch or larger drill bit, has a keyless chuck for fast changes, and sports a soft-grip design for comfortable working.
If your basement workshop isn't cutting it, or your garage is too cluttered to even focus on a project, it might be time for a shed. While you can buy a number of unoriginal, pre-fab jobs, wouldn't it be cooler to build one yourself? The handy guys at Popular Mechanics think so, and that's why they published Shed Nation ($12). This book contains plans and guides for building an assortment of sheds for different purposes. Whether you want to build a small place to hold your tools, something with a tractor bay, a garden shed, or a full-on greenhouse, they've got you covered.
Ever wish your grilling tools could be just as rugged and reliable as your real tools? They can be with the Klein BBQ Tool Set ($16). Crafted from rust-resistant stainless steel, the set includes both a 17" spatula and a long fork, both of which feature the same cushion-grip handles as the company's normal tools. In addition, both tools feature a Tip-Ident on the end of the handle that helps make them easy to identify in a crowded drawer. Matching bottle opener sold separately.
When you need to cut through some serious stuff, don't settle for anything less than the Fiskars Shop Boss Hardware Snip ($30). The ideal tool for cutting aluminum siding, roof flashing, screens, light sheet metal, and wire, it features a serrated blade edge that holds onto any material you're cutting so you don't have to worry about slipping. The titanium blade coating resists corrosion, wear from heavy use, and scratching, while the asymmetrical, contoured handles are great for working with gloves and using either hand.
Whether you're cutting, grinding, detailing, or polishing, the Dremel 4200 Platinum Edition Rotary Tool ($370) is the tool for the job. Their easy-change mechanism lets you quickly change out any accessory, depending on the task at hand — and with 77 pieces to choose from, there are few projects it can't handle. Variable speeds and electronic feedback let you keep the proper pace for the job, without stalling, while additional venting keeps your tool running cool. This kit also comes with a convenient storage case, with plenty of drawers and foam-lined spaces to keep your tool, and all its pieces, organized.
Part multi-tool, part writing instrument, all German engineering. The Cleo Skribent Messograf Pen ($23) works great as a writing tool, accepting any Parker-style ballpoint or gel refills. But the chromium-plated brass body also serves as a metric screw thread scale, a tire tread depth scale, and as a 4-inch caliper that measures in both metric and inches. And not to worry, nervous pen-fiddlers — it still uses a standard click-to-open mechanism. [Scouted by Andrew]
You'd think they might suck the innards out of a wire. And you'd be wrong. Vampliers ($35) are actually on the job to remove your rusty, stripped, damaged, jammed, or tamper-proof screws. And how do they do this, you ask? With vertically and horizontally serrated jaws that bite into nearly any surface without slipping or stripping the screw. Just try not to use it for normal plier-y things that you don't want to take a bite out of — something tells us they might leave a mark.
No longer are utility rings solely for super heroes. The Titanium Utility Ring ($385) can grant any finger on either hand powers beyond just gripping, pointing, and poking. Like a multi-tool, the 9mm-wide titanium ring sports five blades that fold individually out of the ring — a comb, a straight blade, a bottle opener, a saw, and a serrated blade — letting you handle many situations using no other tool than the one you're already wearing.
Anyone who's ever tried their own hand at painting knows what a pain it can be to deal with traditional paint cans. There's the flathead to get them open, the sticks to stir them with, the sloshing down the side, and the unreasonable force needed to close them up. Or you could just slap on a Mixing Mate ($15). This handy tool fits snugly over standard one-quart paint can openings, and features an integrated paddle to mix the paint throughly, an integrated spout that opens with the press of a button, and an integrated grip for easy handling. Even better, it creates a tight, leak-proof seal, so all you need to do is pour out what you need and put the rest back on the shelf.
Leave the wrench set in the toolbox and tackle your next handyman job with the Craftsman Figure Eight Wrench ($20). Available in standard or metric varieties, each wrench can deal with eight common sizes. With four different fastener sizes on each end, you can deal with 6pt, 12pt, 4pt, spline, external torx, and partially rounded hex fasteners — all with a single tool.