Tools and tunes: 14 unique, geeky, affordable Father's Day gifts for 2019

Our theme this year is tools and tunes. We've got cool tools and rockin' audio gear that any dad is sure to love (and that you can't find at your local big box store).
Written by David Gewirtz, Senior Contributing Editor

It's time to pick that perfect gift for Dad. Father's Day is nearly upon us. In this article and its accompanying video, I'll show you a bunch of great tools and gadgets that Dad is sure to love.

Before I show you all 14 of these great gift ideas, I'd like to share with you why I picked these particular items. I wanted to find things that would be new and exciting for Dad, not just stuff he's seen at his local big box store.

This year's theme is tools and tunes. I dug through the tools and gadgets I've fallen in love with over the past year and pulled out a few to show you. I also sifted through all the new product announcements I've gotten over the past few months, and selected just a few items I thought would make Dad's day.

Finally Wellbots, a company that's been a project partner of the DIY-IT discovery series over the past few years, was kind enough to give me the run of their catalog and let me select a few items I thought would be perfect as gifts.

About half of the gift ideas I'm going to show you are under a hundred bucks. There are also some more expensive items, which you might want to gift to yourself or buy as a gift for the whole family. 


Kreg Bench Clamps

I'm starting off with my favorite tool discovery of the past year. First up is the Kreg Bench Clamp. It attaches to almost any workbench with bench dog holes. I cannot begin to tell you how much this thing upped my game in the workshop and reduced hassle at the same time.

At $44.95, it's more expensive than a basic clamp, but because it's so versatile and helpful doing any kind of workshop work, it's an absolute win. When I first got these (I have two), I thought I'd like them, but I've actually come to love them. They totally rock!


Jamstik 7 Guitar Trainer

Speaking of rocking, let's make our first jump from tools to tunes with the Jamstik 7 Guitar Trainer. If Dad ever wanted to learn to play guitar, this is the gadget for him. It's basically the business-end of a guitar, the fret board, which is where your fingers fiddle to make sound.

What's very cool about the $199.99 Jamstik 7 is that it has the same number of frets as a real guitar, but when Dad touches the strings, he can see exactly where on his iPad, iPhone, Mac, or in Chrome. The Jamstik knows where he's pressing down and can guide him to improve.

And, you want a family sanity bonus? Dad can shred his axe all he wants using headphones, so you don't have to hear him play those tunes over and over.


Walabot DIY and Walabot DIY Plus

Dad may seem like a superhero to you, but now you can give him X-ray vision. The Walabot DIY and DIY Plus will let Dad see into walls. You may have seen ads for the Walabot DIY, but we have a first look at the Walabot DIY Plus.

Both of these devices are designed to let Dad quickly and easily see where studs, wires, and pipes are located inside the wall, so he doesn't accidentally drill into a pipe or a wire. The $74.95 Walabot DIY works with drywall and concrete, while the $89.95 Walabot DIY Plus adds support for lath and plaster.

There's one gotcha: both devices require a relatively modern Android phone. If Dad's an iPhone user, give him one of the other gifts I'll show you today.


Elegoo Arduino Kit Mega 2560

Next up is both a great gift to give Dad, or for Dad to give to the kids. It's the Elegoo Arduino Kit Mega 2560, available for $59.99 on Amazon.

The Elegoo Arduino Kit Mega 2560 is an awesome resource for building smart devices and robotic projects. What makes this kit great is that it comes with a wide range of sensors, displays, buzzers, keypads, and even motors, along with instructions and training resources for a bunch of fun projects.

I actually own five or six different Elegoo Arduino kits, including their smart robot car kit, and I scavenge parts from them regularly for my own robotics and home control projects.

While we're talking about Elegoo, here's a sneak preview of an upcoming project. I have their Mars resin 3D printer in-house and will be exploring what it can do. So stay tuned for that this summer.


3Doodler Pro

Speaking of 3D, let's take a look at the 3Doodler Pro. It's available from Wellbots for $229. A few years ago, I recommended an entry-level 3Doodler in my Father's Day roundup and got some great feedback from folks who gifted it (including a bunch who gifted it to themselves).

WobbleWorks, the makers of the 3Doodler are back this year with a pro version of the 3Doodler that takes everything to the next level. The 3Doodler Pro has control over nozzle temperature, extrusion speed, and fan speed, which allows the 3Doodler Pro to use exotic filaments like wood, metal, and even nylon.

This is a big step up from the toy we looked at two years ago. This is a serious tool for freehand plastic and composite creation and design.


Dremel Saw-Max

If you want to gift Dad a great tool, but keep it under $100, consider getting him the $80 Dremel Saw-Max. The Saw-Max is essentially a miniature circular saw, able to easily cut up to three quarters of an inch thick material.

I put the Saw-Max to heavy use for a secret project I just completed and will be sharing with you next month. Even though it's light and it can be used one-handed, don't think it's not powerful.

I've done a few hundred cuts since I got it, and it's versatile, accurate, and effective, especially if you use it with a jig or a clamped-down straight edge.


Dremel 4000 Rotary Tool

The first power tool I ever used was a Dremel rotary tool. These are incredibly versatile tools, useful for everything from home repairs to model-making.

My latest model (I've probably had three or four over the years) is the $99 Dremel 4000 kit, which has a ton of power and torque, along with a variable speed control and a boatload of accessories.

I have to say that if your Dad doesn't have a rotary tool, this should be what you get him. Period. Every Dad needs a rotary tool, and the 4000 kit comes with enough add-ons that he should be able to get a lot done right out of the box.


Kreg Jig K4

While we're talking essential tools, let me tell you about a tool I just started using, but was a huge help for my secret project. In any kind of woodworking project, joinery is the practice of joining two pieces of wood together. Joinery is often difficult, requiring precise cuts and wood shaping.

I am not a precision woodworker. I needed to make 107 woodworking joints for the special project I'm going to show you next month. I turned to the $99.95 Kreg Jig K4, which turns joinery into a simple drilling and screwing process. You use their jig to drill a hole at a custom angle with a stop-zone at the bottom. Then you screw the parts together.

After using more than 300 screws and a couple of weeks of drilling and joining, I am convinced I wouldn't have been able to complete my project without the Kreg Jig. If your Dad wants to build anything, from bookcases to shop furniture, the Kreg Jig is an absolute time-saving must-have.


Iso-Tip Quick Charge Soldering Iron

I've used a lot of soldering irons over the years. My current favorite is the Iso-Tip Quick Charge Soldering Iron. This is just over fifty bucks and it's cordless. They also offer a more expensive version, but I'm going to recommend this as a lower-cost Dad gift.

It's high on my list because even though it's cordless, it actually heats up faster than many of the corded units I've had. You pretty much tap the button and within about 30 seconds, it's hot. Iso-tip is known for their wide variety of tips, which leads me to the two minor complaints about the charging station for this less-expensive version.

First, there's no place on the charging station to store spare tips. And second, there's no indicator telling you the iron is charging or fully charged. That said, it's incredibly portable and convenient, and you can't go wrong for fifty bucks.

That's the last of our under $100 gifts. Next, let's look at four gifts that are substantially more expensive, but also very cool.


GoalZero Sherpa 100AC Power Bank

This is the Incredible Hulk of external charging batteries. The GoalZero Sherpa 100AC Power Bank is available for $224.96 from Wellbots. It makes every other battery-powered phone charger look like a toy.

That's because this isn't just a phone charger. Like it says on the box, it's a portable power bank. Once charged up, you can use it to power and charge cameras, phones, and even your laptop.

It's got a ton of ports, a ton of power, an AC power socket, and even a Qi wireless charging pad. I really wish I had this with me when I did my last cross-country trip. If Dad travels or spends any time away from a reliable source of power, this monster of a charging brick can be a lifesaver.


Hobot Legee-669

Next up is the oddly-named Hobot Legee-669 robotic vacuum. There are a lot of robotic vacuums on the market, but I chose this model, available for $599 from Wellbots, for a specific reason.

This little guy is not only a vacuum, but also a robotic mop. It will pick up dust, then wash your floors. The reason this is perfect for Dad is it might be ideal as a shop robot. I've found that not only does a lot of sawdust accumulate on the floor, but so does a fine layer of grit and gunk.

The Hobot Legee-669 is a set-it-and-forget-it robot that you can use anywhere in the house. I'm going to give this one a shot in the workshop. It's not cheap, but it can definitely save time. 


Polk CommandBar

Our next device is the $299.95 Polk CommandBar, which happens to be Alexa-enabled. This takes the whole sound bar idea to the next level. It starts with a sound bar, with HDMI and optical inputs. It includes a full Alexa device, including Alexa's typical built-in microphone for giving it commands.

And then, it adds a wireless subwoofer. You have to plug both the sound bar and the subwoofer into power, but you don't have to wire the sound bar to the subwoofer. This is great to augment smart TV audio, because it's also designed to improve voice audio from movies and TV shows.


CoolGeek Soundesk

I wanted to end this guide with a totally unique gift for the Dad who has everything. Trust me. He doesn't have this next item. I present to you the $399 CoolGeek Soundesk.

Now, admittedly, it's not a desk. It's really a side table. But it's gorgeous and it has a bluetooth speaker built into it. Normally, I don't showcase items on Kickstarter, but this has just achieved full funding and I wanted to show you something totally unique.

This is the second sound-enabled furniture item from CoolGeek Design and Living. You probably won't be able to get this before Father's Day, but if you follow the link, you can reach out to the company and get one of their first production models.

If you want to get Dad a gift that showcases exceptional design style and is completely different from anything he might expect, the CoolGeek Soundesk will be worth the wait.

That's a wrap

Well there you go: 14 unexpected and unusual products that Dad is sure to love. If you decide to give any of these, please feel free to share about the experience in the comments below.

And have a wonderful Father's Day.

Disclosure: ZDNet earns commissions from some of the products featured on this page. Neither the author nor ZDNet were compensated by the spotlighted vendors for this independent, unbiased set of recommendations.

You can follow my day-to-day project updates on social media. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz, on Facebook at Facebook.com/DavidGewirtz, on Instagram at Instagram.com/DavidGewirtz, and on YouTube at YouTube.com/DavidGewirtzTV.

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