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10 fun tools for dad's workshop: A Father's Day gift guide

We picked 10 interesting and unique tools that you can gift dad this Father's Day to help him out in the workshop.
Written by David Gewirtz, Senior Contributing Editor

Welcome to the workshop! Over the past couple of years, we've been spending more and more time out here. Techies are doing more DIYing at home, optimizing their work at home and study at home environments, improving their living environment, working on hobbies, and doing smaller jobs when contractors are harder and harder to find.

This list represents a selection of tools I personally use. They're all tools I've bought (with the exception of the Kreg Jig, which the company provided to help with the Ultimate Cable Organizer project). I've provided a mix of tools. Everything here is under $200, with quite a few options under $100, and even under $50. So, you should be able to find something your dad will love. Many will come in handy, and there are also a couple of astounding deals. If you want bang-for-your-buck, pay attention to the Ryobi items and the router table and router combo, which is probably the best deal I've seen in years.

No matter what, these tools will help dad solve problems and make cool stuff. And if you happen to buy a few of these for yourself, who wouldn't understand that?

Most cordless power drills and drivers are roughly ten or eleven inches deep. Add a bit to the end of one and you're talking a foot or greater. But what happens if you need to drill or drive a screw in a smaller space? You could just get a tiny hand screwdriver or a little handheld drill and suffer. Or you could get this.

Practically speaking, you can fit this into any space about six inches or less, because it allows you to use your drill or driver on its side. It's robust enough to transfer the torque of a power drill, yet small enough to get the job done. And, at under $30, it's an inexpensive enough gift yet will still provide dad with great value.

Every cordless power tool vendor has its own system. It's kind of a razor-and-blades sort of thing, in that once you've invested in a bunch of batteries, you're more likely to buy the tools that fit those batteries.

I've pretty much standardized on Ryobi, in large part because I can use this charger to charge all my batteries in one place. Now, to be clear, some Ryobi devices are great, and others (like their random orbital sander -- which I've replaced twice now) are not. But overall, I generally like the Ryobi brand because they're relatively inexpensive and because I have this centralized battery charging system.

If you're buying for dad and you know he likes Ryobi, or he's just getting started, this charger is a good element of an overall workshop power plan. Oh, and if you want an awesome deal on batteries, Home Depot is running a promotion through Father's Day that gets you two batteries and a cordless planer for $99 -- that's normally the price of just one battery.

I bought myself this kit right after I built my CNC. I found that the multi-tool was incredibly helpful in separating parts after the CNC carved them. Plus, a multi-tool is helpful throughout the house. You can use it to replace trim, cut out drywall for wall sockets, and a lot more. By adding different blades, you get a saw, a sander, a grinder, and a scraper.

The brad nailer was also very useful. I've used it so far to build four parts storage units, which I described as part of my parts organizer project. I do have an air-powered brad nailer, but lugging the compressor to my work and then managing the air hose is tedious, especially compared to the battery-powered brad nailer.

What I liked, though, was that you can get these two tools together. It's not quite a BOGO, but it's definitely a buy one to get more than half off the other one. No doubt, dad will love both. Just a quick note: This deal does not come with batteries, so keep your eye out for Home Depot's relatively regular battery sales.

There are just so many bad jokes that can be made about the name of this product, but let's cut through all that, shall we? Over the past months, my wife asked me to put up just a ton of shelves in her office and one of our hallways. We're talking a lot of shelves. Each one needs to be secured to the wall, and the best way to do that is to screw the support right into the stud.

I've tried all sorts of stud finders (yeah, go ahead, laugh it up), all the way through the app-powered Walabot. None worked better than these StudBuddy magnets, and the set is all of $18. These consist of two very strong magnets. All you need to do is lightly run these across your walls until the magnet grabs onto a drywall nail. That's where your stud is. 

Some quick and cautionary notes: they can scratch your walls, so be gentle. Also, if you have metal studs or an old house with lath and plaster, they may not work as well. But for my drywall walls, they're the best I've ever used.

I've long wanted a router table, but they're quite expensive. A router (in woodworking, not IT) takes a spinning bit and carves wood. It's often used to trim and edge wood, but it also forms the core cutting element for many CNCs. Router tables allow you to manage and control how the router cuts, but are usually quite expensive. The best router tables have a way to adjust the height of the router bit from above the table, but those are even more expensive.

Before I found this kit, I was pricing routers and router tables at between $700 and $1,000. At that price, I just couldn't justify the purchase. But this little router table is $149 and includes the table, the height adjustment mechanism, and a very nice quality router. It's an amazing price and I've been very happy with mine. If dad has ever even mentioned wanting a router table, get him this and you'll make him very happy indeed.

One of the most common tasks in a workshop is securing your work. Usually, that's done by using clamps or some other mechanism to keep whatever you're working on from moving. To add flexibility, woodworkers often use T-track and specialty clamps to create jigs. The issue is you need to buy the track, route a groove, and mount it anywhere you want a jig.

The MatchFit system from MicroJig lets you turn any piece of wood into a track. You use your router, like the one I just spotlighted above, to cut a dovetail groove, and the included clamps slide into the groove. By judicious use of grooves and clamps, you can make just about any kind of jig. The most recent one I made put clamps on the fence behind my miter saw, and I'm planning on making a drill press table using this as well.

If dad likes to make jigs to help him hold his work, he'll love this kit.

1-2-3 blocks get their name because they're one inch by two inches by three inches, precisely. After having these in my shop for a few years, I'm of the opinion that every workshop needs a set. Dad will certainly agree and at $18, they're a unique, affordable gift.

They can be used for all sorts of things. They're precise, so if you need to cut one inch on your table saw, you can slide one between the blade and the fence to make a measurement. You can stack them up, giving you precise measurements from one inch to six inches. They serve as great little weights. You can clamp to them, so they can help you create a right angle. If you're doing a glue-up, you can use one or more to support a right angle corner. There's a lot more. That's the point. They're just incredibly useful. 

Joinery is the art of connecting two pieces of wood. There are so ways woodworkers, artisans, and craftspeople join wood, and many of them require towering skill and astounding precision. I do not have towering skill and I certainly don't have astounding precision. I just need to build stuff.

To build my Ultimate Cable Organizer, I used the predecessor model of the 720 I'm recommending here. To join two pieces of wood, you put the wood in the drill, drill holes using the provided special drill bit, and then screw the wood together. I have a detailed video on this, which shows how the hole (see what I did there?) thing works.

Bottom line: If dad wants to build things that join two pieces of wood, this system makes it easy enough that even I can do it.

When I bought myself this $50 saw, I didn't think it would get much use. But between this and the sander I'm showing you next, I have a little mini metal shop. I've cut shelf supports to fit. I've cut curtain rods to fit. I've cut screws and bolts that were too long. I've cut down all sorts of home-related items that were just not quite right for a given space.

There are a few things you need to know if you buy this for yourself or gift it to dad. The device is great, but use caution: It's a saw. Harbor Freight's blades aren't that great. I use these Diablo blades I get from Home Depot instead. Finally, you'll get the most value from this if you also get the sander I'll show you next. That's for sanding off the burrs you create with this machine. Oh, and it's Harbor Freight, so don't forget to look around for a discount coupon.

This is another tool I use constantly. I never expected a one-inch belt sander to be that versatile, but it is. I use it for sanding and trimming on many of my projects. It's particularly useful in concert with the cutoff saw, which tends to leave rough edges.

When I put up shelves for my wife, they use vertical metal supports to hold the brackets. I cut those supports to fit using the cutoff saw, then use the belt sander to clean up the very rough edges. The disc sander can be used to clean up other work products as well.

For two tools in one, dad will love this. Don't forget to look for a coupon. I think I got mine for a bit under $70 with a coupon.

How did we choose these tools for dad?

I have personal experience with them, I use them, they've proven to be helpful, and they're all under $200.

Will these tools fix my [fill in the blank]?

No idea. Different tools solve different problems. The Stud Buddy set solved my problem of finding studs to anchor my wife's shelving to better than other solutions. The cutoff saw solved a problem when I had to cut down metal mounting brackets. The sander helped remove sharp burrs from cut metal. The multi-tool helps separate work from CNC output. All help for different things. But the helpfulness of these tools depends on what dad does in the workshop.

Why did you choose these sellers?

Again, they're tools I've bought, and I shop at Home Depot, Harbor Freight, Lowes, Ace, and Amazon. There are other great hardware and tool providers, but not near where I live. Also, all of these companies offer web-based ordering so you don't need to be nearby.

I've heard Harbor Freight makes lower-quality stuff. Is that true?

Harbor Freight is a very special place. I have bought a ton of products from Harbor Freight and generally, I've been very happy with them. I have workbenches, toolboxes, and many tools. The only thing I've been dissatisfied with is their blades. I would avoid buying blades from Harbor Freight, but many of their tools are really quite good. Now, if you're a full-time tradesperson, they might not hold up to that level of work. But for my DIY work (and probably for yours or dad's), they're generally just fine. That cutoff saw has come in clutch in so many different situations as has the sander.

How do I know what to get my dad?

It helps to know what your dad wants. If you have no idea at all, then consider the 1-2-3 blocks, the Stud Buddy, or the right-angle screwdriver attachment, since almost anyone can benefit from one of those -- and they're all relatively inexpensive. Or buy something and save the receipt. Let dad return it for something he really wants.

Are there alternative gifts for dad to consider?

What are your favorite tools? What projects are you working on? Let us know in the comments below.

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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