Forget the frilly lingerie, the fluffy slippers, the juicers and th cable-knit sweaters -- when it comes to holiday presents, we want tools.
We're not alone. Shopping trips to local home-improvement and department stores show retailers well-stocked with goodies for the do-it-yourselfer. We found dozens of things we'd like to have, but to make it easier for Santa, we've narrowed the list to 10 must-have items. All are under $70, and most are well under. Feel free to check the appropriate boxes and post the list on the refrigerator, in case your resident Santa needs a little hint.
* Tops on our list this year is a new detail sander from Ryobi that has a triangular head for getting into corners, crevices, notches and other tight spots. It's sturdy but easy to handle and comes with a metal finishing pad, a scraper blade and a wax/buffing pad, as well as regular sandpaper pads. It costs just under $40. To find a source near you, call Ryobi at (800) 525-2579, weekdays between 8 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. EST.
* Unlike American saws, which cut on the push stroke or on both push and pull, a two-sided Japanese saw made by Shokunin cuts only on the pull stroke. That keeps the blade in tension and allows for a very straight cut. It's also excellent for flush cuts. The 11-inch "Ryoba" saw costs just under $50. This saw and other TTC Japanese saws can be ordered from the GarretWade Tool Catalog. GarretWade, of New York City, offers an amazing array of first-class woodworking tools and equipment -- everything from chisels and planes to band saws to inlay strips to furniture plans. The catalog is a gift in itself; it costs $4, or $1.50 with an order. There's also a brass hardware catalog, $3, $1 with order. For information, call (800) 221-2942.
* If you do a lot of construction work, you may have worn out a circular saw or two. A good start-up or replacement option is the Skilsaw Classic Edition circular saw kit. The saw has a 7 1/4 -inch blade and comes with a sturdy-looking plastic carrying case that might help keep it in action a little longer. We found it at the Home Depot for $59.96, but it's widely available; prices may vary.
* The Wagner Power Stripper Plus comes with a six-piece kit of attachments -- a diffuser, a glass-guard among them -- that makes all sorts of paint-stripping tasks easier. It also has variable heat control, from 350 degrees to 1,100 degrees. We found it at Sears for $39.99.
* Another nice tool from Ryobi is the random orbit sander with an integral dust collector. It's a sturdy tool that would make finish sanding easy and clean-up even easier. We saw it for just under $69; see Ryobi's toll-free number above for where to find it.
*There are a lot of good cordless drills on the market and they make all sorts of jobs easier -- it's especially nice in tight spots like kitchen cabinets, or on things that have to be done at the top of a ladder. Black & Decker, which introduced home-use cordless drills in the '60s, has a 2-speed 3/8 -inch model that has a 6-hour project run time. It's part of their Ranger Cordless series. It's widely available; we found it at Hechinger for $39.42.
* A bench grinder is a useful tool for keeping scrapers, chisels and screwdrivers sharp. It's amazing how much easier some jobs go when you can keep your tools sharp. A practical, inexpensive model is the 6-inch bench grinder from Ohio. Delta is another good brand; a 6-inch Delta grinder costs just under $50. There are also fancy models that cost lots more. We found the Ohio and the Delta at Home Depot.
* Carrying around a lot of tools -- like a circular saw, or a grinder -- can be a nuisance. Sears has a Craftsman Carryall "SST" (sit, stand, tote), with three storage compartments. It's about 2 1/2 feet tall, made of heavy plastic, and it comes with a strap for easy carrying. The top has a textured, non-skid surface; it can double as a step stool, or provide a place to sit and eat a sandwich at lunch. It's $39.99.
* A handsaw that makes short work of two-by-fours is the Stanley Shortcut toolbox saw. It's a 9-point, 15-inch crosscut saw that retails for about $13. A contractor we know recommended this tool; it's perfect for situations where there's no electricity or for smaller jobs where it's too much trouble to get out a larger electric saw. It's widely available at home improvement centers and hardware stores.
* Keeping track of the tiny bits in rehabbing and home-repair -- nuts, bolts, screws, nails -- can also be a challenge. We found a sturdy, metal-sided "organization system" from Flambeau that has 45 small, clear-plastic drawers, four slightly larger drawers, and one full-width drawer. It cost $13.83 at Home Depot. There are lots of storage boxes on the market; some are modular so you can keep adding onto the system.
Next: Extension cord etiquette.
Mr. Johnson is construction manager for Neighborhood Housing Services of Baltimore. Ms. Menzie is a home writer for The Sun.
If you have questions, tips or experiences to share about working on houses, write to us c/o HOME WORK, The Sun, 501 N.
Calvert St., Baltimore 21278. Questions of general interest will be answered in the column; comments, tips and experiences will be reported in occasional columns.