10 Affordable Specialty Tools Every Home Shop Should Have


No matter how new or well maintained your home is, there are going to be issues come up. If you have kids, those issues will be numerous, and if you have a bunch of kids like I do, they will be often as well. If you’re the type of guy (or gal) that follows tool blogs like this one, you’re most likely the type that wants to be prepared for things like Capri Sun bags flushed down the toilet and takes pride in being able to fix things yourself.

Being a good homeowner entails many things. Whether it’s electrical, plumbing, paint & drywall, or even mechanical ability, it takes a broad skill set to properly maintain a home. If you’re like me, you’ll most often try to fix the problem yourself before admitting defeat and calling someone. I like to do things myself, but only if I can do them right. If it’s out of my league, I won’t hesitate to call a professional. While it’s important to know your limitations, there are some specialty tools out there that will make your life a little easier in these situations.

This list of specialty tools are some of my picks that have made my life easier along the way. It is not based on any scientific or democratic process. It is strictly based on my own personal experience.

 

10. Klein Tools VDV512-058 Coax Explorer Plus

Klein VDV Scout

When I moved in my current house it looked like a giant spider had woven a scale model of the NYC sewer system out of TV cable in my attic. There was RG-59, RG-6, RG-6Q, and probably other types. It drove me crazy and I was determined that any of it not needed, had to go. Rather than carry a TV and satellite receiver around to each room, and hook every piece of cable up to the splitter to see what was what, I sprung for the Coax Explorer. For under $25, it’s one of the best investments I ever made. You simply screw the color coded remotes into one end, the unit into the other, and the light that corresponds with the remote comes on. Simple, effective, cheap, and it saves you a ton of work in a 120 degree attic. It’s worth every penny! Get it from Amazon.

 

9. S&W Nut & Bolt Thread Checker

S&W Checker

You’ve been there, you need a nut or bolt, you run to the hardware store, come back, and the threads are wrong. You cuss, maybe throw some shit, and back to the store you go. Theres no need for all that. The S&W Nut & Bolt Thread Checker gives you the ability to know exactly what you need before you leave. It’s handy, It’s Made In The USA, and it’s less than $35 at Amazon.

 

8. Irwin 11119 Extractor Set

Irwin 11119

In today’s world it’s hard to find good hardware. The big box stores started pushing crappy bolts years ago leaving most of the mom & pops to do the same in order to compete. If you’re a dedicated DIY’er, you’re going to sheer a bolt off at some point. When this happens, you’ll need to drill the end of the bolt, tap an extractor in, and hope it turns out. About half the time, it doesn’t. To improve your odds of success, you need a set that includes left handed drill bits. Think about it, a traditional right handed bit only drills the bolt in tighter and/or further. I’ve been using this Irwin set for a couple years now and have found that about half the time, the bit alone will back the bolt out without even needing the extractors. With high quality cobalt bits and USA made extractors, it’s a winner in my book. You won’t use it every day, but when you need it, you’ll be damn glad you have it.  Check it out via Amazon.

 

7. Ridgid PowerSpin Drain Cleaner

Ridgid Powerspin

If you have kids, you’re going to have a plugged toilet or sink, it’s inevitable. I can tell you for certain that Ninja Turtles can’t swim, and they aren’t phased with a plunger. Wash cloths, Capri Sun bags, and entire rolls of toilet paper, are just some of the many items that my kids have flushed. The Ridgid PowerSpin has been a real money saver. In addition to a traditional hand crank, the PowerSpin has the added benefit of being able to attach a drill to give you the needed power for deeper operation. At $45 it’ll pay for itself in 1 use. Check it out at Amazon.

 

6. OBDII Scan Tool

HF list 7 (ST)

When your check engine light comes on it instantly ruins your day. Even if you know very little about cars, a scan tool gives you the ability to get a general idea of what’s going on, and just how serious the problem is. It’s always good to have an idea what’s going on before you take your car into a shop for service. There are a wide range of options for whatever price you want to pay. You can drop $3,895 (+ $300 a year for updates) on a Snap-On SOLUS, but if you aren’t working on cars for a living, this $119 CenTech, or this $55 MaxiScan, will probably suit you just fine.

 

5. Franklin Sensors Stud Finder

Franklin Sensors

Every homeowner needs a good stud finder. I use the C.H. Hanson 03040 all the time, but it’s a magnetic type which limits it to nails rather than the actual stud. The best stud finder on the market as far as I’m concerned is the ProSensor 710 from Franklin Sensors. It’s simple to operate, dead on accurate, and at $49.99 it’s both more affordable and more accurate than any of the wall scanners I’ve used. Check it out at Amazon.

 

4. Ridgid Faucet and Sink Installer

rigid-faucet-installer

A year or so ago I did a little review on this thing. It’s essentially a less awkward, way more functional, modern day take on a basin wrench. Laying under a sink with your body all contorted and your arms twisted up in pipes is no fun, but calling a plumber to hook up a faucet or install a strainer basket is for little girls and senior citizens. This is one of those tools you’ll wish you’d had years before and for under $18 at Amazon, you can’t afford not to have one.

 

3. Klein MM200 Auto Ranging, Digital, Multi-Meter

Klein mm200

Is a Multi-Meter a specialty tool? I guess that’s subject to interpretation, but what I do know is that everyone should have one. The more you learn to use them, the more uses you’ll find for them. Fluke is king in the professional market, but I’ve been using the Klein MM200 for at least 3 years now and for a DIY guy like me, you can’t beat it. It has all the functionality you’ll ever need (including a thermocouple for temperature tests), and you can pick it up for under $45 HERE. You can pick up an MM500 for the same money, but I prefer the added functionality of the 200.

 

2. Eastwood Hot Stapler

Eastwood 1

If you read my review on the Eastwood Hot Stapler then you know what it’s all about. Hot Staplers give you the ability to repair cracked or broken plastic like never before. Let’s face it, plastic is used to make a lot of things that plastic ought never have been used to make. When it’s broke you typically either replace it, or throw it away, but the hot stapler gives you a 3rd option. They’re popular in the Auto Body field and you’ll quickly figure out why. It’s a lot less messy and a lot more effective than epoxy, and can pay for itself in very few uses. The cheapest place to get it ($149) is directly from Eastwood via their eBay store

 

1. Inspection Camera

Inspection Camera

Inspection cams are game changers. Whether you’re in the house or in the shop, being able to see what would otherwise be unseen is a HUGE advantage. Last year we had a toilet that was partially clogged. I plunged it at least 10 times, ran an eel through it a few times, poured high test drain cleaner down it, but no matter what I did, nothing worked. I was just about ready to pull the toilet up but I figured I’d run my inspection cam down it first. I found that one of my kids had flushed a Capri Sun bag down it. It was lodged about a or so foot in, against the top of the passage. After a short cussing fit, I got a thick piece of wire, bent a hook in the end, and using the inspection cam, I was able to pull it right out. It enabled me to do in 5 minutes what I’d spent half the day trying to do. I’ve found leaks in engine compartments, mud dauber nests in exhaust pipes, miscellaneous items the kids threw down furnace ducts, and a ton of other things. It’s saved me God knows how many hours of work. There are many different versions to choose from. If you’re invested in a cordless line like Milwaukee, Dewalt, or Bosch, they have 12V compatible versions, but there are also some other really nice versions like AC Delco or the Ridgid SeeSnake. If you’re on a tighter budget, the $117 DCS950 by General Tool which has a bad review, or this generic model for $69.99 might be something you can live with.

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Travis (Conductor562 on the Forums) is an Editor and Forum Administrator for Tools In Action. As a father of 4, he is an avid fixer off all things broken. He enjoys woodworking and restorations. While he enjoys all tools, he focuses primarily on hand tools. When he's not at work he can be found in his home shop working on something with lots of help from his 5 year apprentice Evan (aka Conductor Jr.).

9 COMMENTS

  1. Travis ur a genius that list is exactly everything I need at the house I already have the stud finder but I really need to get the rest! Thanks man!!

  2. On the 12V camera front, I purchased a Milwaukee M12 camera a few years ago. Biggest problem is that it has a very rigid camera cable, and short focal length. End result, it’s very hard to see at good resolution in many cases, and you can’t for instance get an overview of what’s in a wall cavity, the space you can see is maybe 3 – 4″ apart. Add to it that it’s a trick to figure out orientation of the camera in the hole, and I have not had that great of success with it. Maybe at some time they can create a digital zoom / focus functionality, but for now it’s mostly good for looking in pipes and readily accessible confined spaces.

    • I have the same camera. They have updated models with slimmer, more flexible, cables. They’re a bit more expensive though.

  3. Great article Travis. I have some of the tools already and some are on the list of things to get down the road.

  4. Great article Travis, I was looking into a snake of some sort and the one you talked about is in my price range, I will also have to pick me up one of them ridgid faucet sink installers

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