Brad’s Tool Recommendations

I’ve spent a LOT of time and money researching/comparing/buying/using various tools, and my friends often ask me for tool recommendations. Here is the list of tools that I own, prefer, and use regularly.

Buy nice or buy twice. I’ve owned and upgraded from a lot of inferior tools and wasted more money than if I just bought the good ones in the first place. So, these recommendations tend toward “the absolute best” rather than “best value for money”. Compromises may be made for compactness and ease of use, but usually not for affordability alone. That said, favoritism toward higher-end tools is always justified in terms of functionality rather than simply by brand perception.

The Amazon links earn me a small commission through Amazon Associates at no cost to you.

Last updated: 2024.3.13

Preface on Power Tools

You’re not just buying a power tool — you’re buying into a power tool ECOSYSTEM.

Consolidate your power tool selections under 1 or 2 brands/battery systems, so you can buy and carry fewer batteries and chargers.

12V vs 18V tool systems

Don’t underestimate the smaller 12V tools. Advances in lithium batteries and brushless motors have made them comparable to 18V tools from 10 years ago. Unless you’re building houses every day, they’re capable enough while being much more maneuverable and comfortable to use.

Why I prefer Milwaukee M12
  1. The most comprehensive catalog of tools — spanning construction, automotive, fabrication, and more. Counterexample: Bosch doesn’t offer a 12V cordless ratchet or 12V drill with a 1/2″ chuck.
  2. Their ≤3Ah batteries insert inside the tool’s handle like a pistol magazine, making the tool more compact. Counterexample: DeWalt’s 12V batteries are bricks that stick out the bottom of the handle.
  3. Every tool in the M12 lineup is the best or near-best in power-to-size ratio.

Yet, my most-used power tool is a Bosch. I’ll explain why later.

Batteries: kits vs bare tool

Many power tools come in kits that include a charger and a basic battery. Some of these kit batteries are inferior in terms of capacity and or power output and may limit the performance of more power-hungry tools like drills or circular saws. I recommend buying the bare tool instead and getting the High Output CP2.5 and XC5.0 batteries, which have the best combination of power and energy density.

These are tools that I not only keep around the house for everyday repairs, furniture assembly, etc., but also bring with me every time I go to a friend or client to do home networking/home automation/smart home/AV/home theater/home security or general handyman-type work.

My projects in this area are diverse instead of specialized in a specific trade, so I often must prioritize maximum versatility and “functionality per cubic centimeter” over “hours of work saved per dollar of tool”. Example: preferring stubby nut driver bits (able to store more sizes in toolbox) instead of a set of whole nutdrivers (less time wasted on changing bits).

🪛 Manual Screwdrivers

Main screwdriver: LTT 12-in-1 Ratcheting Screwdriver

Why you need one: You can turn faster and more easily with a ratcheting screwdriver.

Why I prefer this: It’s the best ratcheting screwdriver overall across these aspects:

  1. Stores 12 bits in the handle
  2. Very low ratcheting back-drag (able to ratchet even when screw is very loose)
  3. High magnetic bit retention strength
  4. Low ratchet arc swing (makes more progress on screw with fewer turns of handle)
  5. Shank has very little slop; very little backlash in locked (non-ratcheting) mode
StatusCategory last researched
Owned since Feb 2023Feb 2024
Small screwdriver: 711L Lollipop

Why you need this: smaller screwdriver for more delicate work, like on screw terminals etc.

Why I prefer this: The genius “lollipop” handle gives it an unbeaten combination of speed, precision, compactness, and torque.

  1. Handle pulls out to the side for extra leverage.
  2. Red top is free to rotate when retracted, so you can “palm” the screwdriver quickly.
  3. Stubby screwdriver pairs great with long bits.
StatusCategory last researched
Owned since Feb 2023Feb 2024
Long screwdriver bits

Why you need these:

  1. Long and thin shank bits can reach deeply recessed screws or into very tight spaces.
  2. Ball-end hex bits allow you to drive hex screws at an angle.
StatusCategory last researched
Owned the 100mm ones since Mar 2021Feb 2024

I now think 75mm bits may be a more reasonable length instead, but I haven’t used them:

Screwdriver magnetizer: Klein Tools MAG2

Why you need this: Make any screwdriver or long bit magnetic by sliding it in and out of the hole.

Why I prefer this:

  1. Compact
  2. Key ring enables me to hook this on my tool belt.
StatusCategory last researched
Owned since Jan 2024Jan 2024
Bit ratchet & low-profile bits: VIM VHC77

Why you need this: for when there’s not enough space to fit a screwdriver, or when you need more torque

Why I prefer this:

  1. The head is only 14.8mm wide — one of the most compact. (But not too short like the 711L ratchet.)
  2. Comes with 16mm-long stubby bits (much shorter than standard 1-inch bits). From tip of bit to back of ratchet head is <17mm.

Alternative: VIM HBR3 is shorter and has a fixed non-ratcheting 1/4″ box end instead of the 5/16″ ratcheting. It’s a ratchet only and doesn’t come with bits.

VS MulWark ‎MLK-53759 or KAIFNT K403: These ratchets have only 16 teeth, so the arc swing is very coarse.

VS BGS 115: BGS is only ~10mm from bit tip to back of head! But it has fewer ratchet teeth and less ergonomic.

StatusCategory last researched
Owned since Feb 2024Feb 2024

🔫 Drills & Drivers

Compact drill & driver: Bosch Flexiclick 12V (GSR12V-300FCB22)

Why I prefer this: The most versatile for light-duty driving and drilling, with 4 interchangeable heads:

  1. 3/8″ drill chuck
  2. impact-style locking quick-change bit holder
  3. offset/eccentric holder for drilling/driving into tight corners without compromising tool angle
  4. right angle adapter — put bits OR the other 3 attachments on this!

Absolutely amazing for assembling furniture, mounting things to the wall, etc.

StatusCategory last researched
Owned since Jan 2021Feb 2024

All my other power tools are Milwaukee, why have this one Bosch tool?

  1. It’s noticeably smaller, and lighter than the Milwaukee 2505, Milwaukee FPDX, and every other installation driver. It’s basically as small as those cheap 4V cordless screwdrivers. This is critical for a tool that’s in my tool belt most of the time.
  2. Yet, it has as much torque (34Nm) as the others in the category.
  3. The attachments themselves are also shorter than the competitors’.
  4. Its direction switch is by the trigger like normal, whereas Milwaukee 2505 uses an unintuitive button on the top of the tool.
  5. Its clutch adjustment is very fine — the lowest torque setting is weak enough for wall outlet plate screws. This enables it to do delicate tasks otherwise reserved for manual screwdrivers.

Accessories: Sell the 2Ah batteries from the kit and get the 3Ah batteries instead.

Hammer drill: Milwaukee 3404

Why you need one:

  1. 1/2″ drill chuck accepts bigger tooling (like hole saw arbors) that the 3/8″ Flexiclick can’t.
  2. Hammer mode for drilling into concrete/rock/masonry
  3. Significantly more power → higher torque at higher RPM → faster progress, especially with large hole saws and spade bits
StatusLast researched
Owned since Sep 2023Latest generation as of Feb 2024

Distinction: make sure to get the 3404 instead of the 3403, which is the same tool minus hammer mode.

Why not a full-on rotary hammer? I also own a Milwaukee 2416 M12 rotary hammer. It drills faster into masonry than hammer drills, but it uses an SDS Plus chuck instead of a regular 3-jaw chuck, so it can’t use normal drill bits. It also has no adjustable clutch. I don’t drill big holes in concrete all day, so I carry the much more versatile hammer drill.

Impact driver: Milwaukee 3453

Why you need this: Since impact drivers deliver torque in pulses, they deliver much more torque than a drill, yet you feel very little reaction force through your wrist. Therefore, much less strain and fatigue. I use this whenever driving large/long screws into wood or breaking loose nuts/bolts.

StatusLast researched
Owned since Nov 2022Latest generation as of Feb 2024

These 3 tools have some overlap, but they have different strengths. This is how my work is divided among them:

Installation drill/driverHammer drillImpact driver
Low torqueMedium torqueHigh torque
Finest control (very sensitive clutch, light tool)Medium control (less sensitive clutch, heavier tool)Less control (no clutch, light tool)
Furniture assembly
Equipment installs
General-purpose
Masonry drilling
Hole saws
Spade/auger/Forstner bits
Large/long fasteners
Disassembly
Bit holder extensions: DeWalt DWA12HLDFT & DWA6HLDFT

Why I prefer this:

  1. Has locking mechanism (not just magnet). Very important when using this to extend a hex-shank drill bit to drill through a wall. You don’t want the bit to detach and fall inside the wall (happened to me before).
  2. Slimmer outer diameter than other locking bit extenders
  3. Available in 12in, 6in, 3in lengths. The 3in one is not that meaningful, and you’re better off using some of these other bit holders below.
StatusCategory last researched
Owned since Mar 2023Mar 2023
Magnetic Phillips bit: Metabo 115003M

Why you need one: Phillips screws fall off the bit easily. You need a way to retain them especially if you’re on a ladder and one-hand-operating the drill.

Why I prefer this: The ring magnet on this has a much smaller inner diameter than similar bits and bit holders from Wera, DeWalt, NEIKO and Norske. (I’ve tried them all. Definitely avoid the last 2 — bits get stuck in them.)

StatusCategory last researched
Owned since Jan 2024Feb 2024

Magnetic bit holder: Wera 887/4 RR SB

Why you need one: This bit holder has a ring magnet just like the Metabo one above, but it holds various bits instead of being a fixed PH2.

Why I prefer this: Wera Rapidaptor bit holders are a bit nicer than other ones because when you pull the sleeve to unlock the bit, it stays unlocked. This allows you to remove the bit with one hand.

StatusCategory last researched
Owned since Jan 2024Feb 2024

Distinction: there are many other Rapidaptors, but only this one has the magnet ring.

Drill bit set: Makita B-65399

Why I prefer this:

  1. Impact-style quick-change hex shank — no chuck needed, use in impact drivers etc.
  2. Includes 1/2″ size
  3. Longer than Milwaukee’s similar bits
StatusCategory last researched
I own instead the Milwaukee 48-89-4632 set and dislike how short they are.Mar 2024
Center punch: NEIKO 02638A

Why you need one: prevent drill bit walk (especially on metal/hard surfaces)

Why I prefer this: big round handle is comfortable for palm

StatusCategory last researched
Owned since 2018Feb 2024

Drill guide: DrillBlock

Why you need one: Helps you drill straight (perpendicular) without a drill press

Why I prefer this: The holes are metal but the body is plastic, so it’s much lighter to carry around.

StatusCategory last researched
Owned since 2018Feb 2024

🔨 Prying, Hammering

Demolition screwdriver: Harbor Freight Doyle 64859

Why you need one: Demolition screwdrivers can be used as a pry bar, chisel, punch, or even a hammer itself. They have a single steel body from the tip to the striking cap, so you’re not breaking the handle when hammering them.

Why I prefer this:

  1. It’s cheap yet no worse than the more expensive options. This is a tool that you should feel easy about replacing.
  2. The tip is magnetic.
  3. The flathead has a longer taper, which is better at wedging into gaps.
  4. You can wrench on the hex at the bottom of the handle.

Why not DeWalt DWHT65100: The flathead tapers to the full shank diameter too quickly (angle too obtuse).

StatusCategory last researched
Owned since Feb 2023Feb 2024
Hammer: Stiletto TRIMBONE

Why I prefer this: It’s the only hammer that meets all my requirements:

  1. Very large face (32mm)
  2. Very light (~640g) — the body is titanium and the replaceable face is steel
  3. Mallet caps (available separately) — no need to carry a separate mallet

Bonus: side nail puller (extra pulling leverage) and magnetic nail setter

This titanium hammer is so well-balanced and comfortable (low recoil and fatigue) that I get excited whenever there’s an opportunity to hammer something. I plan to use it for decades.

StatusCategory last researched
Owned since Sep 2023Feb 2024

✂️ Cutters & Pliers

Multi-tool: Roxon S802 Phantom

Why you need one: Multitools have the most diverse functions within 1 tool. Great to carry while inspecting or maintaining a property.

Why I prefer this:

  1. It’s one of the multitools with the largest scissors (approaching normal standalone scissors).
  2. Among those, it has the most tools. The most important to me (besides the scissors) are the pliers and knife.
  3. The handles are rounder than most other multitools (comfortable).
StatusCategory last researched
Owned since Feb 2023Feb 2024
Power cutter (electric scissors): Ryobi FVC51K

Why you need one: It cuts cardboard and clamshell packaging so much faster and easier than scissors!

Why I prefer this:

  1. Charges via USB-C
  2. Modular battery
  3. Potentially more powerful motor than some alternatives (not verified yet)

Alternative: WORKPRO W125199A, with USB-C charging but non-modular battery.

Why not Worx Zipsnip or Warrior (Harbor Freight 56192): These 2 are almost definitely the same tool from the same contract manufacturer with slightly different body styles. They both use a proprietary barrel jack charger.

Why not Makita PC01R3 or Skil ES4651A-00: These 2 are likely more powerful since they’re 12V, but the protruding battery makes them too bulky for my liking. They also require proprietary chargers.

Ultimately, all these power cutters are pretty similar, and having any one is a huge improvement over having none.

StatusCategory last researched
Not yet upgraded to Ryobi — I’ve had the previous-gen Worx Zipsnip (WX081L) since 2020.Feb 2024
Adjustable pliers: Knipex Cobra (87 01 180 and 87 01 250)

(180mm long and 250mm long)

Why I prefer this: One of these is more versatile than normal pliers and adjustable wrench combined.

  1. Adjustable jaw width from 0 to 50mm (big enough to grip kitchen sink fittings)
  2. V-groove serrated jaws can grip onto flat/round/square/hex/irregular objects.
  3. Less chance of slipping/rounding off bolts than adjustable wrenches, since you’re gripping and turning at the same time
  4. Button mechanism adjusts faster and finer than tongue & groove pliers (“Channellocks”)
StatusCategory last researched
Owned since Mar 2021Jan 2024
Pliers wrench: Knipex ‎86 03 150

Why you need one (when you already have Knipex Cobra):

  1. Unlike the Cobras’ serrated jaws, these smooth jaws don’t mar fasteners.
  2. Slightly different hinge mechanism makes the jaws always stay parallel.

These qualities make this a true adjustable wrench replacement.

Why 150mm size:

  1. Slightly smaller than the Cobra sizes I recommended, because turning fasteners requires less grip force.
  2. Still enough leverage and jaw width (up to 27mm) for most fasteners you’ll see in a residential setting.
StatusCategory last researched
Owned since Feb 2024Feb 2024

Comparison: I once bought “ratcheting” adjustable wrenches thinking they’d be faster than pliers wrenches, but they instead take more time to adjust, are bulkier and more prone to slipping.

Combination pliers: Engineer PZ-78

Why I prefer this: It’s high-quality (cutter closes tight, high hardness, low joint slop) lineman’s pliers and the only one with all these features:

  1. Screw extractor (vertical serrations)
  2. Flat + curved jaw
  3. Cutter
  4. Crimper
StatusCategory last researched
Owned since Feb 2023Feb 2024

VS Engineer PZ-58:

PZ-58PZ-78
Spring-loaded handles
Crimper
Flat serrated jawSmall flat aeraLarge flat area (better for twisting wires etc)
Screw extractor jawBiggerSmaller
Oscillating multi-tool: Milwaukee 2526

Why you need one:

  1. The most versatile power cutting tool. Cuts wood, metal, drywall, grout, and more.
  2. More agile and precise compared to any rotational tool or a reciprocating saw.
  3. Can cut flush to surface (such as protruding nails)
  4. Can be a sander too with sanding attachment
StatusCategory last researched
Owned since 20202020
Jigsaw: Milwaukee 2545

Why you need one:

  1. Make curved cuts, beveled cuts, etc.
StatusCategory last researched
Owned brushed version since 2021. Owned Fuel version since Mar 2024.Mar 2024
Circular saw: Milwaukee 2530

Why you need one:

  1. Make fast and straight cuts
StatusCategory last researched
Owned since 20212021

📐 Measurement & Inspection

Tape measure: Milwaukee STUD Gen 2 (48-22-9717)

Why I prefer this: It’s the only tape that meets all these requirements:

  1. BOTH centimeters and inches on BOTH sides of tape
  2. Only 5m/16ft instead of 8m/25ft (too bulky)
  3. Very long (16ft) reach (cantilevers far out without buckling)

Bonus: “finger stop” notch for easily controlling the tape with your finger. The traditional lock slider is more reliable than “auto-lock” mechanisms, which start to slip with wear.

StatusCategory last researched
Owned since Jan 2023Feb 2024
Stud finder: Franklin Sensors M210

Why I prefer this:

  1. No calibration or moving needed: just hold it against the wall and push the button, and the LEDs show you where the stud is.
  2. Integrated bubble level
  3. Integrated pencil storage
  4. Live wire detector/indicator
  5. Has the most sensors (13) and LEDs (21) — finest resolution model
StatusCategory last researched
Owned since Jan 2023Feb 2024
Digital level: Klein 935DAGL

Why I prefer this:

  1. Auto-rotating display (portrait & landscape), which most digital levels with segment LCDs don’t have
  2. Magnetic bottom face with V-groove (sticks to metal pipes etc.)
  3. 2D leveling (bullseye)
  4. Handy size (12cm-long)
StatusCategory last researched
Owned since Feb 2023Jan 2024
Laser Level & Accessories

Laser Level: Huepar HM03CG

  1. 3× 360° laser planes. BTW, “plumb dot” is naturally included because it’s just the vertical planes’ intersection.
  2. Green laser for outdoor visibility
  3. More compact than 3-plane levels from Milwaukee, Bosch etc.
  4. Charges via USB-C
StatusCategory last researched
Owned since Jan 2024Jan 2024

Tripod (cheap option): Sensyne TR74s

  1. Very high extended length ÷ collapsed length ratio (74 inches to 18.8 inches)
  2. Pan/tilt head with independent control over each axis of rotation (preferred for laser levels)
  3. Rack & pinion center column for precise height adjustment
StatusCategory last researched
Owned since Jan 2024Jan 2024

Tripod (expensive option): 3 Legged Thing Bucky

  1. Folded length is only 16.14 inches, so it fits horizontally inside a Packout drawer.
  2. Max height 74.8 inches — humongous extension ratio thanks to 5-section legs and 3-section center column
  3. Can also serve as an excellent photography tripod
StatusCategory last researched
Owned since Jan 2024Jan 2024

Since it has a ball head (fast but imprecise) and no geared center column, it’s best used with a fine-adjustment bracket like below.

Fine-Tuning Adjustment Bracket: Huepar PV11

This is useful for dialing in the exact height of the laser, especially if your tripod doesn’t have a rack-and-pinion center column.

  • 4 degrees of freedom: up/down, fore/aft, left/right translation plus pivot rotation
StatusCategory last researched
Owned since Jan 2024Jan 2024

⚡ Electrical

Multimeters

More Capable: Klein Tools CL800

Why I prefer this: It’s one of the most feature-rich multimeters, at a reasonable price.

  1. Measures current through wire by simply clamping around the wire. The clamp is also handy for hanging the tool while you’re probing.
  2. Measures both AC and DC current
  3. Measures temperature via thermistor probe
  4. Non-contact voltage detection feature
  5. Auto-ranging
  6. Capacitance test, diode test… all the features I’ve needed so far in a multimeter
  7. The mode knob is easy enough to turn with my thumb (single-handed).
StatusCategory last researched
Owned since Feb 2024Feb 2024

More Compact: Klein Tools CL390

Why I prefer this: Similar features to CL800, but significantly smaller and lighter.

StatusCategory last researched
Owned since Feb 2023Feb 2023

VS Klein CL900: CL900 can measure more current and inrush current, but it can’t measure temperature.

CL390CL800CL900
Measures inrush current✅ 2,000A
Max current measurement400A600A2,000A
Measures temperature✅ -40° to 1000°C✅ -26°C to 538°C

Full Klein clamp meter comparison table

VS Fluke 325: 325 is Fluke’s most similar offering in terms of features. Fluke has the best reputation, and many electricians swear by them. On the other hand, Klein CL800 and CL390 have better specs while costing half/less than half.

MeasurementKlein CL800Klein CL390Fluke 325
Max resistance60MΩ40MΩ40kΩ
Max current600A400A400A
Max voltage1000V600V600V
Max capacitance6mF4mF1mF
Frequency1Hz – 500KHz10Hz – 60KHz5Hz – 500Hz
Non-contact voltage
Outlet tester & breaker finder: Klein Tools ET310

Why you need these:

  1. Test whether outlets are wired correctly and working (including GFCI)
  2. Find which breaker is connected to the outlet in question by simply hovering the wand over the breakers. A lot less disruptive to other people in the house.

VS Klein RT250: I also have the RT250. It doesn’t work with the breaker finder, so it’s purely an outlet tester. It can detect an open-neutral-open-ground fault, which the ET310 can’t. Besides that, I find the ET310 kit feature-complete, so I don’t carry the RT250 around. The ET310’s outlet tester doesn’t need a battery, so that’s one less thing to worry about.

StatusCategory last researched
Owned since Nov 2022Feb 2024
Wire stripper: Irwin self-adjusting wire stripper (2078300)

VS traditional wire strippers: Self-adjusting wire strippers grip the insulation with 2 jaws and pull it apart.

  1. No need to find the right-sized hole.
  2. Works on 10-24 AWG (very wide range).
  3. Works on non-round cables and multi-conductor cables (such as pulling off outer jacket of Romex).

VS other self-adjusting strippers: There are many similar wire strippers. Look for ones with:

  1. Adjustable tension
  2. Stop fence for controlling strip length
StatusCategory last researched
Owned since May 2021Feb 2024
Wire stripper: Knipex automatic wire stripper (1262180)

Why another wire stripper? Since this one has a pistol grip, it requires less accessible wire length to work. For example, you can reach a too-short wire inside an outlet box with it.

Limitations:

  1. Max strip depth is ~18mm. Meanwhile, the Irwin’s pass-through design allows it to separate insulation at any point along a cable.
  2. V-notch blade only works on single round wires.

Because of these limitations, it can’t replace the Irwin. But since it’s super light, it doesn’t hurt to carry this as a secondary wire stripper for the 10% of problems the Irwin can’t solve.

StatusCategory last researched
Owned since Sep 2023Feb 2024
Fish tape: Gardner Bender EFT-15

Why you might need one: Fish cables through walls and floors by tying them to this steel fish tape.

Why I prefer this: Pocket size, but 15ft is enough for fishing from an outlet to a light switch, or from crawl space to 1st floor.

StatusCategory last researched
Owned since 2020Mar 2024

Comparison: Identical product (different rebrands) to Commercial Electric EFT-15 at Home Depot.

Ethernet tester: Fluke LinkIQ kit

Why you might need one:

  • Trace and identify Ethernet cables using toner wand or remote wire map dongles
  • Identify RJ45 connector crimp errors (such as crossed wires)
  • Measure length of cable in wall, ground etc
  • Detect break or short in cable and at what distance the damage is
  • Test what data rates the cable can achieve

Why I prefer this:

  1. The probe wand has both digital mode and analog mode. You don’t hear line noise in digital mode.
  2. The probe’s signal tone is a melody instead of a constant sine wave — easier to hear over noises.
  3. Tests cable for up to 10GBps — most other testers only go up to 1GBps.
  4. Tests PoE not just by checking voltage or advertised power, but by actual load testing
  5. Layer 3 tests like IP, DHCP and ping
  6. Big color touchscreen with iOS-like intuitive UI
StatusCategory last researched
Owned since Jun 2023Jun 2023

Accessories:

PurposeAccessory
Trace/measure coaxial TV cablecoax to RJ45 adapter
Trace/measure unterminated wire such as thermostat wire, bare CAT6 cable, alarm sensor wirealligator clips to RJ45 adapter
*Cable length measurement doesn’t work with alligator clips.
RJ45 spring terminal adapter
*When a cable has many conductors, the toner signal is stronger when you put all conductors in the terminals.
Identify multiple male RJ45s (the cable ID dongles are male)female-female RJ45 couplers
Workflow efficiencyretractable Ethernet cable

Cheaper alternative: I also have a Klein Tools Scout Pro 3 (VDV501-851). It doesn’t test PoE, speed, or IP; its toning is analog and monotone; and the 7-segment style display is harder to interpret. LinkIQ has saved me a lot of time compared to Scout. But Scout comes with more coax ID dongles, so it’s likely better for cable company technicians.

Even cheaper alternative: I also have the Mastfuyi FY869 (then sold under “Elegiant”). Its tone is a trill, which is better than Klein’s monotone. Its output seems to be much stronger than LinkIQ — you can hear it directly from connected speakers. It lacks most of the features listed above and prevented me from finding where a cable was damaged.

Buried cable locator: Tempo 501 Tracker II

Why you might need one:

  • Traces cables or metal pipes buried underground or inside walls up ~2m deep.

Why I prefer this:

  1. Long wand allows you to sweep around without bending down.
  2. Inductive clamp allows you to trace cables without physically connecting to it.
  3. Inductive antenna built into the carrying case allows you to trace cables by simply placing case alongside cable.
  4. The transmitter’s strength is adjustable and extremely strong in the highest setting.
  5. The tool is analog, so you can hear exactly what’s going on with the signals, such as directly hearing 60Hz mains line noise. But this is a blessing and a curse, because line noise can be louder than the actual signal.
StatusCategory last researched
Owned since Feb 2024Feb 2024

Accessory: I made a NEMA 5-15P to banana plug adapter to plug the transmitter into outlets. This allows me to trace from a de-energized outlet to the tripped breaker or upstream GFCI without uninstalling the receptacle.

VS Tempo 521E: 521E is Tempo’s modernized version of 521A. Both 521E and 521A lack the inductive features (2 & 3).

VS Tempo BLL-200:

  • BLL-200 is digital. It shows the signal strength as a number on the screen and via the LED indicator array. There’s also an audible tone, but I believe it’s binary (tone when over threshold, otherwise no tone) instead of varying with signal strength, based on Tempo’s video and manual. This means you have to look at the visual readings more to understand how the signal strength is changing, which is slower and less intuitive in my opinion.
  • There’s no output strength adjustment on the transmitter, but BLL-200 advertises a 4.5m max depth versus 501’s 2.2m, so I presume BLL-200 is stronger than 501 at max.
  • BLL-200 shows depth measurement numerically on the screen. 501 requires you to make marks on the ground and measure their distance.
  • BLL-200 is retractable, and its case is shorter.
  • BLL-200 is >3X the price of 501.

VS Noyafa NF-826: I upgraded from this.

Things I missLimitations that made me upgrade
Digital; shows signal strength numerically. Unaffected by line noise; shows ⚡ icon instead.Max signal strength seems weaker.
Much more compactStubby receiver means I need to crouch down to trace ground cables precisely and makes it harder to trace cables high up in walls.
Uses lithium battery and charges via Micro-USB. Tempo 501 uses 9V and AA.Lacks inductive features (2 & 3).

Cable stapler: Milwaukee 2448

Why you might need one: Sinks insulated staples over cable (such as Romex). Takes less effort than mechanical stapler, and much less effort and time than hammering staples.

StatusCategory last researched
Owned since July 2023July 2023

🧤 Wearables

Headlamp: svsviio sh02

Why I prefer this:

  1. 1500 lumens — one of the brightest headband-style headlamps.
  2. The light is spread out across 31 LEDs and a plastic diffuser, so there’s no bright spot when you’re working on something reflective.
  3. Charges via USB-C
  4. 8-hour battery life in high setting, thanks to 7500mAh battery
  5. Comfortable
StatusCategory last researched
Owned since Sep 2023Feb 2024

VS Pokiseed HL002:

svsviio sh02Pokiseed HL002
Hard hat clipsnoneincluded
Battery capacity7500 mAh5000 mAh

Everything else is identical; they’re probably from the same factory.

VS Liteband Pure HD 2500 MB: The 2500 is Liteband’s top-end and newest headband with a light band plus a focused middle beam.

Liteband Models2500 MB1500 MB1000
Wide-beam band1400 lm1000 lm1000 lm
Narrow-beam spotlight1100 lm500 lmnone

I upgraded from a Liteband 1000 to the svsiio.

  1. Liteband is indeed dimmer, but only slightly.
  2. Liteband is much less comfortable because the battery pack is a hard stadium prism (shaped like 2 18650 batteries, which is literally is). The svsiio’s battery pack, though more capacious, is flatter and distributes pressure much more evenly on the back of your head.
  3. Liteband lacks a charge indicator. Svsiio has 5 LEDs on the back of the battery that indicate charge when you turn it on.
Gloves: ATG MaxiFlex Cut (34-8743)

Why I prefer this:

  1. Very flexible and dexterous while having ANSI level 2 abrasion resistance
  2. Grippy
  3. Touchscreen compatible
StatusCategory last researched
Owned since Feb 2024Feb 2024
Magnetic wristband: HORUSDY

Why you need one:

Put screws, bits, etc. magnetically on your wrist or forearm. Very convenient when assembling or installing something.

    StatusCategory last researched
    Owned since May 2024May 2024

    💦 Adhesives & Chemicals

    Super glue + accelerator + solvent

    Mini tubes of super glue

    When we use super glue (a.k.a. cyanoacrylate glue or CA glue), we’re usually repairing small objects and use very little of it. Larger bottles often just dry up and seal themselves shut before the next use.

    Gel versionOriginal
    More viscous; doesn’t drip or sag as muchMore fluid; wicks into cracks
    Super Glue Corp (on Amazon)Super Glue Corp (on Amazon)
    Harbor FreightHarbor Freight

    Insta-Set™ CA accelerator (Bob Smith Industries)

    Makes super glue cure in a few seconds (takes longer if glob of glue is thick/deep)

    Un-Cure™ debonder (Bob Smith Industries)

    Softens and dissolves superglue. The morning-after pill for using super glue with no gloves.

    Tip: You can wipe off the solution with isopropyl alcohol.

    99.9% isopropyl alcohol

    Why I prefer this:

    1. Much safer to use on electronics, since it contains a lot less water
    2. Evaporates quicker after wiping

    The brand doesn’t matter, but I like bottles with spray nozzles.

    StatusCategory last researched
    Started using in 2020, after frying a laptop with 70% IPA2022
    Goo Gone Pro-Power Spray Gel

    Great for dissolving adhesives. The Pro-Power Spray Gel has the best of both worlds:

    StatusCategory last researched
    Started using in 2015Feb 2024
    WD-40 Smart Straw 8 oz

    Why I prefer this: the 3-oz mini can’s straw is separate and too easy to lose. This is the smallest WD-40 with the pivoting Smart Straw (switches between narrow stream and wide spray).

    StatusCategory last researched
    Owned since Nov 2023Feb 2024

    These are tools I keep in my garage to use on cars. This is not a self-contained category and instead augments the “home & general” section.

    Metric vs Imperial (“SAE”)

    Modern cars (including American ones) use only metric fasteners. Unless you work on 1990s or earlier American cars, you don’t need imperial tools in your garage.

    ⬆️ Lifting

    Ramps: MaxxHaul 50709

    Why I prefer this: detachable — the sloped part can be taken off after driving the car on, so you can access the jack points near the wheel wells. This is crucial if your car is low and doesn’t have another designated jack point.

    StatusCategory last researched
    Owned since Apr 2021Feb 2024

    Comparison: this appears to be identical to Eastwood 23048 but cheaper.

    Jack stands: RennStands

    Why you need jack stands: Hydraulic jacks are only for raising the vehicle and not meant to support the vehicle’s weight continuously.

    Why I prefer this: My Tesla’s only official jack points are near the wheel wells (none at the front/rear subframes). This means I must use the same locations for both jacking up with floor jack and supporting it with jack stands. The RennStands allow me to do that without resorting to a 2-post lift or QuickJack, which are much bulkier equipment.

    StatusCategory last researched
    Owned since 2020Feb 2024

    (Sold as single unit, and car-specific jack pads are sold separately.)

    Comparison: Jackpoint Jackstands are similar, but their height is not adjustable.

    Alternative: The Powerbuilt U-Jack is designed to interface with and be supported by normal jack stand. You’d need 2 U-jacks and 2 jack stands to raise the whole front/rear end of the car.

    Floor jacks

    Sunex 6602LP (more capable)

    Why I prefer this:

    1. Goes from very low (slightly < 3 inches) to very high (24 inches)
    2. 2-ton (U.S.) capacity is enough to lift the front/rear end of a 4-ton vehicle
    3. Very long reach: useful for cars whose jack point is far in

    Caveat: These no longer come with a rubber saddle pad — part number RS20042.

    StatusCategory last researched
    Owned since Feb 2021Feb 2024

    Comparisons:

    Harbor Freight Daytona 58811 (lower & lighter)

    Why I prefer this:

    1. The absolute lowest minimum height I could find: 2-3/8 inches (not meaningful if your car is not low)
    2. Very light (36 pounds)

    VS Sunex 6602LP:

    1. ~1/3 of the Sunex’s weight; easily portable
    2. 1.5-ton capacity instead of 2-ton
    3. Only goes up to 16 inches instead of 24

    The Daytona is a good complement to the Sunex, but not a replacement. If I could only have one jack, I’d pick the Sunex.

    StatusCategory last researched
    I’ve owned instead the 64545 since 2020, before the 58811 came out.Feb 2024

    🔧 Fastening

    Ratcheting wrench set

    What to Look For

    Ratcheting instead of non-ratcheting:

    Ratcheting: prosRatcheting: cons
    Not having to repeatedly reposition the wrench saves so much time.Bulkier head — but if space around the fastener head is tight, I’d just use a socket instead.
    Lower max torque — but it’s bottlenecked by the length of the wrench anyway. I’ll recommend longer non-ratcheting wrenches later.

    Locking flex head: I prefer this type over regular (non-locking) flex head, flat, and angled, because it combines the advantages of all three with none of the downsides.

    1. Avoid nearby obstacles by changing the head angle
    2. Indexed/locking head hinge prevents head flopping back and forth

    Spline instead of 12-point or 6-point:

    • Spline wrenches work on 6-point, 12-point, square, external Torx, and more. So a spline wrench set is by far the most versatile and the only set I need.
    • Spline is weaker than 6-point but stronger than 12-point, in terms of max torque before rounding off the fastener. It’s adequate especially for this length of wrench.
    • Spline wrenches may feel looser on the fastener than a 12-point or 6-point, but that doesn’t mean the torque is weaker.

    Stanley Proto JSCVMF-12S are the only wrenches I could find with all the above characteristics (locking flex-head ratcheting spline combination wrenches).

    The included sizes are 8-19mm with no skips. Proto doesn’t make larger wrenches of this series. 20 and 23 are extremely rare, so I wouldn’t bother stocking up on those sizes. 21, 22, and 24 are common on suspension joints etc.

    StatusCategory last researched
    I’ve owned Gearwrench’s flex-head set since Mar 2021 and regret the lack of locking.Feb 2024
    Impact wrench: Milwaukee M12 Stubby 1/2″ (2555)

    Why I prefer this:

    1. Enough torque (339Nm) to easily take off any fasteners (such as lug nuts) on any non-rusty passenger vehicle
    2. Very compact

    Why not 2554 (3/8″ square drive version): Torque sticks and the largest sockets are more common with 1/2″ square drive. Using 1/2″ to 3/8″ adapters rob a lot of torque.

        StatusCategory last researched
        Owned since 2021April 2024
        Right-angle impact wrench: Milwaukee 3/8″ (2564)

        Why I prefer this:

        1. Small head and long body allow you to use an impact tool to save time and effort in tight areas normally requiring a manual wrench.
        2. 3/8″ square drive is enough for these small areas. 3/8″ drive sockets are a bit shorter than 1/2″.
        StatusCategory last researched
        Owned since 2021April 2024

        These are tools that I use for developing custom products and tinkering with existing ones. This is not a self-contained category and instead augments the previous sections.

        📏 Measurement

        Digital caliper: iGaging OriginCal 6″ w/ inch fraction (‎100-700-33)

        Why I prefer this: It seems to be the only caliper with both these features:

        1. Metric, decimal inch, and FRACTIONAL inch mode (rounds to nearest 1/128″ and shows most simplified form (like 3/16″, 5/8″, 1/2″ etc.)
        2. Absolute origin: no need to zero, just turn on and measure
        StatusCategory last researched
        Owned since Apr 2021Feb 2024

        False alternatives: None of the other models from iGaging has a fractional inch mode.

        🕳️ Drilling & Threading

        Drill bit set: Norseman 60090 SP-118M

        Why I prefer this:

        • The most complete metric drill bit set I could find (118 bits):
        Size RangeIncrement
        1 – 2.05 mmevery 0.05 mm
        2.1 – 10 mmevery 0.1 mm
        10 – 13 mm10.0, 10.2, 10.5, 10.8 mm, etc.

        Such fine increments give you enough resolution to approximate imperial (fractional, number, letter) drill bits pretty closely.

        • Split point helps prevent bit walk when starting.

        These are high speed steel (HSS), which helps make the price rather reasonable. I couldn’t find such a comprehensive set of carbide bits — that makes sense because the cost would be astronomical. It’s good to optimize for completeness over quality first, because most of these sizes you’ll use 0-5 times in your life. Once the frequently used sizes wear out, swap in better-material versions.

        StatusCategory last researched
        Owned since Nov 2023Nov 2023
        Tap and die set: Toolant TA01036001 (127 pieces)

        Why I prefer this:

        1. Comes with drill bits. Tap drill sizes are often unusual and not found in general drill bit sets, so it’s important for the tap & die set to include them.
        2. Taps, dies, and drills for both metric and imperial, up to M12 and 1/2″ with various thread pitches
        3. Ratcheting tap handle is very ergonomic for tapping large holes.
        StatusCategory last researched
        Owned since Nov 2023Nov 2023

        VS Milwaukee Packout Tap & Die Set: I had also bought the 49-22-5603.

        1. It lacks drill bits.
        2. The cost of the metric set alone = the cost of the whole Toolant kit.
        3. The handle doesn’t ratchet.
        Drill guides: Big Gator Tools MDG1000NP & MDG2000NP

        Why you need one: Helps you drill (and tap) straight (perpendicular) without a drill press. Especially for large/irregular items that don’t fit on a drill press.

        Why I prefer these:

        • Metric to go with my metric drill bits
        • Has all through-hole AND tap drill sizes, no skips
        StatusCategory last researched
        Owned since Nov 2023Feb 2024

        🪚 Cutting

        3-inch cut-off saw: Milwaukee 2522

        Why you need one:

        1. Goldilocks size between a rotary tool and an angle grinder
        2. Cuts all kinds of materials, including steel
        3. Ergonomic single-handed operation
        StatusCategory last researched
        Owned since 20222022
        Ultrasonic cutter: Honda Echo Tech ZO-95

        Why you need one: Cuts plastic and other softer materials with scalpel-like precision, very narrow cut line, and no thrown debris — better than cutting tip on soldering iron.

        Why I prefer this model: The most powerful model I know of that has an X-Acto-style blade. More powerful machines exist, but they have bigger/thicker blades that likely cause a wider cut line.

        VS ZO-91 or ZO-41II: The ZO-95 cuts faster and is able to cut for much longer before shutting down for thermal protection.

        StatusCategory last researched
        Owned ZO-41II since Mar 2022, not knowing about ZO-95 at the timeDec 2023

        🖨️ 3D-Printing

        3D printer: Bambu Lab X1E

        Why I prefer this:

        1. Multi-material printing: seamlessly switch between 4 materials or colors, including soluble supports which makes more geometries printable
        2. Actively heated chamber (up to 60°C) for less warping
        3. HEPA H12 and activated carbon filtration
        4. Vibration compensation enables rapid print speeds
        5. Remote monitoring and control via smartphone or computer app
        6. AI print failure detection using camera and lidar
        7. Sensorless homing and auto bed leveling based on printhead strain gauge and lidar
        8. Very user-friendly and reliable
        StatusCategory last researched
        Owned X1C since Jan 2023, owned X1E since Feb 2024Mar 2024
        Bambu X1EBambu X1CBambu P1SBambu A1Prusa XLQidi X-Max 3SnapMaker J1SBCN3D W50MakerBot Method XL
        Active heated chamber (°C)✅ 60✅ 65✅ 100
        Enclosed chamber
        Multi-material✅ 4✅ 4✅ 4✅ 4✅ 5✅ 2✅ 2✅ 2
        Multi-material with TPU✅?
        Max hotend temp (°C)320300300300290350300300300
        Max heatbed temp (°C)120120120❌ 100 (PC might not stick)120120❌ 100 (PC might not stick)120105
        Extruder type✅ direct✅ direct✅ direct✅ direct✅ direct✅ direct✅ direct✅ direct✅ direct
        Built-in camera❌ shitty camera❌ hacky solutions✅ optional
        Color display interface✅ touch✅ touch❌ black&white low-res + arrow buttons✅ touch✅ rotary knob✅ touch✅ touch✅ touch
        Print volume (mm)256³256³256³256³360³325×325×315❌ 300×200×200420×300×400305×305×320
        Price (USD)2,49913,999