You can't set up a workshop without one of these powerful tools
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Bring Universal Power to Your Shop
With a retractable extension cord in the shop, there’s no more searching for the extension cord, no more tripping over cords on the floor, and no more constantly bending over to plug in whatever you need. But stay away from wimpy 16- to 18-gauge corded models. They don’t carry enough current for many tools. The Husky 14-3, 50-ft. model ($70 at Home Depot) works great, but any 14-3 model with a 13-amp rating will do fine. But as you know, the more you spend…
For the most part, placing one of these systems directly above your workbench is the best place to mount the extension cord. But you may be different. You might find that it is better to place it in a spot where the cord can reach outside. At my garage workshop, I need my retractable extension cord to power my vacuum while cleaning the car as well as power all my workbench tools so I placed mine on the wall next to my garage door. I can still reach it a few steps away while standing at my bench while also bringing the cord halfway down my driveway.
Consider the Features
Most extension cords are standardized by gauges. The lower the gauge (12, 14, 16) the more heavy duty they are. If you think that the extension cord will get run over by casters and heavy equipment or that it will be used outside, you will want to go for the lower gauge. Another feature is the amount of plugs the cord has. Most have three plugs, which is perfect. But others come with a single plug and may not be the best for your situation so consider the options.
Check out our other favorite efficient workshop tools here:
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Cordless Jigsaws: Are 12 Volts Enough?
The tool shelf at the Family Handyman workshop holds both 12-volt and 18-volt jigsaws. To our surprise, we generally, prefer the 12-volt models. They’re lighter, easier to handle and have plenty of power for cutting hardwoods or 1-1/2-in.-thick material. This Bosch 12V Max Barrel-Grip jigsaw is our current favorite because it’s especially compact, comfortable and smooth-running.Get it on Amazon.
Woodworking is a blast, but it can be intimidating for beginners. So check out these 56 brilliant woodworking tips for beginners.
I never noticed the time I wasted changing out drill bits until I discovered hex shank bits. Whether I’m drilling 1/8-in. pilot holes or hogging out a 1/2-in. peg hole, the bit shank is the same size. So I just have to open the chuck slightly to swap out the bit. If I’m using an impact driver, the swap is even quicker! Several companies offer hex shank sets; mine is an 18-piece Milwaukee set. — April Wilkerson, Contributing Editor for Family HandymanGet it on Amazon.
Blast Clogs Away
This Drain King drain cleaner from GT Water Products is my go-to tool for removing tough clogs. When drains in basements, bathrooms or kitchens stop up and homeowners can’t plunge the clog out, I hook this tool up to a garden hose, feed it into the drain and turn on the faucet.Here’s how it works: The bladder swells and wedges itself in the pipe, and its patented dispersing valve vibrates the pipe while shooting jets of water to dislodge the clog safely, without chemicals. — John Wood, Plumber for ProMechAvailable in several sizes, on Amazon.
Every Last Glob
Remember the toy that had you fit square pegs in the square holes and triangular pegs in the triangular holes? Taping knives are straight; buckets of joint compound are round—a toddler could figure out that there’s a better tool for scooping out mud. Enter the bucket scoop: Its curved blade is shaped to match the bucket, so you can scoop out every last glob.Get it on Amazon.
Notes that Weather the Storm
How did 3M make the ubiquitous Post-it notes better? By making them stickier and tougher so anyone can jot notes on anything in all kinds of weather. Post-it Extreme Notes stick to rough material and won’t bleed ink if they get exposed to moisture.Get it on Amazon.
Protect your family when the wind starts blowing, the waters start rising, and your house goes dark with our storm survival guide.
Lights, Camera, Catch'em
This Kuna Maximus Camera Floodlight shines bright, rolls the camera and gives you peace of mind while you’re away. When motion is detected, the light turns on and the built-in camera starts recording. There’s a two-way speaker you can speak through or use to sound an alarm. Through the connected app on your smartphone, you can always take a peek at what’s going on while you’re away—perfect for checking on your latest Amazon delivery or finding out how late your teen actually got home. — Aaron Massey, DIYer at mrfixitdiy.comGet it on Amazon. Kuna also makes a more discreet version of this in the form of an outdoor sconce. The video is clear and the app sends a notification to your phone (if you want) when the motion sensor is set off.Get the sconce on Amazon.
Since getting my hands on a FastCap ProCarpenter tape, I’ve refused to use any other tape measure. I love that it shows the fractions down to 1/16 in. right side up on both sides of the tape, which means I can pull the tape from the left or the right and not have to read numbers upside down. It has an erasable writing pad, a built-in pencil sharpener and a white blade, which I prefer to yellow. — Tamar Hannah, Woodworker from 3x3custom.comGet it on Amazon.
Fiskars has a great new knife designed for hanging drywall. The Pro Drywaller’s Utility Knife does double duty as a retractable utility knife and a switchblade-style jab saw. It’s a bit pricy for weekend warriors, but if you do lots of drywall work, it will be well worth the money.Get it on Amazon.
Foldable, Rollable, Shapeable Sandpaper
Folding a piece of sandpaper usually means shortening its life span. Not so with these 3M Ultra Flexible Sanding Sheets. They’re super tough and have a bit of stretch, so they won’t tear nearly as easily as their paper counterparts. Just wrap a sheet around a block, dowel or other profile to match your needs, then go to town. The sheets are great for wet sanding. If your sheet gets clogged, just rinse it off or crinkle it up to release the dust.Get it on Amazon.