A sackful of cool tools for holiday giving


EVERY OTHER Christmas or so, we get a request from the North Pole to help Santa stock the sleigh with a good selection of the latest tools. This year the request came by e-mail, which proves that Santa is keeping up with the times -- or maybe a couple of those elves are.

"Try to include a wide range of tools," Santa wrote. "We can hook up an extra sleigh for large items."

We're always delighted to help Santa, including occasionally writing about a cold-weather topic that might interest him. So here are our cool tool choices for holiday giving:

Dremel's Variable Speed Multi-Tool can polish, sand, cut, grind and carve, and would be great for hobbyists and homeowners. The Dremel tool comes with 72 accessories and a case, and costs about $80. Ryobi also makes a multipurpose tool that comes with 101 pieces and a case and costs about $50.

Black & Decker has made it easier to get into its new line of VersaPak battery-driven, rechargeable tools with a starter kit that contains four tools -- a SnakeLight, drill, detail sander and a multipurpose saw -- packed, along with batteries and charger, in their own custom case. The Multi Tool Kit Box costs $99. If you want something simpler, Black & Decker also offers a package containing a VersaPak screwdriver and a SnakeLight, for about $50.

DeWalt has a range of cordless electric drills/drivers that come with charger, two batteries and, for those who are constantly losing chuck keys, a keyless chuck. A 9.6-volt kit costs $129, a 12-volt kit $159, and a 14.4-volt kit $219.

DeWalt also offers a package that contains its new 18-volt drill/driver and an 18-volt cordless saw, for $397. The saw might not be heavy enough for construction projects, but DeWalt says it will cut 100 studs per charge, so it would be fine for smaller projects such as building a fence.

There seems to have been an explosion recently in electric sanders. Besides the traditional belt sanders and pad sanders, you can find random orbit sanders, such as Black & Decker's Palm Grip for $40, or like Randy's Porter Cable Quicksand version, which costs $70.

Ryobi has a two-speed detail sander with a triangular pad for $60, which includes a case. Porter Cable offers a profile sander for use on such things as woodwork or molding, with case, that includes 17 assorted profile pads for radius and angle sanding for $117. Black & Decker has combined functions in the 3-in-1 Total Task sander. It looks something like an iron, with a side handle and built-in, rear-mounted dust-collection bag. It includes a random orbit pad, detail pad and finishing pad and costs about $60.

Delta has a portable table saw that is Randy's all-time favorite tool, the 8 1/4 -inch Sidekick Builder's Saw with stand. It weighs about 40 pounds without the stand and has a 13-amp motor with more than enough power to be a principal shop saw, while still being light enough to carry out onto the driveway on a nice day. It costs $287, and Randy says it's worth every penny.

Finally, if your handy person has to work outside in bitter weather, get him or her a pair of fleecy Convertible Glove Mitts from Adams. The mitts, insulated with Thinsulate, have mitten tops that flip off to reveal half gloves for situations in which you need finger control. They come in red, blue, green and black, and cost $13.

Even Santa might like a pair of those mitts. It would be a nice change for him after all those plates of cookies and glasses of milk. He might have mastered the Internet, but he's clearly still having a problem with the Food Guide Pyramid.

Randy Johnson is a Baltimore home-improvement contractor. Karol Menzie is a feature writer for The Sun.

If you have questions, tips or experiences to share about working on houses, e-mail us at homeworlark.net, or write to us c/o HOMEWORK, 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.

Pub Date: 12/15/96

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