The Best Gifts for Mr. Fix-It

'Power-ful' ideas for the hard-to-buy-for home improvement guy

In exchange for the jewelry, perfume, and foot-pampering many women might expect from their better halves this Christmas, a good power tool or accessory is just the ticket for him.

It certainly might be for the husband or boyfriend who’d rather work with his hands than pound buttons on an Xbox.

But finding out what kind of tool might do is only part of the challenge.

Every power tool you’ll see in your local hardware store, Sears, or home center seems the grownup equivalent of the toy your child can ride without pedaling — or can launch into the air. Many such tools do everything they claim. A few others will be used just once or twice, then banished to a dusty corner of the garage.

Here are some selections worth considering:

You Know the Drill
A guy who uses a cordless drill several times a month needs no special features. But the Worx Ai Drill Model WX178L makes the casual drill-user’s task easier in three cool ways.

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First, there are no more wobbly bits to make large holes out of the small ones he intended. A feature called BitLock mechanically centers a bit and tightens it as much as anyone would need it. Turning the so-called switch ring backwards releases the bit.

A second feature, called SafeDrive, senses whatever material he is drilling into — wood, drywall, or whatever else — and supplies just enough power for the bit or screw to pass through it. Once a screw is flush against the surface, the drill stops by itself.

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The third innovation, called PulseAssist, mimics the ways a pro might “feather” a drill’s trigger on and off to avoid stripping a screw. The drill weighs just three pounds or so and comes with a 20-volt battery that fits some other Worx tools. Cost: $120 

A Better Spin Zone
String trimmers, also known as weed whackers, don’t work unless the string (much like very thick fishing line) feeds out when it’s supposed to. But on some models, the string jams or heats up and fuses together. The owner then throws away the whole machine — but doesn’t have to.

The Gator SpeedLoad from Oregon Products is a replacement trimmer head that snaps on at the business end of most major-brand string trimmers — and uses line that is wound tightly around in a flat shape that looks like a coaster.

The line loads quickly, in less than 20 seconds, before the SpeedLoad puts the fun back into trimming where the mower can’t, or shouldn’t, along a lawn’s perimeter. (Replacement cartridges are sold in packs of three for $6 to $12.) Cost: $20 — $30 

Keeping a Clean Slate
Briggs & Stratton, which makes pressure washers, engines, and lots more, sells a rotating surface cleaner that attaches to the pressure washer’s wand and washes away any complaints about blotchy or streaked sections of your siding or paving stones.

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More specifically, it consistently cleans a wide, circular section at a time with rapidly oscillating spray arms. The 14-inch Model 6337 is for electric pressure washers and costs $40. The 16-inch Model 6338 is for gas-powered washers. Cost: $75

A Cut Above Average
Ryobi Power Tools, sold only at Home Depot, offer more than 70 tools that use the brand’s 18-volt batteries.

One cool example overall is the Ryobi P516 18-volt reciprocating saw. The blade on such saws extends outward from the tool and moves forward and back — in this case, up to almost 3,000 times a minute.

This makes these saws great for coarse cuts in wood, metal, or plastic. They’re also a safer stand-in for a chain saw against branches up to about four inches.

The P516 is light, 5 pounds with battery, and has one-handed blade changes, an anti-vibration handle, and a variable-speed trigger. Cost: $79, plus an additional $59 for a separately sold battery and charger (if needed)

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