I’ve had a lot of people ask me what my favorite tools are right now. These are the top 10 tools – in no particular order – that come to mind when I think back to the jobs I’ve been working on lately. When I’m working with other carpenters and I bring these tools in, they get the most interest from other people in the trades. Some of them even feel like a secret weapon at times, so it’s fun to share with other people that may be able to benefit from being a little more efficient or enjoying the process a little more. I use affiliate links to earn a small commission at no additional cost to you, should you choose to purchase any of the items from the links in this article.
Wixey WR300 Type 2 Digital Angle Gauge
This thing is super handy.
I use this every time I get my miter saw out of the van. Here’s how it works:
Lock the blade in the down position.
Set it on the base of your saw, up against the fence with the magnetic side down on the table.
Press the “zero” button, and the gauge will zero out.
Take the gauge off the base of the saw, rotate it 90 degrees, and use the magnets to stick it to the blade, while still flat against the fence.
This will give you a very accurate reading, and you use your bevel adjustment to make sure you have a perfect 90 degree cut every time.
I also use this to check my table saw before important cuts, and it can be used to set bevels more accurately on both the table saw and miter saw. This takes the guesswork out of making perfectly square cuts, plus its fun!
Festool CT26 E Hepa Dust Extractor
Ok Ok, I know, this is a big ticket item. But hear me out here. This isn’t your average shop vac.
Having a HEPA certified vacuum is basically mandatory in today’s remodeling industry. This is an excellent choice for anyone in the market for a HEPA vac to comply with Lead RRP regulations.
Here are some other features that might not be obvious, but make this my favorite all around vacuum:
You can adjust the suction according to the task
It has a tool start function, where you plug your tool into the vac, then the vac into the wall. This turns the vacuum on automatically whenever you start the tool. One of my favorite things to do is use my miter saw inside, and this feature saves a lot of time
It is more powerful than most shop vacs
It comes with an antistatic hose, which means dust doesn’t cling to it, and you won’t get shocked
The hose is stored on board the vacuum and doesn’t take up extra space or get damaged when not in use
It has a very nice hose end, that fits almost every handheld tool I’ve tried it with
Festool systainers lock to the top of it in a stacking setup that is extremely efficient at moving tools from place to place
The festool cleaning kit stores neatly in a systainer and the tools for it do not get lost
The Festool CT26 represents a serious investment for professionals who truly wish to maintain a cleaner job site with increased efficiency.
Wen Variable Speed Drywall Sander
Dust free drywall sanding – it’s a thing.
Normally I try to buy the highest quality tools I can, but this is an exception. Here’s why:
Festool makes this awesome drywall sander called the Planex
At the time of writing this article, the Planex cost $1210.00 – that is a LOT of money
There is a lot of recent competition in this area, and many of the (chinese) other units use a motor on the handle with a flex shaft
The Planex has the motor mounted right on the head, eliminating the flex shaft. So does the Wen
The Planex uses festool abrasives, which are some of the best in the world. They also happen to work perfectly on the Wen! I’ll add a link to the planex discs I use on the Wen
The Wen drywall sander is currently selling for $133.49 – At that price I could buy 9 of the Wen sanders for the price of one Festool
The Wen has a pretty soft interface pad installed from the factory, and it works very well to feather the edges of your compound easily, but I’ve heard folks complain that the planex is hard to use without upgrading the interface pad to their softer version
The Wen sander has performed VERY well for me over the past couple years, and I personally see no reason to spend so much money on the Planex
Milkwaukee Deep Pro Organizer
Organization is critical to productivity
You may have seen people raving about the Milwaukee Packout system. This isn’t it. This is the original Milwaukee organizer that’s been on the market for about 3 years.
I’ve got a pile of these, and I’m not interested in spending twice as much on the packout version, although it works well for commercial contractors that have to tote their tools a long distance on a regular basis.
These boxes are tough, the bins are removable and sturdy, and they have a water resistant seal on the lid
I use these for storing all my fasteners
I have several setup as tool kits for certain tasks, like my pex crimper with fittings and crimp rings, I keep my kreg jig and accessories in another, I even have a large socket set in one, that probably weighs 50 lbs.
These are of high quality, durable construction – made in Israel by Keter
They are the best value of all the boxes of this type currently available
Bosch Self Leveling Cross Beam Laser
A green laser is up to 4x brighter than a red laser.
This extra brightness is very useful in every application. I use this laser all the time to set base cabinets, establish level lines for upper cabinets, for installing wall tile, setting windows, and I’m always finding new ways to use it.
When combined with the Bosch tripod or a Fastcap 3rd hand, you can shoot a plumb line at any angle, or a level line at any height, or both.
One application where this laser particularly shines (sorry) is when installing multiple doors in a hallway. It’s important to make sure all your casing heights are perfectly aligned, and this laser allows you to draw a reference mark at each opening to determine the lowest (or highest, whatever your method is) point of the floor. Then it’s just a little simple math for to cut each jamb leg to the right length and all your doors will be perfect.
Fastcap 3rd Hand
The helper that never calls in sick
The Fastcap 3rd hand poles have a lot of applications both on and off site.
I use them most often to hold the laser out of the way in smaller spaces, with a small clamp on camera mount
The camera mount also works great for, you guessed it, your camera! I use my gopro for time lapses or other videos on these poles
They do a great job separating or securing sheet goods or other cargo inside my van
They come with magnets to allow you to attach plastic sheeting to the end before you lift it up to the ceiling when creating temporary dust barriers (genius!)
I used them the other day to clamp an Onyx shower system in place while the silicone dried
I’ve used them to lift and hold headers into place, straighten warped boards while I fasten them, set cabinets, and more
Pica 3030 Dry Longlife Pencil
Finally, a pencil so expensive you won’t lose it
This seems silly, but that’s my favorite feature. It’s not really a feature, but I’m terrible about keeping track of pencils. At least I was before I got a couple of these Pica pencils. I’ve had them for a couple years and I can tell you exactly where both of them are. Maybe you don’t have a hard time taking care of your standard writing utensils like I used to? Maybe it’s just me?
It’s also a great all around pencil. The lead is pretty thick but the on board sharpener lets you get it very sharp for very accurate marks on finish work.
It’s rugged enough to use for framing
The pencil lives in a plastic sheath that clips onto your pocket or tool bags. This keeps the sharp end safe and it becomes second nature to quickly retrieve it and put it back when you’re finished
Refills come in standard lead, as well as red and yellow crayon – I have found the crayon refills useful for marking tiles to be cut on the wet saw. The water doesn’t wash the mark off immediately and allows the mark to be seen while cutting
I like the Kreg Jig because there is a solution for every budget
I use the K4 pictured here, but there are options available all the way down to $19
No matter which Kreg Jig you pick, your results will be the same – great strong joints
The more you spend, the faster you will accomplish your joinery project(s)
I use mine to build face frame and boxes for cabinets mostly, but I’ve used it for hundreds of other tasks also.
A Silent ratcheting screwdriver – what kind of witchcraft is this?
This Canadian screw-turner is SO SMOOTH – it ratchets but there is absolutely no clicking. I don’t know how they do it, but it works
It will ratchet even with the loosest of fastener. It’s not really necessary to hold the shaft to keep it from turning while ratcheting
It comes with all the bits I use regularly
Bit changes are easy and the design is thoughtful, with little magnets to grab the bits when you push them out. This keeps you from dropping all the time
It’s a pretty good value for a quality tool made in a developed country
From the company that brought us the Collins Coping Foot
Over the years I’ve tried to continually improve my finish carpentry practices. One big change I’ve made that has paid off big time in efficiency, quality, and durability has been the pre-assembly of as much trim as possible. Casings built in a unit with extension jambs and sills built in. Many smaller casing profiles can be glued up and clamped with collins clamps.
They are great for pre-assembly of crown molding for kitchen cabinets. They are effective on inside and outside miters, and leave small marks barely larger than a pin nailer.
I also use them whenever I need to pre-assemble an outside corner while installing baseboard trim
I’ve seen guys make their own by driving a couple drywall screws into the ends of a cheap spring clamp. That is cool, but for the price these are actually a great deal
These are my current favorites that you may have never heard of. Do you have any secret weapons? Leave me a comment if you have a great tool I might be missing out on.