The Best Tools Pros Use (and DIYers Should, Too)

By Elizabeth Flaherty, The Family Handyman

Do-Everything Electrical Tester

Al Hildenbrand, master electrician, has several favorite tools. But the one dearest to his heart and the workhorse of his stable is the Greenlee GT-95 electrical tester. It’s durable and easy to use. The feature that sold Al was the ability to test for a hot wire without the need for a known ground. You simply hold the tester in your hand and touch one probe to the wire you want to test. Push the test button to see if the wire is hot. The GT-95 also features a GFCI tester, a non-contact voltage tester and a continuity tester in addition to a digital and LED display for reading voltage.The GT-95 costs about $80 online, but it’s the only tester you’re likely to need.

The Secret to Super-Smooth Finishes

Bill, a painting pro, has two favorite tools for helping him achieve a flawless finish. One is this handy cone filter stand Bill picked up at a paint store many years ago. And the other is mesh socks, available at paint stores and home centers, to strain latex paint before using it.Buy a strainer stand like this for $10.50 at

Dean’s Do-Everything Tool

This hooked knife is intended for linoleum and vinyl flooring work, but Dean, a tile setter, likes it for a host of other tasks. He uses the sharp point to lift misplaced or ill-fitting tiles, and to score backer board. He also uses the knife to clean thin-set from between tiles before grouting, but for this he prefers one that’s used and dull. And at $5 a pop for these handy knives, you really can’t go wrong keeping a few in your toolbox.Dean says, 'I picked up the use of a lino knife from working alongside a seasoned jack-of-all-trades flooring installer.'

Kirk’s Helping Hand

When you use a router table or shaper to produce a decorative edge, it’s critical to simultaneously press the board down and into the fence while you’re pushing it forward. Kirk, a pro woodworker, discovered that Board Buddies are perfect for this task. The rollers are shaped to push in and down. And are available in three versions: clockwise, counterclockwise and freewheeling. If you want to provide anti-kickback safety as well, choose a one-way roller.If you can’t find Board Buddies at a local woodworking store, look for them online. 

Super-Simple Sharpener

Like most woodworkers, Dave Munkittrick relies on sharp chisels and planes for his livelihood. He has a large collection of sharpening tools, but his favorite sharpening device is the WorkSharp system shown here, which sharpens chisels and plane blades quickly with no mess. The best part is that you don’t need any practice to get a razor-sharp edge. The WS 2000 shown costs $100 at home centers and online. The WS 3000 is available on Amazon here.Dave Says, 'I used to put off sharpening because it was such a hassle. With this machine, sharpening is a quick task, not a project.'

Costas’ Mini-Cutter

Costas is an appliance repair pro, and he has a ton of cool specialty tools for appliance repairs. But his Dremel tool is the one that often gets him out of binds. Costas fits his Dremel with an abrasive cutoff wheel to remove the heads from stuck sheet metal screws, cut through rusted-on laundry hoses and remove corroded appliance parts. Get this high-performance rotary tool now.Costas says, 'This little tool has gotten me out of some bad jams.'

Time-Saving Triangle

When Jeff Timm installs paver patios and driveways, he focuses on top-quality workmanship in the most efficient way possible. This giant triangle is perfect because it allows him to quickly and accurately chalk square layout lines. He could do the same thing using the 3-4-5 triangle method, but this is faster. Just align the chalk line with the edge of the triangle and snap the line. The triangle folds to take up less room in the truck. 

Boot Saver

Jeff is hard on boots. Unfortunately, the dirt, gravel, stones and pavers chew up the toe box before the rest of the boot wears out. But he found a solution. He coats the toes of his boots with Boot Guard, and it really works. With a $12 investment, you can save your favorite $100 work boots from premature death. Look for Boot Guard at a shoe store or online at

No-Scratch Duster

Bill Nunn, master painter, says, 'Tack rags are good, but you need to vacuum to get a really smooth finish.' So Bill vacuums everything before he paints it. He thinks the brushes that come with shop vacuums are too stiff, though. 'They can scratch the surface and don’t pick up fine dust.' And that’s why he replaced the dusting brush on his shop vacuum with a horsehair brush, which he got for $8 at a vacuum cleaner shop. Take your hose and wand along with you to find a brush that fits. No vacuum cleaner shop near you? Search online for 'horsehair vacuum cleaner brush.' 

Terry’s Magic Dirt Drill

If you’ve ever had to run a wire or pipe under a sidewalk or driveway, you know there aren’t many easy options. But Terry discovered this unique tool that solves the problem. Terry says, 'The Borit tool saved me and my customers the expense and mess of trenching through gardens and busting up driveways.' To use this tool, connect a drill and garden hose to the cylinder. And then thread on a length of pipe and screw the boring bit to the end. Water lubricates the bit as it bores through the ground.You can buy the tool online ($200 to $265) and see a video of the Borit in action at

Les’ Quick Cutter

Plumbers spend a lot of time cutting copper pipe, so it’s not surprising that one of Les’ favorite tools is a tubing cutter, but not just any tubing cutter. And the one Les, a master plumber, likes doesn’t require any adjusting. You just slip it over the copper tube and spin it to cut.You can buy the Kopex tubing cutter shown here for $33 at Pace Machinery Group. You’ll find similar tubing cutters at some home centers and hardware stores. But keep in mind that you’ll have to buy a separate cutter for each size tubing. Les says, 'I’ve tried other tubing cutters, but they just don’t last.'

Diamond Hole Saw

Diamond hole saws are no secret to tile setters like Dean Sorem. But what’s surprising is that you can buy one at home centers for as little as $20. Diamond grits embedded in the perimeter of the hole saw cut through tough materials like stone and porcelain tile. And this makes short work of what used to be a difficult task. The 1/4-in. hole saw is really handy if you need to drill mounting holes in tile for grab bars or other fixtures. The bit we purchased included a guide and a bottom seal that allows you to contain a pool of water around the bit to keep it cool and eliminate dust. Get a full set of diamond hole saws now. Disclosure: This post is brought to you by The Family Handyman editors, who aim to highlight products and services you might find interesting. If you buy them, we get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our commerce partners. We frequently receive products free of charge from manufacturers to test. This does not drive our decision as to whether or not a product is featured or recommended. We welcome your feedback.


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Daily News | local news, US news, world news and much more!: The Best Tools Pros Use (and DIYers Should, Too)
The Best Tools Pros Use (and DIYers Should, Too)
Daily News | local news, US news, world news and much more!
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