5 tools our DIY experts will never replace

Published: July 10, 2020

caterpillar work boots shot on white, tool Photo by Liam Mogan

You can’t celebrate cottage icons without acknowledging the putterers. And where would they be if they didn’t have their trusty companions? We asked frequent Workshop contributors to tell us about their favourite tools. This is why they love them and why they’ll never get rid of them.

caterpillar work boots shot on white, tool
Photo by Liam Mogan

My favourite workboots
I’ve been wearing workboots for 45 years, but the ones I’ve been wearing for the last 18 months are the best I’ve ever owned for three reasons. First, they’re exceptionally light, thanks to a non-metal composite toecap and sole plate. They’re still rated for professional use—the composite material delivers full protection without the weight of steel (it also makes them light enough for hiking). Second, these leather boots are completely waterproof. They’ve never leaked. And third, the tops of these mid-height boots have hooks rather than holes for laces, making them much easier to tighten and loosen.—Steve Maxwell

Pro tip 
Treating leather boots with Neatsfoot oil is more effective than using silicone spray.

crosscut saw on white
Photo by Liam Mogan

The best saw I’ve ever used
If your cottage sports a two-person crosscut saw, you’re in luck. A saw in usable condition means a way to get some exercise, cut wood without pollution, and enjoy good ol’-fashioned teamwork. I have many fond memories of cutting wood with one of my sons or a friend at the other end of a saw.

Those that aren’t too rusty are likely to be serviceable, though the handles may need tightening. Remove minor rust by sanding with emery cloth, taking care to steer your fingers clear of tooth edges. Rub the leftover end of a candle over both saw faces to reduce friction and limit resin buildup.
When sawing, remember to take turns pulling the saw across the wood, never pushing away from yourself, and before long, you’ll be taking home crosscut ribbons at your local fall fair.—Sean Ledoux

Pro tip
Use long strokes for straighter, smoother cuts. It’ll help the blade last longer too.

estwing hammer shot on white, tool
Photo by Liam Mogan

A hammer I’ll never replace
When I was 16, my brother-in-law gave me a well-used 22 oz milled face Estwing framing hammer. Today, I’m 54, and it’s still one of my favourite tools for driving and removing nails. A single piece of forged steel, it’s also my go-to for general destruction. I use it to break rocks, punch holes in plywood, and pound dents from steel plates. The claw can dig trenches in frozen gravel, split boards, and cut rope. Sure, the milled face has been smashed flat, but the rubber grip still shines as a huge pencil eraser. It’s the right tool for just about every job.—David Zimmer

a hand holding the construction master pro app on a phone shot on white, tool
Photo by Liam Mogan

An essential tool, digitized
Like most folks in the trade, I still cling to imperial measurements. And fractions mean I have to trust my arithmetic skills. That was, until I acquired the Construction Master Pro calculator, which eliminated the need for mental math.

The only downside is, as with most tools, it’s nowhere to be found when I need it most. The solution: give the physical model away and download the app to my phone. Naturally, a highly sophisticated app has many functions, but for calculating fractions alone it has been a lifesaver.—Wayne Lennox

black and dekker drill shot on white, tool
Photo by Liam Mogan

Why I saved my first drill
One of my first power tools was a black and orange drill that my parents gave me. It was cordless and clunky and weighed about 5 lbs, but I was a teenager and ready to build anything. I’ve gone through numerous drills since, but this one holds a special place in my heart. These days the drill is only used for one thing—to pre-drill holes for my fishing hut anchors, so it lives with my ice-fishing gear with a ½” drill bit permanently attached. But just like anything I catch, it’s a keeper.—Adam Holman

Featured Video