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Whether you rent or own the place where you live, odds are you’ll either be tempted or driven by necessity to make some repairs and alterations. To do it well and efficiently, you will need tools. And while better tools might not turn you into the next Bob Vila, they should make your average home-improvement project infinitely less daunting. Here are nine tools for neophytes and super-skilled DIYers alike.
Automatic Adjustable Wrench
Lots of tool kits sell multiple wrenches in multiple sizes, but you really only need a couple. Or maybe just one! Adjustable wrenches can be re-sized to accomplish a wide range of tasks, and this one is even easier to use, automatically adjusting itself to any size up to 1 1/4 inches. No more fumbling behind the pipes under the sink to fit the wrench properly–the Autowrench does it for you. You just push a button and you get 220 foot-pounds of torque sized to your specifications. $25, Black and Decker
A Robotic Screwdriver
Not every home project calls for a drill, and sometimes you just can’t use one–like when assembling furniture, boring very small holes, and so on. In that case you might turn to a nice set of screwdrivers in a variety of sizes and hand grips. That would also be a nice gift. But hand tools don’t solve the problem of repetitive rotation. This does! This is not a drill–it’s a screwdriver that can sense your motion and spin its bit for you. It’s the first tool that brings hand gestures, so familiar for users of iPads and Kinects and so on, to the DIY world. You don’t have to spin a hand grip, and you don’t have to press down a trigger, either–the drill automatic screwdriver has a gyroscope and a microprocessor that translate the speed and direction you wish your screwhead to rotate. $40, Black and Decker
An Indestructible Destroyer
Sometimes home improvement requires a little home destruction. The Bad Ass Sledgehammer will make it a little less painful. The B.A.S.H. has an ergonomically designed neck that absorbs vibrations, and it’s so tough that its manufacturer, Wilton, has offered $1,000 to anyone who destroys it during normal use. From tiles to drywall, this tool will take down anything in its path and live to tell about it. Sizes/prices vary: $80 for 8-pound, 36-inch model, Wilton Tools
This tool is actually many tools in one. It can be wielded, alternately, as a: wrench; chisel; nail puller; ax; and hammer. It is 14 inches long and made of steel (and annihilation). $40, ThinkGeek
When a sledgehammer or annihilator won’t do, turn to a concrete-eating robot instead. The Stanley LaBounty F16 can rip through walls, snip rebar, and pulverize concrete about as fast as a six-person wrecking crew armed with handheld tools. This robot is really better at smashing up huge surfaces, like malls–its drop hammer can demolish 1,000 square feet of concrete floor an hour–but your DIYer could always use it to take apart a driveway really, really fast. $135,000, or about $4,000/week rental, Stanley Hydraulic Tools
Nobody could possibly remember all the dimensions in a house, so what to do when inspiration strikes and you don’t have everything memorized? Use these apps that keep them all organized for you, with photos you take on your smartphone. First you measure whatever you want to measure with an actual measuring tape, and then take a photo of the wall or whatever you just measured. Then you can draw a line on the image and write down its dimensions. Now next time you’re staring at a nice new spice rack, you can pull up this app and check the dimensions of your kitchen cupboards to see if it will fit. My Measures & Dimensions, $3 from iTunes store or $5 from Android Market SIZEd, free on the iTunes store
RK5102K SoniCrafter Deluxe 72-Piece Kit
This tool could be the Swiss army knife of your garage. It can be used for sanding, scraping, cutting, rasping and much more, thanks to a series of attachments, many of which come in the starter kit. (You can buy others, too.) Instead of a rotating or reciprocating blade, the Sonicrafter uses a superfast oscillation motion, swinging the blade from side to side. It can oscillate up to 20,000 times per minute, according to the manufacturer. You can remove tile, cut wood, trim carpet, edge tight corners and more, all with one tool. $140, Amazon
A flashlight is an indispensable tool, but sometimes you need both hands, like when you have to wriggle a wrench to the right size (should’ve bought the automatically adjusting one!). When that happens, you’ll want a lantern you can leave on the floor. This lantern can do both, working as a flood light and a directed flashlight. Hang it up and its three reflectors bounce light into a beam; sit it down and the reflectors fall away like tulip petals, resulting in diffuse, lantern-like light. Also great for camping! $150, Snow Peak
A Re-Routing Router
This is a DIY project inside a DIY project–total DIY awesomeness. This router automatically re-routes its rout, ensuring a precise cut for any project. After a frustrating woodworking project gone wrong, some MIT students wrote a program that continually creates a two-dimensional map for a router. The user only has to be accurate within a quarter inch. It’s better than a CNC router because it can cut anything, not just items that are smaller than itself. You can read more about how the students did it here.