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2020’s best gift-worthy tools for technicians

As we enter colder days (at least here in the midwest) and head into the holiday season, it is once again time to think about gifts for the special people in your life (which includes yourself!).

The techtown tool team took some time to browse the web and dig in our own tool collections to track down tools that were worthy of our list. These tools were selected because they are particularly handy, especially cheap or just plain amazing.

The list:

Goldblatt 8 inch all-in-one pliers

Goldblatt 8 inch all in one pliers

The Goldblatt all-in-one pliers didn’t make it into our recent list of the best pliers for technicians, but that is because we had so many other great options.

These slick pliers are one part combination and one part linesman pliers rolled into one. Complete with “sure grip” jaws, wire cutter, bolt cutters, and wire strippers.

They are definitely not the first to combine all of these features in one, but at just $12 they are one of the cheapest. Despite the low price, the pliers feel really well made, something not always found at this price point.

Keep in mind that these are not insulation rated, so not a suitable gift for those who need to work on or around energized equipment.

Price: $11.99
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Flir thermal imaging camera

Flir thermal imaging camera

Just ten years ago, thermal imaging cameras were mostly unobtainable by anyone without a spare $1500. Thanks to miniaturizations of the sensor module and the ability to do measurements without the need for external cryogenic cooling, thermal imagers have become incredibly cheap. In fact, you can regularly find one of these tools for under $150.

It is hard to recommend just one single model since each technician will have their own special requirements, and some might even prefer a thermal imager combined with a different measuring tool (like a multimeter or hygrometer). Some of the leaders in the industry even offer thermal imaging cameras combined with a clamp or regular multimeter, allowing for a combination of measurements in a single device.

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Thermal imaging cameras are great resources for troubleshooting a variety of equipment and can be used to do things like tracking down leaking gaskets, finding overheating bearings or locating overloaded wiring or other components.

Price: ~$150 and up
Buy from: Amazon

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Klein 4-in-1 precision screwdriver

Klein 4 in 1 precision screwdriver

My trusty Klein Tools 4-in-1 precision screwdriver is so helpful that I actually purchased a few more for my workbench, robotics kit, backpack tool kit and my desk – I love it that much.

The screwdriver isn’t that complex – a rotating cap, traditional Klein Tools yellow body, double-ended barrel and double-headed bits on each end.

The 2 bits each have a Philips and slotted tip, which means I always have the four most used sizes in a single screwdriver. The bits are of great quality and come non-magnetized. In my case, I magnetized them myself, but some users may prefer them as they come.

Prices vary, but you’ll always be able to find it somewhere for around $10.

Price: ~$10
Buy from: Klein Tools

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Rolgear 8-in-1 screwdriver

Rolgear 8 in 1 screwdriver

The ratcheting mechanism patented by Rolgear is super-smooth and silent with “zero-backlash” and precision adjustments. The high torque selection includes a locking mode.

Best of all, the screwdriver can hold 7 double-sided bits (6 in the handle and one in the barrel). Included with the basic model is an assortment of the most used Philips, slotted, square and Torx bits.

The bits and the barrel are magnetized, and can, of course, do double duty by being used in most power tools.

Price: $24.95
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Gerber Shard Multi-tool

Gerber Shard multi-tool

If you need something really cheap as a gift, then the Gerber Shard could be the perfect solution. Available at most Gerber retailers for under $6, the tool technically has 7 tools in 1, all without any moving parts or accessories to lose.

Includes small and medium flat drivers, Philips head driver, wire stripper, pry bar, bottle opener, & lanyard hole. While I’m not entirely sure that a “lanyard hole” can be counted as an actual tool, most of the other functions really do work fine (in a pinch).

The Shard can be clipped to a bag or keychain, carried through the airport and will even survive a dip in the pool thanks to its titanium nitride coating.

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Price: ~$6
Available from: Amazon

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Dremel Go cordless screwdriver

While the grey and blue of Dremel may be synonymous with the hobby market, their new Go cordless screwdriver is one tool that is also perfectly usable in the toolbox of a pro. The screwdriver is compact, has excellent battery life, can be charged with a USB cable and most importantly has great torque.

Operation is simple; a selection switch for the direction, and automatic start and stop by pressing down on the screw.

In Europe, the exact same product is sold by Bosch in its traditional dark green (Bosch owns Dremel), so don’t let the brand here in the States trick you into thinking this isn’t a pro’s friend. Additional features include a speed selector, battery gauge and a selection of basic bits (which you’ll probably want to replace).

Price: $39.99
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Wera KK10 Kraftform Kompakt 10 piece bit set

Wera 10 piece Kraftform Kompakt bit set

Sometimes a tool looks so good that it feels bad giving it the usual scars of heavy use. The Kraftform line from Wera is a good example of this. This German brand makes tools where the fit and finish is second to none. The “Kompakt” is a small plastic holder with a mini screwdriver and an assortment of Wera bits.

I’ll admit that it took a little practice to figure out how to open the holder, as it snaps in place to prevent the bits from falling out, but my favorite feature is the locking collar in the screwdriver, ensuring the bits are kept firmly in place.

Price: from $32.99
Available from: KC Tool Company

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Wiha 35 Piece Bit Ratchet Compact Storage Box Set

Wiha 35 piece micro bit ratchet box set

While on the topic of top-notch German tools, this Wiha compact ratchet set is another personal favorite. Enclosed in a small metal box are 35 of the best bits I’ve ever owned, along with a micro-ratchet and a locking holder.

Anyone receiving this set will be thrilled to make it part of their go-to tool assortment, even if it just ends up as the bit storage for their more traditional tools. These are not the kind of bits that start crumbling as soon as you put them to use!

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Price: ~$55
Available from: Amazon

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SOG Switchplier

SOG Switchplier 2.0 multi-tool

Part multi-tool and part switchblade, the coolest part of the SOG Switchpliers is its one-button operation. Press it, and the folding pliers pop out and open up ready for use. The spring-loaded pliers feature lever-actuated movement, making full use of the small space available.

The pliers have the usual grip jaws, as well as hardened wire cutters. The 6 tools are on the inside of the handles, with individual locks on the outside, something every multi-tool should feature because I’ve used far too many tools that almost chopped off a finger when the knife would unexpectedly fold shut.

In addition to the pliers, the following tools are on the Switchplier: bottle opener, can opener, 3 sided file, 2 flat screwdrivers, Philips screwdriver and the usual “ruler” on the outside, which I can confidently say I’ve never once used on any of my multi-tools.

Price: $59.95
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Elitech RC-51 USB logging Thermometer

Elitech RC 51 USB temperature logger

The Elitech RC-51 USB thermometer is a thermometer with a twist – while it can work like your typical fridge/freezer thermometer, you can also leave it behind and have it generate a great looking PDF with the temperature results over a specific period.

Setup is a breeze, simply plug the RC 51 into a USB port, launch the software and configure the settings for your logging session. This includes how many measurements you want in the log, along with more generic things like time, timezone and ℃/℉.

Accurate in environments between -22℉~158℉ to ±0.9 ℉, its (replaceable) battery lasts for up to 32000 recordings. At just over $25, it is cheap enough to leave behind at a client site and not worry too much about it disappearing, the RC-51 is so popular with service companies and restaurants that Elitech sells them in packs of 10, 25 and 50.

Price: from $25
Available from: Elitech Store

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Editors note: All products in this list were purchased and tested by us, no products were supplied by the manufacturers.