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Bright ideas light the way to perfect presents

Tiny LEDs are a component of many of our tool gift suggestions this year. Look for multi-tools that do more than double duty, too.

By Judy Stark, Times Homes and Garden Editor
Published December 15, 2007


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[Handout]
Ratcheting Hex Wrench is $16.99 at some Ace and True Value stores, or buy online.

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[Handout]
The Bit Dr. is $24.95 at loggerheadtools.com.

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[Handout]
This open tool tote is $19.99 at Ace stores.

Rudolph's nose must be powered by LEDs. That's why it glows so bright and lasts all night for Santa's journey.

Virtually everything else is powered by LEDs this year, including the National Christmas Tree in Washington. Those tiny light-emitting diodes use very little electricity, burn forever and stay cool. They power up a number of our gift suggestions for those who think there's a good reason that "yule" rhymes with "tool": to remind you to get them what they want. 

Flashlights: 

- Flashlights, for example, from smallest to largest, now operate with bulbs powered by LEDs, which lengthen bulb life to tens of thousands of hours and extend battery life to days, not hours. Educate yourself about LED flashlights at www.equipped.com, where you'll learn, among other things, that LEDs don't have a true white light. It's actually blue, but a micro-thin coating fluoresces when struck by the blue light, generating a white light.

- You'll find lots of light choices at hardware stores and home centers. An 8-inch MagLite (www.maglite.com)is about $22. Husky, a Home Depot exclusive brand (www.homedepot.com), has a four-pack of aluminum flashlights for $20 that comes with nine AAA batteries. (Decorate the package with Husky's LED-lighted key ring for $1.99.) Coast, a manufacturer of all manner of lighting devices and knives (www.coastcutlery.com), offers LED flashlights in various sizes, strengths and configurations starting at around $20.

- Be ready for anything with the ultimate Florida gift: the combination candleholder-flashlight, which combines the useful with the ornamental. Made of rubber and standing 11 inches tall, it offers a candleholder on one end, a flashlight on the other (powered by an included LEDbulb and three AAA batteries, not included). You're ready for hurricane season '08. They come in moss, stone and brick; $45 each. Available at Being at Baywalk, St. Petersburg, or order from www.mxyplyzyk.com; click on mxypixs.

Multi-tools: 

- The Leatherman brand of multi-tool was a big hit a couple of years back, and now many manufacturers and big-box retailers have their own house-brand variation on it: a single pocket-size tool with lots of blades, pliers, cutters, bottle openers - it's a Swiss army knife on steroids, and that's a compliment. They're great for do-it-yourselfers, campers, gardeners.

- Among the standouts here: The 6-in-1 Multi Tool from Duluth Trading includes an LED bulb powered by 3 watch batteries (included) to function as a flashlight or light up your work. It has a needle-nose plier/wire cutter, 2-inch drop-point blade, 2-inch saw blade, can opener and leather punch. It's $14.50 at www.duluthtrading.com.

- The original Leatherman brand (www.leatherman.com) is available at Lowe's, Kmart, Wal-Mart, Sears and Target, among other places. Price: less than $20 to more than $100, depending on how much multitasking you want one tool to do.

Chargers: 

- Stocking up on batteries at Christmas used to be mandatory to keep the kids' toys operating. Now we need to take steps so everyone's battery-powered entertainment and communications gear keeps functioning. Energizer has aninstant cell phone charger(about $20 at the big boxes), powered by two AA batteries, into which you plug your phone when it starts to fade. The label indicates which brand of phone works with different models of chargers, and you can plug a phone into the charger in the package before you buy to make sure it works.

- The Energizer Duo recharges batteriesby plugging into the USB port of your computer (or into a wall outlet). If the iPod is fading, here's help. It's also about $20, including two AAA batteries.

- For the road warrior on your list who's tired of carrying a tangle of chargers and extra batteries, Black & Decker offers Power to Go power supplies. A built-in 120-volt AC outlet powers laptops, portable DVD players or cell-phone chargers. A USB port recharges MP3 players, digital cameras and PDAs. You don't need special tips or adapters. There are three sizes, which run on rechargeable Nickel-Metal Hydride batteries, and are priced at $19.99, $29.99 and $49.99.

For your toolbox: 

- On a low-tech note, Husky's Mechanical Carpenter Pencilsharpens itself as it is used, thanks to DuraLead, which is actually a lead-free mixture of clay and graphite. Simply rub it on a piece of sandpaper, concrete floor, or any abrasive material to get a sharp edge for accuracy. It can also be filed to a strong, razor-sharp tip, allowing the user to get closer to a speed square than any other pencil. $1.99 at Home Depot.

- Loosening some rusted screws on an outdoor light fixture was a whole lot easier recently with the Ratcheting Hex Wrench from Professional Tool. This is an incredibly powerful little tool that comes with nine keys, standard or metric. See the video at www.ratchetinghexwrench.com; buy online or at some Ace and True Value stores; $16.99.

- The Bit Dr. from Loggerhead Tools is just 4 inches long, but it does the work of a 21-piece driver set. Ten double-sided bits fit in a carriage that acts as a cushioned rubber handle. There are six driving positions (including a high-torque T), three length adjustments and a ratcheting function. The Bit Dr. is $24.95 at loggerheadtools.com, or order toll-free at 1-888-564-4374.

- Skil's Lithium Ion Power Wrench accepts all quarter-inch sockets, has forward and reverse operations and comes with an adapter to convert the wrench into a right-angle drill driver. The battery is designed to hold a full charge for 18 months, even if left off the charger. Details at www.skil.com. Available at home centers and hardware stores; suggested retail is $59.99.

The tote: 

You're going to need something to bag up all this swag, and this year everybody's got some variation on the open tool tote. These are soft-sided bags that look something like an old-fashioned doctor's bag, with a rigid framework. Pockets, hooks, dividers, straps and pouches keep the contents in place. Depending on size and on the complexity of the organizing system, they range in price from $10 to $35. This one, at Ace hardware, is $19.99.

Judy Stark can be reached at (727) 893-8446 or stark@sptimes.com. Information from Alan J. Heavens of the Philadelphia Inquirer was included in this report.

[Last modified December 14, 2007, 10:20:30]


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