The winter holiday shopping season is absolutely the best time to grow or upgrade your tool collection, and it’s also a great time to stock up on Maker parts, supplies, and breakout boards that you might need for your upcoming projects.
My name’s Stuart, and you might have seen my name in Make’s ToolBox review section, here on Make: online, or maybe you know me from ToolGuyd, my tool news and review blog. I know tools, and I have made it my business to recognize good tools and good tool deals among the paperweights and false bargains.
This post is meant to be a super-condensed cheat sheet. In instances where I’ve already expanded upon a topic, I’ll link back to the relevant ToolGuyd deal posts. My recommendations here are in the context of tools for tinkerers, robotics hobbyists, electronics hobbyists, modders, hackers, and general DIYers. I hope you’ll find this post to be helpful or even vital to your holiday tool and maker parts purchasing decisions.
If you’ve already got a fully equipped toolbox and think there’s nothing left to buy, check out my Ultimate Tool Gift Guide, which is chock-full of good tool recommendations.
(These links take you to different sections on this page.)
Big Box Retailers
Holiday Tool Shopping Tips
All of the Big Box home improvement retailers have dozens of “special buys,” where quantity is sometimes the focus, instead of quality.
I put together some Black Friday tool deal tips last year, but here are the main things to consider:
Buy what you need, want, or could use, and not because of a bigger bargain. For example, there might be a fantastic deal on a table saw with roller stand for $299, but will you use that stand? If not, and you plan to build your own support stand, you’re better off spending that same $299 on a good table saw (e.g. Dewalt DW745) that doesn’t come with a stand.
That 100-piece screwdriver might be a great bargain at $20, but if you only need a few sizes, spend the same money on a smaller but higher quality set.
Most screwdriver and screwdriver bit sets are aimed at homeowners and casual DIYers, not makers, and so you’ll end up with lots of bits you have no need for. Do you really need 20x Phillips #2 bits?
The cheapest drill bit sets suck, but should be usable on soft wood. For anything else, you’ll need to spend more.
Many wrench and socket sets lack the sizes you’ll need for smaller work. They’re more aimed at casual auto maintenance and homeowner-type tasks. If you have to buy several complementary sizes, promo sets quickly lose their appeal.
Home Depot Deals
Summary: Husky tool deals again dominate at Home Depot, at least as far as hand tools go, but there seem to be less maker-friendly options this year. For example, there aren’t any mini pliers sets in the promo tool display section this year.
Still, Home Depot should be your first stop if you’re looking to build a capable and varied assortment of tools.
Top 5 Home Depot Deals
Leatherman Skeletool Multi-Tool for $30 | (Buy)
The Leatherman Skeletool (reviewed on TG) is one my favorite multi-tools ever. It’s a somewhat minimalist tool, with a good knife, combination pliers, screwdriver bit holder, and carabiner clip with bottle opener.
This is the multi-tool one might carry even with a full stocked tool box nearby, at least for the knife and pliers.
It’s uncertain if this deal will be available online or just in stores. I spotted the deal in Home Depot’s leaked Black Friday ad before deals sites had to take the flyer down
Klein 7pc Tool Set for $50 | Buy
I broke out the pricing over at ToolGuyd. Basically, you get ~$100 in tools for just $50. The wire strippers are more intended for residential wiring tasks, and so it won’t handle the finer wires you might be using for your Arduino or small electronics projects.
But for minor home electrical projects, and working on projects with medium gauge wiring, this set is a very good value. There’s a reason many if not most electricians are loyal to the brand – they’re good tools.
Milwaukee 18V Drill and Flashlight Kit for $99 | Buy
This is a good deal at a great price. Last year, the $99 kit was just for the drill, battery, and charger, but this year there’s an LED flashlight thrown in. You also get a canvas bag instead of last year’s hard case.
I’d say this is the best $99 cordless drill kit of the holiday season.
Wiss Aviation Snips for $10 | Buy
You’re not saving a whole lot off the regular price of these sheet metal-cutting snips, but they’re good tools, and you so save about $2 that can go towards something else.
I don’t think my first pair of aviation snips ever touched sheet metal. I used them as general purpose heavy duty cutters, for use on everything from rubber to plastic. The straight-cut snips are good to have around.
Dewalt Utility Knife 2-Pack for $13 | Buy
I don’t know why Home Depot says this knife set is discontinued, all of the local stores have full quarter pallet displays of them. And I also don’t know what the negative reviews are about. It took me less than 30 seconds to load a blade into the knife, and that includes removing the knife from the package and retrieving a blade from the storage compartment.
While folding utility knives are more pocketable and convenient to carry as you move around your workshop, a retractable knife with multiple depth settings is much handier to use.
It looks like you’ll have to leg it to your local HD to get in on this deal.
Summary: When I stepped foot into Lowes at the start of November, I had the preformed assumption that I wouldn’t be buying much. But, to my surprise, I found more and better tool deals than I had been expecting.
Lowes’ Black Friday sales flyer has been posted and discussed on TG, and you can find it at any deals site or Black Friday-focused website.
Top 2 Lowes Deals
Kobalt 5pc Pliers Set for $15 | Buy
I picked up a set of Kobalt pliers a few holiday seasons ago, but the ones they have available now look to have been upgraded. The set shown above is marketed as a “household tool set,” but it’s nicely sized for the kinds of tasks a maker might come across.
These tools are smaller, and while that might be a downside when talking about things like residential maintenance and repair work, it’s great for most Maker needs.
Irwin Screwdriver Set for $16 | Buy
Remember what I said about not buying more screwdrivers than you could use? Well, we can ignore that for a moment with this set. Irwin has only recently come out with screwdrivers, but they go the handles on these drivers just right.
There are a few other Irwin screwdriver bundles on sale, including a 2-piece Phillips and slotted “demo driver” set.
I bought the multi-bit screwdrivers too, mainly for testing and review purposes. I bought this 8pc set to use.
Sears Deals (Mainly Craftsman Tools)
Summary: Sears is mainly promoting their Craftsman house brand this year, and there are some good deals to be had.
I listed out the Sears Black Friday tool deals at TG, but to be frank it’s hardly worth a look. There are some good deals to be found, such as on screwdriver sets and general purpose mechanics tools, such as wrenches and socket sets.
There’s a Craftsman multimeter on sale for $10, but it’s of the basic manual-ranging kind. Not bad if you want an inexpensive first multimeter or a “who cares if I destroy it” beater.
I’m not a fan of Harbor Freight, but lots of people love their cheap tools. It’s worth looking at Harbor Freight for one-time-use tools. For tools that you plan to use regularly, do a Google search for reviews, but also be sure to add “forums” to the query to find better critiques.
Amazon, and plenty of other online retailers, have $25 off $100+ discounts that apply to brands such as Bosch, Dewalt, Hitachi, and Makita. There are exclusions that apply, but this is one way to get a great discount on tools that are rarely on sale.
More DIY-focused brands have smaller discounts, such as Stanley, Porter Cable, and Skil.
I listed out all the Amazon tool brand discounts on TG, but you can find the same info on Amazon. Through that last link you can also find Amazon’s daily deals and Lightning Deals. Their limited time deals aren’t as clearly listed as in previous years. You could alternatively apply a sidebar filter when in their Goldbox deal page, accessible through Amazon’s top menu.
Amazon has been very aggressive in past years, price-matching Home Depot and other retailers on specific deals.
Every year there’s a Shop Vac wet/dry vacuum on sale at Amazon. It’s usually a more premium model than the $40 sale vacs that Home Depot and Lowes heavily promote.
This year’s $40 Ridgid vacuum special at Home Depot has identical specs to last year’s model, that I can tell. The only apparent differences are to the motor housing and dust container. So it’s identical on paper but with a new and different physical design.
Last year, when shopping for a new wet/dry vacuum for myself, I went with the Amazon deal. It’s a better model, but annoying in that the top “handle” is attached to the removable blower, not making it much of a handle. That deal came around twice last year, the Saturday right after Black Friday, and once in December.
Lighting Deal Tip: Unless things have changed, adding a Lightning Deal item to your cart will reserve one for you for up to 15 minutes. That gives you time to think before a high-demand item sells out. But if you let that timer roll to 0, you lose your chance to buy it.
Acme Tools has some decent Black Friday weekend deals this year. I posted their Black Friday flyer on TG. I think the best Maker-focused deal will be that Milwaukee 12V drill and impact driver combo, for $99. Or that Bosch router combo for $185. I have an older Craftsman-rebranded version of that router kit and it’s been a joy to use.
PB Swiss Deals
PB Swiss Tools are among my favorite hand tools. They’re very well made, in some cases proving to be superior to anything else I’ve tried. Their tools almost never go on sale, so this is a good time to try a single pierce or to splurge on lots of upgrades.
Their ball end hex wrenches are particularly good.
Tool Lady is offering 30% off everything, from 11/25th thru 11/28th.
Count on Tools is offering the same – 30% off through the weekend. If you prefer to shop through their Amazon store, because the tools qualify for free Prime Shipping, you’ll still save 10%.
Sorry, I haven’t been excited by any of the pre-Black Friday deals from any of these retailers. Maybe their Black Friday deals will be more appealing.
For Black Friday they’ll have a coupon code for $15 off orders of $175 or more, with code friday15.
Carbide Processors has lots of burs and bits, endmills, CNC tooling, and things like that. I guess it should be obvious, given their name. But they also have good pricing on woodworking router bits and other more general purpose tools.
The 2 best cordless drills of the season, in my opinion, is the Milwaukee M18 drill and flashlight combo, discussed above in the Home Depot section, and this Bosch 18V drill kit. Both are $99, although the Bosch was recently a couple of bucks less.
Thanks to healthy competition, nearly every top-tier cordless power tool brand is competing for a place in your tool box.
There are lots of miter saws on sale this season. While usually used for making straight, angled, and beveled cross cuts in wood, equip them with the right blade and they can be used for cutting non-ferrous metal, such as aluminum, and also plastic.
The best deal of the season? The Hitachi C10FCE2 10″ 15A saw for $119 or less (Buy). It’s nothing special, but that’s also the point. There are no “gotchas,” it’s just a basic saw. It comes with a hold-down clamp and has an extending material support rail, features you don’t always get on “special buy” saws. Shop around, and you can probably find it for less.
There are Black Friday promos on 12″ saws, sliding saws, and saws with stands. Keep in mind that while 12″ and sliding miter saws give you greater cutting capacity, they’re larger and heavier, and 12″ blades cost more than 10″ blades.
I’m never quite sure what to recommend when it comes to portable table saws. Inexpensive saws are usable, and should be safe, but might compromise in too many areas to drive the price lower.
Dewalt’s DW745 is the saw I’d buy for myself on a budget, with its lovely fence adjustment system and great reviews. It’s priced at $299. There’s a Ridgid option for $199, with an extending handle and built-in wheels, and another Ridgid option for $299 that comes with a roller stand (R4513).
Machinist Tools, CNC Accessories, Benchtop Tools, Machinery, Test & Measurement
Zoro Tools usually has a 25% off coupon code — or better — for Black Friday.
MSC usually has a good coupon too, but I recall correctly there’s a high minimum order amount. Their sales flyer has been a great source of upgrades and additions to my own workshop.
Maker Electronics, Parts, and Other Stuff
Every holiday season, I don’t practice what I preach about tools. I buy way more Maker-type stuff than what I need. I buy extra Arduinos, I buy extra breakout boards, I buy extra parts, hardware, and everything in between.
Why? Because I never know what I might need for my next project, or when inspiration might strike and I need an extra joystick, accelerometer, servo, or LED driver.
Maker suppliers carry a lot of the same stuff, so look at their in-house creations, breakout boards, and kits to get the best deals.
Adafruit is perhaps my favorite source for breakouts, LED lighting components, and for things like character and LCD displays.
Coupon ADATHANKS will get you 15% off anything, except for gift certificates and software, Friday thru Cyber Monday.
There’s also a buy more get more promo where you can get a free pin on $99 orders, a free Feather 32U4 board on $150+ orders, and free UPS shipping on $200+ orders.
At Inventables, maker of X-Carve and Carvey CNC router and carving machines, they’re offering decent discounts on new machines, as well as on consumables and supplies.
Machines: $250 off Carvey, $100 off X-Carve, $50 off X-Carve upgrade kit
Bits & Materials: Purchase $200 or more in bits and materials, receive a $50 gift card for a future purchase.
The promo runs until 11/28/16 at 5pm CT.
The Maker Shed will have a slew of goodies on sale. You’ll have to check back on Black Friday to see what’s on sale — there’s no peeking ahead of time, even for me.
Back to Top
I can’t shake the feeling that Pololu doesn’t get as much attention as they should. Their Arduino-compatible A-Star boards are excellent, and I love that there are low voltage options.
I’ve scored some great robotics parts from them in the past, and their Zumo robots are excellent platforms for experimenting and learning.
Pololu has some Doorbuster deals, deep discounts on robots and programmable controllers, and also a “buy more, get free stuff” promo.
Spend $100+, get 1 free item. $150+? 2 free items. $200+ gets you 2 free items and a t-shirt, and $250+ gets you 3 free items and a t-shirt.
There are coupon codes involved, but you can click here to add them all to your cart.
It doesn’t look like ServoCity has a Black Friday sale, but there is a nice Cyber Monday deal in the works.
- Free shipping on orders $50+
- 25% off ALL Hitec servos
- Up to 35% off Actobotics
- 25% off Gear Motors
- 25% off ALL Robot Kits
- Up to 65% off lots of other products like servo extensions, wire, connectors, servo and motor controllers, NiCAD batteries
The link below goes straight to their deal page, where you can see what’s on sale.
Actobotics is their modular aluminum construction system. I can’t say enough good things about it, it’s great for beginners and seasoned Makers alike. You could use it to build anything from an awesome robot to a camera dolly.
This will be a good time to stock up on robotics parts and things like that. Their fully assembled Actobotics Servo Controller is on sale and includes clamping hubs, a motor controller I’ve had my eye on, their new X-rail construction component, off-road robot tires… you get the idea.
If you’re into robotics or projects that move, find time on Monday to check out these deals.
Sparkfun will be running specials from Black Friday through Cyber Monday. They said that their sale will start Friday, with 20% off most of our catalog, and that there will be special sale items, and even special edition kits.
Stuart Deutsch writes more about tools and workshop topics over at ToolGuyd.