Hi there, my name is Stuart, and you might have seen some of my posts here on Make: before. If you’re a subscriber or catch the print issues at the newsstand, maybe you have seen my name in the ToolBox review section, which I have been working on for the past year and a half.
Or maybe you know me from ToolGuyd, my tool news and review site.
Regardless of what you might have heard elsewhere, the winter holiday shopping season is the BEST time to buy new tools. There are great-bang-for-the-buck “special buys” that help beginners quickly expand their tool collections, and more subtle or harder to find deals that advanced tinkerers, DIYers, and Makers can take advantage of to save on more specialty tools that are hardly ever discounted any other time of year.
This post is meant to serve as a sort of super-condensed cheat sheet of the best tool deals I have found so far for this year’s Black Friday and Holiday shopping season. To keep things short(er), I link out to existing ToolGuyd tool deal discussions any place I think Make: readers might want greater depth.
A lot of this post is compiled straight from previous ToolGuyd Black Friday & Holiday tool deal discussions.
Whether you’re looking to buy some new hand tools, power tools, woodworking tools, CNC tooling, benchtop machinery, full-sized shop equipment, or even advanced test and measurement tools (e.g. oscilloscopes, function generators, etc.), hopefully you’ll find this post to be helpful.
I would also encourage you take a look through my Ultimate Tool Gift Guide, which I’m sure will give you a couple of ideas to add to your tool wish list or shopping list this year.
Lastly, before we get started, if you find a fantastic tool deal that you think other Make: readers would love, please consider sharing it in a comment!
(These links take you to different sections on this page.)
Big Box Retailers
Holiday Tool Shopping Tips
You can quickly expand your tool collection with the very many “special buys” at home improvement centers. But for every good deal, there are plenty more that you might want to avoid.
A good test as to whether a tool, tool set, or accessory assortment is a good buy, is to ask yourself whether you would buy that exact same product at the exact same price any other time of the year if it was sitting on a shelf or peg in the tool aisle.
For example, a 60-piece screwdriver bit set for $15 might seem like a good buy, until you realize that it only comes with 6 different sizes and styles of bits, with 24 of them being Phillips #2 bits. As a Maker, you’re going to want a wider assortment of hex, Torx, and other bit styles.
If you’re interested, here are some more specific Black Friday tool deal shopping tips.
Home Depot Deals
Summary: From what I have seen so far, Home Depot has the best Black Friday and holiday tool deals, at least as far as general use and Maker-suitable hand and power tools are concerned. They have some unique Husky offerings (Husky is HD’s house brand), such as pistol-grip pliers, mini precision pliers, and hex keys that are worth a closer look.
They also have some workshop staples in the tool deals “gift center,” such as tool storage cabinets and portable workbenches.
There are also very many power tool deals already live, and we saw a few more appealing deals in their sales flyer (which hasn’t been made public yet). Ryobi — one of HD’s private label power tool brands — offers much bang for your buck, but you might want to look closely at their least expensive cordless power tool kits for possible tradeoffs.
Top 5 Home Depot Tool Deals
The Skeletool is a fantastic minimalist multi-tool that features pliers, wire cutters, a multi-bit screwdriver, knife blade, bottle opener, and carabiner clip. I only reviewed my Leatherman Skeletool last May, but it’s given me 7 years of service before that, and it’s still going strong.
This is the best Leatherman holiday promo I ever remember seeing.
Make no mistake: This is a $40 shop vacuum that’s being sold for $40. Maybe it’s worth a little more, but it’s certainly not an $80+ vac. Even so, it delivers more functionality and capacity than you can find elsewhere for the same money. You might want to buy some hearing protection too — some users have said it’s loud (although are there any quiet vacs?).
With “special buy” power tool kits, one must look for tradeoffs. I couldn’t find any here. You get a great 12V-class compact drill, a compact reciprocating saw, a charger, and 2 batteries, and for the same price as just the drill kit normally sells for.
P.S. This is the same drill that was recommended in a previous Make: ToolBox review.
I have had good experiences with Husky tools, and spotted quite a few good hand tool deals at Home Depot’s gift center. Some of the tools are a little gimmicky, but others provide great bang for the buck. If I were building up a tool set from scratch and on a budget, maybe half of the tools would be picked from Husky’s holiday offerings.
I really like the handles on Dewalt’s new screwdrivers — they’re just really comfortable to use. Although I typically prefer screwdriver sets to have more than 4 standalone driver sizes, this one makes up for it by including a 1/4″ hex bit holder that can be used with any standard insert bit.
If you’ve been making due with uncomfortable screwdrivers, give these a try. Your hands will thank you.
Other Notable Home Depot Deals:
Summary: There are some good reasons to shop at Lowes’ Black Friday and Holiday tool deals section, although not as many as I’ve found at Home Depot.
The better deals at Lowes this year are their Bosch power tool accessories. Lowes’ Bosch drill bit, jig saw blade, and reciprocating saw blade assortments come with “everyday” accessories, and not cheapened “special holiday savings” ones, at least not to my knowledge. If you’re buying (or expect to receive) a new power tool this season, pick up the corresponding Bosch bit or blade set.
Kobalt, Lowes’ house brand of hand tools, always comes out with some worthy “stocking stuffer” sized tool sets, such as micro bit ratchet sets, multi-bit precision screwdrivers, and the such. My Make: review of a Kobalt precision screwdriver set is a great example of this.
Brands to look for: Lowes has more deals on DIYer and Maker power tool brands this year, such as Dremel, Porter Cable, Rockwell, and Worx. Some of the Porter Cable cordless tool sets are “holiday specials,” but if you can live with the tradeoffs they look to be decent value offerings.
Sears Deals (Mainly Craftsman Tools)
Summary: Like Home Depot and Lowes, Sears primarily focuses on promoting their Craftsman house brand during the holiday season. But while the others typically have a lot more “special buy” tools, which are specially made or assembled tool sets or assortments that are primarily marketed during holiday shopping seasons, Sears’ strategy seems to be a bit different.
Walking through the tool gift centers at the local Sears, it seems to me that most of their deals are regular off-the-shelf tools and sets. That’s a good thing, but it also means that you won’t often see better discounts compared to the rest of the year.
Black Friday prices at Sears aren’t anything special, from what I have seen this year, although there are still plenty of great deals available.
You’ll find a lot of former Craftsman tool fans grumbling about how Sears and Craftsman outsourced too many of their hand tools in recent years, myself included, but Craftsman’s hand tool selection continues to dominate competitors.
Sears should be one of your destinations if you’re looking for mechanics tool sets (although consider Husky and Kobalt’s too), wrench sets, mechanics tool accessories (such as socket extensions and adapters), and other such things.
I generally prefer Ryobi’s 18V power tool lineup to Craftsman’s C3 cordless tool lineup, but individual offerings are often evenly matched.
Reasons to Stop by Sears: Mechanics tools, tool storage, multimeters, other specialty tools.
Harbor Freight has a lot of Black Friday deals, and there are plenty of coupons plastered on their homepage as well. Harbor Freight is the king of cheap tools, but it can sometimes be difficult to separate the gems from the junk. The good news is that, if you choose wrong, you won’t be out a lot of money.
Amazon, along with some other online distributors, is offering $25 off $100+ discounts on top tool brands, with some exclusions.
There are separate Bosch, Dewalt, Hitachi, and Makita $25 off $100+ select tool order promos, and a number of lesser money-off deals for other brands.
It’s a great time to expand your cordless power tool collection, pick up a new corded or benchtop power tool, splurge on that woodworking jig you’ve been hankering for, or stock up on high quality accessories.
That Dewalt Tough System modular tool box I reviewed here a few years ago? Yep, eligible for the $25 off $100+ savings.
You can find most of the deals here, or check out the list I’ve been maintaining of tool brand discounts, via the link below.
Amazon typically has some tool deals mixed into their daily limited time and limited supply “Lightning Deals,” although the deals have been very disappointing so far this year. But these deals are more about impulsively buying a tool you didn’t know you needed.
I have only recently been refamiliarized with Acme Tool, and was surprised at the breadth of their product selection. They offer most of the same holiday brand discounts as Amazon, and although they specialize in professional tools, there are some nice “smaller” Black Friday hand deals as well.
Enco, an industrial supplier that we hold in high regard, will surely be having a Black Friday or Cyber Monday deal this year.
Don’t let the “industrial supplier” part scare you — Enco carries a great selection of general purpose hand and power tools, measuring tools, CNC tooling and accessories, machinery, and everything in between.
Their website is very outdated in design and sometimes breaks, requiring cookies to be cleared, but their prices are great, and customer service stellar.
Tip: Check out their “Hot Deals” sales flyer. Coupon discounts often stack on top of these sale prices.
Unpublished deal: Coupon Special takes 25% off (excluding machinery), and Offer gives you free ground shipping, through 11/30/15.
PB Swiss Deals
PB Swiss Tools are excellent, incredible even, but very pricey. Good thing there are Black Friday sales to help knock the prices down a little.
Their hex keys and Torx drivers are fantastic for use on the socket head fasteners you might use on your robotics projects, and I am also a fan of PB Swiss cushion-gripped screwdrivers.
11/27 through 11/30: Save 30% on ALL Items, + free bonus offers for orders over $150
11/27: Save 25%
11/28: Save 20%
11/29: Save 15%
Plus free shipping on $250+.
Need inspiration? Take a look at some of the PB Swiss Tools I previously reviewed.
Rockler is a woodworking-focused online and brick & mortar retailer, but they also offer plenty of innovative tools for non-woodworkers.
For instance, their Bandy Clamps, which you can find reviewed in Make: Vol 46’s ToolBox section, are quite popular in and outside of the workshop.
Here’s their Black Friday flyer.
If you have a Rockler store nearby (I’m jealous!), peek in and see what they have.
More Woodworking Deals
Woodcraft is another notable woodworking supplier, and they have a couple of interesting deals this year.
Carbide Processors‘ Black Friday sale might be small, but it’s worth a look.
They’re offering extra discounts on Bondhus and select Wiha tools, select Triumph drill bit sets, and select Whiteside router bit sets.
Bondhus’ USA-made hex keys and drivers offer great quality at reasonable prices. Wiha makes the best precision screwdrivers I’ve used, and I’ve used plenty (here’s a roundup of the precision screwdriver sets I own and can heartily recommend). Triumph and Whiteside are both great cutting tool brands.
While you’re at Carbide Processors’ site, check out their end mills, carbide burs, and other precision cutting tools. If you’ve got a CNC router or small mill, they’re sure to have the bits and cutters for whatever you need to cut.
If you’re looking to buy a new cordless drill, and you have a budget of at least $99, there are a MANY cordless drill kit deals for you to consider.
There are also quite a few deals under $80, but generally $99 is the lowest price point for a pro-branded drill kit, at least during the holiday season. Under that, and you’re bound to find consumer-level drills. A lot of these deals aren’t available the rest of the year.
Some of these kits have 1 battery, others have 2.
Although I am quite fond of Dewalt tools, I would pass on the Dewalt 20V Max drill/driver kit you’ll probably see on sale for $99 everywhere. It’s larger, less powerful, and slower than their regular model, and comes bundled with smaller capacity batteries.
The above Bosch DDB181 is an entry-level model that’s compact and reasonably powerful, and it’s bundled with 2 battery packs. That would be my pick for a standalone drill kit. If you plan to buy into a cordless power tool platform, Milwaukee’s deal (link below) might offer more in the long run.
Here are some different recommendations and discussions you might find helpful:
Best Cordless Drills (2015 Edition)
Best Cordless Drill Kits for Under $100
Black Friday 2015 Cordless Drill Deals
Makita 12V Max Drill & Impact Driver Combo for $99
Milwaukee 18V Drill Kit for $99
Milwaukee 18V Drill and Impact Driver Kit for $149
Milwaukee M18 Fuel Brushless Combo vs. Ridgid 18V Brushless Combo?
Ridgid 18V Brushless Hammer Drill Kit for $119
Ridgid Brushless Hammer Drill + Circular Saw Combo for $199
You hardly see sanders, grinders, band saws, drill presses, or other benchtop tools on sale during the holiday shopping season.
But miter saws? There are deals of all kinds.
Which would I buy? At $99, the Hitachi deal at Lowes (and matched at Amazon) looks like a good buy. Between $150 and $200, maybe a Craftsman sliding miter saw. Above $200? Probably one of the Dewalt specials if I was on a budget.
Surprisingly, there are very few portable table saw deals this year. In previous years there were more entry-level saws on sale for under $150.
Lowes will have the Kobalt table saw with folding stand on sale for $199, and there will be Dewalt and Ridgid options at $299.
Machinist Tools, CNC Accessories, Benchtop Tools, Machinery, Test & Measurement
While you can buy certain benchtop tools at home improvement stores, industrial suppliers have greater selection, not to mention wider stock of consumables like sandpaper and band saw blades.
Industrial suppliers are great places to buy measuring tools, such as calipers and micrometers, sandpaper and other abrasives (such as for finishing your wood/plastic/metal/3D printing projects), end mills and specialty cutters for use with your CNC router or mill, and very many other types of tools and supplies.
If you’re looking to buy test and measurement equipment, such as a thermal imager, multimeter, oscilloscope, power supply, function generator, or something else big like that, keep an eye out for Zoro’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals. They typically offer a high percent-off discount on tools that are rarely if ever discounted elsewhere.
If you’re shopping for some serious tools, check out these industrial suppliers’ deals:
I’m expecting to see 25% coupons from these suppliers, with MSC and Zoro requiring a minimum order amount to get the discount.
Summary & Deal Sharing Request
So, there you have it — a compendium of all the most notable tool-related deals for this year’s Black Friday shopping event, with most still being valid deeper into the holiday season
You can find my latest holiday tool deal finds over at ToolGuyd, and I will also be keeping an eye on the comments here in case there are any requests or questions.
If you find a fantastic tool deal that you think other Make: readers would love, please consider sharing it in a comment. But maybe do this after you place your order or complete an in-store purchase. It only took one time for me to learn to “buy first, share after.”