This article is from returning staff writer Tim Sullivan.
I haven't spent a Father's Day with my dad for over a decade. Don't get me wrong, my father is awesome. If I could jet-set at will, I'd be flying non-stop to make him Bloody Marys every third Sunday in June.
This year is different, though. A break in my schedule and a new nephew in the family means I am back in my hometown for a nice, long stretch this summer. My mother is looking forward to long dinners on the back deck with my wife and me, and my father is looking forward to having me do all the honey-do list items that his doctor says he shouldn't tackle anymore.
Let the tool hunt begin!
Now, the perfect tool for Dad can be a pretty tough gift to find, especially for the father whose collection is already pretty complete. That said, the tool industry has to get more innovative every year in its quest to find better, more creative solutions to age-old problems. So here are some guidelines as you set out to find the perfect thing to make your papa proud:
Make sure it's built to last.
Read reviews. Read reviews. Read reviews. (And buying something with a lifetime warranty doesn't hurt either.)
Venturing into his tool shed may be uncharted territory for you, but it can really pay off. Take a gander and make sure he doesn't have your gift already lying around. That way neither of you has to spend any time or money shipping a duplicate gift back.
Read between the lines.
Solve a problem for him he couldn't solve himself. There are often hints you can pick up on if you're listening for them. Maybe he spent an afternoon cleaning out the garage but couldn't reach the gutters. Dads love to enjoy their superhero status, so empower him with something he didn't know he needed.
Dads wielding tools
For those of you whose father is still a tool-wielding man, here's a list of tools I'd get for under $100. For the rest of us, let's buy one of these and then give our dads the true gift of getting to work on the deck or gutters for them.
Jackson Pulverizer – $35
This thing is just mean. It's the perfect tool for most mini-demolition projects. It's a pry bar, hammer, claw-hammer, and chisel all in one. It'll make short work of sheet rock and can even stand up to a concrete wall. The handle will absorb most of the shock so your father's hands won't have to — and you can beat, bust, bang, smash, rip, tear, gouge, and pulverize just about anything in sight. Great for small spaces too!
Automatic Cordless Tire Inflator – $89.95
You know the absolute best time to discover that your AAA membership expired last week? When you're stranded on the side of the road with a flat, obviously!
Flat tires used to be a job for the experts, but with this handy tool, your dad will be back on the road and happily humming his beloved Beach Boys tunes in no time. (Not to mention how handy this will be when you come home for a visit, borrow the car, hit a curb weird and are too ashamed to call him for help since you're a full-fledged adult and should darn well start acting like one!)
Deck Stain Sprayer – $20 – $60
I'm so proud that the back deck at my parents' house has survived for 25 years. We have spent many summer evenings together as a family out there. It's dealt with fire pits, family dogs, spilled wine, Chicago winters, and three kids' worth of sports equipment and baseball cleats running up and down.
More than that, though — growing up, this deck was my first summer job. My father and I had an arrangement: For jobs he'd have to hire someone to do anyway, however old I was, that's how much I got paid an hour.
When I got a stain sprayer in high school, it quickly became my best friend (and worst enemy) because it reduced my time in the humid Chicago sun threefold (but it also cut into my paycheck). Three even coats on a 15'x15′ deck only using a brush? No, thank you. Standing up and spraying my way to freedom? I'd take that any day, and so will the man in your life holding the “#1 Dad” mug.
Steak Champ – $59.95
OK, so it's not a hardware tool, but I think we can agree that this will impact everyone's life for the better. No longer will Pops be pacing about on the deck, hoping the coals on the grill are hot enough (when they're actually dead). Never more will you and your loved ones suffer through the ol' 45-second chew per bite of shoe-leather steak, nor shall you order your steak well done and then wonder if you'll actually have to ride the poor cow home. In short, the guessing games are over. The perfect steak has arrived!
But in terms of the hunt for grass-fed, organic beef from a farm that plays lullabies and provides Swedish massage for each bovine you're on your own, unfortunately.
Bionic Wrench – $24.99
I remember buying my dad a 99-piece wrench set for Father's Day when I was a kid. I felt so cool being able to say to him, “I got you 99 gifts instead of one!”
Well, even if the Bionic Wrench would've ruined my bragging rights, it's still a far better gift. It has an easily adjustable set of claws that protect the bolt, leverage your force, and allow you to reduce that 99-piece set to one. Great deal, awesomely efficient, and leaves a lot more space in the tool room.
Trash Bags – $15
Speaking of more space… Hey, adult children! We're looking at you. And so is your dad, from the sides of his eyes, as he wonders when you're ever going to move all your junk out of his basement. He'll tell you it's fine, but let this near-pathological leaver-of-items-in-basements tell you, it's not fine. He wants his space back. And this is why the simplest, cheapest gifts can so often be the sweetest.
Wrap up a jumbo pack of garbage bags, hand it to him with a bow on it, and tell him you'll get to work removing your 3rd grade football jerseys, Ken Griffey, Jr., baseball cards, and stacks of those high school dance photos that you inexplicably still have 300 copies of. (Why do they make you order so many?!) Dad will be SO HAPPY. And so will your wallet.
(Side note to fathers: This is also a great and slightly passive/aggressive gift to give to children on this, your day of glory.)
Looflighter BBQ Starter – $79.95
Wait, have we discussed steaks recently? Let's get back to steaks. There is nothing quite like the existential panic that occurs when you've carefully and lovingly covered your briquettes in lighter fluid and the moment of truth arrives in which you must basically stand in flammable materials and throw a lit match toward them, all while not losing your chest hair and your dignity.
This is a terror that we simply cannot abide in the 21st century. Behold, the Looftlighter. Yes, it might seem a bit pricy at first, but it's important to think about the long-term medical bills and hair replacement products you'll add to your budget if you continue with the open-flame alternatives. Your brows can thank us later.
Handy Dad Book: 25 Awesome Projects for Dads and Kids – $14.47
Some things are just flat-out adorable, and this book is Exhibit A. It might appear, at first glance, to be a book purely for adorable, well-tended children and their adorable, doting fathers. But at this point you should look inside your deepest self and ask yourself the serious question: “Why wouldn't I want a go-kart track in my backyard? Who else has an adult-sized slip ‘n slide for their friends to enjoy all season? And what else am I going to do with my dad this summer?” No matter how old you are, hanging out with dad could use an activity boost. This book is clearly the antidote to a mediocre bottle of scotch and an off-brand tie.
Telesteps Folding Stik Ladder – $85.96
This one-of-a-kind compact ladder does all the things ladders do, but then folds up into a barely noticeable stick that you can casually carry around in one hand. No more throwing out his low-back trying to schlep an awkwardly large ladder from the garage to the house. Under a hundred bucks and built to last a lifetime, I couldn't dream up a better ladder.
Cordless Glue Gun – $18.98
Glue guns are a go-to solution for many odd projects. Need to glue gun something on the ceiling? How about something in the car? In the middle of the yard? Equipment for a little league game? Now you can! Don't worry about being tethered to an outlet. Save money on extension cords and get unbridled use out of your glue gun!
Father's Day is an awesome opportunity to show some gratitude to the superhero in your life. These gifts are fun, especially for those who live far away, but quality time and some help around the yard will often be all a father would ask for.
What are your plans for Father's Day? Traditional necktie? Hotdog at the ballpark? Do you know of any innovative, must-have tools I missed?