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One Mother’s Day about a couple decades ago, I bought
my mom a circular saw. It was something she needed, and
something that she had been lightly hinting about. So I decided to forgo the usual disposable
gifts of the holiday and get her
something useful. I considered it a
practical innovation on Mother’s
Day gift conventions.
As practical as the intention
was, however, that gift started a
ritual between us that has devolved into anything but.
Every Christmas since, tools
have been under the tree. This started off sensibly enough—
nice drills, tool chests, amazing multitools and pocket knives.
But after so many years, the practice wandered into what I
would call absurdist novelty tools.
My favorite by far is a kind of multitool hammer/flashlight.
It’s this monstrous thing with seven full-length screwdrivers
folding out of an unwieldy 8-in. diameter handle, all with heads far
too small and delicate to be of any practical use. Then it has this
miniature hammer head on one end that is so tiny and so light
that, even if you were able to actually hit the nail you were aiming
for, it wouldn’t have the force to drive it into anything. And there’s
the flashlight element: a filament bulb surrounded by one of those
old thin glass and metal casings. If you think it’s a bad idea to
combine a hammer with a flashlight, you are totally right. The one
time I did try to hit something with it, everything shattered—the
lightbulb, the casing, the plastic lens, the whole bit. It was amazing.
I actually still have the thing—I keep it in my car because I figure,
on the off chance I find myself submerged in a lake someday,
there’s probably enough going on with the thing to break a window.
You know, just in case.
This personal story, as odd as it might be, is one of the driving
impulses behind this issue: our annual gift guide.
Over the years we have focused the gift guide issue on a lot of
different things—we’ve had technology-heavy years, STEM educa-tion-heavy years, and mostly practical years (like this one, pg 13).
But the driving force of it is to help us all avoid the absurdist trap
my family has fallen into.
Our goal with these gift guides is to balance practical needs of
all you handy people out there looking for equipment for work
and home, with the products that are a little special—things
everyone clearly wants, but that are just far enough outside
direct need to warrant purchase any other time of the year.
So that is what we put together this year, broken down into
four key categories: Tools, Tech, Essentials, and, well, Non-Essentials (because cool stuff is still cool).
I have a lot of personal favorites in this year’s collection—from
those indestructible shoes (pg 16) to the nail dispensing hammer
(pg 14)—but the one product that might be under my tree is the
DIY CNC router (pg 18). I have no idea what I’ll use the thing for,
and I’m pretty sure I’ll manage to hurt myself with it somehow,
but it seems like a perfect winter project. And it’s something the
kid and I can probably get into some fun trouble with.
As you dig in, I’m interested to hear what you find interesting
in this collection. Anything that will make your gift list this year,
just let me know at email@example.com.
Here’s hoping for another
great season of weird,