Do you know someone with a chainsaw? Then they're probably plagued by the same trouble most chainsaw users are: keeping the thing sharp and cutting well. Even when you know how to sharpen a chainsaw with a file (and most casual users don't), the job takes more time than some of us like to devote.
That's why I began surveying electric saw chain sharpeners earlier this year. The best models I've used spin a four- or five-inch circular grindstone in a pivoting mechanism to sharpen the leading edges of saw chain cutters. There are cheap models on the market (about $100), but they're not precise enough to work well. The Oregon 108181 offers the best compromise between price and value that I've found. It's simpler to use than professional chain sharpeners (fewer settings to get right), but it still does three essential things extremely well.
Besides sharpening a saw chain quickly, precision is another benefit of this model. Each tooth ends up being exactly the same shape as its neighbour, ensuring that the saw cuts arrow-straight. The cutting edges are razor sharp – at least as good as a brand new chain. The 108181 has a suggested retail price of $319.
The Oregon 511AX is a more versatile, expensive electric sharpener that also includes an on-board light illuminating the work area.
Want to spend less? Take a look at some of the newest Ryobi tools. This company has consistently produced good tools at great prices, and this year they've expanded their line to include a whole bunch of electronic tools that I'm particularly impressed with.
Based on their new four volt Tek4 lithium-ion battery platform, the collection includes an infrared thermometer ($79) that's useful for remotely assessing areas of excess heat loss in your home; a pair of noise suppressing audio headphones ($69.99) that also allow auxiliary input from an iPod; a jobsite-tough eight megapixel digital camera ($199) for documenting building projects; a digital multimeter for electrical troubleshooting ($89); a laser distance measuring device ($159) that replaces a tape measure for rough measurements; a digital key lock box ($69.99) for controlling access to buildings and tool boxes; a self-levelling laser ($129) for aligning tiles, cabinets, wallpaper, suspended ceilings and anything else that needs to be plumb or level; and a motion sensing alarm ($49.99) that lets you know when someone or something has entered a particular space.
There's also an LED flashlight in the Tek4 series that provides six hours of continuous light on a single charge. One battery and a dual port charger for these items cost $39.99. After trying Tek4 tools out for the last couple of months, I'm impressed with the value, design and quality of the line.
Need a stocking stuffer? A tape measure always makes a good Christmas gift for a handy person because the tape measure they use now will eventually wear out and break.
Lots of junk masquerades as tape measures, so if you really care about your handy person, get them a Stanley FatMax tape. They're consistently the toughest, longest lasting and easiest to use in my experience.
The newest models also have a wide, expanded hook on the end, making it easy to keep the end of the tape where it should be during use.