1. Duluth Trading Co. Ballroom Jeans
The commercial says it all: "Get a pair." Duluth Trading Co., which pioneered the tool-bucket liner, has become a well-known supplier of clothing for people who do hard work like construction. The catalog illustrations are all hand-drawn with brilliant detail that may remind you of J. Peterman Co. I've been wearing my five-pocket Ballroom Jeans for about a year now, and I can personally vouch for their comfort and ruggedness. You might want to buy a waist size up, though, as they come a tad tight (Or maybe I need to lose weight?). Prices start at $49.50.
2. Machinery Outlook Newsletter
If the heavy-equipment business is experiencing a trend, chances are Frank Manfredi is all over it. His insightful market analysis appears every month in a newsletter called Machinery Outlook, which I have received for about 10 years. It does not always arrive on time (this month I received two issues bagged together following a hiatus), but it is on point. With a regular feature article called "Heard in the Dirt," a gearhead can't resist reading it the moment it arrives in your mailbox. Now available in online formats, annual subscriptions start at $420.
3. Slice Box Cutter
Here's to a company that found a cool way to make a commodity like the lowly box cutter look cool. Everything about this tool screams innovation: The curved handle makes it ideal for "quick draws" out of pockets. The ceramic blade is razor sharp on cardboard but won't prick your fingers. The blade only sticks out as much as you need it to, which makes cutting safer. The Slice box cutter also comes in auto-retracing varieties. Buy one at Amazon.com for less than $20.
4. Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site
For the littlle gearheads. Sure, you know Goodnight Moon, but have you seen what one New York Times book reviewer called the perfect marriage of truck book and bedtime story? This one hits it home. I sometimes pick nits with some of the book's mislabeled equipment jargon (crane truck, cement mixer, etc.), but it gives me a chance to educate my daughter, who could say "excavator" before she could say "please" and "thank you." By Sherri Duskey Rinker with illustrations by Tom Lichtenheld. Get it at WalMart.com for less than $10.
5. Bionic Wrench
It's an all-too familiar story. Lone inventor Dan Brown and owner of Loggerhead Tools claims that Sears stole his idea for a handy universal wrench and outsourced its Craftsman-brand production to China. Regardless of whose story you believe, it still is a nifty product and deserves a spot in any tool hound's collection. Skip the middleman and buy it directly from the source at LoggerHeadTools.com, where prices start at $24.95.