I posted about Noga deburring tools the other day, and it blew JoeM’s mind. So, as I work on the next batch of posts like that one, here are some throwbacks from ToolGuyd’s post archive that you might not have seen before.
Split Ring Pliers
Split rings (also known as key rings even when used for other applications) are used for keychains, fishing lures, jewelry, and lots of other things. Opening smaller or stiffer split rings can be brutal on your fingernails. That’s where split ring pliers come in.
Split ring pliers are singular-purpose tools, but they’re extremely effective, and they don’t cost too much either, although the price has gone up in the 9 years since I purchased my Xuron’s.
Read More: How to Use Split Ring Pliers
Buy Now(via Amazon)
The Mug Boss
I’m sure you’ve seen Bucket Boss and other brands’ 5 gallon tool organizers, right? This one is the Mug Boss, and it’s a similarly styled organizer for standard 10 ounce mugs. Ha!
I used to keep one on my desk, but I haven’t seen it since a move a few years ago. I remember some of what I kept in it too – a disposable stick for stirring epoxy, a tire chuck, and super glue. There was other stuff too – a pencil, a pen or two, and for some reason I believe I kept spare boot laces in there.
Read Also: 5 Great Tool Gifts for Under $10
Buy Now(via Amazon)
(This one was a bonus item, since it’s not technically a hand tool.)
Several brands make these mini circular surface levels.
Although useful at times, it’s not an “everyone needs this” kind of tool, but more “it’s good to know this exists in case you need it” doodad.
Read More: Swanson Mini Surface Level
Buy Now(Swanson via Amazon)
Buy Now(Starrett via Amazon)
Buy Now(Kapro via Home Depot) – second least expensive
Buy Now(Johnson via Home Depot) – least expensive (thanks Big Adam!)
Starrett Pocket Level
This Starrett Pocket Level has been on my wishlist for a long time now. It’s a compact 2-1/2″ level that’s small enough to fit in a pocket, although you’ll want to keep it away from keys. The body is made from satin nickel-plated brass, and the vial is glass.
One day I’ll find a reason to buy one. But in the meantime, I don’t have any needs that a torpedo or different breed of compact level can’t handle.
Read More: Is that a Starrett Level in Your Pocket?
Buy Now(via Amazon)
I’m sure you’ve seen swivel-head ratchets by now, but I thought they were a good tool to talk about, just in case.
Gearwrench’s Roto Ratchets are a good place to start, since you can get them for fairly economically – the 2-piece set is currently $41, and can usually be found for just under $50. I like these because you can tighten up the pivot screw if you want the action to be a little stiffer.
They behave like flex-head ratchets, but with a wider range of adjustments. My favorite way to use them is with sockets (especially bit sockets) in inline mode, like a screwdriver – at least when space allows for it – and then I swing them to 90° (standard ratchet orientation) for final tightening (or initial loosening).
Read More: Gearwrench Roto Ratchet
Buy Now(via Amazon)
Wera makes something similar – their Zyklop speed ratchets, but they’re pricier. I also have a love-hate relationship with the pivot head’s locking mechanism. Move the slider one way, and you can change the angle of the head. Move it the other way, and you lose your socket.
Milwaukee’s swivel-head ratchet is similar to the Gearwrench. Other brands make swivel head ratchets too.
Handi-Hammer, Handle-less Dead Blow Hammer
The Nupla Handi-Hammer is unique tool, but I think it counts.
it’s a 10oz dead blow hammer head that you hold in your hand. And then you pound on something with it. That sounds barbaric, but I’m not quite sure how to describe it any more eloquently.
One end has a non-marring face, the other has a steel face. It’s convenient for assembling certain things, and for times when a wrench or ratchet needs a little extra persuasion in a controlled manner.
Nupla says it’s also goof for driving pins, rods, and pistons.
It’s not as powerful as a full-sized mallet or dead blow, but I can fit it in my pocket.
Read More: Nupla Handi-Hammer Review
Buy Now(via Amazon)
I wish there were more than one stumper here – but alas – as my wife would say – my OCD is “tool fixated”
I posted about split ring pliers here:
https://discuss.toolguyd.com/t/pliers-some-different-types/432/2 in July 2016
I bought a Nupla Thumper for $6.50 in 1999 – but find I don’t use it as much as I thought I might.
I’ve had a Mayes (10154) bulls-eye level for decades – but have a Tavy one that I’ve used more – since I bought it in 2004:
I looked at the Starrett pocket level – but have other small levels scattered around my houses – like an Empire 27368 (cross vial) a Kapro 242-08 (magnetic cross level) , a Starrett 98-4 (machinist’s level) and a Checkpoint 0610BK (U-Level) that are all diminutive enough to be pocketable.
The Zyklop ratchet – was in a kit I bought in Germany as a gift for my son in-law. He like it but not some of the plastic parts when they get greasy. I have a Kobalt (made by Apex Tool Group) variant of the Gearwrench – that I bought in 2009 at a Lowes in Florida – when I needed a ratchet down there.
The Bucket Boss – for mugs is indeed new to me. Have used theirs and other variants on 5 gallon pails. I also carry jumper cables in a Bucket Boss 69000 bag meant for that purpose.
Fred – if you’re ok with it, have Stuart send me your email so we can exchange contact info. I have a mug boss that I just found while cleaning out some boxes that I have no use for. It’s yours if you want it and I’ll pay shipping.
Thanks for the offer – but it would likely also just collect dust for me.
If its new – maybe your local Goodwill or other charity thrift store could sell it and do some good with the cash.
If you still want to give away the mug boss, I could use it. I can send info if you’re willing, thx
I’ve thought about the Nupla Handi Hammer a few times, and I always talked myself out of it due to the same reason: When would I event need/want to use this over a dead-blow, mallet, or something else with a HANDLE?
I guess the spam filter go me – too many links?
Anyway – the Bucket Boss for mugs – is what new to me.
Thank you! Added it to the post.
Yeah, I wish Lee Valley’s machinist’s level had a glass vial:
Apparently the glass vials used to be ground internally to ensure the internal shape and those aren’t made any more? Anyone have details on that?
we use these at work for new machines
Starrett levels – can be had at Zoro -and if your need can be held off – waiting on a Zoro 20% or 25% off sale can save you some money.
One of my favorite hand tools is from the bike repair world, but I find it useful in many other situations, such as tightening cable ties, or other cable stretching situations – the Park Tool 4th-hand Cable Stretcher (https://www.parktool.com/product/cable-stretcher-bt-2) $48.50 list, but there are reasonable copies from other manufacturers, such as Pedros for about 1/2 the cost.
“Third hand” and “Fourth Hand” tools are handy. I listed some other bicycle pliers on the Community Forum site – see link above
Years ago, back when Ryobi made things in blue, their drills had a surface level built into the butt end of them. It was a genius idea, and I’ll never understand why it didn’t catch on.
OMG totally forgot about that, and yeah I thought it was useful back when the blue tools were my first cordless system.
Craftsman Used to have levels on both their cord and cordless drills and I loved them! I can’t believe the cost of adding these would be cost prohibitive so apparently there were only a handful of us that enjoyed them?
I still have an old Craftsman corded drill with the integrated bubble level that gets used once in a while. I always look for the level on my new cordless tools and sigh when I remember there is none.
Giant Plus one – I think pro’s more or less didn’t like them and they were easy to damage.
Pro tools lost them – their cheaper counterparts wouldn’t have them either.
I don’t know but I’d love my drill to have one. I occasionally put a small level on it when I think about it and I’m concerned about it. Or a square.
Black & Decker used to have a red light that would illuminate when the drill was level so you didn’t have to keep watching for a floating bubble in an awkward position. I thought that was a little better idea.
I must say, the split ring pliers is something new to me. All it it takes is one cut under your fingernail to make it worth the price.
“Nupla says it’s also goof for driving pins, rods, and pistons” I suppose if you “goof ” and miss the pin, it’ll end up embedded somewhere in the side of your palm? (;-D
Using a staple remover also works for opening key rings
I’ve done this too, but don’t tend to have one handy enough when needed.
The same would be true with these pliers; they’d never be handy when needed.
Thanks, Tom. I forgot about that trick.
Not if you *tap* instead of *pummel*. Hmm, that would still hurt. Don’t miss!!
My comment was tongue- in-cheek. I don’t know if you caught it, but your post says “goof”.
Split-ring pliers are new to me, and I’m getting ’em! (Amazon has many choices, most in $7-$20 range.) I have 4 cats/dogs and am forever breaking fingernails when assembling I.D. tags/bells/D-rings on collars, using split-rings. Collars get lost/damaged a lot, so this is an ongoing part of my life. Thanks for the tip!
Those Xuron split ring pliers look nice. I have a cheap pair no name brand from the fishing store, and they don’t work very well. So I am going to have to give them a try.
I’ve always thought swivel-head ratchet’s bordered on being a gimmick. Perhaps I’m wrong and should give them a try. Which makes most sense, a swivel-head ratchet or a standard ratchet and wobble extensions? I’m thinking for general automotive type/homeowner DIY use.
Honestly? the Swivel-Head Ratchet is a pretty natural extension to the regular Ratchet. Its a very, very simple reach adaptation.
I will share your sentiment that SOME are Gimmicky. Some are really well done like the Wera Zyclops, that really are what the natural pivot ratchet should be. Then there are a myriad of others that are more cheaply done, and are far too loosey-goosey on the Pivot part of the Ratchet.
Thanks, maybe I will check one out. Probably GearWrench or similar since the ability to tighten up the pivot sounds like what I would prefer.
I think both the GearWrench and the Wera Zyclops fall into the same “Done Right” category. I didn’t mean to push one over the other, it was just an example. I think the GearWrench one is pretty much the same as the Zyclops, but following the traditional style of GearWrench.
Either way, see if you can try it in-store or something. It sounds like you actually know what project you want it for.
I think you forgot a Bullseye Level, Stuart. From Lee Valley.
Surprisingly, none of THESE batch are new to me. Though, thank you, you’ve reminded me that I could use some split ring pliers. The list of things I keep forgetting I need keeps growing so fast, I often need a reminder they’re on that list.
So Thanks Stuart! Plus… Y’know… For the shout out in the first sentence of the article of course… Cheers..
I think the surprisingly best most used tool I have is the Kreg Multi-Mark. I bought it on a whim and I use that thing all the time all day long. I just wish they made a solid metal one.
I use split ring pliers quite a bit. I can affirm the Xuron are top notch, and few split ring pliers are any good at all.
…Xuron… Got it… Now that I’ve been reminded I need one, and YOU affirm Xuron are top notch, I’ll be looking for Xuron for myself.
Thank You, AC. I appreciate the backup!
Xuron are good *for the money.* And made in the USA.
There are better pliers and cutters – not necessarily split ring pliers, I’m talking in general – but at 2X, 3X, and even 4X+ the cost.
All good. It’s the Split Ring set that I need. I have lots of other pliers, plus I carry Leatherman tools on me all the time. Pliers in general are not what I need, in this case.
Xuron were brought up in the Article, and AC here agrees, so that does a lot of the research for me. Same goes for the Deburing tools. Now that I know they exist, I’m going with the ones you suggested, Stuart.
Now… The day I take stock of all my tools, and decide “It’s time to upgrade my Pliers…” I’ll be facing some serious research. But, for now? I’m covered there.
I know; I was more just throwing it out there.
I’m just looking to avoid any misunderstandings in case someone reads the comments, sees “top-notch,” and takes it at face value.
I enjoy using my Xuron tools, and can heartily recommend them, but they’re not exactly top-notch in an absolute sense.
Yes, Xuron are not chrome plated, drop forged or precision milled. They are basic stamped tools with comfortable grips, nice spring action and they work really well…at least for a fisherman who from time to time will swap 10’s of table hooks on split rings. I’ve tried a lot of split ring pliers and few have the proper alignment and spacing at the tip to easily and reliably open split rings and also hold them open while griping and pivoting around them so you can rotate something in or out of the gap. Odd that such a simple tools is so frequently executed poorly.
Simultaneously… Does a Split-Ring Plier NEED Drop Forging, Chrome Plating, or Precision Milling? I’ve had a cheap set in the past… funny enough for when my Dad and I went fishing together… and they NEVER worked right. And they WERE Chrome Plated, and Spring Loaded, and from a very well known FISHING Lure Brand, who no longer have their name stamped on one.
Now here comes both You, AND Stuart, saying the Xuron shown here actually DOES work well? That’s all the testimony I need. They are stamped out, USA made… Y’know what? I don’t care… You both agree you love yours. Therefore, since I DO do Jewellery as a hobby, and I DO handle all the household Keyrings… Y’know what? I’m just going to trust you both with this brand, based on the phrase “They Work Well” in both of your opinions. I knew I needed a new set, and I thank you both for making the process of choosing one so easy for me.
Simple as that, guys. You checked something off my list. That’s awesome.
I have this pair for fishing:
While I paid something like $30 for my pair a batch of years ago – and they work – I would not call them top notch.
I have seen some fishing pliers (titanium or aluminum bodies) that run into several hundreds of dollars per pair. I ‘m not sure how much better they are. But I guess if I wanted to replace one of my old Pfleuger fly reels with a $900 Abel – then a pricey Abel titanium pliers might come in a matching color.
My wife works at a leasing office, were they are constantly making up key rings and tagging keys. After a coworker cut herself with scissors trying to cup a zip tie I turned them on to Xuron flush cutters and split ring pliers and they have had nothing but glowing reviews of those products since.
Let me guess, the coworker tried to sue the company and or intentionally injured themselves for worker’s compensation right? I’ve seen it first hand and heard about multiple instances of this. This is why I never lend my tools to anyone but very close friends and certain family members. Most people will screw you over in heartbeat if this means they can potentially gain financially or otherwise.
Xuron tools are some best precision tools on the market and most importantly most, perhaps allegedly all are made in the USA. Years ago I bought those split ring pliers and these are amazing.
It makes me cringe when people do something (more than just a one-off) and don’t have the proper tools. And the added injury adds insult to not having the tools. 🙂
Hey John…..mug boss….I’ll pay for shipping!!!!!!
You can also use the Nupla as a shake weight!
I loved the Ryobi Drill level. I thought it was a great idea. I didn’t figure it to be super accurate, but hey, better than nothing. I also like their magnet tray on drills and impacts. I’ve often said that o wsh one drill would have every feature that I liked. I currently use Ridgid tools and some of their drills have a secondary trigger you pull with your ring finger. It illuminates the on board light without spinning the drill. After using another brand that only lit when you spun the drill I realized how much I loved the second trigger. Oh, and bit holders! The more the merrier. How about an on board storage pocket? That holds 4-6 bits?
I’ve never seen the surface level. I love it. I was mounting a bath vanity today. It would have been perfect. How about installing a range? This thing is getting added to my arsenal.
The problem with a surface level, or the small machinists level, is you are using a quite small surface as representative of a large plane. Any error gets extrapolated
A Tech at work had the swivel head ratchets and after seeing him use them I bought the gearwrench set on sale. I used the 1/4 on a Honda engine last weekend and really liked it. I don’t use a powered driver on engines so for the way I work the spin feature still has good feel and saves time. Carlyle at Napa has a 100 tooth, In person it looked nice, but there are several brands out there
I do a lot of jewelry work so I knew of the split ring pliers, although I do not have one yet.
I have a swivel head ratchet from VIM which I like very much, it has the advantage of locking the swivel head at a particular angle.
Euro-Tool makes some split ring pliers marketed to the jewelry trade:
I’ve had one of those bullseye levels for about 20 years and I don’t think I’ve used it once. Just seems too inaccurate I guess.