I tend to develop strong opinions about tool brands, as well as associations between brands and tool categories. Based on personal experiences, conversations with different users, others’ recommendations, and visibility, one or sometimes two brands immediately come to mind when it comes to specific types of tools..
Back in 2014, I wrote a post, answering the question If I Lost All My Tools, Which Brands Would I Pick for Replacements?
I have been asked for an update, and now seems like a good time.
In a recent post, some people expressed displeasure that I don’t associate their favored brand with fine woodworking tools. I can’t – and won’t – apologize for my raw opinions and the brand-tool associations I have made over the years, or lack thereof. If you have a problem with how I associate certain tool brands with specific products or categories, the only way to change my mind is to tell me about your experiences and preferences, and even then there’s no guarantee. Altering my perception is a process that can only happen over time.
Beyond my personal experiences and observations, readers definitely have a hand in expanding or evolving my views. Tell me about the brands you like, the preferences you’ve formed, the choices you would make today.
Here’s what I would buy today in “no time to think about it” decisions.
Some of these are the best tool options for me, others are the best options for anyone. Snap-on, for instance, is inarguably a top brand in many regards, but it’s not a brand I associate with my own needs. So when I think “I need to buy a ratchet,” I do not think “Snap-on.”
If your opinion differs, tell me about it!
Ratcheting Wrenches: Gearwrench
Portable Socket Set: Wera Zyklops
Master Set: Gearwrench
Torque Wrenches: Undecided
(Or Snap-on for everything if this was in a “winning lottery ticket” context.”)
Ball Pein Hammers: Vaughan
Dead Blow: Trusty-Cook, Nupla
Claw Hammer: Dewalt, Estwing
General Screwdrivers: PB Swiss, Proto, Facom
Precision Screwdrivers: Wera, PB Swiss
T-Handle Ball Hex: Bondhus
Hex Keys: PB Swiss, Bondhus
1/4″ Hex Bit Holders: Felo
Ratcheting Screwdrivers: PB Swiss, Megapro
Utility Knives: Milwaukee
Folding/Pocket Knife: Spyderco
Fixed Blade Knife: ESEE
Aviation Snips: Wiss, Midwest Tools
Max Durability: Malkoff Devices (USA)
Ball Bearing: Husky
Industrial: Lista, Proto
Power Tools: Milwaukee Packout (mobile) Festool Systainers (select equipment)
Small Parts: Akro Mils
Organizers: Sortimo T-Boxx (old style), Allit or Durham (metal)
Tool Bag: Husky
Portable Tool Box (non-modular): Keter, Milwaukee
Pliers & Similar
Pliers: NWS, Knipex, Klein, Channellock
Diagonal Cutters: NWS
Wire Strippers: Klein
Automatic Wire Strippers: Knipex, Jokari
Precision Pliers: Xuron, Tronex, NWS
Locking Pliers: Grip-On, Eagle Grip
Adjustable Wrench: Channellock
Adjustable Pliers: Knipex (Pliers Wrench, Cobra)
Gladiator with Maple Top
Husky Adjustable Table
Bench Vise: Yost, Wilton
Portable Work Bench: Dewalt, Kreg
Workholding: Rockwell (Jawhorse)
Woodworking Hand Tools
Hand Planes: Veritas
Squares: Milwaukee, Woodpeckers (specialty)
Woodworking Power Tools
Drilling: Bosch, Festool
Track Saw: Festool (corded), Makita (cordless), Mafell (if money’s no object)
Joinery: Festool (Domino)
Benchtop Tools: Jet, Rikon
Table Saws: Dewalt (portable), SawStop (stationary)
Band Saws: Laguna
Sanders: Festool, Bosch, Mirka (air)
12V Drills & Drivers: Dewalt
12V Selection & Specialty: Milwaukee
18V/20V Max: Milwaukee
18V/20V Max Impact Driver: Metabo HPT
Hammer Drill: Bosch
Miter Saw: Dewalt
Portable Table Saw: Dewalt
Circular Saws: Dewalt, Milwaukee
Shop Vacuum: Ridgid (corded), Milwaukee (cordless)
Dust Extraction: Festool (portable), Jet (workshop), Oneida (large workshops)
Power Tool Accessories
Impact Bits: Milwaukee
Screwdriver Bits: Wera, PB Swiss
Drill Bits: USA-made Industrial Brands (whichever set is on sale)
General Drill Bits: Milwaukee
Reciprocating Saw Blades: Milwaukee
Jigsaw Blades: Bosch
Masonry Bits: Bosch
Circular Saw Blades: Freud, Dewalt
Hole Saws: Milwaukee
Forstner Drill Bits: Diablo
Router Bits: MLCS, Whiteside, Freud/Diablo
Work Gloves: Mechanix
Disposable Gloves: Microflex
Air Nailers: Metabo HPT
Power Supply: Instek
Tape Measure: Milwaukee
Dial Indicator: Interapid
Laser Levels: Undecided
Laser Distance Measuring Tools: Bosch
Levels: Empire, Milwaukee
Rotary Tool: Dremel
Flex-Shaft Tool: Foredom
Precision Files: Grobet
Did I miss anything?
As was the case last time, I’m sure I left out some categories, but I wanted to put down my raw thoughts about which brands I would choose right now, without any time left for debate. I then reorganized the selection to line up with my impressions from 7 years ago for better comparison.
If you have any questions, I can add more categories to this section.
If you want to complain about my opinions, that’s fine, but offer your personal experiences or even anecdotes. Telling me I’m wrong about an opinion because of how large a particular brand’s catalog is – that’s never going to work. Give me something to think about, maybe a different way to look at brands I don’t share your associations about.
(2014) If I Lost All My Tools, Which Brands Would I Pick for Replacements?
The Best Mechanics Tool Brands in 2021
Best Cordless Power Tool Brand in 2021
If you’ve got strong sentiments about a particular brand, please chime in!
LED flashlights, massive disservice to miss Fenix. I’ve carried my PD35 for three years without so much as a hiccup.
Woodworking Hand Tools, seriously, you could skip Lie Nielsen?
Safety/Hearing: Moldex earplugs are my 100% choice.
Air tools: hose: Flexzilla, a truly impressive hose, the only one I’d actually recommend by name.
Air Tools: fittings: Milton. Many look the part, nothing else last the part.
Electronics: Soldering: Weller?
Tape measure, I’ll keep my Stanley Powelock and replace regularly.
That’s what I have an opinion on that you didn’t cover.
Ooh – speaking of Vessel, I wonder why Engineer didn’t enter my mind.
I love Fenix too, but my Olight sees a lot of use – they were visible to me before, but now they’re standing in my field of vision waving a giant flag. I use certain models daily or nearly so.
I don’t own a single Lie Nielsen product yet. There are a ton I’d like to buy, but that’ll eventually be for editorial/ToolGuyd reasons. They were shortlisted against Lee Valley/Veritas a few times, but Lee Valley won out, and then the loyalty stuck.
FlexZilla!! I use that brand and others. Honestly, I’m not sure why the Tekton hose still sticks to the top of my mind, but that’s also the point of this exercise, to see what I naturally think of first.
Weller is a very good brand, but I jumped over them when upgrading from my Radio Shack soldering iron. I went straight to Hakko and stayed there.
Good suggestions and recommendations – thank you!!
Definitely Vessel screwdrivers. Best purchase of my lifetime. (and I’m 63)
Best air hose is flexeel from coilhose
Light as a feather and durable as they come
Thanks!! I’ve got one in blue (1/4″), and it might eventually earn top-of-mind presence. I can recommend it, it just wasn’t the first brand to come to me.
Flashlights: you owe it to yourself to try an HDS rotary. Might just be the best light ever made. I’ve been using for years. Bombproof, best user interface I have ever seen. Made in Tucson AZ. Low light is the most useful, going down to a fraction of a lumen. Bright when you need it. Great CRI on request. Customizable.
Oscillating tool: Fein. 12v multi talent & drill combo is so useful. Light, for cutting and fastening. Comes as a set. Portable DIY problem solver combo.
Rotary hammers: Hilti
Pry bar: Tove
Fixed blade: Survive knives/ Fallkniven
Shop Vac: Nilfisk
Fenix lights for the win! I have a pd35tac and a hardahat mounted hm65 that I use every day at work. I love them and would replace immediately if one broke. There are at least a dozen other guys at work that have them too, and love them.
Now there are several guys at work that have olight lights and love them too. I just wasn’t interested in their specific charger requirements.
Fun Friday activity!
Wrenches and Ratcheting wrenches: Proto
Portable socket set: Williams
Master Set: Williams
Ratchets: Proto Premium Pear Head, Williams or SK round head
Torque Wrenches: Dewalt ½” (I don’t need extreme precision in this size but I would have to ponder something nicer in 3/8”)
It’s all a mix of Estwing, Nupla, Westward, Armstrong (if they still existed) for me.
General: Felo, Wurth (which is also really just Felo) and Wera laser tip (I don’t even like Wera handles that much but I still use and buy them for the tips).
Precision: Xoami/Whia for a portable set. Probably Westward for my bench set.
T- handle and other hex: Felo smart handle – then Eklind or Bondhus.
1/4” hex bit holder: Felo (man I like my Felo)
Ratcheting screwdrivers: Rolgear
Utility knives: Milwaukee
Folding knife: I
Knipex, NWS, Channellock, Felo
Automatic strippers: Knipex
Locking pliers: eagle grips! Haven’t even tried them yet but I’m not buying anything else till I do.
Adjustable wrench: Pliers wrench – or Channellock if I really have to pick a traditional wrench.
Rotary tool category perhaps?
Thanks! I added in rotary tool and flex-shaft categories. I’m not sure which category they’d fit into though. Precision tools, maybe.
Power tool? I wondered if it merited a discrete category or not – e.g. might be captured by “specialty” if you like the M12 version, for example.
But it sticks out in my mind as something generally useful, ubiquitous and distinct.
And while I only own a corded single-speed Dremel and a variable speed generic re-brand, if I picked the best one based on what appeals to me (rather than what I have first-hand experience with) – the cordless Ryobi unit would win for sure!
I found myself agreeing with a lot of this list. I did have a few suggestions.
Check out the Sandvik Lindstrom series for precision pliers, they are far better than anything else I’ve ever used, though the prices gives Snap-On a run for its money.
Speaking of Snap-On I think everyone knows their prices are in the stratosphere, but I think the prices are well justified for tools which are known to wear out and see abuse, like pry bars and air chisels (the bits, not the tool itself). Maybe it’s just my luck, but my local Snap-On guys have always warranted any of these when damaged even if it was obviously my fault. If you use air chisels a lot that’s pretty incredible. You get one dull they’ll just give you a new one off the truck.
A wire stripper well worth checking out is the Paladin Tools Stripax Pro.
If we’re talking stationary bandsaws I think it’s impossible to complete with an older DoAll; the sort with the mechanical gearshift for different speed ranges. These are much better than the modern ones with the electronic blade speed control. The electronic control is lighter, cheaper, and simple but it doesn’t have any low-end grunt. Cutting metal it’s easy to stall out a modern saw. Not so on the older ones, just like a granny gear in a manual transmission the low gear on a DoAll will keep that blade moving even if it’s buried in a block of metal. I own two, one is 3 HP, 36″ throat. The other is 24″ throat but has a 7.5 HP blade motor with a separate 2HP motor for the hydraulic table feed and tilt. That one will run up to 17,000 feet/minute for friction cutting of hard steel. Built-in automatic blade welders on both machines. Alas these are not made anymore, but they are easily found on the used machinery market. Only caveat is you need a pretty serious electrical supply for them.
By far my favorite deadblow hammers are the Wiha ones with the steel body and replaceable plastic faces. I am also especially fond of the Wiha microfinish screwdrivers with the solid black handles (not rubber coated). They are amazingly ergonomic and whatever finish they put on that handle makes for a fantastic grip even if your hands are soaking wet, covered with oil/grease/etc.
I’m a big fan of Weller soldering tools, but I’ll be the first to note that there’s a huge difference between their lower-end models and their higher end ones. I think the plain ones that just plug straight into the wall are pretty bad, but the ones made for electronics techs that have a benchtop power supply are nice. I have an MT 1500 which has got to be about 20 years old now, I’ve soldered everything from tiny PCB traces to #2 AWG battery cables with it. I also have their “air pencil” and vacuum-type de-soldering tools and both of those are worth every penny if you do a lot of electronics work. The “Air Pencil” is especially useful, it’s basically a mini heat gun.
I love Knipex pliers in general; in addition to the must-have CoBolt cutters, Cobras, and parallel-jaw adjustable pliers their wire rope shears are fantastic too. The ones meant for electrical cables are also fantastic for clean cutting of not just electrical wire but also rope, plastic tubing, O-ring stock, hose (so long as there’s no metal in it), etc. If you need a nice square cut on a big cable or any kind of soft material of similar size they’re awesome. They are also great for stripping insulation on large cables. I especially like the 2000V rated handles they have on many of their tools too. I’m no sparky and I rarely work on live electronics, I just find them to be very ergonomic, especially if you have wet/greasy hands or you need to really bear down on them.
Lindstrom is very good! Erem, too. And Swanstrom.
Snap-on is absolutely worth the money for their target users. But I don’t need tool truck service.
I have a couple of other dead blow hammers and mallets I’m testing, but they’re top of mind because of proximity, so left them out for now.
Oh man, I can’t believe I forgot this. Files and Rasps.
As far as large files go I’m honestly disappointed with everything that I can easily find. Here in the states I see either no-name imports which are utter garbage, or the old standbys like Nicholson and Simonds. Neither impress me. I have a pile of old European files, some with no name and some which are Oberg (Swedish, I think) that I inherited from my father. They’ve been abused for half a century and yet they still cut better than an off the shelf Nicholson. I’ve found the Simonds black “Maxi Sharp” to be passable but honestly they’re still not on the same level as the old ones I have. I wear out a Simonds half-round in about two years. My Obergs are still going after decades. I’d love to hear other people’s suggestions for good files to try out.
For needle or precision files I think Grobet blows everyone else out of the water, it is no contest, both in terms of selection and quality.
As far as Rasps go, this is perhaps the source of the biggest epiphany I ever had regarding tool use and quality. A friend who is into fine woodworking gave me a Logier rasp, handmade in France. I thought yeah, yeah, it’s a rasp, whatever. Frankly I thought he overpaid for a silly, gimmicky, gift but I kept my mouth shut. First time I used it I was blown away and all those thoughts disappeared from my mind. Comparing that to any other rasp I have ever used is like comparing a brand new surgical scalpel to a rusty lawnmower blade. It is amazing how cleanly it cuts, and with how little effort. They are made in a wide variety of shapes and sizes with your choice of coarseness. I went and ordered several more.
I consider myself a bit of a workbench snob, I never found one I truly liked so I make mine by welding up the legs and choosing an appropriate top. My small metalworking bench has a half-inch thick steel top, 2 x 5 feet, braced underneath with 3/8×4″ flat bar, legs are 3″ x 1/4″ wall square steel tubing, heavily cross-braced and filled with sand. Wilton 4.5″ bullet vise on one corner, Rigid chain pipe vise on the opposite corner mounted on the side of the workbench so I can hold cylindrical objects in a vertical position. My large one for welding and heavy work is 3/4″ inch steel plate, 4 x 10 foot with 4″ x 1/2 wall square tube legs, also heavily braced with 1/2x 8″ flat bar ribs forming a grid pattern underneath. Wilton 800S on one corner, Dawn 6″ offset on the opposite. My more clean/nice work workbenches are 2-inch-thick “butcher block” wood tops from McMaster-Carr with homemade legs.
I’m pretty picky about drill presses too. The heavier the better, gear drive and power feed is a must. This is my drill press. The exact one, actually. Video taken by the machinery dealer to show me before I agreed to buy it:
RE: Files — If you like Grobet, give Glardon Vallorbe a shot. Their “Valtitan” files are exceptional (72HRc), but I like everything I’ve tried thus far (note: I mainly do precision work):
I will check those out, thank you.
I’ve seen Valtitan files in the Grobet catalog too but I have never used them.
It occurred to me, after the fact (alas) that I should have mentioned there’s a relationship between Vallorbe and Glardon, and also that there’s a difference between “Grobet” and “Grobet USA” (the latter being less good, IMHO).
International file sourcing is a surprising PITA, I find 😉
Auriou (Forge de Saint Jeury) – still hand stiched in France
Ive used an Auriou and they’re every bit as good as Logier that I mentioned. I can recommend them too. Only downside is the selection of shapes is fairly small while Logier has a much wider range including rifflers. They do custom jobs as well, I had them make me a pair of copies of the famous Nicholson #49 and 50 rasps….once favorites of gunsmiths for shaping rifle stocks, but now relatively unusable after Nicholson outsorced production overseas.
Kind of sad that good USA-made files have become as scarce as “hen’s teeth” these days.
Old brands (like Nicholson, Heller, and Simonds) that once could be relied upon now have switched production and lowered quality (and/or QA/QC) to Brazil, India etc.
For woodworking – another brand to consider is Iwasaki – made in Japan:
I should have also added that I’m with you about drill presses. I don’t regret having spent the money to buy and refurbish my old Walker Turner radial arm drill press. Although the machinery movers that slid it down into my basement shop did quite a bit of cursing and swearing.
Banco and Corradi have treated me well for files if you can source the size/style you need here. Never tried anything marketed as “premium” to compare them to but they sure beat what present day Nicholson etc put out.
It ultimately is a consumable in most uses so solid performance and longevity that I can afford to replace when needed is a sweet spot for me
Koko The Talking Ape
I’ve never heard of friction cutting. So the blade doesn’t have teeth? And do you need a fluid drip to cool the workpiece?
Right, for friction cutting you use a special blade with no teeth. I do it very rarely, I’ve always used the back side of a old dull blade for those few times I’ve had to use it. The saw does have a flood coolant system and a mister but you don’t use either for friction cutting, that would be counterproductive. Friction cutting is done dry.
Koko The Talking Ape
Aha, of course! You DON’T want lubrication or cooling. 🙂
Lindstrom precision pliers are indeed outstanding. You get what you pay for.
Bahco files are excellent, including their oberg cut. Excellent general purpose and sharpening files.
If you haven’t already, check out the Shinto rasps, made in Japan. Amazing performance, and quite a novel approach to an old tool. More affordable than a hand stitched rasp (although they are on my fantasy list), and far better than a machine stitched rasp. The double sided coarse / medium rasp is a bench staple.
Where are the sanders?
If/when I buy a corded sander for myself, I’ll planning on buying the Bosch ROS20.
At work, I’m working with our tech to buy some more hand tools. What I’m thinking about:
Hex keys: Bondhus (screwdriver, L, stubby L, power bits) . Bondhus is a great value, and we have a great track record with them – most of our screws and bolts are hex. I’ll buy some individual ones in the most lost/broken sizes (e.g. 3/32, 2.5mm).
Wire cutters: Xuron (Micro-Shear and Maxi-shear). Like Bondhus, a great Made in USA value.
Carbide cutters: we need to get some so our techs (well, one in particular) don’t ruin the wire cutters. Thinking about Avon ($20 on close out), or maybe a German brand. Might also get some big cutters (NWS?), but normally we don’t need to cut anything bigger than AWG14 or bolts, etc.
Pliers: Knipex (Cobra and Pliers wrench, in 5″, 8″, 10″ ).
Screwdrivers – still thinking, might look at Felo hex handle and/or powered hex driver (DeWalt?). For precision screwdrivers, Wiha or Wera.
BTW, our CNC tech is a big Wera fan.
Some personal notes:
– From what I’ve heard, Rigol is a good value brand (and supposedly make low end scopes for some of the big ones), but if I won the lottery, I’d get R&S – I’ve had some hands-on time with the R&S scopes, and they are simply amazing. The standard, of course, is Tek, then Keysight and LeCroy.
– Although we have a Fluke DMM at work (and I own a Fluke Scopemeter), I think Fluke is overpriced; if I needed a better DMM, I’d look at other brands, including Keysight.
Bosch, Festool, and Mirka for standers. I haven’t tried Mirka yet, but they have a solid reputation and I’d go that route for an air sander, maybe their electric ones as well, I’m not sure.
I own a couple of Keysight tools, but because of the games they played with their software I don’t think I would go that route again.
Keithley is also good, but their products aren’t as well aligned with my needs.
Alfredo M Claussen
Keitley… a name I will never buy again, much less recommend. Their DMMs are to delicate, easy to damage from static voltages. Definitely look in otger direction.
Nothing like air sanders for production work
Thimk brands like Cleco, Dotco, Dynabrade, and Hutchins
Koko The Talking Ape
I’ve been pretty happy with that Bosch. It has pretty good dust collection without a vacuum (it seems like they all have good dust collection with a vacuum.)
But its predecessor actually broke on me. A bearing mount or something cracked, so the disk started wobbling, and not staying in a plane. I’ll probably just toss it.
Alfredo M Claussen
I also knew of Bosch having delicate plastic gears on their forced rotation sanders. Instead, my Makita BO6050 has worked well and is powerful, so powerful (750 W) that you really need to learn how to tame it, needing some practice. Be careful on avoiding to change the mechanism from forced rotation to random orbit free rotation and viceversa when the platter is rotating.
I had been using the Mechanix fast fit work gloves for some time. However, the last couple of pairs the fingers wore through in just a few hours. In searching for a new brand in my size, XXL, I came across something called Vgo. At $14.99 for three pair on Amazon, I was very skeptical, but pleasantly surprised. They outlasted similar Mechanix by days instead of hours.
I’ve used some VGO gloves. I think they’re probably just one of those Chinese rebrands of a pretty generic product but I got some decent wear time out of them too.
These days 90% of the time I wear nitrile-dipped gloves though. These are my go-to (but I am Canadian – I’m sure there’s abundant similar version available in the USA): https://www.canadiantire.ca/en/pdp/mastercraft-nitrile-dipped-gloves-6-pk-0570263p.html#srp
They’re cheap, don’t get wet if I grab something greasy or wet, fit nice and tight to my hand, are easy to clean, pretty darn durable (EXCEPT they melt fast if exposed to sparks), and – did I mention cheap?
I have sensitive skin and basically always work in gloves except when it’s unsafe (like woodworking machinery) – and then I often still wear disposable gloves. I like to have multiple pairs so I can quickly switch out for clean vs. dirty tasks.
I was curious and checked Amazon – VGO sells Nitrile and PU-coated gloves too. I can get 15 pairs for $20? Sold.
Koko The Talking Ape
If the tips of your gloves are showing wear, you can paint them with something like Plasti-dip to make them last longer. I suppose something like a urethane sealant might be even better.
eTORK for torque wrenches if you don’t want to break the bank.
I’m not debating, just curious. I’ve never heard of eTORK.
I have a vague plan to upgrade my 3/8″ torque wrench in the next year or so – is this a step up from the typical automotive store brands? Seems a bit pricy here in Canada, but the price-point is fine if it merits it.
I have owned typical automotive store brands and eTORK is a step up. I have had all 5 of the analog type for a few years now and they have held up well. They have easy to read scales, work clockwise and counterclockwise, and a calibration certificate is included. From what I understand, the guy behind the product is someone who has done torque wrenches all his life and decided to start his own company to make a better click-style affordable torque wrench.
Amazon link, b/c that’s the first place I went to learn more: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=etork&i=tools&tag=toolguyd-20
Looks interesting, I’ll keep that brand in mind for the future!
Thanks for the link Stuart – looks like I was thrown off by the Amazon Canada Pricing.
The 3/8″ version is $54 USD but when I checked the Amazon Canada site it was listed at ~$175 (which for context, converts to $142 USD). That made me think it was in a different category – priced similar to CDI for example.
Some other brands and their tools worth considering based on my personal use:
Leica – Disto 810 Laser Measuring tools
Lamello – Zeta P2 connector system tool – and Cantex lipping planer (now discontinued)
Festool – Domino XL machine
Powernail – 50P-FLEXRL flooring nailer
Lie-Nielsen – Planes
Veritas – bevel-up planes
Cadex – 21ga CPB21.50 nail gun
Klein – 63RBCHD ratcheting bolt cutter
Stabila – levels
Silky – pruning saws
Felco – pruning shears and cable cutters
Fluke – 177 multimeter
True Position – cabinet hardware jigs
Incra – miter gauges
Forrest – circular saw blades
Stihl – chain saw
Dowelmax – doweling jig
(I just ordered a True Position drawer pull drilling jig last week. It was pricey, but seems very convenient and it’s a lifetime tool.)
My only gripe with them is that it comes in a cardboard box. A nicely fitted one – but for the price you think they might be able to offer a plastic case. BTW – some of their forstner bits are European – but the jig components are made in the USA
I also have their jig for drilling for under cabinet puck lights. Did a few kitchens with this system – and it worked well – but rather too specialized a jig for me to recommend it as a general purpose tool.
They have both options now – plastic case or no case.
Their puck light jig does look useful, and I filed that away for “just in case I ever need it.”
My sets are now 5 years old – they may have heard my silent gripe – or that of others. Back then the cardboard box did have plastic carry handle.
Koko The Talking Ape
fred, how does the domino system compare to ordinary biscuit joiners? Or the Dowelmax?
I find the Domino machine to be faster, more convenient and borader in application to either biscuit joiners or the Dowelmax.
Mortise and tenon joinery was one of the mainstays of furniture building for ages. It provided strength and lots of extra surface for glue to do its job. The traditional old school way to form them was with a hand saw to cut the tenon and a chisel and/or auger bit to cu the mortise – followed by a shoulder plane to fine tune the tenon. This was time consuming and required skill and practice. I used to use a tenoning jig on my table saw and a hollow chisel set on my drill press. The process required measuring and layout and sometimes fine tuning with a shoulder plane. The Domino machine is more of a point and shoot tool. You put alignment marks on the 2 mating boards, set up the machine for depth – align the machine with you marks and push in. The whole process seems to fly by (as do wood chips – so you need a good dust extractor.)
I bought the XL machine – and with aftermarket cutters and adapters from Seneca Woodworking – it can handle the full range of floating tenon sizes from Festool (4mm to 14mm thick).
Dowels can do the same thing – and the Dowelmax guide produces well aligned and repeatable results – but the process is much slower and dowel sizes are limited to 1/4 and 3/8 inch diameter. I find that using it does have some advantages – and I like it better for some joints on smaller legs as an example. I had tried a Freud machine – bought in 2009 that was sort of like the Domino machine – capable of cutting 2 dowel holes at once. In theory it could cut holes for 3mm to 15mm (inch sizes too) dowels if you mounted the proper boring bits. The problem was that this machine was poorly made – bad tolerances – sloppy holes that were not repeatably accurate. Maybe if the Mafell Duo Doweler had been available back then , I would have bought it rather than the Domino machine that I bought in 2013.
Now to biscuit – aka plate joiners. We had Lamello machines in the business. But I choked on the price when looking for one for my home shop. My pick was a Dewalt DW682 – now getting really long in the tooth (I think that bought sometime in the 1990’s) and not used much anymore. I found it and biscuits to produce reasonably strong joints in many situations with some limitations. For thick stock you often needed the extra steps of having 2 biscuits one above the other. For some thinner stock – on glue-up a biscuit would swell leaving a sort of blowout-bump on the surface of the wood. The tool and its system certainly works – is much cheaper than the Festool Domino or Mafell Duo-doweller – but less flexible. I note that Lamello no longer sells their plain-jane biscuit joiner machines.
Finally, I recently bought a Lamello Zeta P2 machine – because I was asked to make a set of furniture with take-apart joints. Its a great system that comes with a small learning curve but whopping high price. It cuts sort of the same crescent shaped slots as a biscuit jointer but with grooves at both sides of the slot. The grooves allow you to slip in Lamello’s proprietary hidden connectors to make take-apart and other hidden joints. Swiss precision unfortunately doesn’t come cheap – but the connections seem very strong and look better than the typical Ikea variants.
Have the basic Lamello and use biscuits for alignment.
Went with the DF700 also. The mahogany tenons for outdoor furniture have been great.
Koko The Talking Ape
Alfredo M Claussen
I have used both the Leica DISTO and the Bosch distance measurement devices, and can attest that the LEICA costs twice, but outperforms all the Bosch offerings by several times! There is simply no comparison!
No Angle Grinder preference?
It’s funny to think how many chooses would be different if you lived on our side if the pond(Europe)
Adding that in!
Metabo, Dewalt, Milwaukee.
It was the M18 Fuel grinder that showed me cordless grinders can be more than just “cut-off tools.”
Metabo has proven themselves. Dewalt because I know how popular they are. Bosch has been on my radar for a while, not sure why, maybe because I took noticed of their handle design.
It’s messy, this is one of those “I can’t think about it without thinking about it” tool categories. There are a bunch of other categories, such as band saws, 14″ multi-material saws, and die grinders.
I’m a big fan of Dewalt grinders. I’ve got three corded ones (two 4.5″ and one 7 inch) that are all about 20 years old with pretty heavy use and they’re still kickin’. Other than brushes and replacing damaged power cords I haven’t had to do anything to them. They’ve been dropped countless times, bounced around in the work truck, splattered with weld and plasma cut slag, etc, and they just keep on truckin’
I picked up the 20V max flathead style grinder and I love that thing too. It’s very powerful and the flat design lets it get into tight spots a normal grinder won’t reach. It’s also the first grinder I’ve ever used which had a safety guard that was designed well enough that I didn’t take it off. It very rarely gets in the way; when it does it’s easily repositioned with a simple pushbutton.
Again for production work. IMO there is nothing that can match a Dotco pneumatic
Hammerhead usb chargeable screwdriver– now branded as skil I think? Great for outlet plates and doorknobs.
Boots – have to go redwings, moc toe with gum sole. If you don’t mind replacing the sole every few years, they will last forever and are extremely comfortable
I wanted to go to a nearby Redwings store for a proper fitting (apparently the in-store experience leads to a perfect fit), but then the pandemic hit and I forgot about it.
My main issue with work boots is finding a fit that’s comfortable all the time.
It depends on the Redwing store. The town I used to live in had a great Redwing store. I moved to Santa Cruz about 15 years ago and the Redwing stor eis terrible. Employees argue with you about sizing and fit. I broke down and listened to them, and ended up with blisters. They took the boots back, but still lost me as a customer. Now I buy Keens. Not built as well as the Redwings, but the store that sells them has much better employees.
I will agree with the comments on poor shoe store employees. I have been wearing Redwings for about the last 10 years and none of the local shoe stores that carry them have been even the least bit helpful when I buy a pair. Never had anyone help measure me or pick the best size. Never actually have anything in stock. usually takes several weeks to several months to order them.
I have no idea why they think a purely brick and mortar based sales model is a good idea. At least around here its is more of an impediment that adds additional overhead costs. The only reasons I put up with it is to support US manufacturing and because they make a relatively comfortable boot that lasts longer than most. I bet they would have had a better chance at maintaining their US made options over having to start outsourcing a large number of they products if it was easier to but them. I will never understand why US companies make it so damn hard to buy their products sometimes.
Another boot brand you might check out are those who make wildland firefighter boots. I used to wear Red Wings and Danner, I thought they were pretty nice. I was complaining to a friend that sometimes welding slag would burn the stitiching in the boots and/or melt the sole if I were to step on a hot piece of steel. He recommended a pair of Nicks’s Boots. I looked into it a little, I thought they looked a bit strange but I took a shot and ordered a pair. I figured I’d only use them for welding. I bought a pair a three years ago and they’ve been the best boots I’ve ever owned. Very high quality. At first I thought the high heel was a bit strange but I must say I find it really helps my posture, I feel that I can work longer with more comfort. They are my go-to workboot now, not just for welding. And like Red Wings, etc, they are fully rebuildable. There are two other essentially identical brands, White’s and Frank’s. Frank used to be the general manager of Nick’s and they are set up in Nick’s old shop.
The first step in ordering from any of them is taking measurements of your feet to be sent in for the boots to be custom made to, there’s no distilling everything down to just a single size number. Everything about the boots can be customized, they are well worth a look.
Got to say, since I got my PB Swiss dead blow with the interchangeable faces, my Nupla/Stanley dead blow has stayed on the shelf. This is used in a machining context.
Halder also make some nice deadblow hammers with interchangeable faces.
For furniture making – I have switched over to sorbothane:
Thanks! I might have to give that brand a try.
As for Halder, I have a couple of test samples I purchased that I’m working with. More on that in a few weeks (months?).
Can’t argue but would add:
Cut off wheels for angle grinder:
Lenox metal max diamond.
Work sharp, powered if money is no object, the one with the built in angle guide and diamond stones with ceramic rod and leather strop makes a very fine edge on a budget, both bench top and field size work well.
Drill Bits: Viking USA made twist drill bits, Bosch or Diablo spade
True Temper Pro (gotta.be.pro line otherwise just average) garden tools
Good call! I bought the cheapest Worksharp about a month ago and, with the addition of some separately-sourced belts in finer grits, I’m achieving awesome results.
I would probably suggest most people pony up for the better versions – Ken Onion edition or the Cabelas exclusive. They have better motors, bigger belts, more angle guides… it’s just easier to achieve a very nice edge that way – especially if you haven’t done a lot of knife sharpening.
However, with patience I’ve used the cheap “combo” version to get edges on all my knives easily able to shave arm hair. I actually like the weak slow motor sometimes because I can work very slowly on the edge I’m sharpening. Worksharp only sells belts for this model in one grit – but you can find belts elsewhere.
– get a selection of belts. Work your way up
– either stop the machine or lift the blade away as you reach the tip – don’t pull it all the way off (you’ll round the tip)
– light pressure. LIGHT.
– ignore the guide and hold the blade straight up and down for kitchen knives or blades where you want a finer angle.
Most of those look similar to my own preferences, influenced by this site. However, I’ve been loving Fiskars utility knives, and Maxiflex gloves are, from what I’ve seen, industry standards. A 19 oz Vaughan smooth face has been my go-to hammer for just about everything recently, although they can be hard to find. As an addition, what is your favorite tool belt or tool belt system? I seem to recall reading about you trying a few different ones. Fun read!
What do you like for stud finders?
Franklin Sensors and Zircon.
I’ve tried more sophisticated models, but they weren’t that much clearer to use and confused me as to what they were picking up.
Wiha. In a lot of places you have Wera, I would go Wiha.
There’s no genuine justification for me here, since both brands are equal for quality and price in my (limited) experience needing their particular tools. But there are items Wiha does that Wera doesn’t, so I prefer Wiha in those cases. Similarly, there are adjustable wrenches in the Wera Joker series that have absolutely no equivalent anywhere, so I would go Wera.
I would like to add Martinez to Hammers in the “Win the Lottery” condition. Otherwise… I’d swap DeWALT for Stanley where you have them in hammers… Again, only because Stanley is what I have, and DeWALT’s designs are not significant enough to change them up. Even then, I’d go Estwing (The Ultrahammer? I think? The article was a long time ago now. It convinced me that the Estwing Ultrahammer was better than its peers.)
Cordless: DeWALT all the way. Only for me though. Multiple battery ecosystems make space fill up too fast. This is purely a physical space economy situation.
Sure, my Tape Measure preference is DeWALT, but since I do a great many things Metric so I don’t have to do math in my head… Lee Valley Veritas 8 M Tape Measure, and blank Story Tapes are a really good mention for me.
Side note: The Lee Valley Story Tape is supposed to be one of their April Fool’s Day jokes, but ended up manufactured when so many people wrote in demanding it. I have yet to buy one, but the idea I have for their use is in making a known repeat of a project. You make every measurement, step by step, writing each part on the tape. You then stick a picture of the final product on the side of the tape, and take out the tape every time you want to make one of those. You have a complete step-by-step measuring story to work from each time. If it takes multiple tapes? Label them Parts 1-X as many as you need, with the same picture on the front. I do have several furniture ideas that I wouldn’t mind repeating a few times given the chance, so the Veritas Tape Measures are really good for this.
Roosevelt or Benjamen? (Joking. Just having fun with you Alex.)
A couple comments.
First off I’d pare down that list mostly on the basis of carrying about a dozen different battery brands around. So then you’d focus on the tools you use the most and that would kill off a bunch of other choices. Power tool batteries often cost most than the tools themselves and unfortunately they aren’t universal, even if internally the vast majority built these days rely on only 2 different models of Panasonic cells.
Second, in the electronics category, which is my bread and butter, I disagree.
Soldering: Might be nit picking here but Hakko is a joke. Where do I begin? Well to begin with, it’s blue and yellow and kind of looks like a kids toy. It comes with a conical tip instead of a chisel point so first thing you have to either take a grinder to the tip to fix it or buy a real tip. Second, there is only an up button. You can’t adjust anything down except by cycling all the way around. That’s like trying to text with a flip phone. The two claims to fame is that it heats up faster than Weller and it has a wider temperature range. Both are true statements. But you can’t solder anything at 120 F and you fire scale everything at 900 F so what’s the point? Second the reason it heats up faster is simply that there is less thermal mass. That sounds good but it also means it cools down and loses heat much faster. It’s the reason that we need a soldering “gun” for soldering large wiring on goofy military connectors that would turn a chip or a small signal wire into a glob of melted plastic by the time it gets up to temperature. So you save $10 with a Hacky I mean Hakko but then spend it buying proper soldering tips so might as well buy a professional tool which for most people is a Weller. Now of course I’m probably being too hard on Hakko here because you can spend $500 and get a great soldering station that eliminates all my complaints that finally competes with a $100 Weller but what you get with a $500 Weller is a full blown surface mount repair station with all the bells and whistles like hot tweezers, vacuum desoldering pump/parts holder, etc. Sorry if I just feel like this is sort of like when Consumer Reports ranks Toyota vehicles automatically better than domestic brands and freely admits that they didn’t ever do an unbiased comparison.
Multimeter: Amprobe. Sister company of Fluke. Several reasons here. Amprobe and Fluke both use the same quality control lab with the same specs. They both use the same rubberized plastic material for their cases. So in terms of construction and quality, it’s neck-and-neck. Amprobe for whatever reason is sort of sold as the “consumer grade” similar to Dewalt vs. Ctraftsman but the differences end there because Fluke and Amprobe are truly separate companies and there is nothing about Amprobe that looks like a compromise. So let’s take a high end pro user case such as a motor shop technician. This isn’t your run of the mill electrician that can probably get buy with a basic “Harbor Freight” meter and only buys the Fluke for the bling factor. So for troubleshooting one of the first tests they may run is an insulation resistance or “Megger” test. Amprobe has the AMB-45. It’s pretty long in the tooth though and street price is around $450. It has a couple other useful functions that can make it almost a backup multimeter but it is clearly nothing but a “Megger”. The latest in that market is the Klein ET600 which has better ratings and a street price of $150, almost 1/3rd the price. I’ve used the ET600 as my daily driver (I work for a motor shop) now for several months and all I can say is unless I’m testing 7200 V or higher motors, I don’t need anything else. It’s that good. Over at camp Fluke they have the 1587. Street price is around $900. This is hard to compare because frankly it’s not comparable. It has a full fledged multimeter built in that does ALMOST everything you want a multimeter for in a single ultimate bling package. I like it a lot to the point where I wish the competitors would ditch the stupid “0-10 A” current meter that you really can’t use most of the time and just go for a similar insulation resistance tester/real multimeter combination. But that doesn’t exist anywhere else so you can just buy that Klein with the money you saved not buying Fluke and still have money left over. Score here is 1 for Fluke fanboys or 1 for Klein (that isn’t even in the race). Gotta admit this is Amprobe’s weak spot right now.
So getting into true “Multimeter” testing the big use case for a motor technician is drives. For drives you will need diode testing, capacitance testing, resistance testing up to 10 Megaohms (testing for shorted semiconductors), true RMS DC and AC voltage testing including “Low Z”. This is where the Fluke 1587 falls down. In camp Fluke the choice is 87V at $450. In camp Amprobe it goes to the AM-570 at $150. Comparing capabilities, the Amprobe has a built-in “tic” (voltage field measurement) and a built in LED light. From experience both are not very good features so I wouldn’t count these as a plus for Amprobe. So Fluke wins the bling factor at a 300% mark up over Amprobe but in terms of capabilities they are identical.
Then switching to online testing for a motor shop tech we need volts and amps, and also (for 3 phase motor replacements) rotation testing. In camp Fluke we just have to augment that 87V. We have to add both an AC and DC current probe like the i410 at $300, and buy a separate 9062 at $450. We could buy the Fluke 325 at roughly $300 as long as the motor is under 400 A. The multimeter functions on that one are so compromised though that it’s really not good enough to do much more than basic testing. So based on price alone the i410 or something similar as an add on is the better way to go if you already have a good Fluke multimeter. Over in the Amprobe camp we have the AMP-330. It has double the range at 1000 A AC or DC. Plus it has a true RMS multimeter built in that rivals the capabilities of the multimeter portion of the Fluke 1587. And instead of an insulation resistance test as the extra feature, it has a rotation tester built in. So for live testing we are truly looking at a one meter solution at under $200. If you aren’t into drives testing then you won’t even need the AM-570. Also it has a dual range function where the nose has a separate current sensor that works down into the low amp range on small motors (#14 wiring) so a separate smaller clamp meter isn’t needed, something you don’t get with Fluke as anyone can tell you where just rolling the wire around changes the readings! And unlike the AM-570, the “tic” tester in this one works really well.
So in summary, Amprobe cannot possibly match Fluke for bragging rights on bling factor. A 200-300% markup on what amounts to the same thing just can’t be topped. But when the comes to basic functionality and USEFUL features Amprobe beats Fluke hands down in every category of multimeter. This isn’t just a Dewalt vs. Milwaukee fan boy argument or someone reading specs off a specs sheet either. But I will admit my Amprobe meters do look very nice when sitting next to Milwaukee tools and Fluke meters look very nice next to Dewalt tools. I’ve used all of the above meters on a daily basis for over a year and I know the ins and outs of every one. I’m currently carrying Amprobe for a reason. I have the AM-570 for drives testing, AMP-330 for live voltage testing, and the Klein ET600 for resistance testing.
Oscilloscope: For a bench top, it’s hard to go wrong with Rigol. Tek is just selling the same old tired stuff and hasn’t made any significant retooling efforts in over a decade. There are several hot competitors but hands down Rigol beats them in terms of price/performance by a pretty decent margin for lab/bench top use. But if the above multimeter argument is any hint, I’m not much of a bench top guy. Unless I pull the vehicle and toys out of the garage, I can’t even reach my “bench”. Mostly I work off a Dewalt portable bench (which Stu rates highly too). But have you checked out the Micsig’s? It’s got almost all the power of the Rigol but it’s a field version.. The only thing I’d say Rigol beats it on is the programmable interface stuff but honestly you can just save the data via wireless or USB stick and do all that over on a laptop. The Rigol feature is neat but limited anyway. Plus it’s a tablet…you get all the power and features of an Android tablet strapped to decent oscilloscope hardware for a “basic” 100 MHz oscilloscope or a really nice setup if you need a bunch of macros to make Automotive work easier. When I say basic I mean the power of modern DSO’s that can even do halfway decent FFT’s for instance and have huge memories for data collection unmatched by anything before them. For radios (GHz) range then obviously Agilent becomes a better choice and for logic testing where you need to read dozens of channels at a time, Picoscope specializes in that niche market.
Power supply: Instek. Yep it’s way overpriced but good for what it does. In the digital signal generator category I hate to use them considering that any day now I expect the company to disappear but it’s hard to ignore the Koolertrons.
When shopping for soldering stations, I went with Hakko and loved it. When shopping for an upgraded soldering station, I went back and forth but the Hakko also won me over.
My current Hakko doesn’t come with any tips, you select and buy your own.
Most inexpensive soldering irons come with a conical tip, and if you want a chisel tip or other style or size, order replacement tips.
As for the colors – *shrug* – never bothered me, I like the the blue and yellow.
When I needed a desoldering gun, a reader made a recommendation and I cross-compared and ultimately went with Hakko there too. No complaints. So when Hakko won me over in 3 out of 3 purchasing decisions, and those decisions have led to positive experiences, that’s the brand that I default to.
Weller’s also a good brand. It’s just not my top-of-mind brand unless we’re talking about soldering options under $50. They of course have premium options to, and maybe I’ll eventually try it if I need another soldering station.
Thanks – I’m not at all familiar with Micsig but will look at them further.
I had an Instek that I passed along to someone else, and have a Rigol and Agilent/Keysight. I’ve been watching the market, and if I had to buy again today I would simply stick with Rigol.
I’ve seen all manners of portable oscilloscopes, but I haven’t been compelled to try any yet.
For power supplies, I went with Extech, Agilent/Keysight, and Keithley, and I went with Instek for a DC load as an upgrade/complement to my BK Precision. After talking with different brands and watching how they progressed over the years, and in my own experiences, that’s why I would go with Instek. But they don’t seem to have kept ahead of other brands in some other equipment areas.
The difficulty with test equipment is that some brands tend to be aimed at educational institutions and industry, suck as Tektronix, and you pay a lot more for reputation than you do features and capabilities. I couldn’t find a reason to go with Tek over say Rigol, but the Agilent seemed to be competitive at the time and I got great pricing through a dealer.
Instek seemed within each, but I also know certain tool brands and manufacturers also use them.
Amprobe vs. Fluke is something I’ve been meaning to look into. I tend to default to Fluke and Pomona for handheld tools and cables, but I’ve also had some good experiences with Amprobe demo units. There are going to be differences, I’m just not fully aware as to what they are.
For benchtop I have Agilent/Keysight, but I’m not sure what brand I’d go with today. I’m not as proficient at LabView as I’d like, and so available software that doesn’t require much programming is a crutch I’m eager to look for. The DM utility (Benchvue predecessor) from Agilent/Keysight is perfect, but new users have to tack on Benchvue subscriptions for a similar software package.
Electronic and electrical T&M is just like power tools – what is best depends on what you are doing, for example, field technician, research lab, design engineer, or testing.
My current scope is a Fluke 192 scopemeter, which is portable, and like most other portable scopes, has a great feature for an automation guy: isolated channels (each channel has its own ground reference, which is great for differential signals such as RS422 encoders). There isn’t a lot of choice for quality portable scopes; last time I looked, it was basically Fluke, Tektronix, and R&S.
To give a different example, a while ago, I did work for a company that was doing multi-GHz RF testing; the test engineer’s preferred brand was Keysight (then Agilent), although they also used R&S, NI, and such.
From what I’ve heard, I’d totally agree with Rigol as the default oscilloscope brand for personal use; pretty much anything cheaper is junk. Maybe think of them like HiWin is for linear guides. Anyway, if I was buying a new personal scope for electronics work, I’d look at a new Rigol or a used R&S scope.
Thinking some more about your list of “best in class” – I thought that a few other tools/manufacturers are worth of mention (I apologize if any are redundant and for my stream of consciousness listing):
Wrenches (Mechanics) – Stahlwille
Wrenches (Close Quarters) – Omega Technologies
Socket Sets – Nepros
Torque Wrenches – Sturtevant-Richmont
Dust Extractors – Fein
OMT’s – Fein
HD corded portable power tools – Mafell
Table Saws – Hammer
Band Saws – Laguna
Plumbing Wrenches – Ridgid, Reed and Wheeler Rex
Pipe Cutters – Ridgid
Tubing Cutters – Imperial and Ridgid
Tubing Benders – Imperial and Yellow Jacket
Wood boring bits – Wood Owl
Fortsner Bits – Famag and Fisch
Metalworking drill bits – Cleveland, Chicago-Latrobe
Aircraft drill bits – Pan American Tool
Plastic cutting drill bits – W.L. Fuller
No-Mar countersinks – Amana/Timberline
Countersinks – Weldon, Keo Cutter
HD Soldering (think roofing) – American Beauty and Hexagon
Non Sparking Tools – Ampco
Tight spot screw driving – Anex (Kaneko Mfg.)
Power carving – Arbortech and Foredom
Pyrography – Razertip
Wood threading – Beall Tool
Clamps – Bessey, Kant-Twist, Urko, and Williams (bridge clamps)
Trowels – BonTool, Marshalltown
Cauking Guns – Cox North America and Newborn
Carpet Tools – Crain
Moderately Priced Saw blades – Freud (plus their Diablo brand)
Sharpening Stones – DMT (Diamond)
Carving knives and gouges – Flexcut, Two Cherries
Electrician tools – Klein, Greenlee, Ideal
Pneumatic Pin Nailers – Cadex, Grex
Pneumatic roofing nailer – Hitachi
Torches – Harris
Bolt Cutters – HIT (Toho Koki)
A/C Tools – Mastercool, Yellow Jacket
Threaded Rod tools – MCC
Table Saw Push Blocks – MicroJig (GRRipper)
Surform style rasp – Microplane (Grace Mfg)
Sanding Disks etc. – Diablo, Mirka
Carbide Tipped Hole Saws – MK Morse
Utility/Craft knives – Olfa
Leatherworking tools – C.S, Osborne
Pipe Threading machines – Oster, Rothenberger
Gear Pullers – OTC
Hobby vise – Panavise
Cable tie tools – Panduit
Scroll Saw blades – Pegas
Adze – Ochsenkopf, Pfeil
Specialty hammers – Halder, Hazet, Osca, Picard
Stone hammers – Trow&Holden
Hobby power tools – Proxxon
Roof/Ladder Safety – Qual-Craft
Festool Domino add-ons – Seneca Woodworking
Paint spray guns – Sata (Sata GMBH)
Deck Screw guns / nailers – Senco, Tiger Claw
Scrail gun – Fasco
Pneumatic Mallet – Taylor
Welder – Miller
Deburring tools – Noga, Shaviv
Stair building tools – L.J Smith
Water filter wrenches – Superb Wrench
Glue Guns – 3M, Surebonder
Glass cutter – Toyo
Bicycle Tools – Park Tools, VAR Tools, Hozan Tools
Great deep dive. You too Stuart’s exercise and ran with it.
I like that you mentioned Var Tools for bikes. I only have a few of their pieces from 40 years ago with I was a bicycle and moped mechanic. They are curiously and wonderfully designed.
I became the de facto neighborhood bike mechanic when my kids were growing up (they are all middle-aged now) – and kind of stayed with it. I got a hold of a Park Tool book on bike repair and then learned as I went along. There are probably as many specialized tools for bikes as there are for cars. Some come from component manufacturers like Campagnolo, Cannondale, SRAM and Shimano. Some of my tools tools came/come from specialized suppliers like Phil Wood, Jim Langley, J.A.Stein, and Chris King. But there are lots of others like Pedros, Bicycle Research, Unior, Cyclus, and LIFU who make a smattering of the most common bike tools. But the 3 companies I named are sort of the kings of the hill – all making quality products. Like you I have a fondness for some of my old VAR (French-Made) tools.
I’m not brand loyal at all. I don’t find a lot of difference in cordless tools, or wrenches, but Im picky about drill bits and pliers. I love my Channel Lock and Crescent pliers, and my HF cobalt drill bits.
Just like I did 4-5 years ago, I would buy cordless tools according to my confidence in the battery platform. That time it was DeWalt, and though I get Makita and Milwaukee envy from time to time, It may be DeWalt again because they don’t threaten to obsolete their 20v and flex batteries. Yet, Makita has been very stable, and I love their tools, so…??
Not sure power yard tools are on your list, but Ryobi is my pick for these. In fact, do you know if Ryobi plans to sell their Scarifier/Dethatcher in the USA or am I going to have to order it from Amazon UK? It’s Ryobi 18V scarifier/aerator RY18SFX35A-0. Or better yet if they had a 40v version…
Stabila levels are much closer to true level than Empire. I did the Pepsi challenge with the torpedoes from both companies. Their plate level will get you closer to true level than imo. I’ve framed with lasers and I’ve framed with the stabila plate level. Stabila wins every time imo.
I have to ask.. why is Milwaukee your preferred tape measure?
I bought a 25ft magnetic tape measure thinking it would be a great step up from whatever generic tape measure I had at the time and I cannot express how truly disappointed I was. Like a kid finally getting to go to this big candy store only to be given some brussel sprouts.
I tried and tried to like it.. but at the end of the day I cannot escape the hatred and animosity I have for that red tape measure.. the “stand out”, or lack thereof rather, is enough to make my blood boil.
Actually, I’m about ready to change my answer.
Milwaukee tapes have gotten better over the years, and I found myself liking all aspects. The standout was useful, the cases and blades durable, and I’ve been liking the more recent compact tapes. The hooks were large enough without being too large and clunky.
I found that, over time, I used Milwaukee more and more and other brands less and less.
Now, I’ve been really like the new Dewalt Tough Series, which have become my go-to.
It’s all a matter of “what would I instantly buy?” Milwaukee remains an easy buy for me, but I’m not sure they’re my unquestionable primary choice.
I just want to say I love how many of you mentioned Proto! I collect Proto tools and I use every one of them too. They don’t sit idly they are scattered about the shop, workbenches, and tool boxes, even the Plvmb ones nearing the century old mark. Great list!