I have some homework for you, if you’re up to it. Maybe let’s call it extra credit since it’s optional.
As you go through your typical work day, or a weekend project day, try to pay attention to the tools you reach for and use. And not just the tools, try to be mindful of the equipment, the supplies, the everyday fixtures that blend seamlessly into your workflow.
The other day I posted about Rubbermaid Brute garbage bins, and someone mentioned that it wasn’t news. Well, yes, professionals and industrial users know these products very well. But some professionals don’t, and neither do a lot of homeowners. How many people are going to do side-by-side comparisons at the store?
And it hit me – there are very many tools, pieces of equipment, and other such things that all melt into our tasks. You know, the ones we don’t think twice about, after that initial purchase.
Things like hemostats, medical-style shears, Spax screws, folding handle bolt cutters, impact driver flexible extension adapters, and boxed disposable shop rags.
Convenient tools you love?
We recently had a service call, and I pulled out some Scott rags from a box, and the tech was amazed. They’re given torn-up linty rags to use on jobs, and he was amazed to learn of the Scott rags.
The other ones I linked to are examples of tools that others have been amazed or surprised at.
I love introducing you guys to tools and supplies you might not be familiar with, but there’s an extra kick when it happens in person. The “I could totally have used that, why have I never heard of it before!?” expression on someone’s face is priceless.
So, your extra credit is to tell me about one item, more if you can think of it, that makes your life easier. Ideally, it should be something that has blended into your everyday life to where you don’t give it a second thought anymore, and something that you want to introduce to other ToolGuyd readers.
I’ll be doing the same. Hopefully I’ll find something that I hadn’t posted about yet.
Spax wafer head screws. Yeah, they’re just wood screws but wow they’re good. Oversize washer head, Torx drive, gold finish, nice threads that don’t need pre-drilling. They look as good as they function. I look forward to making jigs and knick-knacks for the garage just so I can use these screws. Great stuff.
Giant boxes of food-grade vinyl gloves from Costco. Dexterous enough to forget I’m wearing them, durable enough to protect from light scrapes (or protect wounds after something worse happens), and cheap enough to wear multiple pairs per day.
My beater flat head screwdriver to pry and move little mess with you sheet metal corners.
Gerber multitool: I use it countless times every day. I have tried the leatherman OHD and others but keep going back to it. I have broken 1 or 2 in 10 years of Constant every day use and sometimes abuse. Gerber is awesome about warranty.
Milwaukee ratcheting multi-head screwdriver: the tips are very durable, I carry it with m12 drill/impact and use the tips in all 3, very easy to visually index that you haven’t lost anything.
Tekton 3/8″ drive long hex drivers: very handy for AGAM cam locks during convention install/dismantle
Leatherman Skeletool for me. Mine needs a sharpening though. The combination of pliers, screwdriver and combo blade seem to be the perfect balance.
What I enjoy playing with? Probably Stanley Sweetheart chisels since I don’t get around to many wood projects.
Windshield Glass Installation plastic sticks with tapered ends some have chiseled ends to scrape caulk…its different then the cheap harbor freight pry bars. Not sure what the material is but it is white and almost clear…might be Ultra High Molecular Weight (UHMW) Polyethylene.
Carry around one stick in your toolbox to pry anything without leaving a mark and they don’t break
Former VW tech… do tech support over the phone now… one “tool” that I find helpful is when some one calls in using an ear piece when calling. This way they have both hands free and don’t sound all muffled when holding the phone with their shoulder. If you are calling up for any kind of tech support, hands free is the way to go.
Tools/toys I enjoy… Craftsman “Premium Ratchets”, I’ve got the 1/4″ and 3/8″. A Coast A5 Inspection light. A few Fluke DMMs I’ve picked up for cheap at pawn shops. Homemade VW/Audi wiring harness release tools. Automatic wire strippers, I have ones similar to OTC 4467, the “V” blades work better IMHO.
Rechargeable batteries. I’ve been using Rayovac for years, never a problem and they are cheaper than other brands. If I can remember replacing batteries in something twice, IMHO, may as well put rechargeable in them. The AAA ones have paid for themselves in flashlights several times over.
Milwaukee cordless grease guns. We use anywhere from 5-10 tubes of grease a week depending on our workload and the season, and these things are GREAT.
All cordless grease guns let you hold the hose squarely on the zerk while you can “pump” one-handed, but the Milwaukee guns have never failed us. My oldest one was purchased right after they came out, and that’s quite a while ago–and still it just WORKS.
I still have a drawer in my shop full of Lincoln cordless grease gun repair parts. We needed parts so often that we kept them on hand… We have NEVER done a thing to the Milwaukees other than use them, and use them, and use them.
Hmmm…..Pocket knife(started collecting them last March(now have about 100), but my favorite is the Spyderco Sage 2), Tweezers(have COMPLETELY solved many problems I had before when manipulating small objects), Knipex 85 01 250 US Auto Adjusting Water Pump Pliers, the Milwaukee Fast Back utility knife with Lenox Gold titanium blades. and finally the “Dixon Reach” refillable deep reach pencil and marker. Those would be my most impactful everyday use tools.
i have had a “Victorinox-Swiss Army 54874 Trekker 1-Handed Opening Knife” for over 27 years. i keep it near my computer monitor and it gets used all the time: whether it is carving caulk out of tiled corner or opening mail, it is just handy. its the go-to tool for so many little things. i used to use it as an EDC but i don’t really do the EDC thing much anymore so it just sits where i can grab it when i am at home. it is the one tool that i use nearly every day.
probably the handiest power tool for me is the small bosch PS31 12 volt (10.8) cordless drill. that thing never makes it back into the case because i just leave it out where i can get to it easily.
2nd on the PS31. I have several sitting in a stand made just for them.
3rd on the Bosch PS31. The one I grab for home chores. Great clutch for finessing smaller screws. 1/4″ hex – pop in bits or hex shank drills and it gets things done fast. Small so it fits in my tool bag. Always loaded with a Makita gold double ended #2 phillips bit.
Harbor Freight orange pick set. $2. Useful buggers.
Victorinox Rambler knife – phillips that fits everything, flat, tweezers, scissors & bottle opener in a tiny well designed tool.
Wet erase markers – write all over painted walls/surfaces and it wipes off with a damp rag.
Olfa A-1 snap-off utility knife. Thin, auto locks, in Lowes paint isle.
1) Proto J2345
There are lots of these sorts of tools around – but this one is my favorite – easy to bend into a shape and it holds the shape pretty well. I think mine and a shorter 2344 one are at least 30 years old. I even use it to grab lint that gets past the dryer lint screen and down into the ductwork – an easy regular cleanup in between a more complete cleaning with taking apart the hose and duct connections.
2) Stanley Hook blades
I keep a Stanley retractable utility knife with these blades loaded handy. Cuts on the pull stroke – works on clamshell packaging, NM cable sheathing and lost more.
Proto J2345 – You say it can be bent into shape and it will retain that? I have a cheap version that is simply a flexible coil.
Stanley Hook blades – Don’t you love it that the 5-pack is $4.79 whilst the 10-pack is $11.98. I have an electrician friend that uses a normal blade to strip cables and I think the hook blade will be invaluable. Thanks.
In a similar vein: I have a strong magnet on the end of a telescoping rod. I picked it up for those times when something falls down to a place where I can’t reach it, but it’s so much more useful than I expected.
Just the other day, unbolting battery leads I was concerned the backing nut would slip away once it came free, so I put the magnet on it. Also that day, I had my hand inside a compartment, supporting a bolt from below, trying without success to thread on a nut from above. I needed another tool from across the room, so I grabbed the magnet, (which luckily was within arms reach) stuck that to the bolt and cantilevered it out so that the weight of the far end pushed upward on the bolt and it didn’t fall out.
I can’t leave home without my Skinth. I have two. A Skinth plus for everyday and a Skinth Trailblazer. It’s perfect for carrying a number of every day items like a mini stream light, a retractable pen, a leatherman a mini pry bar, etc. All very useful edc items and definitely items I don’t want rattling around in my pocket. Perfect for being on my belt with easy access and protection for my tools.
Don’t even get me started on what’s in my Trailblazer. Lots of room. Perfect for the outdoors.
First class material and craftsmanship. It’s genius.
Similar to Fred, a telescoping pen magnet. Constantly useful in the shop to pick up a dropped nut or bolt that invariably lands behind a big machine.
My Buck 112. Basic and affordable EDC knife that sharpens quick, but isn’t so nice I worry about cutting roots with it while gardening. Also rock solid when opened, since it will be used as a pry bar sometimes.
Etekcity wireless outlets. I love these things, I’ve got a bunch of LED shop lights on these, and a homemade dust filter.
I just recently bought a Bosch 12V drill – brushed. Compared to a 12V Milw, though the Milw is a more powerful unit, the Bosch is much more fitting to what I use it for. Was waiting for the price to drop and it did! From $129 to $99. So I grabbed it quick. I used it all day today and am VERY happy I went with this instead of a cordless screwdriver (That also price dropped). On the lowest clutch setting (#1), it’s like a cordless screwdriver, but faster, and just as gentle, so no stripping into plastic; and capable to drill mild concrete. The 12V Milw doesn’t clutch low enough. My new fav tool at work. Need to find more things to use it on…
My fav tool at home is my DeWalt 20V MAX brushless impact driver. Recently bought a 1.5Ah battery and it’s MUCH lighter now.
Fisher Bullet Grip Space Pen/Stylus combo, in Matte Black. I switch back and forth between my phone (big fingers, tiny buttons/tap areas, not a good combo.) and either signing something, or writing something down so often that this thing just never leaves my side.
And… Call me crazy… but Aleene’s “Jewel It” Glue. When you just gotta stick something to something else. You can always tell when it’s a strong bond because it goes on white with a tinge of colour (don’t ask me WHAT colour, I’m colourblind) and slowly loses the white as it dries, then loses the colour in place of being totally clear when completely set. Can work between an hour and a day, depending on how much you use.
Aside from that, I can’t live my life AT ALL without my Leatherman Tools in my EDC. A Wave, a Style CS, Style PS, Bit Kit, Bit Extender, and I recently added a Black Oxide Surge to the kit. I’ve also just this past week received my Engineer GT PH-55 Scissors. I’m currently adding an old belt clip to the plastic sheath they came with turning it into a Holster. Funny enough, with the Aleene’s Glue and a couple little screws.
My handgrey titanium carabiner with bottle opener has just been the most secure, quick, and easy way to secure keys to my pants and my in the pocket organizer from skinth solutions has become an edc quick access tool wallet for me for the last few years. Yet ive never ever run accross or even talked to another person who knew of either of these products.
Simple BIC lighter, never know when you need fire!
I find the torch-style ones are also handy – but a bit bulkier in the pocket
In addition to what others have mentioned (I agree with most) I would add Fast Orange shop scrubs with the cleanser/detergent in them, or their equivalent from Goop, Armor-All, etc. They work well to get the greasey gunk off your hands so you dont get greasy hand prints on things, and if you happen to get a glob of grease or oil on your clothing, they will remove most of it and if you rub the detergent into the fabric right away the stain usually will not set. They won’t get your hands perfectly clean but these, followed by a paper towel or clean rag to remove the cleanser residue is all you need to be able to keep working.
I also like the shop paper rags/towels that come in a box – as well as the ones that come on a roll:
I started EDCing a flashlight a few years ago, and now I don’t know how I ever got by without it. I generally use it at least once per day. It’s super helpful if I drop something on the floor or under some furniture. My current light is a Streamlight ProTac 1L. The batteries are a little pricey, but manageable when bought in bulk from Amazon, and the good brightness/beam in a small package make it worthwhile.
Using a Nebo Slyde. Magnetic base, 4 rechargeable AAA batteries, slides open into a work light. Decent run time
Cramer Kik-Step stool. I have one in my pantry and it just fits under the lower shelf. Everybody in the family uses it constantly. My kids can roll it where they need it and I never worry about them climbing on it. It is just a great piece of classic industrial design.
Two things immediately came to mind when I read this article. These engineer scissors
Reusable Zip Ties. They are constantly a huge help to secure things. The brand doesn’t seem to matter but I favor these if available.
Dremel-type rotary tool. I use them every day to slot, cut, file, etc. The Milwaukee M2 rotary tool I bought for work has plenty of torque, unlike older rechargeables I’ve used.
I’m going to go against the grain and, instead of a traditional tool, I’ll say… my smartphone.
Need a digital angle-finder/tilt sensor? Got an app for that.
Need to quickly convert metric to imperial? Check.
Need to remember exactly how something was arranged before you disassemble it? Camera. Check.
You done goofed and you’re sitting reassembling a carburetor and can’t remember which way that spring fits? Grab your phone and pull
up the tech manual. Or visit youtube to watch someone else do it.
etc, etc, etc…
I’d be lost without it.
Yep I use mine for work daily
My third Ken Onion Scallion knife. It meets my job requirement of being under 3″, comes out and opens quick. I’m on my third. The first I lost, it’s OK because I got it by finding it in a parking lot. I have the half serrated now, going back to the full edge next time.
My 1/1000″ dial calipers. With finesse (takes lots of practice) it is as accurate as a micrometer, at least in the 0-1″ range. When I pick them up I know I’m about to arrive at the truth of the situation.
The camera on my smartphone, combined with OwnCloud for instant uploads to my home network, syncing to my laptop and workstation. As Jimmie noted, good for before taking stuff apart, but I use it a lot for data entry. It’s a lot easier to transcribe from 3 pics taken at different angles, then copy stuff on -site with a pen and hope you got it right the first time, and hope I can read my own handwriting later.
Without the smartphone cam/ownCloud, I would never have bothered to recapture all my Briggs & Stratton engine numbers… after B&S’s failed myBriggs cloud service lost all my engine data. (BS: Sorry! You’ll have to re-enter it. Me: You had one job…)
These Allex hard angled shears, ideal for cutting through blister packs:
Any good quality Japanese chef’s knife.
The Worksharp/Ken Onion knife sharpener. I have Japanese water stones, but they are too much hassle for most cases:
My Mitutoyo digimatic calipers.
Anything made by Knipex, Felo, Wiha, Wera, Facom or Bahco.
Fabre-Castell eMotion wood-barreled mechanical pencils.
My Leica Disto D2 laser distance meter.
Bosch power tools.
My Olight S1 Baton miniature LED flashlight.
My Leatherman Squirt S4 on my keychain – scissors are so much more useful than pliers.
Rodenstock/Calumet loupes with a sliding skirt, to read fine print as my vision worsens with age.
Malteser tweezers from Solingen.
Swarovski, Zeiss or Leica binoculars.
A Celestron USB digital microscope, for precision work.
Bought this pair of binoculars a few years back;
We find them excellent for travel.
Thanks, that reminds me!
We’ve got reasonably dark skies here, and I’ve been waiting 20 years to buy a telescope. Wow, I wish I was exaggerating. I remember sending out for my first catalogs, learning about all the different types, and making due with the 7×50 binoculars my father bought for us to share.
Before I drop the coin on a telescope now, I should use binoculars to get a good idea of what I can see, and what kind of viewing I want to do.
HA! Like I have any free time in the evenings anymore. Still, might not be a bad idea for me to start looking at some good binoculars.
I had an old pair of Bushnell binoculars that were not very good nor were they exactly packable. The small Zeiss ones are easy to stow in a carry-on and daypack.
When the kids were small – I sometimes used my Nikon F2 – with a 1000 mm mirror lens and right angle eyepiece mounted on my Gitzo tripod as a makeshift telescope. It got taken out mostly when there was an item on the news about some celestial event worth viewing. It was barely OK – hard to sight in – but the kids and I were never interested enough to buy a Celestron or other real telescope.
Nice hobby to get into though
Ours were Minolta binoculars, priced at around $50 I think. Not super fancy, but enough to bring out fainter objects.
The first ones we bought had misaligned optics, and I could still remember the arguments my father made to convince the shop to give us a refund. Then we went to B&H in Manhattan to buy the replacement.
My Starrett C604R hook rule. The finest rule ever made.
Mine’s a C604RE-6 – and is almost always in my shop apron since I bought it 20 years ago. Easy to read (now with my reading glasses on) and the end graduations are very useful.
Always have an infrared thermometer close by. Lots of fun to mess with. Have a Fluke and an Amprobe, both are excellent. Most days I would be lost without my Makita impact driver, saves so much time and labor.
But as far as a tool that I love using goes that would have to be my Lufkin 8′ stick rule. Can measure light fixtures, hvac grilles, attic access openings plus tons of other stuff without a ladder and without bending or kneeling.
One other tool I really like is my still brand new, unused Douglas DFR20 framing hammer. Picked it up some years ago and just couldn’t bring myself to actually use it because it looks so darn cool with the highly polished head, finished hickory wood handle, unique head attachment and the reverse face checking. Gonna frame it and hang it on the wall one of these days.
Count yourself lucky. I framed with mine and it was great until the handle broke in the first few weeks. Woodcraft replaced it under warranty iirc. The second one lasted a month or 2. Now that I don’t frame 60 hours a week, I’d love to have it rehandled. The head sat in a drawer for years and is now in storage since moving. Last I looked, hart had licensed the design and the handles were slightly different.
1) Sharpies – I can’t imagine a world without these handy markers.
2) Logitech wireless mouse – I hate to admit it, but I resisted using a wireless mouse for years since I had convinced myself they could not be as reliable as a corded mouse or that it would die on me when I needed them most. Now I get annoyed using any pc with those annoying corded mouse.
3) Tape – double sided, duct, gaffers, any tape will do.
Milwaukee M12 Fuel Impact , my new default drill ! Knipex Plier wrenches , and Mini Cobra pliers . Just to name a few .
My Japanese ryoba pull saw. I don’t remember the brand, I think I got it at Woodcraft for about $40. I don’t use it every day, but every time I use it I marvel at the smooth, clean cut, AND its speed.
My magnetic brake bleeder bottle:
Brake bleeds/flushes/etc are no longer a chaotic event of retrofitted Gatorade bottles, bungee cords, and countless Scott’s rags stuffed in vulnerable areas. Just pop the hose back on the second nipple when you’re done, and it’s entirely self-contained. Never thought I’d love it so much, and I never want to go back to open containers or Gatorade bottles.
Stool Box – i.e. tool box / step stool. Here’s one example: http://www.northerntool.com/shop/tools/product_200319997_200319997?cm_mmc=Google-pla&utm_source=Google_PLA&utm_medium=Storage%20%2B%20Organizers%20%3E%20Compartment%20Storage%20Boxes&utm_campaign=Stack-On&utm_content=178082&gclid=Cj0KEQjw9tW5BRDk29KDnqWu4fMBEiQAKj7sp5A7ooIGL6lorBIVmaUsDcMhcRrPtHyks7elxcIg22oaAuSu8P8HAQ
Nupla 2lb Dead Blow Hammer, aka “the persuader”. Steel on one face, plastic on the other. My go to striking tool.
My go to utility knife is a Bostich twin blade model. It can hold 2 retractable blades. I fill it with a straight and hook blade. Works great for roofing and there is no compromise in performance compared to other quality utility knives.