I spent some time setting up my new benchtop mill today, and after tramming the head – ensuring the spindle was perpendicular to the table – I wanted to give things a whirl.
I unpacked my new 4-inch vise, 6-inch parallels (because I can’t find any name-brand 4-inch ones), and the inexpensive clamping kit that I purchased with the mill from Precision Matthews.
Oops – the clamping kit has a range of double-threaded studs, but the shortest ones are too long and couldn’t clear the sides of the vise.
Knowing that I don’t have much 3/8″-16 hardware, which this clamping kit works with, I dug out my assortment kit.
I bought this Kerr Lakeside socket cap screw assortment back in 2014 on sale for around $44. It’s a terrible value for just 170 pieces, but I did the math at the time, and it would have cost me quite a bit more to build my own assortment.
This assortment comes in handy every so often, and if need-be I can cut down a too-long fastener, although it hasn’t come to that yet.
It doesn’t have everything (such as 10-32), but it earned its place in my tool box over the years.
Built up a fastener assortment can get very out of hand given the number of different styles are available. One of these days I might pick up a set screw assortment, but for now I only have this pre-made assortment for inch-sized socket head cap screws, and one for button head screws.
The 3/8″-16 x 1-1/2″ screws barely worked for this application, but allowed me to cut my first chips with the new machine. It also helped me determine what to buy next with greater confidence (just heavy duty washers to swap for the flanged nut).
If I didn’t have this assortment, my local Home Depot apparently has (4) hex-head 3/8″-16 x 1-1/2″ bolts in stock. Experience has taught me to wish for luck looking in their parts bins for something like that. A store further away has 187, and another 15.
Still, having the fasteners on-hand saved me 30-40 minutes of driving and time in-store.
Knowing I had the assortment – and where to find it – made all the difference. I mention this because I bought 3/8″ washers (standard thickness but I could have stacked them) a year ago, and have no idea where I put them. I moved them a few months ago, and couldn’t find them quickly enough, which is why I had to create franken-screws using flanged nuts from the clamping kit.
I think I made the right call with this fastener assortment, but I wouldn’t recommend it without reservations.
I have had good experiences over the years with other types of assortments, but there are some part categories where I feel store-bought assortments are grossly overpriced for what you get.
Olympia offers a whopping 2500 piece hardware assortment, currently ~$264 at Amazon, and while it has great ideas (I’ve been thinking of getting lock washers in a couple of inch and maybe metric sizes), there’s also a bit of waste with respect to my typical project needs.
You can’t have everything at-hand, otherwise there’s no end to the costs and storage needs. O-rings? Electrical terminals? Lock nuts? Standoffs? Rivets?
If I was looking to build a fastener kit on a budget, I’d consider picking up a couple of hardware packs at the home center – you know the kind, where a few fasteners are bundled in a little sealed baggie for a dollar or two. Maybe I’d get fewer sizes and lean towards longer lengths that could be trimmed down with a hacksaw if needed.
What types of assortments do you keep on-hand?