Charles recently wrote in, asking for some feedback about Keiba pliers or cutters. It’s not a brand I’m familiar with, but I’ll be checking them out as soon as I can find a good distributor. They’re sold on Amazon through 3rd party sellers, so I might start there.
I was wondering if you might do a review of some Keiba pliers or cutters. They are apparently very well made, and although a variety of US dealers carry them there’s not much info out there.
Garrett also wrote in, asking about Japanese-made tools in a general sense, and also mentioning a very positive impression of Tajima sockets.
My company just bought a lot of those sit/stand devices to get us IT folks off our behinds. In each kit was a 1/4 drive 13mm Tajima socket. Looking the socket over, it looked top-notch– internal areas/broaching was good, chrome was perfect, fit (as measured by pushing it on my Craftsman, Proto and SK ratchets) was very good.
We’ve talked a lot on the site about the European brands, but I haven’t heard much about Japanese tools. Is this something I’m missing? Do you have any info about any other tools–the Engineer Pliers are the only Japanese tools I remember reading about.
There are several Japanese-made tools I own or have used, but my Japanese tool experience is definitely dwarfed by my experiences with USA-made and European-made tools.
This wasn’t an intentional decision. The fact of the matter is that Japanese-made tools are far less available here in the USA than tools from elsewhere. Many Japanese tool brands just aren’t easily found here.
Engineer Inc. Tools
Out of all the Japanese tool brands I’m familiar with, I’d say I have the most experience with Engineer Inc.
I’ve written about several Engineer Inc. tools in the past, all of which I own:
Vampliers Screw-Removal Mini Pliers (My Engineer Inc. ones were purchased, Vampliers were samples)
Engineer Bit Pit Screwdriver Bit Carrier (also samples)
I’ve also bought some of their other mini pliers, a solder sucker, mini screwdrivers, and a spring hook I use for random stuff. I would recommend all of them, although I don’t use the jeweler-style precision screwdrivers often.
Engineer Inc. is a good brand, and they’ve become much more available on Amazon in recent years.
I have also had some experience with Vessel screwdrivers, starting with these Craftsman-branded ball grip screwdrivers.
They also sent us a few samples, which you’ll see reviews of shortly.
The Vessel screwdrivers I’ve tried are decent, and certainly competitive against like-priced USA, European, and other brands. They’re well-built, and have some nice features.
Vessel tools are available in the USA, although not quite in high abundance.
Anex makes low-profile screwdrivers, and low-profile hex drivers. I bought a set of the hex wrenches, and while I don’t use them often, they have come in handy. Anex makes a bunch of other tools (Amazon listings), but right now only their low profile bit ratchet is on my shopping list.
When it comes to precision measurement or layout instruments, I almost always stick with Mitutoyo.
I own Mitutoyo vernier calipers, digital calipers, dial calipers, micrometers, a thickness gauge, a dial indicator, a pin-jaw inside diameter gauge, small and telescoping-type hole gauges, and micrometer-based depth gauge.
I have some smaller Mitutoyo tools as well, such as dividers, a ruler or two, and a combination edge and center finder.
A Mitutoyo height gauge is on my wishlist, but my SPI one has been serving me well for the time being.
Thank you Fred for the reminder – but how could I forget?!
Hakko Soldering Equipment
I own a bunch of Hakko soldering tools, and they’ve been fantastic. While not exactly hand tools, the brand is definitely worth mentioning.
I recently bought an FX-951 ($240+) as a replacement for my still-working FX888 (discontinued and replaced by the FX888D, currently $97 via Amazon). I hope to get it going this weekend, so I don’t have any feedback to share with you yet.
I would definitely recommend the FX888D, which replaces the analog knob of the FX888 with digital controls.
I’m not sure where the soldering stations are made, though. I do have a few packaged tips for the 951 in front of me, and they’re marked as being made in Japan.
Beyond the soldering station, I also bought a Hakko fume extractor, which I can also recommend.
Thank you Fred for reminding me about Hakko as well!
I’ve heard of the Tajima brand, and although there are a few items on my wishlist, I hadn’t bought anything from the brand yet. Most of their Amazon listings are for general construction tools, such as tape measures, chalk reels, utility knives, and things like that. I didn’t even know that they make mechanics tools, and can’t find much information about sockets with Tajima branding.
This is a completely new brand to me, and while their tools look worth trying, I can’t seem to find a good source. I’ll keep at it.
WoodOwl Drill Bits
I’ve talked about WoodOwl drill bits before. I’ve bought some, and also received some others for review. I really like the brand, and think it’s worth it to seek them out for things like auger bits and large diameter cutters.
Some of my nail pullers are made in Japan, although I don’t know if they’re still made there. According to some Amazon user reviews, Shark no longer makes some (or maybe any?) of their nail pullers and pry bars in Japan. Instead of being said to be made in Japan, the one I bought years back is now said to be made from Japanese alloy steel, and are of a Japanese cats paw design.
Nepros came across my radar about a year back, when I posted about their super-pricey adjustable wrench. I wouldn’t have imagined it, but its price went up since then!
There are a lot more Nepros tools now available on Amazon, but they’re still too pricey for my general interest. I’m willing to buy some to review, but at these prices I doubt many readers would be interested in the brand for their own mechanics tools purchasing decisions.
Pens & Pencils
I love my Pentel GraphGear 1000 mechanical pencils – review here, and just noticed that they’re now a LOT less expensive than I when I bought mine a few years ago. So… I’ll be buying a few more soon.
I’d also recommend Pilot Hi-Tec-C and Pentel Slicci gel pens, Uniball mechanical pencils, Pentel EnerGel pens, and Pilot Petit 1 mini semi-disposable fountain pens. I think some Sharpie pen varieties are also still made in Japan.
While not tools in the traditional sense, I figured writing instruments were relevant enough to add.
I don’t own a lot of Japanese-made knives, but the ones I do have I love dearly. This is my mini Moki Ezo Red Fox (reviewed here), and I also own knives from Al Mar and Mcusta.
What has your experience with Japanese-made tools been like?
Are there any particular brands you could recommend?
What do you think of the brands discussed above?
Which brands would you want to see more review coverage of?