Screw Extractor Driver Set

I purchased this set over a year ago to remove a few stripped screws in a water damaged iPhone 4s, assuming I would need to use the included extractor blade. I was surprised to find that the Phillips head was able to remove the stripped screws without any difficulty. Since then the set has been indispensable on several other iPhone repairs. The set also comes with a lifetime warranty.

-- Philip Thomas  

6-Piece Slot/Phil/Screw Extractor Combo Reversible Driver Set

Available from Amazon

Japanese Industrial Standard (JIS) Screwdrivers

I read the recent post on Wiha drivers (they are excellent) and noticed readers are using them for laptop maintenance, but this is what you really want. Japanese Industrial Standard (JIS) drivers which have a sharper cross on them than normal Phillips. Most electronics and lenses will use this head and the correct drivers make a huge difference.

-- Sean Charlesworth  

JIS Type S Driver Set, Pollicis 4Pc

Available from Amazon

Spyderco Bug Knife

I have carried this tiny knife for a few years, connected to a Photon Freedom micro light (another cool tool I heartily recommend over the oft recommended Microlight II) for the world’s smallest EDC (Every Day Carry) set. A knife and light combo will cover 95% of any odd daily task I encounter while working in an office and lab environment. This knife is the perfect size for professional office dress. It disappears in my pocket until I need it.

It is the smallest knife I have ever found and is just big enough for general scraping, tiny hole poking, and little thing slicing you need to do on a daily basis. It does not have a lock mechanism, but as long as you know that, you can use it in a way that will not cause it to close. It is stainless steel, so it is tough and corrosion resistant.

I recently lost my Bug knife and confirmed what I already knew: that I could not do without it for even a week. It costs only $6 (plus $4 shipping) at ($12 on Amazon) so it is a bargain.


-- Mark Nordhaus  

Spyderco Bug knife

Available from Amazon

Leatherman Charge Multitool

I’ve carried a Leatherman multitool, in one form or another, for the last 20 years or so. It’s the one thing I use every single day. There are plenty of multitools on the market and each person will appreciate different aspects of each. There are a number of features I like about the Leatherman Charge:

  1. Externally-accessible blades. The 154CM clip-point straight knife, 420HC serrated knife, wood saw, and file are all accessible without opening the multitool at all. Considering how often I use the blades (usually several times a day) this is a winning feature for me.
  2. Interchangeable screwdriver bits. The Charge comes with a basic flat/Philips reversible bit but there is an additional kit with another 20 bits of various sizes. The bits are unique in that they are flat so they fit into a holder that slots into its own pocket in the belt holster. This allows me to carry a variety of bits right along with my Charge.
  3. A bit-extender option available which fits into the holster as well, that serves 2 purposes: a) it gives about a 3″ extension to fit these bits into tight quarters and B) it has a standard hex socket for standard screwdriver bits. So if you need a bit not available from Leatherman or a specialty bit such as a “security Torx” the extender will accept those and many more. This makes the Charge extremely flexible for many different tasks.
  4. There is a second bit holder for miniature screwdriver bits, including is a reversible flat/Philips bit, which is great for tiny screws such as for eyeglasses, portable electronics and such. The fact that these bits are replaceable is fantastic because I don’t have to worry about damaging a bit that can only be replaced at the factory.
  5. Ccissors. The Charge’s fold-out scissors are sharp and precise, capable of cutting many soft materials. The scissor blades are about 1″ long — not suitable for extended cutting sessions, but great for small jobs.

The rest of the tools included in the Charge are typical across the Leatherman line: a bottle/can opener; two types of wire cutters; pliers that taper from a standard size suitable for bolt heads etc. to a needle-nose size; an 8″ ruler stamped into the handles; a file with an aggressive side suitable for wood or metals and a diamond-coated side for fine surfaces or even sharpening a blade. The saw has very sharp teeth in an aggressive pattern which make short work of even sizable branches.

The Charge is a mid-size multitool approximately 4″ long; it fits comfortably in the hand with rounded edges to keep from digging into your palm and fingers. There are 3 different versions of the Charge available, labelled the AL, the ALX and the TTi. The AL and ALX are almost identical, the difference being a ripping hook on the tip of the rope knife for cutting seat belts, linoleum and leather. The TTi has titanium handle scales instead of the black plastic of the AL and ALX. Also, both the TTi and ALX models add a crimper section in the pliers. In addition there are options for stainless steel or black anodized components to suit your tastes.

Overall I find the Charge to be a great mix of durable, useful tools; it’s comfortable in the hand and sized appropriately for many tasks without being too large or heavy to carry easily. The adaptability of the interchangeable bits and convenience of carrying a selection of bits in the holster make it a winner in my book.

-- Victor Reiner  

Leatherman Charge TTi Multi-Tool with Leather Sheath and Bit Kit

Available from Amazon

Chapman Deluxe Industrial Mini-Ratchet Set

About ten years ago I was doing field service on biomedical equipment, this little tool kit got more use than all of the other tools put together. It has 90 percent of what you need for all types of fasteners, and many add-ons are available for specialty fasteners. The tools are rugged and made in America.

For assembly and disassembly, Chapman miniature ratchet kits are ideal for working in tight spaces and are unsurpassed in versatility and speed.

The mini ratchet gives you the balanced leverage you need to loosen frozen or rusted parts without damaging them.


-- Bill Schmalzer  

Chapman Deluxe Industrial #5503 Mini-Ratchet Set

Available from Amazon

Long Nose Vise-Grips

Everyone who is into tools knows about vise-grips (or locking pliers) and most of us have at least one in our tool box. But don’t overlook the small long-nose version. I think it’s one of the handiest tools I own. I’ve had the 4″ version for over 20 years and I go to it for all sorts of things: an improvised handle for my air pump valve lock when it broke, a way to turn a small nut in a hard-to-get to location, a clamp to hold small parts together while the super glue sets. If don’t have massively strong hands and fingers, they are just the thing to get a better grip with. Put some finger tips from a rubber glove over the jaws for a cushioned grip. When they went off to college, I bought my daughters a pretty complete tool set from Harbor Freight. The only thing I added was a 4″ long nose vise grip.

-- Jamie Windham  

Long Nose Vise-Grips

Available from Amazon

iFixit 26-Bit Driver Kit

I often find I want to open electronic things because there’s something broken that’s really easy to fix. I was stumbling around for a long time. I had a collection of weird tiny screwdrivers that were easy to lose and the bits were low quality. Something would go wrong — either they wouldn’t fit or they would strip. This iFixit driver kit is just fantastic. It comes with a magnetized screw driver handle. The bits are very specific to opening up modern electronics: laptops, cellphones, and cameras routers. The bits are incredibly well tempered and they have all the weird star shapes that you need to get basically anything open.

Once, my son was out in the back yard. He had been doing some gardening. He had his cheap RadioShack camera and he was taking some pictures of the plants as they were growing, trying to do stop motion video. He tripped over something and went sprawling and the camera crashed to the ground and cracked open about a half centimeter. And I thought to myself “that will actually pop back together.”

One component was sticking out so I had to get it open but it turned out the camera had some sort of weird proprietary screw. The iFixit kit had the right bit for it. Open up the camera, shove the component back in. Snapped it shut, done! I only use it once a month but whenever I use it it’s the only thing that will fix whatever stupid little electronic thing has fallen apart.

-- Clive Thompson  

[This is from the Cool Tools Show podcast. See all of Clive's picks here. – Mark Frauenfelder]

Available from Amazon

iFixit 26 Bit Driver Kit $20

Milwaukee Fastback Flip Open Utility Knife

I have carried and use this tool everyday for over three years. I work in Solid Waste and facilities maintenance. Lots of hard use.

It is a knife that I can replace the blades on (therefore always super sharp), it can be flipped open with one hand (required), it has heft and that solid feel that makes an impression, I reach for it often because I count on it.

It has a bag/belt cutter built in to the CLOSED knife handle (very handy for cutting shrink wrapped palletized shipments and a large wire bale pocket clip.

I like the cost, and the feel (compared to flimsy plastic cased knives or knives that require a screw driver to change the blade on).

A good value that would not break the bank if I lost it or damaged it.


-- Patrick Ward  

Milwaukee Fastback Flip Open Utility Knife

Available from Amazon


Combination Knife/Rule

Great little pocket knife with two blades. The handle is a ruler that extends to 6 inches. I can’t count the times that I’ve used it to measure something. I’m a realtor and I use the ruler as a scale for taking photos during inspections.

-- Sean McGarry  

Combination Knife/Rule

Available from Amazon

Leatherman Bit Kit

Every Cool Tools reader likely has his/her own favorite multitool. I happen to carry a Leatherman Charge TTI, and I have noticed that I tend to use the accessory bits by themselves almost as much as my Leatherman itself. Even if you rock another brand of tool or knife daily, you might want to think about grabbing this set of bits.

Though they have been ground flat to fit the Leatherman, these bits work in any standard 1/4″ hex driver. I carry this set in the business card pouch of my work bag and typically use them with a pen-sized screwdriver I got at a trade show. This allows me to use my multitool pliers on a nut while tightening down the screw. In tight spaces, it is actually possible to use these bits without a handle – the flat grind allows you to grip them firmly.

The set packs into much less space than 40 standard hex bits, and it includes enough to tackle most common repairs. The usual sizes of screwdrivers, Torx, square, and hex bits are all there. It even includes a double sided jewelers driver. The two cases store everything firmly, and they slip easily into a pocket. I’m on my original set after 3+ years of use, and besides some shiny wear spots they’re all as good as new. For $15 the bits themselves are a cool tool with or without the Leatherman.

-- Dan Bersak  

Leatherman Bit Kit

Available from Amazon