Ratcheting ReadyWrench

I’ve had this tool for about a year now. It isn’t going to replace a real socket set or wrench set in a mechanic’s garage, but in a pinch it will work for the assembly of a child’s toy or in an emergency on the side of the road (e.g., a loose battery connection). If you’re living in an apartment without the storage for a master tool chest with a complete socket set and wrench set in both SAE and metric standards, then I think ReadyWrench is a perfect fit.

The ReadyWrench fits a number of of SAE and Metric standards, and reversible from both sides. Mind you, this means that Black & Decker had to get a little – *ahem* – fancy with the sizing of the sockets. Essentially, the socket that is labeled to fit a 19 mm bolt is designed to fit a 19.049 mm bolt, because that happens to correspond with a 3/4 inch bolt within 5 one hundredths of a millimeter (splitting hairs here figuratively). It does not correspond perfectly to spec, but I’m not worried about torquing down the bolt on the handle bar to the kid’s bike to 100 ft. lbs. and possibly rounding off the bolt.

In a nutshell, you’re getting a wrench that fits 8 different metric size and 8 different SAE size in one tool.

-- Samuel Sanders  

Black & Decker RRW100 Ratcheting ReadyWrench
$20

Available from Amazon



Slide Square

I bought this tool on a whim shortly after buying a new house last year. It was only about $7. What intrigued me about it was the ability to do everything a traditional speed square could, but wasn’t the awkward triangle shape.

I’ve come to love its compactness — how it fits into my shop apron’s pocket or tool bag. While I don’t do much framing, I certainly appreciate the ingenious shape which makes simple layout with dimensional lumber a snap. I have used the built-in calipers several times. Scribing and cutting 90 degree angles is quite quick, and, really, isn’t this what a square used for most the time?

There is only one thing I wish were improved about this tool, a ruler on the outside edge. The outside edges of the tool are used to indicate angles when used as a speed square. The ruler markings are on the inside of the calipers and cannot be used for quick layout which is frustrating. If this were changed, the tool would be an easy 10 out of 10 stars for me. As it stands, I’d rate it as highly useful and worth replacing a traditional speed square, but not yet perfect.

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-- Jon Stackpole  

CH Hanson Slide Square
$8

Available from Amazon



Megapro Pocket Driver

If you’re in IT, the need for small Phillips and Flat screwdrivers is common. Megapro, which makes the recently reviewed Megapro Stainless 15-in-1 Driver, also makes a handy and inexpensive Pocket Driver.

The bits cover two sizes for both Phillips and Flat head. The bits are well made. The handle is comfortable, just big enough for the job, while not being too big for a shirt pocket. The caps snap over each other, so you can put them on the tool when removing them and are less likely to leave them behind. The caps also rotate smoothly, making it easy to apply pressure with the palm of the hand while twisting with the fingers. The holes in the sides of the cap let you check which bit is in which end of the tool. There’s a clip for putting in your shirt picket. I bought five so that I could hand them out to co-workers so they would be less likely to steal mine!

There are some negative reviews on Amazon, but I suspect the reviewers were attempting to use the tool for too large a job. These are not made for bigger screws that have high torque, but rather for working on notebooks, digital cameras, etc. They don’t replace a proper toolkit for doing a lot of that sort of work, but for something small to carry around they do the trick.

-- Toby Ovod-Everett  

Available from Amazon



SKIL Quick-Select Lithium-Ion Screwdriver

I’ve been using this power driver for about 2 months. It has 12 bits, integrated into the shank, that are easily interchangeable by sliding in and out, sort of like a revolver handgun. There is a little magnified window that lights up to help you choose the right bit. A thumb selector slides the bit into place and you’re ready to go. It’s even possible to remove and replace any bit if you want to, and I have already replaced some of the bits with magnetized ones.

The manufacturer claims that the lithium battery will hold its charge for a year, sitting in the drawer, so it is always ready to go. And when you do need to recharge it, you don’t need to worry about keeping track of a special charger as it uses a mini-usb plug and can charge off of any charger that can use that. You can even plug it into your laptop or computer and charge it with a regular USB cable.

It is lightweight and portable with all of the bits safely contained within so it’s like having a toolbox in one small package. I’m thinking about buying a second one to keep handy in the glove box of my car.

-- Dave Faris  

SKIL 2356-01 360 Quick-Select 4-Volt Max 1.5Ah Lithium-Ion Screwdriver
$40

Available from Amazon



Craftsman 13-Inch Reinforced Tool Bag

I converted from a toolbox to this Craftsman tool bag last year and I could not be happier. I live in an apartment in Singapore with no tool bench and limited space. Over the years I’ve kept my tools in a series of metal and plastic toolboxes. The boxes always seemed to be too full.

Then I visited a friend in England who had a wonderful canvas tool bag, which held assorted screwdrivers, wrenches, pliers, hammers, tape measures and other tools compactly and efficiently. Though I could not locate a canvas bag in the United States, I found this synthetic bag at Sears. I’ve consolidated my tools from my hard toolboxes into the bag and am pleased with the accessibility of my tools and the compactness and portability of the bag.

I’ve had the bag for less than a year and do not use it too hard, so I can’t yet attest to its durability, but it seems sturdy and well-made. The fabric is a seemingly strong polyester; the zipper which opens to reveal a wide-mouth bag seems heavy duty; and the web handles are strong. The whole bag is durably sewn together. It comes with a Craftsman guarantee.

This bag may not be the right solution for heavy users who need to see each tool in its place, but the grab bag approach to storing tools works great for a weekend repairman like me. The bag is such an improvement over my hard toolboxes that I get a (little) kick each time I open the bag to retrieve a tool. And the price is right, too.

-- Mark A. Nelson  

Craftsman 13-Inch Reinforced Tool Bag
$13

Available from Amazon



Dewalt DW920K-2 Two-Postion Screw Driver Kit

I have used this for 2 years. It is very effective in narrow spaces such as IDF (Intermediate Distribution Frame) closets, where I have to add switches or UPS units to rack units. The wand shape makes using this screw driver very effective since it gives me the additional length from the chuck to the screw that a normal electric drill configuration fails to achieve.

I wish it also had a LED illumination adjacent to the chuck, which Dewalt is adding to its newer electric product line.

-- Stephen S. Wizowski  

DEWALT DW920K-2 1/4-Inch 7.2-Volt Cordless Two-Position Screwdriver Kit
$70

Available from Amazon



Museum of Early American Tools

A story is told by each tool archived in this paper museum. The tool reveals the amazing things that can be done with your own body’s power, regulated by your eye and mind. Listening to the tool, you can understand how things are made. Not only do these tools run without electricity, they can be made with other hand tools. There’s enough information in these packed drawings by Eric Sloane to enable you to make them yourself, to use to make other things. It’s kind of magical.

-- KK  

A Museum of Early American Tools
Eric Sloane
2002, 128 pages
$9

Available from Amazon

Sample Excerpts:

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Dogbone Wrench

I’ve used it three years. Keep it in my desk and use it much more frequently than my socket set. I always have the right size wrench handy in a single tool, and it rotates, so it functions more like a socket than a crescent wrench.

Design has been around for years. I own the newer Black & Decker model, but Craftsman makes one too.

-- Elon Schoenholz  

Black & Decker MSW100 Ready Wrench
$26

Available from Amazon



 

Extra Large Rubber Bands

I have been buying one pound packs of rubber bands from LFSMarine for over five years now (along with their cheap and tough nitrile gloves and barge glue). My first buy was an impulse one. I thought, “It’s hard to find this size rubber band (3/4″ x 6″) and, besides, I wanted to make some slingshots so…” I got a one pound bag. When you get them, you realize a pound of these is a lot of banding material. With that abundance, you don’t stint their use.

I love them for binding together papers and books (I teach so I always have a few in my desk.) I have used them to hold wood in place for gluing. I use them along with barge glue and duct tape to splice materials together in the garden. And I use them for sling shots., too. In fact they are always in mind and on hand for any kind of kludge. I usually buy a couple of pounds of them at a time for less than ten bucks.

It’s fun to give them as gifts just for the odd looks you get now and the thank-yous you continue to get as they too discover that these bands are handier than a pocket on a shirt. Perfect for the maker/tinkerer in you and yours.

-- Terry Elliott  

Available from Amazon



Swivel Head Deburring Tool

A friend of mine was helping me with a plumbing project and, while at the hardware store getting supplies, he insisted that I buy this General Tools brand, Model 481 deburring tool. Once we started on the project and cut some copper pipe I realized why he insisted.

The way it works is that the blade swivels freely in the head of the tool and this allows you to rotate the tool easily around the inside (or outside) of a pipe and shave of that tiny ridge of material left when cutting the pipe and any burrs. After a couple spins the pipe end is nice and clean.

It works well on copper, steel EMT, PVC, etc. I’ve even used it to shave down rough edges on cut-outs in sheet metal (like on computer cases, electronics project boxes, etc).

Some copper tubing cutters come with a sort of triangular deburring tool on the back of them, those end up trashing the end of the pipe. Ignore them and buy this tool instead.

One word of caution, with this tool it’s easy to apply force to the inside of a pipe end and with soft copper it’s possible to flute out the end of the pipe to the point where it won’t insert in fittings. Just take it easy; it requires very little force to do its job.

The model I bought came with two different blades and has a threaded cap on the handle so you can store blades inside. My blades are holding up fine after deburring dozens of pipe ends, but I suppose if you used it day-to-day you might actually wear one out. Searching online I see there are models that come with many different blade styles and types depending on material you are cutting, metal handles, cases, etc. A professional using this tool every day might have reason to prefer those, but this inexpensive model has exceeded my every expectation.

-- Matt Taggart  

General Tools 481 Deburring Tool
$8

Available from Amazon