Rolgear Bit Driver

I’ve had this ratcheting bit driver for over seven months, and love its smooth action. It uses roller bearings instead of gears and has a great feel. Its magnetic bit holder takes standard 1/4″ hex-shank bits (such as the new Makita Impact Bits and the handy Bosch P2+R2 Combo Bits. Its cam mechanism provides left, right, and locked operation.

-- Gordon DeWitte  

Snap-On Cordless Impact Wrench

I’ve had this wrench for 11 months and it’s far exceeded my expectations. I’ve had other makes before, but they never had enough torque for heavy-duty use. This Snap-on has so much torque that I have never been stuck trying to remove seized and rusted nuts. The only problem I’ve found is with small bolts you have to be careful not to snap them as the torque is so great.

We use a lot of 38mm nuts and bolts on excavator attachments out in the field and in the past I’ve had to rely on using a short scaffold tube on breaker bar to get them tight enough that they don’t work loose. Now all I need is this amazing impact wrench.

Another great thing is that because of the way impact wrenches work I can do this on my own, holding the bolt with a spanner with one hand and tightening the nut with the wrench in the other. In the past it was a two man job.

It is more expensive than some others, but if you have the need for a heavy duty cordless impact wrench then this is by far the best one in my opinion.

-- Graham Simpson  

Snap-On CT7850 Cordless Impact Wrench
$705 (Includes impact wrench, 2 Lithium battery packs, CTC720 charger, and tote bag.)

Manufactured by Snap-On

Craftsman Impact Driver

My wife wanted to get me a new drill for Christmas, but picked up a 1/4-inch impact driver “by mistake.” Not so! This thing puts my other two drills to shame! This is a champ — it’ll drive coated screws into the toughest / hardest wood, with fantastic run time and quick recharges.

I had some friends help me erect a patio cover last weekend and they were all fighting over the use of it. I ended up going over to Sears & getting another one that day. It works like a drill but is limited to 1/4-inch hex-head driver bits and special drill bits with a hex head. The driver comes with a 19.2-volt battery pack, a one-hour charger, a socket adaptor, and two bits. (A drive and drill set is sold separately.)

Now I want a 1/2-inch model so I can throw my low-torque drills away.

-- Mike Smith  

[Above, a video that uses slow-motion to demonstrate how an impact wrench works. - Mark Frauenfelder]

Dewalt Interchangeable Nail Set

I bought this nail set a few months ago — what I really needed was an awl, but I thought I would grind down one of the three sizes of nail sets that come with this tool to be a sharp-pointed hole-poker. I did, and I use that pretty often, but even more often I use the Phillips screwdriver bit that’s the fourth end on the two bits that are included. It’s smaller and lighter to carry around than a full-on screwdriver, also it’s a better (fuller) bit and easier to get to screws with than the driver on my EDC Leatherman Wave. Of course if you need some serious torque, you may want a larger-handled driver on you (or a wrench, see below).

The quick-change collar holds the included bits securely, and also accepts standard short driver bits — there’s a stop at a depth such that a short bit will be properly positioned, and while there’s no magnet to hold it in, the friction of the ball bearing keeps it snug. It will also accept other quick-change bits, though they don’t fit as snugly as the included sets — they have some linear play, but they won’t fall out. (The discrepancy is especially odd to me considering Dewalt is a respected, long-time tool maker with experience making tools that accept standard quick-change bits — as well as selling those bits!) The knurled sliding sleeve is loose enough to release a bit with one hand; this does mean that if the tool lives bit-end down in a tight pocket you can drop your bit out inadvertently as you slide the tool out.

The other end of the shaft is hex-shaped, so it can be chucked into a drill to act as a bit holder, and also gives you some grip to manually torque a screw loose or tight. It will also slip into a 7/16″ socket for even more options.

Overall this is a great multi-purpose tool for an everyday carry or just to have handy in a small tool pouch when you don’t want to bring along your larger tool bag, box, or bucket. If you don’t need three sizes of nail sets available all the time, modify it! (My next mod will be to make the fat nail set opposite the Phillips driver into a flat-head driver.) Carry a small variety of other driver bits and you’ve got a versatile set of tools in a small package.

There are other options for a small multi-bit capable screwdriver, but I feel that this has an advantage not only in simplicity but especially in versatility, given the included sets and the ability to use it in a drill or with a socket or wrench. The only drawbacks I’ve found are the possibility of losing a bit if you pull it out of a tight pocket or pouch, and the difference in the size of the quick-change notch on the included bits versus standard quick-change driver and drill bits. Neither of these is a deal-breaker for me, and I find myself carrying this almost daily, and using it nearly as often. At Home Depot (where I bought mine) it cost a dollar more than Dewalt’s set of three separate nail sets, and is way more useful. The signature Dewalt yellow also makes it easy to see where you stuck it or set it down!

-- Kyle Wayman  

Available from Amazon

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

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.





-- Jon Stackpole  

CH Hanson Slide Square

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

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

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

Available from Amazon