Wiha Precision Screwdriver Set

First, these are perfectly cut to dig right into the screws. Rather than sliding around and stripping them, these fit so perfectly that there’s no room to slide and strip screws.

Second, they perform admirably when it comes to turning the tightest screw. My old set failed to remove screws from my notebook’s hard drive sleeve (apparently tightened by an employee burning off steam into tight screws). In fact, every effort I made to turn the screw ended up having my old set rip across my hand leaving my skin raw. On the other hand, this set allows for a comfy grip, and popped out those stubborn screws with virtually no force whatsoever.

-- Sean Wessmith  

Wiha Phillips Screwdriver Set With Precision Handles

Available from Amazon

Stanley Chalk Line Reel

Ever since I was a kid watching my dad use a chalk line, I was curious about the simplicity of its design. A chalk line can be used to mark a long straight line on a wall or as a plumb bob. Inside the polypropylene casing is 100 feet of string which sits in a purple chalk. Extend the line from one point to another and then “ping it” and a purple-coloured line appears. The external crank handle is used to rewind the line. Turn it perpendicular and you have a plumb bob. So simple, so effective, and what’s not to love about chalk lines!

Here’s a video showing you how to use a chalk line.

-- Doug Watson  

Stanley Chalk Line Reel

Available from Amazon

Gripster Nut Starter

If you’ve ever tried to apply rotational force to a small part held with tweezers, then you’ve probably also spent time on the floor looking for that part. Get off the floor and buy the Gripster Nut Starter. It does a fine job of holding small nuts so they can be threaded on to parts and into hard-to-reach spots. Pushing a plunger on the back end causes four spring steel fingers at the front end to extend and spread. When pressure on the plunger is released, an internal spring causes the fingers to pull in and close, allowing you to hold small objects. I’ve found it’s also great for starting wood and machines screws, as well as for threading tiny washers. It’s particularly useful for fishing through containers of small assorted parts and grabbing just the right one. Congratulations, your fingers just got smaller.

-- Dug North  

Available from Micro-Mark

Power Cord Winder

I use several corded power tools around the yard and garden such as a chain saw, leaf vacuum, hedge trimmer, etc. Many’s the time I would put off a chore using them because I would have to uncoil the 100′ of power cord and probably have to untangle/unkink it before using it. After the job was done, it would take another few minutes to coil up the power cord and try not to tangle it in the process.

A couple of types of cord reels I tried didn’t work particularly well. So I bought this weird looking cord winder a few years ago. After installing the wall mount near the power outlet in my garage and winding my cord into the basket, I was quite surprised to discover I could pull out the 100′ of power cord, tangle/kink free in about a minute to the end of my driveway. I would do my chore (usually the leaf vacuum for lawn clippings and leaves) and, in another minute or two I could wind up the cord, detach the cord winder from the wall mount and put it on the shelf. Those chores now get done when needed instead of being put off since the cord unwinding/re-winding takes so little time.

-- Jim Service  

Wonder Winder Hand Crank Extension Cord Winder

Available from Amazon

DuraSpin Phillips Bits

Designed for use with DuraSpin’s also-awesome automatic drywall screw gun, I found that the replacement bits were an inexpensive source of joy for use with power screwdrivers and drills for many electronics shop, computer repair, telecom, and datacenter uses.

Typically sold as a two-pack for around $7, I’ve found them at Ace Hardware and Home Depot, among others. They’re never with the other bits, but instead are usually stocked next to the DuraSpin tools.

Anyone who has done serious work with electronics has been frustrated by screws that can’t be reached by a regular length power driver. Bit extensions are wobbly, and the variable diameter extender’s shank can make it difficult to move through a bunch of cords and other obstructions, as well as block your view.

The nine-inch EA0128 bit, lightly magnetized with a tool magnetizer, allows you to reach that nasty screw down in a corner that’s holding a PCB in place, surrounded by delicate components. In a data center rack, it can reach through a bundle of cables so that you can hit a mounting post screwhole straight on, rather than trying to manually start a screw and then drive it at an angle because the power screwdriver is too bulky to go straight on. The EA0128 is a great enabler for such tricky environments.

The downside to this tool is that it feels awkward at first, because the tip is so much further from the user. However, once used to this, it becomes very natural, and eventually the short bits start to feel awkward.

The bits are nearly indestructible, and are convenient to abuse as crowbars or nail sets in a pinch.

Having used these for probably about twenty years, largely in combination with our totally awesome Milwaukee 6546-6 cordless screwdrivers, I cannot imagine doing any significant amount of electronics work without them.

-- Joe Greco  

Senco EA0128 Replacement Bit
$10 / 2-pack

Available from Amazon

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