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

Available from Amazon

Threaded Tip Spade Drill Bits

Spade drill bits are normally used only when you only need a hole that’s “good enough” and you care more about how much time and effort it takes to drill the hole. For example, holes through studs for electrical wiring will be hidden in the wall when you are done, but you need to drill a lot of them. That’s when a spade drill bit is useful.

I recently purchased a set of Bosch Daredevil Spade Bits at a big box store because they were a good deal (set of 6 for $10) and my existing bits were dull and not hex shank. I thought the threaded conical tip, like a wood boring bit, was an interesting feature.

I was amazed at how much better these worked than other spade bits I have used. The threaded tip serves several purposes:

  • Keeps the bit centered when starting.
  • Literally pulls the bit through the material. I did not have to push the drill at all until it got to the point the tip came through the other side (and if you were drilling something backed with scrap wood you wouldn’t need to, or you could switch to drilling from the other side).
  • Prevents vibration/chatter and the bit bouncing around the hole.

The resulting holes were where I wanted them, were more round than holes from other spade bits, had fewer blow out” splinters, and were easier to drill.

I also looked at Irwin Speedbor MAX (which have three cutting blades) as they also have threaded tips, and probably work as well or better due to the extra cutting edge. But I like that the Bosch bits lay flat (taking up less room in a tool box) and were cheaper.

-- Matt Taggart  

Bosch Daredevil Spade Bits
6-piece set $15

Available from Amazon

Ball End Hex Wrenches

When you buy a hex key (Allen wrench) set, get them with ball ends. The advantage is that their ball end make it easier to slide the wrench into the receiving slot. You can reach in at an angle and feel your way to the needed drop-in position faster. Good for blind or inaccessible places. It’s a small thing, not worth replacing other hex wrenches for, but if you need to buy some hex wrenches, these ball ends are better. Different brands make them in many varieties, format, and handles.


-- KK  

Bondhus set of 12 balldriver L-wrenches

Available from Amazon

Starrett 800 Series Nail Set

I own a nail set (also called a nail punch) I bought over 15 years ago, but it never saw much real use until recently, when I began using it to drive machine pins. Not the perfect tool for the job (they are made to drive nail heads to the surface or below the surface of the wood), but it would get a pin started. However, I found that the steel would deform by bending and mushrooming when driving particularly stubborn pins.

Then I found Starrett nail sets. Starrett makes a whole line of sets, pin punches, center punches, and other precision tools. The particular nail set I ordered has a 1/16″ tip, is 4″ in length, and has a square head. The square head is nice, keeping the tool from rolling around on the work surface. The particular size I ordered served the need of driving a particularly stubborn small pin. The best feature of this nail set is the concave dimple at the tip. This dimple is designed to fit onto the head of a small nail so that the set doesn’t slip off when you use it to drive the nail. In my application, the dimple fit the rounded head of the pin I was driving so that I wouldn’t slip off and marr the surrounding area.

The downside to this particular nail set is the cost. A three piece set of sets from Stanley can be purchased for less than the cost of this nail set alone. However, the quality of the Starrett set will likely surpass the Stanley sets in the long run. Starrett offers a 5-piece set of nail sets, as well as other pin and center punches. Based on the quality of this nail set alone, I will likely add a set of Starrett pin punches to my tool box in the near future.

-- Ryan Gwaltney  

Starrett 800B Square-Head Nail Set Punch, 4″ Length, 1/16″ Punch Diameter

Available from Amazon

Megapro Stainless 15-in-1 Driver

I’ve been using the Megapro Stainless driver for over 6 years now, ever since I began life in the IT world. This single driver includes double-sided Philips, flathead, hex,and torx bits and is not magnetized (a must when you’re dealing with hard drives).

Not only do the 14 bits cover most any job that requires a screwdriver, but I’ve never lost a bit because the bits can be stored in the handle. I know, I know, everyone has seen those gimmicky drivers in the checkout lane at your local hardware store, but this holder actually holds the bits.

This driver is up for any job. I’ve assembled and disassembled many computers, put together a whole household of Ikea furniture, and my daughters crib. My wife used to have a drawer full of screwdrivers, but now we only need one for our handiwork.


-- Ben Caparoso  

[The driver's shaft opening is a 1/4-inch hex driver, making this a 15-in-one tool. - Mark Frauenfelder]

Megapro Stainless driver

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Megapro

V-Block Drill Press Centering Fixture

This is a great solution to a vexing problem – drilling round stock exactly in the middle using a drill-press. The round stock fits snugly in the V-shaped channel so there’s no need to clamp it down. I’m sure there are other solutions like this, but this is the only one I have used.

Center the V-Block by lowering your drill (with the power off), then clamp the V-block off and you are ready to drill.

-- Les Hall  


Available from Amazon

Carpet Stair Tool

I am remodeling a kitchen and we had a friend come and install marmoleum floors and countertops. I always enjoy working with different contractors because everyone has their own systems. Brett was quite meticulous, which comes with his vast experience. I was impressed by his carpet stair tool, which I had never seen before. It looks like a big masonry chisel, but he used it to level seams between plywood subflooring edges.

Once two sheets have been nailed down next to one another Brett ran the edge of the tool along the seam — it runs smoothly where the sheets are in the same plane and hits a bump on one side or the other if the sheets are out of plane. He then took a hammer, hit down the side that was high, and ran the tool over the seam again to check. The he filled the seam with a fast-drying mortar to ensure the seam was strong and stayed in plane.

The carpet stair tool also has a mushroomed head for striking with a hammer. But you can also use it to drive down nails that are hard to access because they are under cabinetry toe kicks — just put the mushroomed head against the nail and hit the blade of the tool with a hammer.

3-1/2-Inch Carpet Stair Tool

Available from Amazon

Magnetic Stud Finder

Using a magnet to find the hardware in studs is the most accurate way to find a stud. This simple, non-electric gizmo really works — much more consistently than other stud finders I’ve tried. You could make your own using a supermagnet, but this one comes ready to go with two large supermagnets mounted in a easy-to-hold device with a level. You swipe it around the wall till it pulls itself to a nail or screw underneath. Perpendicularly up/down is your stud. It’s strong enough to work through baseboards. No batteries, lasts forever.

-- KK  

CH Hanson 03040 Magnetic Stud Finder

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by C.H. Hanson

Magnetic Pick-Up Tool with Light

While opening my Mac Mini to add RAM and replace the hard drive I dropped two screws. They rolled under the couch to be lost in the dust bunnies. The hard drive screw was only about 2mm in size. My old eyes weren’t up to spotting the tiny thing. I found my magnetic pick-up tool, extended it and swept it under the couch. Click! Screw #1! Another minute of sweeping. (Shoo away the dogs.) Click Screw #2! And THAT screw is almost microscopic.

I had no idea the tool has an LED light on it. That was a pleasant surprise. It helped me see down the recessed screw holes.

-- Mike Andrews  

Craftsman Magnetic Pick-Up Tool with Light
$13 ($21 on Amazon)

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Craftsman

Tool Tales: Story Tape

Story Tape started out as an April Fool’s joke. The folks at Lee Valley Tools assumed people would enjoy reading about the fictional product (a spool of retractable blank measuring tape that you can write notes on with a Sharpie pen), but their R&D team liked the idea so much that they decided to put them into production. I can imagine a couple of different uses for them — measuring your child’s growth, and marking the width and depth of your car’s trunk. What else?

-- Mark Frauenfelder  

[Thanks to Doug French for sending us this.]

Story Tape, 12′

Sample Excerpts:


Story Tape — the only measurement system that’s exactly as accurate as you are! Not only is it compact (and affordable to ship), when the tape is not in use, the recorded measurements are cleverly retracted into the integral case, where they are protected from damage, wear, or fading. The luxurious yellow composite case has a sprung lower lip that cushions the datum surface hook from any possibility of impact distortion due to over-exuberant measurement stowage. The recording surface has been carefully designed to reflect the widest spectrum possible in the visible light frequency range, ensuring that it’s usable everywhere your eyes are. Custom precision measurements can be permanently recorded with fine-tip alcohol-based permanent markers. This tape can truly tell a tale.