Vix Bit

This might seem like a bit of a specialty tool, but for a homeowner or finish carpenter, it makes installing any kind of fixture a snap. “Vix” is a brand name for the S.E. Vick company, more generically it’s a “self-centering” drill bit, and they make a few different sizes, but I’ve only ever used the smaller one — need a bigger hole? Use it as a pilot bit. Hinges, cabinet pulls, shelf brackets, anything you need to fasten to a piece of wood, this bit prevents the tip from wandering so countersunk screws will seat perfectly. I first encountered these as a carpenter — attaching cabinet hardware is usually the last thing on the job, so you really don’t want to screw up at that stage. The vix bit makes it pretty much idiot-proof. I’ve had one for at least ten years, and it still worked great when I lost it a few weeks ago. It was sorely missed until I replaced it.

-- Chris Landers  

Set of 3 Vix Bits
$23

Available from Amazon



Shinto Saw Rasp

Imagine a stack of hacksaw blades riveted together in several spots and then bent out like expanded metal mesh. This is what you have with the Shinto Wood Rasp. It is extraordinarily effective at removing material. I use it to shape wood parts as well as when working with fiberglass and epoxy in my boat building business. It can cut aggressively yet can leave a smooth surface.

The expanded metal configuration of the blade allows sawdust and shavings to pass through the blade without gumming up the works as is common with standard rasps. The teeth remain sharp for a long time. I’ve used my rasp for nearly 15 years on some difficult materials and it still cuts quite well. A high quality traditional rasp doesn’t have the same longevity.
The blade is two sided, one fine, the other coarse. There are several different handle configurations available: in-line permanently affixed, offset, and offset with a second forward handle for more pressure. I like the offset handle to get full strokes, the full length of the blade. The handle can be easily switched from one side to the other.

A good “Rambo” carpentry tool, when you want to do a lot of damage fast, but still capable of clean work.

-- Nick Schade  

9″ Shinto Saw Rasp
$34

Available from Amazon



SOG Multitool

I’ve had my SOG multitool (with power-assist, in black) for probably 10 years. It’s geared, so the pliers and wire cutter add nearly double the gripping power. I’ve used the saw for cutting drywall, the knife for anything needing a sharp sturdy knife, and every other tool at one time or another. It is truly durable, comes in an industrial leather belt pouch and if I had to pick just one thing to take with me into any situation, it’d be this.

-- Rob Campbell  

SOG PowerAssist Multi-Tool
$68

Available from Amazon



Mag Ring Magnetic Bit Holder

As a carpenter, I’ve used dozens of different magnetic bit holders for screwguns. I find that Jack Rabbit Tools’ Mag ring is a great alternative. It’s a brass ring with embedded magnets that slips onto any 1/4″ drive bit.

It solves two problems with most magnetic tips: clearance and bit retention. In tight spaces or recesses, a bit holder can be too wide, and prevent access to the screw. Bit retention can be a big problem, especially with square drive and Torx fasteners, as the bit sticks in the screw head, and is pulled out of the bit holder. It doesn’t always stay in the screw though, and may fall into a hard to reach spot, or necessitate a trip back down the ladder.

The Mag ring works on any 1/4″ bit, round or hex shank, placing 3 rare earth magnets against the shaft. This lets you use a bit mounted securely in the chuck of your drill or impact driver. The strength of the magnets is far above average, holding fairly large wood screws easily. As powerful as any holder I’ve tried without a magnet in direct contact with the screw head. The advantages of the mag ring almost always outweigh ultimate magnet hold for me though.

I’ve been using them for about 5 years, The small size has led to losing a couple, but haven’t had one break or wear out.

-- Maxwell Lucas  

Mag Ring 1/4″ Bit Magnetizer
$10



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
$20

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
$6

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
$21

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