8 oz. Stubby Claw Hammer

This stubby hammer doesn’t represent the peak of tool smithing. But, the darn thing is so useful in my workshop everyday. It’s a tiny hammer suitable for brads and ¼-inch or smaller diameter dowels. I had made my own previously, with a finely crafted White Ash handle. It is beautiful. Yet it remains unused and this little fellow gets the daily use. Its small size and balance suits the small dowel driving in my toy making.

8-oz. Stubby Claw Hammer

Available from Amazon


Wide Mouth Adjustable Wrench

I have used this tool for well over 20 years. I use it several times per year, whenever I need to do plumbing repairs. I use it most commonly to loosen or tighten faucet strainers. Ordinary wrenches don’t work because they don’t have a large enough opening to wrap around the strainer. A large mouthed wrench can adjust its opening wide enough to remove or tighten the strainer without scarring it.

-- Dick Spencer  

Channellock 1-1/2″ Cap Wrench

Available from Amazon

Vintage Clauss Scissors

My awareness of scissors has been raised recently. Dunno why, but really, they’re a tool we all know, use, value — but, I think, under-appreciate.

We have several pairs of various Fiskars scissors. No complaints, good tools.

But my appreciation of old-style, hot forged, all-steel scissors has been piqued. These things were made in the heyday of heavy manufacturing. You know, the steel scissors with the black-painted handles? Maybe all chrome? You can still get some of these new, but on eBay and in flea markets, the old ones are still there, outlived their previous lives, looking for new ones.

For example, you’ve probably seen the telco guy with his snips and knife on his belt. Those are some old-style tough scissors. Made by Clauss or Klein, they can last a whole career with minimal care.

I’ve got a pair of Clauss 3769 shears in my desk. They’re long, elegant, have a satisfying heft, cut very cleanly – and I have no idea how old they are but I can tell they’ll outlive me.

Like good old buildings, good old tools survive. There are lots of scissors looking for new homes. A little time with a honing stone might help them, some steel wool or WD-40 might make them look a little better. And your hand will always appreciate using them. Way better than most of those plastic-handled cheapos.

Clauss was started in Ohio in 1877. And there are others out there too. These were cool before cool was.

-- Wayne Ruffner  

Vintage Clauss Scissors
Prices vary on eBay

Hole Template

We went with IKEA for our kitchen remodel and saved a lot of money putting it all in ourselves. However, when it came time to install the handles on the cabinets, I tried carefully measuring the first one I did and it did not work very well. Then I found IKEA sells a drill template for just this purpose, it makes it trivial to install handle after handle in the same spot each time, and the handles came out great. The drill template aligns with one side of the cabinet door and you can mark and drill in seconds. I used a Sharpie to circle the holes that I was marking to make it even easier to know which holes in the template I was using.

-- Jeff Lorenzini  

Fixa Drill template

Available from Ikea

Craftsman 1/4 x 6-in Slotted Screwdriver

I know that this seems way low tech, but I think that everyone has their own preference for what they think of as among their favorite tools. And, especially when it comes to tools, Occam was right – the simplest solutions, given several, is usually the best.

Cool Tools already mentions the lifetime warranty that Sears offers on their hand tools, but this 6″ flat blade screwdriver is small enough to hide away in a pocket and work on smallish jobs, but big enough to pry, gently scrape, lever, and of course, screw in a variety of screws with a large enough handle to provide the leverage that’s needed.

I like it because it is well balanced, not too large and useful for many different jobs around the house and the print shop. The 1/4-inch blade seems to hit a sweet spot when to comes to many non-Phillips screws.

-- Neil Salkind  

Craftsman 1/4 x 6in Slotted Screwdriver

Available from Amazon

Fein Oscillating Multi-Tool

Scrape, sand, cut. I’ve used the Fein Oscillating Multi-Tool for 20 years to prep wood for painting, to take years of old paint off shutters, to sand between shutter slats, to get glue from between floor boards on a hardwood floor someone glued carpet to and it oozed between the cracks. It’s heavy but effective — quicker than anything else. It puts all other multi-tools to shame.

-- Maryvirginia Hughes  

Fein 72293768090 Top (2013) Kit MultiMaster Oscillating Multi-Tool

Available from Amazon

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

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

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

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