MagnoGrip

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I’ve used this for a year, and it can hold nails, pins, etc., on my wrist rather than in my mouth. Here’s a brief list of tasks I’ve used this for: Putting together a Huffy Green Machine for my son; hanging pictures; shortening pants/dresses. It really does make jobs easier, and I don’t think anything similar exists.

-- Sue Bettenhausen  

MagnoGrip 311-090 Magnetic Wristband
$11

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by MagnoGrip



Duckbill Deck Wrecker

I set out to replace the boards on our backyard deck this summer, and initially tried removing the old boards with a three-foot crowbar. The main problem was getting it between the deck board and the joist, so I could start prying. This required a hammer to drive it under the board. Then with a lot of effort, time and hammering I eventually removed one board. Clearly not the way to do the entire deck.

After some searching I discovered the Duckbill Deck Wrecker. This thing is a monster. It sits on the joist and has two legs that straddle the joist and slip under the board you’re removing. With almost 4 1/2 feet of leverage it’s easy to pry up the board, progressing along its length every one or two joists. You stand on the old section of deck and push the handle of the Duckbill up, thus prying up the old board in front of you. As far as other tools go, Mayhew’s Cats Paw functions with a similar design, though without the rotating head. The Cats Paw has a little less leverage and costs a little more.

The first, outermost, board(s) must be removed some other way to expose enough joist so that the Duckbill can fit under a board. As you make your way closer to the house — putting down new boards as you take old ones up — eventually there isn’t room to stand behind the Duckbill. At this point you remove the Duckbill head (it’s pinned to the shaft and can be rotated 180°), turn it around and now you are standing on the new decking and pulling the handle of the Duckbill to remove the last few old boards.

I’m sure I will find some other uses for this thing, but even if it’s only good for decks, it was well worth the money.

-- Jeff Scott  

Duckbill Deck Wrecker
$68
Available from McFeely’s



Pelican 0450

Before I decided to purchase this Pelican case, I did check out some other options. One that I considered was the Stanley FatMax 4-in-1 Mobile Work Station, but it isn’t waterproof and doesn’t seem as durable as the Pelican. While the Pelican tool chest is pricier than most of its competition, it has several features that have made it well worth the extra cost.

First off, it’s virtually indestructible. No matter how rough I am with it or how often it gets banged up, it has not been damaged. The same is true, of course, for the tools tucked away safely inside. Secondly, I live in Southern Louisiana and our weather is often humid and wet; like all Pelican cases, this one’s watertight and it ensures that my tools are kept safe from moisture and corrosion. The few times I’ve left the chest in the back of my truck in the rain everything inside the case stayed as dry as can be.

A variety of drawer configurations are available, including custom-made, and the drawers even extract for on-site mobility. This case isn’t light — about 40 pounds without tools — however, the trolley handle and wheel system make it possible for me to move it around easily on my own.

-- Chris Catalanotto  

Pelican 0450WD Mobile Tool Chest (with drawers)
$520

Available from Amazon

Also available from Ralph’s Industrial Electronic Supplies
Manufactured by Pelican



Gorilla Gripper

I have the Stanley Panel Carry, previously reviewed on Cool Tools, but greatly prefer the Gorilla Gripper, which works with panel widths from 3/8 to 1 1/8 inch. It is about six times more expensive, but it works significantly better for moving large panels.

The Stanley tool goes under the bottom edge of the sheet. This can be awkward if it’s heavy material, such as plywood, and seems more likely to result in damaged corners. Using the Stanley holder, I had to bend my back at an awkward angle to pick up the sheet — the length from the tray (where the bottom edge of the sheet rests) to the handle is too short. The Gorilla Gripper lifts from the top of the panel, so there’s less need to bend before lifting, and I can keep my back straight. Also, with the Gorilla Gripper it’s easier to adjust your balance, since you don’t have the friction of the material moving the tool from side to side.

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-- Taylor Bryant  

Gorilla Gripper
$40
Manufactured by Landon Innovations

Available from Amazon



Halligan Bar

Wielded by fire and rescue workers everywhere, the Halligan Bar is the best door-smashing, get-me-the-heck-into/outta-here, zombie-fightin’ tool in the world. The deluxe 30-inch one I have (pic above) is made of high tensile strength titanium, so it will never rust and, despite its imposing appearance, weighs just 5.25 lbs. It even has eyelets for a strap! (note: less exorbitant Halligans are available in alloy steel; my titanium bar was a gift).

So far I’ve only used mine to do three things: hook one end over a bathroom stall to do pull ups, carry it as a hobo’s bindle stick and impress people on my walk home from work. Nevertheless, I live in a 17-story apartment building (technically 16). Simply knowing I own one puts my mind at ease. Did you ever hear the story of the maintenance guy on 9/11 who hacked his way through a wall using a squeegee? With something as obscenely strong and useful as a Halligan Bar, he’d have been out in seconds.

I keep mine leaning against the wall in the corner, where it waits for the day when I need to smash into or out of something… or I hear screams of “He’s trapped inside!” or “The Zombies are here!”

-- Jackson Nash  

Halligan Bar
$215 (30-inch, alloy steel)
Available from All Hands Fire Equipment

$555 (30-inch, titanium)
Available from Tico Titanium



The Mobile-Shop

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When I saw the previously-untried Mobile-Shop, it was like a dream come true. I’ve always wondered how could I really organize my work van. With the Shop, I was able to house about four different messy boxes of tools, and make them extremely portable. Now I only carry the Shop and my two Dewalt 18V kits. The handling is great and it’s well constructed. It is really something to see people’s faces when I roll it up to a job site. I’m a kitchen manufacturer and use the Shop for all installations. Aside from the organization it’s brought to my van and my life, it’s cool for my customers to see that I’m a professional all the way to my tool box. If you own your own company, giving this to an employee works great, too, as the fully-loaded Shop comes with a form that’s essentially a contract making the employee responsible for every single item listed (with pricing). Pretty smart. When I purchased mine, I got the cart with only the hardware for bottom organizers. The Shop was about $1100 empty, $1,300 with the bottom hardware, and it’s $3,000 for a complete shop*. Even if you’re not a pro, if you regularly travel with a shop’s-worth of tools, this cart is worth it. Mine’s only 75% full and I’ve got everything I need!

-- Noel Guillermo  

[ *UPDATE: the company has since changed its policy. Customers can no longer purchase the cart without buying all of the tools, which is rather unfortunate. If you discover they reverse that policy OR if you have found a similar solution available from another company, please let us know in the comments below or via the submit page. --sl]

The Mobile-Shop
$3,000
Available from Mobile-Shop



Weller Portasol Portable Butane Soldering Kit

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I have used butane-powered soldering irons for about 17 years. This one is compact, well made and lighter than most other butane type irons I have used. It is made of a thermal plastic resistant to high temp and the cap is vented so you can put it back on while the head is still hot. The exterior is textured slightly, which makes it easier to hold. It gives a sharp, well-defined flame front with a very efficient burn. The torch has enough power to tin the ends of large cables and shrink large diameter heat shrink insulation. Unlike the cheaper ones from Weller, it comes with inter-changeable tips, including a hot knife tip, so I can use it occasionally on close pitch SM components. There’s a wire rack in the case that allows you to set up the torch with a platform so you can use both hands. The fuel window is a nice feature, too. The run time is advertised at 90 minutes — of course it depends a lot on how hot you run it. I usually use it at 50% or less. I always refill the butane whenever I store the torch in its case, so I have only run out once in 17 years of using this type of soldering iron (I was 35 feet in the air and that was the last time).

The lab I work in is busy and crowded, so I work outside of the lab a lot. I can tuck this soldering iron in my lab coat pocket and forget about until I need it. I use it two to three times a week. The iron is great for soldering crimped pins on a new cable and the torch is good for heat shrink when I don’t want to go get the heat gun. I have yet to use it to cut poly rope, but it is nice to know I can. It is also great for lighting fireworks. I have not used the hot knife yet but I gave one of the kits to our mechanical engineer and he, being a sailor, thought it had real potential. The only draw back I have found is the TSA will not let you carry it on a plane.

Hint: I put the cap on the iron in the case and dropped a Leatherman E4 in the cap holder cut-out to create a more complete kit. You still need some flux cored solder, but one can tuck a small coil in the sponge can or carry a small tube separately.

-- Gary K.  

Weller Portasol Portable Butane Soldering Kit
(model: P2KC)
$60

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Cooper Hand Tools



FuBar Demolition Tool

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The FuBar is a single cast piece of high carbon steel that looks like a prettied up hammer. One end has a hammer and a tearing, armour-penetrating beak, while the opposite end has a conventional pry bar and nail puller. You can use it to drive nails, but what it really excels in is F’ing things up beyond recognition — hence FuBar. You hit something with the axe-like end until it’s weakened, then hit again, twist to pry, and CRUNCH!

When my girlfriend’s home suffered minor flooding, the damaged furniture needed removing urgently. But the furniture, including a bed and a very sturdy sofa bed, were too big to be removed through a doorway that had been put out of commission. The sofa bed just laughed at our attempts to take it apart using a heavy claw hammer and pry bar. The hammer bounced off the thing’s ultra solid construction, making it more likely that I’d be damaged than the sofa. Hitting with a hammer can be dangerous; even if it has a straight beak instead of a claw, it’s comparatively likely to recoil and bounce; you need many more hits and each one is much riskier. Demolition is a very violent activity and from my experience FuBar can make it safer, as well as much faster. There’s more control, fewer blows are needed, and less contact with the object being destroyed are required – which matters, because said object usually becomes a mass of sharp nails and wood early in the process, and the less you have to risk cuts and tetanus by getting close up, the better. It’s also durable — looks the same now as before I destroyed enough furniture to fill a pickup.

I have the smallest version, a 2.5-pound FuBar 2. The FuBar has just been updated into the “FuBar 3″ model, which comes in 3 sizes (2.5, 4 and 8 pounds) and has a few minor changes to the shape of the hammer/pickaxe and prybar. I think you’d only want a larger FuBar if you were doing some very serious demolition. And even then, you’d probably want the 2.5-pounder as well. I find it can be used one or two-handed (making use from a ladder possible) and it also works well as a nail driving hammer. It’s a little heavy, but superbly balanced. Note: Be sure to buy safety goggles — and I recommend well-ventilated ones with an anti-mist coating. You’ll sweat much more using a FuBar than an electric drill, and misted up goggles can easily result in a badly gashed hand.

-- Jonathan Coupe  

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FuBar
$20
Manufactured by Stanley

Available from Amazon



Craftsman Auto Switch

Like most people I don’t have a dedicated workshop, meaning my power tools share the garage with lots of things that aren’t happy about sawdust wafting over them like the morning dew. The solution is a Shopvac, but it can be a real hassle remembering to turn it on/off as I turn on/off my table saw, hand sander, Ridgid Oscillating Belt & Spindle Sander, etc. I’ve been woodworking at home for perhaps 18 years, and the best solution I’ve found is one of these little outlet boxes, which powers up multiple tools automatically.

You simply plug your main tool into the top outlets, then plug your vacuum or work light into one of the other two accessory outlets. Whenever you turn your tool on, it will automatically turn the other outlets on. When you turn your tool off, it waits a few seconds before turning the accessory outlets off, which is useful for clearing the line of dust, etc. I have two in my shop — one for each Shop-Vac so I never have to reconnect power cords or vacuum hoses!

I’ve been using these switches for four years. They definitely save time. On a given woodworking project, I generally turn machines on and off every few minutes and move from machine to machine. Without this switch, you would spend an extra 3 seconds and 2 steps turning it on and another 3 seconds and 2 steps turning it off. Doesn’t sound like much, but in reality those seconds and steps really start to add up, so you’d just end up leaving the vacuum on or using some other less effective dust collection (for example, an on-tool dust collection bag).

I had a discussion with someone about 9 or 10 years ago about how you could build one – and I actually found schematics for a load sensing relay that you could make one with. But for $20, this switch certainly beats trying to round up the components and DIY.

-- Yitah Wu  

Craftsman Auto Switch
$20
Available from Sears

Manufactured by Craftsman



Sand & Kleen Dustless Drywall Sanding

Sanding drywall is messy and nasty — it’s hard on both your tools and lungs. With this system the majority of the dust is sucked up right at the sanding pad. The sanding head, which uses standard sanding screens, is attached to a hose that runs to the Aquair Water Filter, a five gallon bucket that has a another hose you attach to a Shop-Vac (not provided). As you sand, the dust is sucked through 36 little holes on a pad attached to the sanding head. When the dust hits the water it goes into suspension, and doesn’t reach (or ruin) the Shop-Vac. Note: after a good bit of use, you will need to change the water.

As a builder sometimes forced to live at the site (the horror!), I can say that this has made my life (and marriage) much less messy. Even if you’re a homeowner and not a professional, this tool is especially useful, as drywall dust is incredibly pernicious. It can blow all over the house and settle everywhere. With this system, you can sand in the areas that you live in with significantly less clean up – and you won’t even need a mask!

-- Doug Barnard  

Sand & Kleen Dustless Drywall Sanding
$55
Manufactured by Magna Industries, Inc.

Available from Amazon