Tools for Possibilities: issue no. 87

Once a week we’ll send out a page from Cool Tools: A Catalog of Possibilities. The tools might be outdated or obsolete, and the links to them may or may not work. We present these vintage recommendations as is because the possibilities they inspire are new. Sign up here to get Tools for Possibilities a week early in your inbox.

Best multiple-bit screwdriver

Picquic Sixpac

The Picquic Sixpac may be the last multi-bit screwdriver I’ll ever need to buy, but it wasn’t the first. I’ve gone through a dozen less successful attempts at this kind of tool, always losing at least half the bits in the first month or so of use. When I try to use the few bits I haven’t lost, they invariably fall out of the bitholder, which weakens over time.

The Picquic Sixpac fixes both problems. Each bit is stored in a separate compartment in the screwdriver handle. You remove the bit you need by pushing it out of the handle with the bit you are finished with. Since there’s no other easy way to get at the bit you need, you always put bits away as you finish with them. I’ve had mine for three years and it still has all its bits!

Additional features include a solid, spring-lock bitholder that holds as tightly now as it did the day I bought it, and a stainless steel shank that has stood up to everything I’ve thrown at it. It comes with six bits: two flathead, three Phillips head, and one Torx T15. Other bits are available in Bitpacs from Picquic. — James Home

4:1 Hyperdriver

Klenk Ratcheting Screwdriver

I found this Klenk 4:1 Multi-ratio driver. It is a basic ratcheting screwdriver with two big advantages over the Sears model.

First, it has a black knob on the shaft that when held, allows the bit to turn four times for every one handle turn. It’s phenomenally fast and rivals drill drivers on small to medium jobs, where you don’t want to drag out the heavy equipment. It’s best suited for long screws, where the 4:1 gearing can really speed them in or out. However, since it is essentially high gear, you can’t put a lot of torque on it.

The second improvement is the bit storage and retrieval. The Sears version has these clips to stick the single-sided bits in. Getting them in or out isn’t smooth. The Klenk has a system with a hole in the top and you sort of lift to disengage the lock and dial the hole to the bit you want, which you can see through the side of the handle. The bits are also double-ended. It holds 8 double-ended bits for a total of 16 heads.

One improvement I’d like to see on this tool is for the ratchet mechanism to be tighter, since in narrow spaces where you can’t turn your hand much, the play in the ratchet can result in not getting much of a turn. Also, the 4:1 knob prevents it from reaching in narrow places to begin with. Overall, though, the 4:1 gearing is worth the $20 even if you already have a Snap-on or Sears model. — Mike Numamoto

Easier hex key

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

Pocket-size driver

Teeny Turner

The small size and stubby shape of this cheap driver allows me to reach tight spaces and still apply considerable torque. I’ve used it to adjust tension on folding knives and my SOG PowerLock multi-tool, and to open cases on remote controls, my PDA and cell phones. I have a set of jeweler’s screwdrivers, Wiha Precision Tech screwdrivers and a Craftsman All-in-One screwdriver (overall length: 8.75 inches) with captive bits that store in the handle. The 2.5-inch Teeny Turner fits easily in a pocket; it’s made of aircraft alloy shank, has a magnetic bit holder and the included bits (Phillips 00, Phillips 0, Torx 5,6 & 8, Flat 2mm and 3mm) are generally smaller and much easier to change out than my Craftsman. One small negative is the Teeny Turner has one more bit than storage positions, so you have to choose the least pointy bit to keep in the drive shaft if you carry it in your pocket. That said, the portability really is key. Plus, I do like the name. — Chris Jacobs

Cadillac of screwdrivers

Ratcheting Screwdriver

Although it will never replace a cordless drill in terms of speed of driving/removing screws, my trusty Snap-On ratcheting screwdriver requires no batteries and is far less cumbersome in both weight and size. And for a 1- or 2-screw job is actually faster.

This unit has a smooth-action, incredibly durable RATCHET action that will send the shaft merrily cranking in whichever direction you desire with a flick of the easily rotated ring. It can also be set in the fixed, non-ratcheting position. I have tried another ratchet screwdriver and found the action laughably rough with plenty of slop. The stainless shaft on the Snap-On is magnetized and bored out in the end to accept the standard hex-shaped bit tips. A durable plastic cap screws into the butt of the hollowed-out handle and has a gasket to keep the interchangeable bit tips that rest inside moisture- (and therefore rust-) free. — Carolyn Branson


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