2004/06/15

Tools

Eight Favorite Tools and Non-Tools

8. Robertson Screwdriver


That's the square kind. Robertson screws are as common as dirt in Canada. Last time I went to the States they were hard to find. Maybe that's changed. If not, you should write somebody about it. Flatheads always seem to strip or slip out and stab whatever you're working on. Phillips screwdrivers are better because they're grippier, but you still have to apply forward pressure to keep them seated in the screw head. Robertson screwdrivers never slip. Never.

7. Wire Coat Hanger


I didn't grow up on a farm and thus have no experience "fixin' anything wit' balin' wire." Instead, I can fix anything with a wire coat hanger. If I'm lost in the woods with nothing but the clothes on my back and a wire hanger, I feel confident that I would make it out alive. Wire coat hangers are also useful for opening cars with the keys locked inside, school science projects, and making redneck art. (Wooden hangers rock, too, but not as tools. Plastic hangers suck.)

6. Nail Clippers


In a pinch, my nail clippers have served as a screwdriver, a tack-pusher, a staple puller, a wire stripper, an emergency lawn tractor shut-off and a very small mirror.

5. Yankee Drill


Sometimes called a push-drill. By the time a This Old House fan has dug out his extension cord, untangled it, plugged it in, found the chuck key, changed the bit (and torn off a fingernail when the key slipped out) and accidentally ruined his work by setting the drill on reverse (oops!), I'll have made fifty holes and opened my congratulatory beer. And don't even talk about cordless drills. If you run *really* fast you might get your cordless drill over to hole #4 before the battery goes dead.
A Yankee drill will handle most common jobs, and a lot of uncommon ones that an electric won't. Try drilling through something too small to clamp down with an electric drill. Piece of cake with a Yankee drill.

4. Cup Hooks


Do people actually hang their cups from these things? We use them for hanging curtain rods, guiding wires and cables, temporary gate latches, toolchest handles, outdoor plant hangers... you name it. They're better than nails for hanging pictures. Note that the brass ones suck. In hard woods or cement-like plaster you can turn them until your hands bleed before the threads begin to bite. You can get around this flaw if you have a Yankee drill. Two pushes and you've made a pilot hole. You can also slip the drill shank through the "eye" of the hook and turn it to screw the hook in, saving your thumb for more important jobs like popping open the tab on another beer can or poking into the chest of an electric drill owner.

3. Duct Tape


Obvious, but it's gotta be on the list. From the mundane (quickly patching a hose until you can replace it) to the thrifty (holding hbomb's car together) to the medical (doubled over, it makes a good emergency blister covering), this stuff is gold!
If you use knife or scissors to cut duct tape, you're a turd.
Duct tape comes in several thicknesses. If you don't understand why people rave about it, you've been buying the cheap thin-as-a-bandaid crap at Wal-Mart. Get the thick stuff. If they'd had duct tape in 1912, the Titanic would never have sunk.

2. Dental Floss


The thread of the gods. On one end of the Line Toughness Scale you've got your standard thread that pulls apart like lint. At the other end is steel cable. Dental floss is more flexible than cable and as strong as anchor rope. You might not be able to hoist an engine block out of the car with it, but if you double it over you could probably use it to lift a bucket of paint to the roof. You can catch a fish with it. You can repair leather with it. Larry Niven fans could fix the Ringworld shadow squares using dental floss.

1. Pocket Change


In case some idiot has used a standard screw, a dime will work in a pinch. A nickle will hold one of those heavy self-locking doors open while you step outside for a smoke. A large coin makes a fine emergency paint-scraper or tack-pusher. Some jokers occasionally like to lock bathroom stall doors from the inside and then crawl over (Or under... Eeeew!) to get out. A quarter will unlock 90% of them from the outside.
Comments:
The only one I think you missed is the Stanley Knife But I'm glad to see someone other than me uses dental floss that way.

Dragon60
 
Yankee drill huh? Can you still buy those?

And duct tape should be number 1 damn it. ;)
 
What aboot "cable ties", also known as a "tie wrap"?
I ask for them for Christmas, they are so wonderful.

http://jwproducts.co.uk/ptdties.gif
 
The Stanley Knife rocks, and I just plain forgot to add it to the list. Better than those wimpy snap-off blade things. They'll snap on you at the worst possible moment, blade flying through the air into your eyeball. If the extra blades store in the handle, you've probably got something better than a snappy utility knife. Keep it.
And just try to pull one of those snappy knife blades out of the handle to use alone, for paint scraping, say. You'll bleed. Stanley blades are perfect for this.

Cable ties, wire ties, tie wrap, zip ties, zip strips... It helps to know all the names people use for these things, because half of them don't know what you mean when you ask them to hand you one. Good addition to the list! Anything that can be used to mend a fence AND handcuff a rioter is a good tool in my book.
I've seen people try to cut off the protruding end by sawing all the way through with a utility knife. Too much trouble, and you'll lose a thumb one day. Just score one side with the blade and bend. It'll snap right off.
 
I love you for this comment...

"Larry Niven fans could fix the Ringworld shadow squares using dental floss."

Duct tape comes in colors now, I could have gotten blue to match the car - but that's sissy duct tape and I would have been ashamed.
 
I've learned that there is only one tool that I need and that will handle ANY situation. I've got to have a computer somewhere within reach or at least accessible within a resonable amount of time. Regardless of the problem, I can find all sorts of solutions to fix it through friends (that I've never met in person), web sites (run by people I have never heard of) or real people I know (that I can send an e-mail to so they can come fix it). And if the answer is not there, at least I'll be distracted by shiny things to keep me occupied so that I no longer care. It's the ONE and ONLY thing that you absolutely have to have... Well, except for one of these to help with it... And some of these to keep all of those cables out of the way... And what fun would any of it be without peanut butter... Oh bother...
 
This is the best list I've seen in ages!! You rock!
 
Galoot, don't forget about electrical tape.
 
Galoot, is your last name MacGyver??
-Kz
 
This is a rockin list. As for the funky square screwdriver, all I have ever seen to compare here is the alan wrench, which I can't do without.
 
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