Gar's Tips & Tools - Issue #170
Weekly-ish access to tools, techniques, and shop tales from the worlds of DIY
Looking for a Mechanics Tool Set?
On the latest Project Farm, Todd looks at mechanics tool sets that claim to have what you need to work on vehicles. He looks at kits from Craftsman, GearWrench, Husky, Kobalt, Pittsburgh, DeWalt, Crescent, and Starwork. The sets were compared for durability, organization, and tool performance, including ratchet working arc swing, back drag, failure load, open and closed end combination wrench performance, socket adapter failure load, and the tool box's ability to hold tools in the proper position during movement. The kits ranged in price from $140 to $355. In the end, this was definitely a "you get what you pay for" situation, with the $355 GearWrench kit outperforming the others and having many of the tools you actually need for mechanics work. Honestly, to me, $355 doesn't seem like a big investment if you're really going to be working on vehicles with a set like this. As a bonus, Todd covers some of the supplemental tools you need for basic mechanics work.
Bob Clagett’s Top Ten Shop Gifts for 2023
On this I Like to Make Stuff, Bob looks at ten tools he's used over the year that he thinks would make great holiday gifts. Some of these *I* want under my Festivus Tree, such as the cool retro steel toolboxes! He also recommends giant self-healing cutting mats for your benchtops (which I'm also a huge fan of), the Gerber Arm Bar (EDC), and E6000 adhesive. He also makes an impassioned case for the 12' (instead of the common 25') tape measure. As he points out, for around the shop, you really don't need more than 12' a lot of the time, so why carry around 12 extra feet of tape? He recommends two tapes, a cheap, plastic-housed 12' tape and a more expensive Stanley engineer's tape measure. Lots of good stuff here, to give or to get. [Via Make Update]
TOYS! Japanese Tool Boxes
I couldn’t resist. I had to check out one of these Japanese tool boxes that Bob Clagett, Dave Picciuto, Adam Savage, and others have raved about. As Bob points out in his video above, the shipping used to make these retro boxes too expensive to justify. But now that Amazon carries them, the shipping is free (Prime) or reasonable. This 17.1 x 6.6 x 6.8 inches (433 x 168 x 173.5 mm) box was $38, still a smidge pricey, but a fun little indulgence for yourself or a fellow tool freak on your gift list. It’s a beauty! They have them in all different sizes ranging in price from $20 - $200.
These Are a Few of Becky Stern’s Favorite Things (2023)
In this installment of her DigiKey show, maker and electronics educator, Becky Stern runs through some of her favorite boards and tools that she worked with in 2023. These include the Klein Tools folding utility knife, the new Arduino Uno R4 WiFi, the Solderful breadbox kit, step drill bits, and more. I especially love the pump-top dispenser bottles for IPA and acetone. I just added those to my gift wish list. Lots of good recommendations here.
Making a Template with Graphite and Scotch Tape
Here’s a clever idea from the latest issue of FineScale Modeler (Jan/Feb 2024) magazine. This modeler was detailing a Tamiya 1/48 scale F-117 Knighthawk. He wasn’t happy with the clear windows that came with the target designators on the model (the actual plane has mesh material). So, he applied graphite around the edges of the opening and used Scotch tape to pull a clear outline. He was then able to transfer that template to model mesh material. This technique could obviously be applied beyond scale modeling.
The Whiteboard Deck is Still Available!
A huge thanks to everyone who bought Whiteboard Decks. I still have them available and if you order immediately you will likely still get them by Christmas. The deck is 10 US Poker-sized (2.5" x 3.5") dry-erase cards wrapped in a paper band and stored in a muslin drawstring bag. The deck also comes with an ultra-fine-point dry-erase marker that has a sponge eraser and built-in magnet. The Whiteboard Deck is $10 with $5 shipping (foreign orders at the shipping rate to your country). Order up to ten decks for the same $5 shipping. The Whiteboard Deck can be used for everything from to-do lists, to notes around the shop, to idea brainstorming and story boarding, to game design, to... Imagine the Possibilities! I take Venmo (@Gareth-Branwyn-1), Zelle (firstname.lastname@example.org), and PayPal (email@example.com/Sparks of Fire Press).