Journal: What’s Your Favorite Tool?

What’s Your Favorite Tool?

By Andrew Golseth
June 6, 2016
35 comments

My stepfather isn’t a gearhead, but he always had something on the to-do-list (which was almost always drafted my mother). Not to take away from her credit: the stay-at-home mother that raised my siblings and I was never intimidated by any home project, no matter the scale…even after she accidentally dropped an air-conditioning unit out of a second story master bedroom window.

Thankfully, nobody was hanging out on the patio below.

In preparing to accomplish a task on the never-ending home improvement list, dad’s first stop was the garage workbench to collect all the necessary hardware and tools. Moments later, he’d come back in the house frustrated, “Honey, where’s my [insert lost tool here]?” To which mom would holler back, “Oh, I was using it for the [insert random project].” This drove him up a fuckin’ wall, so he bought her a little toolbox full of pink handled tools—problem solved, right?

Well, shortly after his solution, I picked up my first set of combustion-propelled wheels: a radio-controlled and fuel-powered Team Associated RC10GT. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any of my own tools, so I picked up where my mom left off: by borrowing my stepdad’s tools and subsequently breaking, losing, and or failing to put them back in their respective places—in my defense, I was 12 and probably unintentionally high on nitro fumes.

After many talkings to, where I mostly listened, I was told to buy my own “dam” tools—whatever that meant. My journey into garage life began with a mismatched set of heavily worn basic hand tools of various brands. Sixteen was when I was promoted from operating remote controlled stadium trucks to actual adult-sized road vehicles, and my need for sockets-n-such grew. Luckily, I landed my first real job: a sales associate position at Sears that offered a pretty sweet employee discount. I’ve been a Craftsman guy ever since.

As I got older, my kit bag turned into a bigger hand carry toolbox and finally into a rolling “mechanic’s cart” with a nifty magnetic side, a fold out worktop extension, and locking casters—seriously, pick one up, they’re great! Over the years, I’ve assembled a respectable collection of (obsessively organized) automotive hardware, but for the longest time, I didn’t have a torque wrench. After seizing a couple lug nuts on my jalopy Datsun and shearing the head off of a valve cover bolt on my $600 daily beater/hilariously fun-to-drive Honda CRX, I forked over twin Andrew Jacksons for a ½ inch Craftsman Micro-Clicker Torque Wrench.

No, it’s not the snazzy digital face 21st Century updated version, just a good-old-fashioned manual selector operated torque wrench—really all the typical DIYer garage monkey needs. Never has a tool offered as much utility as reassurance. As I’ve gotten older, my patience for tackling auto repairs and modifications has increased tenfold. Not being in a rush means excessive torque wrench use, even on the tasks that don’t require such precision.

I go the extra (often unnecessary) step because there’s something so satisfying about selecting the pound-feet adjuster grip to the recommended digits, twist-locking the power in place, and tightening the bolt at hand…waiting for that rewarding “click” that tells you: “That’s it, old sport. This one’s good to go”.

Granted, there are thousands of tools and they all have their place. Picking a single favorite tool is a little like choosing a favorite Ferrari—you’re going to have to get awfully picky to choose just one—of course, the answer to that question is the 250 GT SWB Berlinetta.

So, there you have it. For me, aside from the one singer Maynard James Keenan fronts, my favorite tool is my Craftsman torque wrench—though, my low-profile Craftsman hydraulic jack gets an honorable mention because I’m unable to leave anything at its factory ride height. We want to hear from you. What’s your favorite tool and why?

 

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Jose Delgadillo
Jose Delgadillo
4 years ago

My favorite tool is the one that gets the job done while making the process easier. In other words the right tool for the job.

Aulon Harizaj
Aulon Harizaj
5 years ago

I guess my favorite tools is the lime, possibly an all metal one. It is so simple, and so “form follows function” than you can feel yourself meditating while using it.

Alex Loker
Alex Loker
6 years ago

My favorite tool isn’t a tool for working on cars. It’s for remodeling houses.

This little white, plastic tool site sits patiently in my toolbox, waiting for it’s once or twice a year use – but it makes me so happy every time I use it.

Back in the 1960’s, my Dad got his PhD in Comparative Literature and started to pursue his career in academics. But frankly, he hated it. He always wanted to work with his hands, and he was good at it. He liked to tinker with cars, with little wooden boats, and with home construction.

So he started his own business doing carpentry and kitchen remodels. He spent his whole life in and around woodworking tools and house building tools. My parents divorced when I was pretty young, but I always spent summers with my Dad. Usually in his shop sweeping floors, or at job sites, toting tool boxes around.

As I went off to college and into the work force we lost touch – like a lot of parents and kids do. But when my wife and I were getting ready to buy our first house, I called my Dad and told him about all the remodeling projects we were up against. He became my remote contractor, my house advisor, and best friend all over again. We talked wiring goof ups, plumbing disasters, and best ways to hang new interior doors.

On one of his visits to see my and my wife (he lives 600 hundred miles away,) he loaded up his van and brought out a ton of tools to help us finish up a home project. We knocked it out over the weekend ad he was leaving he reached into his toolbox and handed me a little white rectangular piece of plastic. Not much to look at, but it had a perfect groove cut down the center, and two sides were cut back at a graceful angle. The plastic was worn and covered in dried caulk.

It was his old caulk tool he had been using for 30 years to draw a perfect bead line in fresh caulk for hundreds of clients. It was a simple tool, both in appearance and use. But it was covered in history. The history of a man, my father, who had labored in happiness to make other people’s bathrooms and kitchens as perfect as he could make them.

I took the little tool as we drank a few beers and reflected on the remodel project. Dad packed up his van and left for a long drive home. He still works in his workshop, but as he’s gotten older, the long road trips have gotten more infrequent.

When I’m wrapping up a big remodel job and the work, sweat, tears, and cursing are almost done, I reach for the caulk gun and my Dad’s little white caulking tool.

And I smile.

Christopher Gay
Christopher Gay
6 years ago

I’d probably have to say my welder, which is certainly the most used tool in the shop.

In addition, I reach for my adjustable square and an old Japanese miter gauge quite often in a project. An old special slotted screwdriver sees a lot of use, as well, as does a certain small hammer.

When I am wrenching, it would have to be my quarter inch drive tools, or maybe that one ten millimeter Bonney that always reaches out from the drawer of jumbled, jangling wrenches.

Tools don’t have to be expensive or carry a special name or badge, they just need to do what is right for your purpose. I make my living with my tools, so they need to be of quality, be consistently accurate, and most of all feel good in my hands. Although cheap tools may get the job done in a pinch, I have found that for the most part they do not tick any of those three boxes, let alone all three. I have different sets of tools that live in different places, but I always get satisfaction reaching for certain tools, be they wrenches, pliers, hammers, whatever. Some just feel like an extension of your hand, some were handed down, and many are both.

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger
6 years ago

So lets see … final score at the end of the day .

GuitarSlinger – 7
Dilettantes – 0

JB21
JB21
6 years ago
Reply to  Guitar Slinger

Whatta hell is wrong with you, man?

jolocho
jolocho
6 years ago

Magnet pick up stick for fishing out dropped nuts and bolts. A life waver when one drops down an opening in the body or engine.

Alex Buckler
Alex Buckler
6 years ago

Nothing beats the snickity-snick of a really nice ratcheting wrench, and the satisfaction of feeling-out exactly when to stop applying force.

Anthony Guglielmi
Anthony Guglielmi
6 years ago

This old flat head screw driver I have, it doesn’t even get used for screwing. I pry, pull, punch and even use the back end to bend metal wire tabs.

B Bop
B Bop
6 years ago

My favorite tool is Guitar Slinger !

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger
6 years ago
Reply to  B Bop

Yeah you’re real cute there little B Poop . Seems to me we already went down this road a few times in the past with each and every time you coming up a loser . Now what was that definition of insanity again ?

Sam N
Sam N
6 years ago
Reply to  B Bop

Amen. Serious tool.

Sam N
Sam N
6 years ago
Reply to  B Bop

Appears his Xanax has run out, y’ all…. Time to refill old Slinger..

Xxx Xxxx
Xxx Xxxx
6 years ago

As satisfying as a final snug or double click of the torque wrench is, there’s the more mundane task of spinning down the bolt or nut. There’s nothing more satisfying to me as the spinning T Socket into a cylinder head. A T Bar with an extension & socket will do. If there’s room, there’s nothing like it for me. I have no Idea what you would use a Leatherman for in the hangar other than opening bottles of beer.

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger
6 years ago
Reply to  Xxx Xxxx

……and yet another clueless dilettante trying desperately to be cute all while exposing his ignorance to anyone with so much as a modicum of mechanical knowledge or and understanding of tools and their uses . Hanger you ask Zippy ? Try asking the majority of pilots… especially Bush Pilots what the one tool is they’d never live without . Jeeze .. offer up an opinion and the Peanut Gallery comes to the fore in force … to what purpose no one including them has a clue

JB21
JB21
6 years ago

Because I’m a metalsmith and a teacher, I get asked this question a lot. I found the tools to be pretty much just tools, Harbor Freight tools often get the job done as well as a million dollar tool that has Porsche badge on it. Just a very few tools that can’t be replaced with any other, are measuring tools and files. There’s no way cheapo files can replace a Grobet file, and there’s absolutely no pleasure like using a proper caliper, micrometer, scribe, divider, etc. Everything else is, well, a hammer…I’m joking, of course.

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger
6 years ago

Good lord Golseth . Will you look at that ! We agree again ! 250GT SWB it is hands down .. no disccuiyons needed , no questions asked when it comes to the Ferrari question . Hmm … perhaps more common ground than either of us may realize ?

As for the tool question … that one is much more difficult to answer . So I’ll go with the two most versatile in the ole tool box . First and foremost the Leatherman multitool . That little beast be it on two wheels [ motorized or not ] and four not to mention around the house and at others homes as well has gotten me out of more situations and accomplished more than the entire tool box combined . 2nd would be the lowly yet ever useful adjustable wrench ,

JB21
JB21
6 years ago
Reply to  Guitar Slinger

I say, it takes all kinds, but the fact is, as convenient it is, all adjustable wrenches are rubbish, and shouldn’t be considered as a proper tool, a bit like a hot-glue is not a proper adhesive.

Maxime Veilleux
Maxime Veilleux
6 years ago
Reply to  Guitar Slinger

As the honorific James May puts it : Adjustable wrench the tool of the charlatan!

Martin Philippo
Martin Philippo
6 years ago
Reply to  Guitar Slinger

Adjustable wrenches are great for creating round nuts and bolts.

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger
6 years ago
Reply to  Guitar Slinger

So lets see now … one .. two .. three .. yup .. three absolute mechanical dilettantes that have never so much as ever turned a screw never mind worked on a car or know a damn thing about mechanics . Christmas gents … y’all really that clueless or is it just a feeble attempt like the wing nut above to be … cute ? Either way .. get a grip .. no self respecting mechanic tradesman or repairman’s kit is without a GOOD quality adjustable wrench . Then again … had any of you a modicum of mechanical experience … you’d know that … rather than taking advice from a Top Gear wing nut who barely know his way around the door key … never mind an actual too chest . Honorary my *** . As a writer .. yes .. a TV presenter . maybe … but as a mechanic .. give it a rest Veilleux

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger
6 years ago
Reply to  Guitar Slinger

And as for you Mt Philippo … yeah … real good for creating rounds nuts and bolts when you’ve the coordination and fine motor skills of a half baked ape unable to use an adjustable wrench properly .

Ahhhh … but let me guess .. when it come to repairs of all kinds .. you let your Credit Card do the work … right ?

Sam N
Sam N
6 years ago
Reply to  Guitar Slinger

When do you find time to write your Grammy nominated songs slinger? Between posting all day, yelling out the window at the neighborhood kids and dreaming about the Miura S you piloted in 1978, you’re a busy old f.

Evan Bedford
Evan Bedford
6 years ago

Robertson screwdriver. When will you Americans wake up? I’m sick of stripping Phillips!

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger
6 years ago
Reply to  Evan Bedford

Hmmm … lets say about the same time manufactures across the globe including the UK -EU – Asia etc start using Robertson screws in the products they manufacture ? No insult intended but leave it to a Canadian to create a tool that only works on a specific screw that no one uses making said tool all but irrelevant and superfluous . Worse yet … the likes of you blaming us [ US ] for its irrelevancy . And seriously … I’ve read the data … it aint no better than the Phillips and is in fact is by many considered somewhat worse than the slot head

Evan Bedford
Evan Bedford
6 years ago
Reply to  Evan Bedford

There’s data, and there’s actual feedback from users…including Henry Ford:

http://www.woodweb.com/knowledge_base/Square_Drive_Versus_Phillips_Head_Screws.html

Alex Wiens
Alex Wiens
6 years ago
Reply to  Evan Bedford

@Guitar Slinger
A significant portion of the lack of Robertson in the US is due to his refusal to license it. As such, a significant number of “Robertson” in the US are actually a version without the taper (likely to patent dodge), which work nowhere near as well. With regards to “a tool that only works with a specific screw”, I would say that is common of a surprising number of fastener heads. (See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_screw_drives)

The advantage of a slot is that you can use any flat object as a tool if you are stuck somewhere without a proper kit, and even then only under low torque circumstances. I’m intrigued to see sources beyond the anecdotal regarding the superiority of the slot head.

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger
6 years ago
Reply to  Evan Bedford

Yeah right … it works so well .. thats why no one’s using it … hardly anyones ever heard of it .. and its impact on the market place has been … zilch . And give me a break about the man not want to license it . Either the man was as a big a fool as his idea was worthless … or he had no clue how the world of business works . Jeeze … dilettantes galore on this subject …

Maxime Veilleux
Maxime Veilleux
6 years ago

I don’t know if its considered a tool but I swear by my Bentley for any car I work on.

See I love taking thing apart, but I don’t always have the memory for putting it back where it goes.

If you don’t consider that a tool I would say a good creeper to save your back on extensive jobs.

Matthew Lange
Matthew Lange
6 years ago

The only one I’m qualified to handle when it comes to working on old cars – a credit card.