I recently read and commented on Aubrey Kagan's excellent blog describing his Top 17 Helpful Hints for Constructing Electronic Systems.
In this column, Aubrey -- and other commenters -- mentioned several tools for making life easier. This got me thinking about all the tools I have acquired -- or constructed -- over the years. As we will see, this includes some fairly unusual items.
The first rule associated with acquiring tools is to spend money on good ones. I used to go to Malawi a lot (it's in the middle of Africa near Zimbabwe where I used to live). There was a shop near the hotel that had a good stock of PB screwdrivers, which are made in Switzerland and are of excellent quality.
They were old stock and the prices (to me) were pretty good. Every time I went up there I'd buy a couple. My wife would unpack my suitcase on my return and say "More Screwdrivers! Haven't you got enough?" Eventually I was moved to say: "My dear, a man can never have too many screwdrivers!"
"Agh!" she replied, "that's rubbish!" So I said "OK, my dear, if you don't believe me, ask your dad. He's a man you trust and who knows what he's talking about." My wife's father was a farmer and -- like most farmers -- was a pretty handy guy and I was sure he'd support me.
The next time we went down to the farm to see her folks, I reminded her: "Ask your dad about screwdrivers!" So, after we had settled down over a cup of tea, she said "Dad, do you think a man can have too many screwdrivers?" "Of course not!" was his immediate response. To this day, my wife thinks I phoned her dad prior to our visit to prime him. Like most women, she knows little of male logic (and you should see her collection of earrings)!
The handiest PB tools I got from that shop -- though not screwdrivers -- are the 14mm and 17mm Nut Drivers shown below. I wish they'd had other sizes, but these two have been very useful.
In the remainder of this column I present some of the more useful and unusual tools I have had the pleasure of owning. I'm sure you have similar favorite and unusual tools, in which case it would be wonderful if you could comment below (even more so if you add a picture).
Talking of Nut Drivers, pretty well every techie will have a set of 1/4" square drive socket wrenches, but not many of these come with a "spinner handle" -- like a screwdriver but with a 1/4" drive on the end. I did get one in a set years go -- a British BA set that I still have, athough that set is now almost useless since the once-ubiquitous 6BA nuts and bolts have been supplanted (in Australia anyway) by 3mm types.
I also got a nut driver (shown at the top of the image below) that fits the hex-head screws that used to hold the 9-pin and 25-pin serial and parallel connectors onto PCs; of course this tools does not get a lot of use these days.
I was lucky enough to get a couple of loose spinner handles some time ago -- if you don't get one with your socket set they are fairly rare on their own -- and I wouldn't be without them. The one shown at the bottom of the image above has a 1/4" square socket at the top so can also be used as an extension.
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