It seems to me there is no ideal toolkit. I travel with two knives similar to the one you lost and I have often wandered which Leatherman I should request for a birthday present, but none seems ideal. I also have one or two utility screwdriver/flashlight combos given away at trade shows and a Gerber Solstice plus a set of adaptor plugs.
However Murphy's Law seems to dictate that whatever you take with you, you will never be able to MacGyver the tool set to do what you want. When I was in South Africa now, I needed a hammer drill, concrete drill bit and a socket set.
The ideal tool kit is a local resident who has a full set of tools.
Two sales engineers are going to demo their product the next day and decide to do a dry run in their hotel room. The equipment fails. One of the engineers suspects a cold solder joint, so he calls down to room service and asks them to send up a screwdriver and a soldering iron.
Fifteen minutes later a waiter shows up with a glass of orange liquid. He says: "Here's your Screwdriver, but our bartender didn't know how to mix a Soldering Iron."
[IIRC I heard this one from Dr. James Meindl when I was a grad student.]
@Max...not a bad idea from _hm....can I suggest also that if you get another one, get a bit of chain and connect it to the loop on the knife, and to one of those mini-karabiner things so you can clip it onto a belt so it can't get lost!
@_hm: One way to mitigate this is to get mutliple of this knives and gift it to persons you love most.
What? Give my wife a very sharp knife? I think not LOL. I also have the gun safe in our house set up that only I know the code (call me a scardy-cat if you will LOL)
But I knwo what you mean -- When I went to Norway a couple of years ago to give the keynote at the FPGA Forum, I took three of these knives to give as gifts for the guys that had helped me out. I think they liked them.
@David: ... can I suggest also that if you get another one, get a bit of chain and connect it to the loop on the knife, and to one of those mini-karabiner things so you can clip it onto a belt so it can't get lost!
Not a bad idea -- I might look into that -- but it hadn't got lost for the 2 or 3 years it was in my posession -- my son had his hands on it for 30 seconds and it ended up at the bottom of a lake ....
Of course, I could purchase a bunch of tools individually, but then I'd have to think about things and I'm a bit short of time. (If I were to go this route, which tools would you suggest as a minimum set?)
Don't forget a magnifying glass, and maybe even a head-mounted LED flashlight.
This is why everything of mine that sinks and is used around water has some type of homebrew floatation device attached to it.
knifes and other small tools have fishing bobbins attached to them and two way radios and GPS units have larger plastic float bags attached to them that not only keep them dry, they also let them float when dropped in the water.
This is why everything of mine that sinks and is used around water has some type of homebrew floatation device attached to it.
I used to do something similar when I spent a lot of time sailing. I've gotten away from doing that since I don't spend much time using tools around water.
I'd usually attach a small tools to my life vest or jacket instead of a flotation device because if you lose it overboard in the middle of a race the skipper is NOT going to go back and pick it up even if it does float.
That's another excellent idea Elizabeth for your type of boating to tie your tools on with small pieces of line.
For my use, most small knifes and scissors mainly for fly fishing meant also that the less things that were tied to my vest via some type of line or cord was better for me.
I'd find myself mistakingly grabbing some line tied to scissors when I intended to grap my leader line on the fly rod.
Using small bobbers attached to my tools was better especially since i also share my scissors with my 2 sons, I know we should all have our own individual tools but I'm a cheap engineer, and I found that I had less to worry about when tossing the scissors, actually a pen knife with scissors folded to be safe, to someone if the didn't catch it on the first try then it was easier to scoop the floating bobber up up with the tip of a fly rod.
One question that I have is how to get a tool kit through security at an airport with all the changing rules etc. Of course if I was inclined to check a bag it would be a lot easier but I typically travel with just a carryon and a backpack.
I've got a small RadioShack Leatherman tool that I carry everywhere except when I'm flying. This tools is small enough that you could probably fit it inside the iFixit tool bag. Of course, RadioShack doesn't carry it anymore but it looks a lot like the Leatherman Squirt. I've got the version with wire strippers but there's times I'd rather have the pliers...
Not top quality but pretty handy for most things, and excellent value. I keep one in my desk drawer at work, and it saves me having to go into the workshop next door if I have something I want to take apart.
I had an all-singing, all dancing Victorinox swiss army knife but I mistakenly kept it in my pocket and they took it off me at Johannesburg airport years ago. I had as sad a face as Max when this happened. Although Jo'burg is an excellent airport otherwise, I get the mutters whenever I go through it for this reason.
I also had a couple of keyring screwdrivers, about an inch long, which were taken off me at Sydney airport some time ago. I pointed out to the officious little @#$%&* who took them off me that my 3-1/2 inch long car key would be my weapon of choice if I wanted to do someone some damage, but he would not relent. Fortunately they are cheap and I managed to replace them.
@Max...it's horses for courses....the Duratool is cheap and handy, but I reckon yours is better quality. That said, the Duratool kit has not let me down yet, it is by no means rubbish, and it is REALLY good value. Why not get them both? :-)
Talking of cutters....Years ago I used to go and stay with a girl I knew in Johannesburg - with her folks. Her mom ran a tearoom and knowing I was handy with electrics asked me to fix a tea urn she had. There was a broken wire and I needed to cut and strip it. She only had a pair of scissors. I went to the local hardware shop and asked for their cheapest pair of cutters. "These ones are $1" said the guy, "But you'd really be better with these ones for $2". I said "I only need to cut one wire" and took the $1 ones. But when I tried to cut the wire, one jaw broke off. I was so embarrassed I made do with the scissors rather than going back to the shop for the better cutters :-)
That's pretty cool -- it looks like the main difference between this and the other one (apart from the much lower price) is that thsi doesn't include the Apple-specific screwdriver bits, and I couldn't care less about those :-)
@Antedeluvian - good idea. In travelling toolkits I try to include an analogue multimeter (with a meter and a needle - remember them?) because they don't need a battery to measure volts and amps and it's easy enough to include a spare AA battery in the pack in case the ohms battery does run down. They are pretty rare these days though.
But one of my suppliers had some dinky little DMMs - about 3 x 1-3/4 inches - for $5 some time ago, and it would be ideal for a travelling kit (as long as you remember to switch it off before putting it back in the kit. Also for mounting next to your breadboard. Not top-notch by any means, but neat and adequate for these uses. No pic I'm afraid, if I can find one I'll post it. You also get the larger, but thinner, wallet type DMMs which are also good for toolkits.
OK, here's a pic and a link. The size is 94 x 46 x 26 mm (3.7 x 1.8 x 1 inch)
@Max this brings me to another pet peeve. Here are the prices:
Qty USA AUS
1+ $3.25 $4.95 3+ $2.75 $4.45 6+ $2.50 $3.90
Now the AU$ is a bit less than the US$ (about 93c) so $3.25 in the US should mean that we pay A$3.50 for one. We pay A$ 4.95. Sucked in!!! This is a very common complaint in Australia with pretty much everything technical.... phones, Ipads, R/C stuff etc. everything comes from China and we're probably a bit closer than you are to China, so someone is doing very well out of this!
@David: Now the AU$ is a bit less than the US$ (about 93c) so $3.25 in the US should mean that we pay A$3.50 for one. We pay A$ 4.95...
Bummer. To be honest, I hadn;t realized that JayCar was a 100% Australian entity -- I thought they had a presence in the USA -- I just discovered my pistake this morning when I read an email from them sayinmg my package containing the multimeters had been dispatched from Australia (I hope I don't get hit by customs)
@Max...so let me get this right....not only do they rip us off here, they sell to you thousands of miles away for less than us AND they send them to you for free! wait till I get my hands on the little @#$%#&s!!
@Elizabeth...sorry, I should have looked a bit further. Element 14 Aus has 3 of them, two (like yours and the $10 one) are identical but different prices, and the other one differs in that it has a set of allen (hex) keys in it, but it is around $16.
I have one of those Tenma multimeters - bigger than the one above but thinner (10.8 mm vs 26 mm) but I think it is a bit higher quality than Jaycar's mini ones. But it is a fair bit more money ($16, even if you buy 99999999 of them :-) But I also notice that the Tenma has auto power-off after 30 minutes - a VERY nice feature in a DMM.
Have fun with them!
(Thinks - I should hit Element 14 and Jaycar up for some commission :-)
That is rather tasty -- but it's $36 from Amazon, which seems a bit steep considering the price tag of the JayCar offering...
Why don't you get one and let us know which is better value? (I am happy to spend your money!).
Seriously though I would like to know how well the Jaycar ones perform. We have had subcontractors who used non-name brand meters only to find that they stopped working at inopportune times and then called us in to try and debug why the product didn't work. Plugged in a Fluke and the measurement was fine.
@Salbayeng - was it the thin meter with a foldover case you got, or the Jaycar type one?
I had a super small (almost credit card size) meter I got from a Tandy but it also did not survive long. One problem with these meters is that the leads go straight into the meter and they will almost certainly fail there. The Jaycar one uses standard 4mm Banana plugs which I think is a plus.
@David: FYI -- Those QM-1502 multimeters you recommended from Jaycar came in -- I bought 11 at US$2.50 each (because they have a $25 minimum) -- I've got one in my travelling toolkit and I'm giving the rest away as "stocking stuffers"
@Max....now you have one in your hot sticky hand, what do you think of them? My feeling is - not top quality by any means, but good features in somethings so small, and adequate for a toolkit. Buy sa small cheap camera bag to keep it in, along with the original probes plus a set of alligator leads (AND a spare battery!) and you have something really useful.
@David: ...now you have one in your hot sticky hand, what do you think of them?
For th eprice ($2.50) they are brilliant -- not the best accuracy and certainly not a lot of precision -- but for something to slip in your back pocket or travelling toolkit - -just to be able to chesk "this and that" -- they are GREAT
Mine was the thin meter with foldover case and leads permanently attached.
I did buy 10 of the Jaycar QM-1500's a while back, I checked the 20v range against a 5digit meter for each of them, and put a green dot on that range if it was within 1digit (they seem to be with 4 digits usually). The current ranges are pretty awful, So I use an external 1ohm resistor with back to back 1N5819's across it, and measure with the 200mV range = 200mA. The leads supplied with the meters are pretty awful, about 1 in 10 will be open circuit , brand new. The soldering on the input sockets can sometime be less than average and easy enough to get a dry joint after a few plugins/out, I've opened up a couple and refreshed the little dab of frosty lead free solder , with a full circumferential fillet of full lead solder and RMA flux.
For testing a batch of units I was making (with PV cells and batteries) I folded up a bit of aluminium so I could make a rack of 3 DMMs wide x 2 DMMs high at a good viewing angle, then stuck the meters on with blu-tak (poster adhesive) This way I can measure 3 currents and 2 voltages plus have a spare troubleshooting meter. I make up a "loom" with 22g hookup wire to go to the meters, and use those cheap little gold 4mm male banana pins that the RC guys use to hook up BLDC motors and batteries. With the leftover 11 or so leads , I cut the probe off the end, and attach one of (a) a female contact (like those that go in 0.100" headers. (b) a gold plated pin from a 0.1" header (approx 0.024 across) (c) gold plated pin from 2mm header (about 0.016 across) , These leads usually attach quite well to standard clips and headers, and fit in vias and through hole pads on the PCB
@Salbayeng...thanks for the info, interesting. The QM1500 is the full sized meter, is that what you got, or the baby QM1502? For $5-10 a piece you can't expect much I guess, and current shunts are notoriously difficult to get right. For what Max is talking about here - a quick and dirty unit to do odd measurements and keep in your toolbox - they are fine. Incidentally the full size Jaytech QM1500 has exactly the same ranges and specs so think it's the same circuit as the baby QM1502, probably the baby has an SMD DVM IC. I like that they have 4mm banana sockets, it makes it easy to make up a pair of croc clip leads as well as the probes.
For the stateside folks: if you have reasonable access to a Harbor Freight store (500 throughout USA), they usually have a coupon for some free items (only one per visit, but no purchase required, but it's hard to do wuth all the cheap stuff they carry). Most of the time one of those "freebies" is a nice little digital multimeter that's actually pretty good: 7 functions, with decent test leads, and reasonably accurate for most trouble-shooting use. I have the good fortune to have a store within a mile or so of my office, so every few weeks I go through the flyers (the coupons are generally good for several months) and make up my shopping list for lunchtime. The one from last week's newspaper (Aug 17) has a coupon for the multi-meter, one for a headlamp bwith lens, another for a magnetic parts dish, an LED flashlight, scissors, screwdriver set, and a 20% off any one item, all good until Oct 25. I have the meter, parts dish, and LED flashlight already, so have to go through the small pile of current flyers to see what I can get on my next trip.
HF's stuff varies. The tape measures (sometimes available for free) are pretty sweet, the DMM is OK for a "throw-away" tool box item (my biggest pet peeve: no continuity beep! You have to spend $20 at HF to get that, in a much larger meter. I do like the $40 HF DMM - it's one of my two main meters).
The coupons are worth checking out, too - my "toolbox" calipers are the 6" HF digital models; I paid $10 w/coupon, so Max overspent on his callipers ($20!!!!). (My good one is a Mitotoyo, but I like have some cheap stuff for my toolbox).
A lot of their hand tools are not worth it (my toolbox is filled with Bondhus ball end hex wrenches and Wiha screw drivers -- both well worth it considering how much I use them).
I agree on items like screwdrivers or electronic-type pliers/cutters. Quality pays on those I have bought some really well-made socket wrenches for a pittance there (a full set of deep metric for $10 less 20% off using a coupon), and the DMM is great for free (perfect for throwing in the glove box for example). Other freebies were quite acceptable at the price also! I have bought a couple of "rare-use" power tools (a reciprocating saw, a small 3-gallon 125PSI air compressor mostly for tires) that were exceptional bargains on sale/coupons. I do have a coupon or two for tape measures but I have so many already, including a couple I inherited from my father-in-law in 1972!
I just got another HF flyer with the 6" calipers for $9.99 -- but two 6" calipers is enough for me, I'm waiting until they have a great deal on 12" digital calipers.
BTW, I think you haven't been keeping up with the times; IIRC, you're in Huntsville, which has a HF (I guess links aren't allowed, so try www.harborfreight.com/al/huntsville.html ) HF has been opening a lot of stores recently; I hope they don't open too many (and then have problems).
@mhrackin: I have the good fortune to have a store within a mile or so of my office...
I've never actually been to a HF store -- just seen their stuff online -- if I ever come to Atlanta, maybe we can go down together.
FYI I was in Atlanta airport all last Sunday on my way to Brazil -- I had to get up here in Huntsville at 5:00am, at the airport for 6:00am, flee to Atlanta at 7:00am (arrived 9:00am Eastern time), then stooged around all day waiting for my 8:00pm flight to Brazil.
I was thinking of emailing you, but I had a bunch of stuff to do. It wasn't too bad -- I splashed $50 for a 1-day pass to the Delta Sky Lounge and then happily worked away all day in their workststion area quaffing free coffee and munching free nibbles (well, "free" apart from the $50 :-)
Yesterday evening I arrived home from work to find a box from Newark on my front porch. As expected, it contained the two Duratool mini tool kits and Tenma multimeter that I ordered...
First impressions: The Duratool kit is a bit larger than I expected. (mostly thicker) I wouldn't want to put this in a pocket but it's still a nice size for a radio kit or to fit in the desk drawer so they will serve the purpose that I bought them for. The plastic case feels a bit on the flimsy size but is good enough for the purpose. The Tenma multimeter came in a nice clear plastic case that holds the meter and attached probes. The plastic case adds a bit (mostly in the width) to the traveling size but nicely answers the question of how to keep the probes from tangling in the bag. It also has enough room for an extra coin cell. When I first tried to power it on, nothing happened but then I discovered the coin cell tucked neatly behind the probes. So I'd say that both items will serve the purpose that I bought them for. They won't replace anything in the large tool box that sits near the work bench but they're a lot more portable.
Hi Elizabeth. Ref the Duratool toolkit - no it's not a pocket item, but for keeping in a drawer (which is where I keep mine) It's pretty handy. If you want a pocket tool I'd suggest one of those Leatherman-type things - obviously not as comprehensive but much more suitable for a pocket. You can get them with Pliers / Cutters and Flat / Philips screwdrivers which take care of most things, and you often get a file and a saw as well for when you want to take stuff apart instead of putting it together :-)
I have a similar Tenma meter - they make decent quality stuff. I got a couple of those from Element 14 a couple of years ago so probably not the same as yours. In mine the probe wires go straight into the meter - no sockets - probably a space saving measure but one I don't really like - it's almost inevitable that I'll have to open it up and resolder the wires in the future....
Does the need for spudgers actually come up in your travels? Do you really do impromptu tear downs?
"Ooo! Nice smart phone you have there! Let me get my spudgers and open that sucker up!" LOL
When I go on service calls, I need to bring schematics and spare parts along with whatever tools I might need for the specific job. Usually a soldering iron and an oscilloscope are needed. If you're bringing some gizmo for show and tell, you should bring what you need to repair it. I would suggest getting an empty tool roll you can customize on a case by case basis.
The quality may be much better now, but a few years back I bought what looked like a cheap Chinese knock-off of a Fluke with some nice added functions. However, it was very poorly calibrated and had a bunch of interacting pot adjustments that made it a major chore to calibrate properly. Not being very patient, I used it uncalibrated with mental correction of readings until about a year ago when I spent the time to recal it.
Based on my browsing history, Amazon just made a suggestion on Leatherman tools which I found intersting. Some Leatherman utility knives have a removeable bit driver, like this as an example. You can then get the bits (I don't know if they are standard bits) and even a bit extender
@Antedeluvian: ...Amazon just made a suggestion on Leatherman tools...
I can;t say why, but I've never been all that interested in those Leatherman tools -- maybe it's just that I've only ever really seen (had my hands on) the cheap knock-offs, but I think it goes deeper than that... I'll have to ponder my dislike -- in the meantime, do you recommend them?
On every birthday mine my wife is at a loss as to what to get me for a present and asks me what I want. A Leatherman often springs to mind, but there is such a wide selection that I have no clue which one to choose, and the birthday passes without a selection being made. All I can say is that they look really well made compared to some of the cheap knock offs and giveaways that I have and indeed some of the range have unique attachements. Maybe next year.
Ok Seen these, one of the fun things to do on field trips is to compare your toolkit with your colleague's. So after the obligatory Mick Dundee quote "call that a knife" , discovered the guys from Canada had this neat leatherman knife, like you described, with the tiny bits , and proceeded to do a hard disk swap on a laptop with it.
My favourite is a tiny little knife from radio shack, that has excellent wire cutters and strippers as well as screwdrivers/knife etc. It fits on your keyring so you always have it with you. Sadly I leave it at home now to avoid getting it confiscated at airline check-ins.
Calm down Karen :-) If it's what I think, in Aussie we call it "Secret Santa". People put their name and a VERY rough idea of what they want on a piece of paper, the papers are then put into a hat and everyone draws one. You then have to buy something for the person whose paper you drew. Is that it Max??
I think different people do it different ways. It was new to me when I came over here. The way they play it in my wife's family is that everyone buys a single gift (they specify some maximum amount you can spend). They then draw numbers for who goes in which order.
All the presents are gift wrapped and on a table in the middle of the room. The first person chooses whatever gift they like the look of -- then unwrap it to see what it is.
The next person does the same -- additionally they can decide to keep their gift, or exchange it with the first person.
Similarly, subsequent people can keep their gifts or exchange them with any of the preceding gifts.
At the end of the day, each person only has to purchase a single gift and each person ends up with a single gift.
Personally, I find it to be a pain in the rear end, but that's family for you LOL
@max: "Will this ever end?" Only when EVERYTHING does..... Tools break, wear out, or somebody makes a much better one or invents one that fills a need you didn't even know you had. There's ALWAYS a reason for more. It could be worse: my late father-in-law was a tool collector, but HIS were cranes, bulldozers, etc! He had 4 acres of them when he died.
It's possible they might have been sources for a better "antiquing" substance for brass, though.... several of his machines were about the same size as those beasts. He was an ME and specialized in rigging. He used to buy these as scrap and use pieces of them to build specialized ones for his rigging business. MY father (died in 1988) left me among other things his 35mm slide collection... about 60,000 of them from all over the world, mostly arranged in Kodak Carousel 140-slide trays in themed shows. They mostly fill a walk-in closet (along with the projector, projector table, screen, etc.).
Re look at them? No, I've seen them all MANY times. Thought of digitizing? Yes, IF I can figure out a way to do it IN the Carousels, or find someone to do that without charging a zillion bucks! See, these are arranged in shows. Among other things my dad was an artist in several areas (painting, scultpure, photography, music, etc. ) and also a student of all these fields. He used to lecture on various topics in those areas, and the slide shows were part of that. I also have his lecture notes... so I need to preserve the shows to match. I've thoughte about using my DSLR to take pictures of the slides as projected onto the screen, but that is not the "optimum" way to preserve the quality to say the least! Anyone know a service that can do this at a reasonable price?
I've thoughte about using my DSLR to take pictures of the slides as projected onto the screen, but that is not the "optimum" way to preserve the quality to say the least! Anyone know a service that can do this at a reasonable price?
as far as a service is concerned- I don't know. I know there are scanners that will do slides and negatives, but the ones that I have seen (and I think the one that I used for the data books) have to be fed in manually even though there is a fitting for it. I will check at home if I remember. Maybe this is a labour of love, or you should employ an intern to do it.
I'd recommend getting a good brand (e.g. Nikon Coolscan) film scanner with auto slide feeder used; I'd guess that the older models are pretty cheap on eBay, and are almost as good as the new ones (just remember, the really old ones have SCSI interfaces, and also the software might not work under Windows 7/8, although it's likely they'll work under VueScan, which is also available for Mac OS X and Linux).
Then you can pop a bunch of slides in, put the software to work, and go do something else - and when you're done, you can torture your younger relatives with computerized slide shows!
@ TonyTib: I keep an XP Pro machine (and a spare!) running just because I have a really nice Canon flatbed scanner that does a very good job for me, but there isn't a Win7 driver for it. Ironically, I got the Canon when I couldn't support its predecessor (a Mustek with a proprietary SCSI card) any more. So as long as I can get a Win XP driver, I can use anything. I just don't look forward to manually unloading many, many 140-slide trays, preseving both the order and orientation (including emulsion in/out) of each slide (and not getting fingerprints on them!). That's why I was hoping to find a way to digitize a slide tray at a time. Maybe one of our resident "super project guys" can figure out how to do this with an Arduino!
I'd say go for the slide feeder, such as a Nikon SF-200, if you can get one at a decent price (along with the corresponding film scanner); it can handle 50 slides at a time. You might need to tweak it a bit if the slides are warped, etc.
I guess you could try to rig up a system to remove slides from a carousel and load them into a film scanner, but my guess is that approach would take more time and money than getting the slide feeder and matching slide scanner.
I have a really old Coolscan with auto negative feeder (can handle a 6-picture strip IIRC), auto APS feeder, and individiual slides, but I'm pretty sure it's the Coolscan III , which doesn't have an auto slide feeder (I only have ~100 slides, but several thousand negatives, mostly undigitized).
BTW, I'm keeping a few old PC's with XP: a more modern system with the awesome Foxconn motherboard (6 PCI slots, 1 serial port, 1 parallel port), a 1.4GHz Athlon with one ISA slot, and even older system with several ISA slots, because I've got some fun ISA and PCI automation-related boards (e.g. CAN interferaces, motion controllers).
I know what its like to lose a favourite tool. Seeing as you know where it was lost, how about giving your lad a chance to redeem himself? Give him an old hard disk drive and some nylon string. There's a good bit of fun to be had pulling an old HDD to pieces. Retrieve the super-powerful magnets, attach them to the string and take him back to the dock for an afternoon of environmentally-friendly self-directed entertainment. The same magnets are also great for holding pictures to fridges.
If travelling with your new toolkit then you may also need to be aware of the local laws and customs. Police in the UK nowadays don't look kindly on anyone carrying a knife, even in a vehicle, with a few exceptions (search Knife-Crime.aspx durham, anti-comment spam means I can't post a link)
@ Max my brother said "You can't carry that here!"
That's where the law cannot distinguish between a weapon and a tool. I always carry a small screwdriver in my shirt pocket - no problem - but I could stab someone with it. I could also stab someone with a ballpoint pen, yet those are allowed on airplanes.
Reminds me of that scene from Croc Dundee "That's not a knife. THIS is a knife!"
@max: by the way, the original list price (rarely ever discounted, except for large quantity purchases) for these VOMs (to use the term in vogue then) was a whopping (in 1965 US $) $70, IIRC! Gas prices were about 25.9¢/gallon (even Sunoco 260 was only $0.309) and starting annual salaries for fresh BSEEs was well under $10K. The current price is in the mid $300s. So in "real" terms, they are a bargain today (although they are competing with, say, Fluke 87s that do a lot more with better accuracy and precision for the same price). However, the Flukes are not so "tasty,"