Sheltering at home today inspired me to do some tidying in my perennially messy garage. While doing so, I recalled that DougD had posted a great family history of his tools a couple of years ago. One thing led to another, and I decided to take a few pictures of some of my favorite tools, and ask, what’s interesting, unusual, or just a favorite in your toolbox? When I purchased this roll-around box in the late seventies (and brought it home in the back of my Ford Fiesta), it was probably the most expensive non-internal-combustion-powered item I’d ever bought. My friends made fun of the “Stack-On” brand, but it was probably an order of magnitude cheaper than a real Snap-on toolchest, and I still use it every day. I just checked, and in fact Stack-On is still in business and sells toolboxes and gun cabinets at big box stores nationally.
The oldest tool that I own and use regularly is one of my few, perhaps only, Snap-on tools. I found this set of pliers about ten years ago going through my Mom’s toolshed after she passed away. I’m sure she picked them up at a garage sale or thrift shop for pennies. I did a little research and these may date back to the 1930’s. The Credo screwdriver in the background is part of an inexpensive set I got about 20 years ago at Ace Hardware. Still made in USA and quite good quality.
But the tool that I’ve had the longest was made in 1972 – by me, in high school machine shop. The head was turned on a lathe and the flats were machined down on a shaper, not a milling machine. The original handle lasted until just a few years ago, but split unexpectedly and it now has a replacement American hickory handle from the local hardware store. This hammer has seen a lot of use, though I had to get my biggest sledge to knock the rotors off our New Beetle when I replaced them about ten years ago.
A year or two newer is my first set of metric wrenches, Powr-Kraft from Montgomery Ward. As I recall, the MonkeyWard tools were cheaper than Sears Craftsman, and I bought a few more tools there before I moved up to Craftsman. Here’s another Powr-Kraft tool, a 3/8 flex handle which has also seen a lot of use and held up well for almost half a century.
I’m pretty sure I also have a Powr-Kraft ratchet but it may be in the toolbag that lives in my truck, along with a set of Made in Taiwan 3/8″ drive sockets, from 6 – 19mm in a metal box, which I bought for 99 cents at Sears, around the time I got the flex handle and ratchet. Sometimes Sears had bargains.
My first mechanical experience was working on my parents’ Volvo 122S. No Internet or YouTube then, of course, but ads in Road & Track and repair manuals from the public library made it clear I needed a Uni-Syn to synch the SU carbs. Notice how these brand names … Stack-On, Powr-Kraft, Uni-Syn, and Snap-on … all used hyphens? I don’t think that’s so common now; today it would be StackOn or UniSyn.
Pretty soon I moved on the motorcycles, and within a year I had my first Japanese bike, a Honda. A lot is written about the high quality of 1970’s Honda’s, but the Phillips head (or strictly speaking, JIS) screws that held a lot of the bikes together were made of very soft steel. Essential for their removal was an impact driver, to jar the screw loose without damaging the head. Of course, cordless tools were decades away, and air tools and a compressor were out of financial reach for most of us, so a Japanese Vessel brand impact driver was a necessary acquisition. Note that the box says Impact-Driver (there’s that hyphen again) but they were also known as Attack Drivers, and are still available today. And if you can’t figure out how they work, well, I’ll just say that it involved the use of the hammer I showed above.
Pretty soon Japanese bikes, as well as the VW Scirocco I bought in 1980, adopted internal hex head (aka Allen) screws and it was time to add a set of drivers to my toolbox. Still Made in Japan; no Chinese tools yet. The best tools, at least anecdotally, were American (Snap-on, Craftsman, S&K etc) or perhaps unobtanium German; then Taiwanese or Korean. Like my Stack-On toolbox, I bought this 3/8 drive socket set at a local chain called Post Tool, which was sort of the Harbor Freight of its day. While basic tools like wrenches, ratchets and standard-sized sockets were quite affordable from the American brands, something like this hex socket set, or a long extension, or large metric sockets (larger than 19mm) got pretty expensive, and these Japanese options, often available in sets, were a good value.
But before my fleet had transitioned to higher quality hex head screws, I still had a few disasters involving corroded steel and aluminum threaded interfaces. I needed a tap and die set, so off to Sears I went. I’ve added a few individual SAE taps since then, but this Craftsman metric set still gets regular use.
I’ll wrap up with my newest tool, juxtaposed with something I’ll probably never use again but can’t quite throw away. In the foreground is the socket needed to remove the cap on my V6 Tacoma’s cartridge oil filter. Our Golf, which also uses a cartridge filter, just requires a 22mm (?) socket but Toyota in their wisdom designed something special. And yes, that’s a drain plug crush washer stuck inside it, but don’t worry, I put a new one on before replacing the drain plug at my last oil change a month ago. And the yellow thing behind it? Well, for the younger folks here, I’ll just say that motor oil used to come in cans. With flat tops and no spout, so the spout came out of your toolbox, combined with an opener. The original multi-tool.
So those are some tools from my collection. What are your favorites, classics, or maybe a tool so unusual you’ll stump some of us here at CC? No, that’s impossible; there’s always a CC’er with the answer to any question, no matter how obscure.