Techno: a few of Steve's favorite tools

  • A robust vacuum bagging appliance. Our is a Foodsaver, by Tilia. Italian made, sold in US (and Australia, so coverage must be pretty good). Note that the robustness of the appliance is only part of solution. The other is the quality of the bagging stock. The Foodsaver material is really tough. We vacuum bag spare parts, infrequently used tools (to stop corrosion dead), anything that will be stored in freezer for a lengthy duration, and of course, grains, etc. that don’t require freezing.
  • Vise Grip needle nose pliers. When you need them (about 3 times/day) there is no substitute.
  • Digital camera to record how that gizmo was put together correctly before it was disassembled!
  • Empty parts bins to organize parts during disassembly and reassembly (NB they should be empty when done).
  • Any precision source for slotted, Posi, Phillips, Allen-key, Robertson head bits (mine are ITTE, Germany). Besides the fact that you have exact fits for very size and type of screw head in a 2 cubic inch space, I’m convinced that their geometry is more precisely matched to screw head standards. E.g., while I hate slotted screw heads, I don’t think I’ve stripped one so far using the German bits. Adapters as required to fit power screwdrivers, ratchet et handles, and LONG extenders. Now that I have a 3″ ratchet handle for these I’ve not needed the offset slotted/Phillips screwdrivers. Of the 30-odd screwdrivers I still have around,they are mainly used as small crowbars.
  • 18-inch 1/8 to 1/2″ brad-point drill bits, plus another 18″ extender. When you really have to get some sleep, and neighbor’s genset is still blurping along… one of these will solve the problem.
  • Holding screwdrivers. If you strip-down every piece of gear on board, you’ll know which ones you need.
  • Bostik Blu-Tak (for when you don’t have the right holding bit or socket). Saves much rummaging in nether regions of bilge for dropped parts.
  • Wiha electronics screwdrivers. Precision fit bits, hand friendly top-bearing handle.
  • Sargent stainless compound side-cutting pliers. Besides the high-leverage parallel jaws, the side cutters will cut just about everything I’ve tried.
  • POR-15, Industrial Lanocote, and CRC Soft Seal to slow down the rust demons. T-9 is also good for light duty, but has very short protective life.
  • Tupperware – should you want to use POR-15 more than once (the 75ml itty bitty ones are great).
  • Uniwrap A from Daubert VCI, Inc. Steel spares or tools wrapped in Uniwrap just don’t seem to rust. A bottom lining of tool drawers may be sufficient; I’m using top/bottom layers of Uniwrap. Not yet sure how often it should be renewed. I guess about once/year, depending on how much air circulates in the volume to be protected.
  • Vise Grip QuickGrip bar clamps. Normal quick clamps require two hands, for me anyway, and often only one hand is available. I don’t think it’s possible to have too many clamps. Bonus, these are very light.
  • Vise Grip Welder’s clamps. Not often used, but when nothing else will get in there, these may do the job. I used them today to encourage some flanges to stay aligned with fastener holes so I could reassemble with Loctite 262.
  • Vise Grip Drill press clamps. Not just for the shop drill press, but very handy on the workbench, given a few strategically placed holes. A lo-tech alternative is the old-fashioned bench clamp. I.e., the vertical bar with crook on top that one hammers into a bench hole for clamping. It clamps by offset friction in a 5/8″ hole in the workbench.
  • Jorgenson quick woodworker’s vise. (Mine is reinforced with carbon fiber after I got too enthusiastic reducing weight by removing material from the castings).
  • Zyliss vise system (I recently noticed that this is on Brion Toss’s favorites list also). His web site describes why. Mine weighs only about 7 lb.. total.
  • Ancor coax stripper (made by Welcon, Germany). I’ve used it successfully on multi-core cable for years.
    Ancor professional ratchet crimp tool, or equivalent (then throw away all but one of the “masher” crimp tools – keep the one that has threaded screw inserts for clean cutoffs of too-long threads).
    Ancor wire stripper (made by Welcon, Germany). I used to have the assembly-line type stripper. This fiber-reinforced-plastic stripper seems to work almost as well, and is self-calibrating to wire size. It has an adjustable stop for setting the length of the strip (which gets a bit loose after a lot of use). The only part that rusts are the knives, but so far that doesn’t seem to affect the stripping performance.
  • Aircraft nuts, Loctite 222, 243, 262. I hate to have fasteners loosen or separate at 0300.
  • Robertson square-drive screws. Nothing I know of compares for reliable insertion or removal. I’ve not yet found a source for Robertson machine screws – only have found self-tappers.
  • Magnet on telescoping wand (like a lecture pointer). Mostly used to evaluate parts for ferrous content. Sometimes handy for retrieving ferrous bits dropped in places one can’t reach.
  • Four claw by 3-ft flexible “retriever”. When the only 10-32×3/4″ onboard drops into where-ever this gizmo sometimes saves the day.
  • Fluke #36 clamp meter.
  • Surgeon’s clamping stainless forceps (straight and curved tips).
  • OptiVISOR. 3x is most commonly useful, but when the problem gets really small, the 10x is sure nice. Utility seems to increase with age (of user).
  • Deep, thin wall sockets, metric & imperial.
  • “Universal” split ring plier kit, for both inner and outer circlips.
  • Epoxy, etc. stuff. Lots of latex “examination gloves”, syringe pumps, acid brushes, popsicle sticks and tongue depressors. Room temp epoxy pumps, glue fibers and various density micro balloons Assortment of biax E-glass,uni and carbon unidirectional fabrics.
  • Lifetime supply of small foam brushes. While I try to avoid bright work, a professional varnish-guy introduced me to these. About 90% of the time I find they do a better job than my fancy brushes. Especially good with POR-15. While “disposable” I get many reuses by cleaning, which I find much easier than bristle brushes. Re cleaning foam brushes – what I found works well is blotting, once you get the initial paint load out with a couple of solvent passes. I put two layers of paper towel on both sides, sandwiched by several layers of newspaper. Wet brush in solvent, shake dry, put in the blotting sandwich – press, move to dry spot, press, repeat. At one point I was doing a lot of varnishing – I got maybe 4 to 6 uses before the attachment of the foam to thehandle went floppy. Even then, if short of that size brush, I could reattach with a bit of contact cement on both foam and the plastic tongue of the handle.
  • Vacuum sealer. My wife maintains this if for the galley. But combined with Uniwrap it means that spares (and not-often used tools) still work when you need them.
  • Digital thermometer. For when you want to know exactly how hot you are, or how hot the batteries are getting during recharge.
  • Berkely Digital fish scale. Allows one to lie with authority when announcing on the SSB net the Mahi Mahi just landed (which is 0.4728 lb.. bigger than he previous broadcast lie). If not handy, the Fluke 36 and a strain gauge w/amplifier will substitute. Actually very useful for testing one’s tackle knots or crimps to see how big the one that got away must have been.
  • Dremel Tool. So I can make a smaller mess in the cockpit instead. Actually solves real tiny problems that I didn’t know I had before.
  • Ratchet band clamp. Rarely needed, but on the occasion – it does the job, and doesn’t take up much space or weight.
  • In case Santa is lurking:
  • Complete set of pin punches. The random assortment I have acquired has saved my bacon many times, but I don’t always have the exact diameter needed. Roll-pins don’t seem to be willing to negotiate.
  • Holding screwdrivers – electronics style (with the center 1/3 rotating blade).
  • Thread and drill gauge. One imperial, one metric, by General Hardware.
  • Low-speed grease that doesn’t contain ANY silicone (see below). I wonder what this might be?

  • Least favorite tools & stuff:
  • Silicone grease. I just rebuilt four SeaLand vacuum and discharge pumps which are lubricated with silicone grease. It spreads to related parts, thence to hands, thence to tools, thence everywhere. How the heck does one exorcise silicone once it has gained a foothold on the boat? Our boat builder will not allow any form of silicone inside the compound – now I REALLY understand why Alan has outlawed silicone. Geez, now it’s on the keyboard, and Oh No, now it’s on the mouse…
  • Two jaw gear puller. It has succeeded when pressed, but there must be a better solution. I guess that is sort of an inverted pun.

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