Wrenches and other tools

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Little Scrapper

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I'm at my shop, let's have some fun with wrenches.
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Ace wrenches like to bend. I bent this rebuilding a HD Shovehead. I have no recollection of what I paid for this set but knowing me it was probably on sale. I regret buying them.
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Here is a MAC and MAC's budget brand called "Expert".
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Side view of MAC and Expert. Again, $28 wrench vs $12 wrench.
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Here is a Snap-On vs Craftsman. Throat diameter makes all the difference in the world, especially if the bolt/nut is wore. That Snap on wrenche is maybe 20 years old. The Craftsman was a gift set about 5 years ago maybe?
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I own just about every brand it seems. If you can get older vintage S-K brand sockets they are absolutely awesome. The were sold in green tin boxes.

One set of good wrenches, lifetime type tools, I'd say Snap On over MAC or Matco.

If you are on a budget but still want wrenches with tight tolerances I would go with Bluepoint or Expert. They cost half and are still lifetime.

Tolerances are very important. Over time, assuming you use tools, the throats open up on the cheap stuff as i indicated in the photos. I measured those with a Brown & Sharpe dial caliper and it is very accurate.
 

choppergirl

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I'm tempted to go pick up this free toolbox, derust it, and repaint it with red enamel out of a can, to match my other one, to house all my weird speciality tools.

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I wonder if it's worth the trouble. It looks pretty big, compared to the lawnmower behind it. Worth the trip and a few afternoons of elbow grease???

Another thing I've seen, is a lot of office file folder cabinets used as tool chests. The big long "lateral ones" like pictured below especially look tempting to me (when listed as free), to put saws, drills, sanders, routers, and other power tools in and their cords. You can more often find regular file cabinets for free, as offices/home office people ditched paper files and everything moved to computer databases.

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A wall of file cabinets as a tool/parts bank looks pretty impressive to me, hides your mess, keeps dust of things, and who's going to know you didn't just pick them up over the years, rather then shell out big bucks for them. Cost: the gas and time to watch for them, go pick them up, and slide them on and off your truck bed.
 
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Dana

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I'm tempted to go pick up this free toolbox, derust it, and repaint it with red enamel out of a can, to match my other one, to house all my weird speciality tools.

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I wonder if it's worth the trouble. It looks pretty big, compared to the lawnmower behind it. Worth the trip and a few afternoons of elbow grease???
Go for it. I did the same thing a few years back, an old "STP branded box I found at a flea market. I got it for $50 with a bunch of tools (some good, some junk) in it. Dragging it over a grass field back to my truck was a struggle! Guessing 1960s promotional, with the STP logo sticker in a matching stamped in oval on the front cover... when I was a kid, every self respecting American boy had an STP sticker somewhere... mine was on the seat of my Schwinn Stingray. Anyway, not a fine restoration, just for use... cleaned it up, painted it, new rubber mats, and an original 1960s vintage STP sticker from ebay to top it off.

Seemed only appropriate to use it for all my wrenches and other auto related tools, freeing up the Craftsman box I inherited from Dad for metalworking tools. The toolbox on top was separate, a dumpster find from a few years back.

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If it's too big to be useful you can always sell it on Craigslist after you've cleaned it up.

Dana
 

Himat

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I have quite a collection of tools and over the years I have pretty much fallen down on buying mid-range tools. Less tools I use frequently or where the shape or tolerances of the more expensive tool is desirable. Or cheap tools if I now they are to be abused, lost or for some reason one time use.

Elaborating on my experience, open box and ring spanners by Stahlwille is first class as is Kamasa sockets, but at a premium price. Bacho used to be good, now I think is part of Stanley and more mid-range.

Obscuring the price/quality is shop brand names, that depending on the current sourcing of the shop chain could be some brand name. Twenty years ago Kamasa socket sets could be bought as a local shop brand name. Today that shop’s brand name is something else, it changes every few years. Still their high quality range that have a fair price compete with the brand names like Bacho.

An example of changes in the market are Teng Tools. They used to be very cheap and often poor quality, today they are above the Bacho league. At least looking at the price.
 

Little Scrapper

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Harbor Freight looks like a good box. I don't own one but I did check them out last time I visited the store, seemed above average actually.

My favorite is a Rubbermaid cart. It's the only place I allow a mess in my shop and I clean it when a project is done. I'll scatter all the hand tools on top and everything is reachable from my roller chair.

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Winginit

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My wife just brought the mail in and handed me the Lowe's sale ad. Lo and behold they have a 227 piece std/metric tool set in a blow mold case for 1/2 price .,.($99).…...everything the aspiring aviation mechanic needs to get started. There's an 81 piece Stanley in a 2 drawer tool cabinet for $49 too. I bought some Stanley wrenches a few years ago at Sam's. Really liked them. If these are the same, they are a little longer longer than comparable Craftsman wrenches.

Note: Oooops, the Stanley only has sockets, no wrenches.
 
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tralika

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I've used Craftsman tools for 40 years or so and am satisfied. There are times when the Snap-On wrenches and sockets will fit into a tight space when a Craftsman won't, but for me those circumstances have been few and far between. I don't like the smooth surface on the Snap-On wrenches, they slip when my hands are dirty/oily. The Craftsman wrenches have a textured surface which I prefer. I've destroyed some Craftsman tools, mostly screwdrivers, and had a several ratchet wrenches fail over the years. In recent years Craftsman has changed the ratchet mechanism and it is not an improvement. The lever used to change direction on the ratchet does not stay in place as well as the older model. It's very easy to bump it out of the wanted position. Not a big deal but annoying!. My 40 year old 1/2" ratchet failed last year. I took it to Sears for a replacement, they changed out the ratchet mechanism in the store and gave me back the same wrench. I'm guessing that means a lot of them are failing now. The only Craftsman I would not buy again are a set of Stubby wrenches that are chrome plated. Those wrenches will not fit on some bolts/nuts. It looks like they did not account for the thickness of the chrome plating when designing/making the tools.

In response to the original question on the thread. If I needed a second set of tools that I thought might be lost over time, I'd buy used or HF. If nothing else, the HF tools are less likely to be stolen because nobody really wants them.
 

BJC

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I've used Craftsman tools for 40 years or so and am satisfied...I don't like the smooth surface on the Snap-On wrenches, they slip when my hands are dirty/oily. I've destroyed some Craftsman tools, mostly screwdrivers, and had a several ratchet wrenches fail over the years.
My first set of sockets was the SK that Scrapper mentioned; wish that they still were available at the same quality and price.

I’ve also used Craftsman tools for over 50 years, prefer their wrenches, tolorate their sockets, and detest their screwdrivers. I recently broke a 3/4 deep socket using a ratchet about 8 inches long. Not good. Sears, at least around here, is absolutely horrible to deal with, whether buying new or getting a warranty replacement. I consider it a big pisitive that Ace Hardware now carries Craftsman.


BJC
 

Pops

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I use the Craftsman 1/4" ratchets a lot and much have take them back to the store 6 or more times , very poor, HF would have to be better. My old favorite 1/2" ratchet is a Craftsman that I bought at Sears when they had a box of rebuilt 1/2" ratchets for $3 in 1961. One time in 1974 someone bought thousands of Craftsman scewdrivers that had been in a flood and was selling them out of his van in the parking lot where I worked. They all had some rust but at 3 for $1 who cared. Must have bought at least a 100+ and gave most everyone I knew several screw drivers. I'm still using the ones I kept.
When I retired I had 6 large tool cabinets and at least 3 of most everything. I gave my 2 sons a large tool cabinet with one each of the best of my tools.
 

Winginit

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Craftsman was a staple in my toolbox for many many years. Every Sunday I would check the Sunday sale ad and be there when the doors opened if they had something I wanted. Bought a couple of battery powered drills that worked great. When the batteries went bad, it was just as cheap to buy a new drill as a replacement battery. Then it seemed the drills began to be unreliable and the batteries sucked. Moved on to Dewalts. Next the small ratchets became junk. Right out of the box they slipped....and I bought several of them. Then they started running the sale ads and not having the sale items put out for sale, or they just didn't even have them at all.....multiple times. I basically just quit going to Sears, not a conscious declaration, but more of a drift to other brands. Now I like the Kobalt pretty well. They have some excellent brushless drills with Lithium batters. I bought a weed eater thats really really liteweight and it has a 5 year warranty. Batteries are 3 (maybe 5) years and they are cheaper to replace than most other brands regular batteries. My Dewalts seem to fail every two years right after the warranty expires. The drills are great but the batteries piss me off so I'm gradually going to the Kobalts.


As for wrenches, I have a ton of wrenches I have accumulated over the years. I quit trying to keep matched sets a long time ago. Now I have 4 tool boxes ( 15 yr old Craftsman). One holds std wrenches, one holds std sockets, one holds metric wrenches and one holds metric sockets. I just sort the wrenches by size. One drawer for each size. Later I realized that my tool boxes were a long way from my lift and I got tired of walking all the way across the shop for wrenches.
The wrenchs were located well for work on my workbench, but not for working under the lift. I also got tired of having a std wrench and realizing I needed a metric or vice versa. Then I would walk accross the shop and grab a handful of similar sized wrenches and hope I got the right size...and shape.

I bought an old Craftsman workbench off Craigslist for about $75 and mounted a piece of pegboard on it with small long bolts sticking out that would hold multiple wrenches. I mounted the wrenches in order of size, not whether they were Metric or Standard.Then I converted the sizes to decimals and labeled the board just for convenience. I realized that there were some of the larger sizes that I didn't have, and pricing the Craftsman wrenches in their catalog was not buyer friendly for individual wrenches. I looked on Ebay and at Flea Markets and found most of the odd size wrenches for reasonably cheap prices. I have found over the years that especially with large size nuts and bolts, there can be a lot of variation in head sizes. Sometimes a slightly smaller metric works better than a std size. Most every gearhead has used a 1/2 (.500) std wrench to loosen a 13mm (.512) bolt with a smaller than normal head. In the larger wrench sizes it works even better if you have all the sizes. I no longer care what name brand is on my wrenches , only whether it fits snugly and doesn't try to round a bolt head. Wrenches really never wear out, but they can be ruined by abuse. Some had sloppy tolerances when manufactured, they didn't just wear out....or they are being used on a bolt with excessive head variation. The combination of a sloppy wrench and a sloppy bolt never bodes well.

I put socket sets on the top of the bench. When I need a different socket size, I just refer to the markings for the wrenches and then grab the appropriate size socket.

Truthfully, there are many "decent" brands available for some fair prices and they will do a fine job for most weekend aviation mechanics. Buying tool sets is a good way to get started, and then fill in with occassional purchases when you see the need for something. Don't be overly concerned about the name, but I still would not pick Harbor Freight as my basic building set. I just think it sends the wrong message to the peers you work with. Don't be afraid to buy the occassional HF specialty tools to add to your needs, but start with something decent.

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Little Scrapper

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Wood* is not the best material for wrenches. As an alternative, I suggest hand-forging, followed by lapping to the correct sizes. One wrench shouldn’t take more than a few dozen hours.



* With the possible exception of lignum vitae
Harbor freight and Craftsman are like wood, it was a joke.

I have a toothing place made in Germany, pretty sure the base of the sole is Lignum Vitae
 
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