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A mechanical engineer posted this fascinating (tiny) intro to the (vast) world of fasteners and what make them tick in answer to the Quora question “What is something useful about engineering you can teach in 10 minutes and make me feel astonished and fascinated?” It doesn’t tell you everything you need to know about fasteners, but it definitely gives you a peek into how deep the science behind them can dive — and why you should think twice before assuming “bigger is better” or “tighter is better.”

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Sure, the music is a little bit moody for my taste, but (even without sound) this video does a great job of documenting the making of an axe from forging, heat-treating, and sharpening the head down to cutting, spokeshaving, and finishing the handle — all in about six minutes. There’s some great cinematography, too. Enjoy, and we’ll see you next week.

 

Above you see Klein’s new Tradesman Pro Organizer rolling tool bag, which is, well, a tool bag with wheels. It caught our attention because it incorporates features we’ve seen in luggage for years, but which never quite seem to make their way into tool storage applications: big wheels and a collapsible handle.

For the same reason bolting big wheels on your 4×4 allows you to climb and clear big rocks and logs, upping the wheel diameter on your rolling storage lets you drag it over larger debris. Klein chose 6″ wheels for this bag, which seems like a good tradeoff between being big enough to let you roll over weird crap and small enough to not be a pain in the ass (or leg) when you pick up the bag to carry it.

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My father loved to write crap down. He’d dream up some idea or another, and he’d jot it down in one of a half-dozen little notebooks he used to carry around with him. I remember one time as a kid when I asked him about something, and to answer me he produced one of his older notebooks. Hell, I can’t remember what it was I asked. But I clearly remember him ruffling through page after page of drawings and scribbles, trying to find the answer. He paused on one page, which contained a crude (but surprisingly precise) drawing of a suitcase with two different kinds of wheels on it. “I really should’ve done something about that,” he said, tacitly suggesting he’d scooped the originator’s patent.

I tried to emulate him over the years, carrying around various cheap ringed notebooks like the ones he always stuck in his back pocket. The first real success I had at keeping a notebook long enough to reference it for information over a couple weeks old was with Moleskines. Since 2008 or so, though, I’ve gone mostly digital, snapping phone pics and doodling in various versions of electronic note-keeping apps.

I’d love to tell you that one or the other of these methods is the complete awesome, but really they each offer some advantages — and significant disadvantages. One size definitely doesn’t fit all. So in classic Toolmonger form, I’m going to run down some of the options I’ve tried so far. If you find one that really works for you (or if you have better ideas than mine!) please share in comments. I’ll be watching.

Read on past the jump for a comprehensive look at the options.

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What makes one oxy-fuel torch better than the next? Victor’s research says that we’re most efficient at welding and cutting when we can see our workpiece and easily control the torch. They incorporated a number of features into their re-designed 400 series to directly address these issues, and the result is a pretty interesting-looking torch.

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From the (virtual) mail bin: “Have you seen or used the one-handed reciprocating saw? Home Depot and Lowe’s both have one, and I was wondering how well they work.” Indeed we have. Read on for details.

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One of the really cool upshots of the last few years’ more powerful and more compact drivers has been the renaissance of the impact driver. The small 10.8-12v models are incredibly powerful, able to drive screws bigger than the damn driver itself. And the 18v models, while still remarkably compact, can handle gargantuan driving tasks. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve succumbed to grabbing a tiny impact driver (the PS40, actually) to drive fairly large screws while fixing a fence, chucking up some non-impact-ready driver bits in the process. While it drove a few screws without problems, I chewed up a bit before I was done, thrashing the head and stripping a screw in the process.

So it’s no surprise that 1/4″ quick-change impact-ready bits are starting to get some R&D focus — and some cool upgrades. Irwin’s new line includes fastener drive bits, nutsetters, bit holders, and socket adapters, all with new features. Read on for the details.

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As a general rule, we like to think we’re getting a great deal more creative when it comes to transport than we were 40 years ago. As it turns out…nope. These rail cars stowed 30 Vegas per car, nose down, in the early 70′s, ya’ll.

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The term “builders’ grade” is often slapped on a piece of hardware you’re almost sure wouldn’t pass muster any other way new, much less after 6 or 7 years. Apparently such a term was¬†appropriate¬†for the riser in my toilet, which split for no reason this weekend and flooded the bathroom. I returned from the home center with a Korky brand valve.

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We’ve seen every model of Dremel rotary tool and put most of them through the shop to test this or that feature, but we kept coming back to the old Dremel 100 that never failed us. The phaser-shaped Stylus was cool but underpowered; the Volt Max cordless was better but didn’t last long with the jobs we subjected it to. However, Dremel’s new 4200 melds the strengths of old 100 with new features we might actually give the old dog up for — like the ability to swap accessories just by pushing a lever.

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