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Posts by: Chuck Cage

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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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Rockwell is set to offer a 16V lithium-ion line, starting with a drill and an impact driver. Why should we care? Well, a few years back Bosch kickstarted the compact market with the PS20, reminding us that a) we don’t necessarily need to use the biggest possible drill for every job and b) small doesn’t have to mean crappy. Then both Bosch and DeWalt took a page from the less-is-more book in their 18V lines, cutting back on the extra bulk to produce svelte, light, yet still quite powerful general-use pro-line drills. DeWalt has even filled in the gap between Bosch’s compact PS series and the new compact 18V tools — the 12V MAX line features more standard form factors than the PS tools (along with larger size), and, in some cases, a little more power.

Rockwell argues that their new 16V series fits in the tiny gap between 12V models — they claim their 16V offers more power — and 18V class tools, which Rockwell suggests are bulkier than their product. How will it hold up? Read on after the jump to find out.

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We’re always fascinated by how different folks store their tools. Some people love the purpose-made hard cases which come with a lot of hand tools, though we’ve seen a pretty solid shift toward preferring the soft case (or slightly-structured bag). Each has benefits: the hard cases offer more protection and can Tetris together into squarish storage spaces better, while soft bags pack much tighter internally — but are messy to stack. It looks to us like Bosch is trying to cut the middle with their LBOXX system, which consists of hard cases of fixed width and depth that stack easily and lock together for ease of storage/carrying.

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First off, thanks so much for all the thoughtful responses to my post last week about artificial frugality and tool hoarding. I started to reply to some of the comments specifically, but soon realized that there’s so much interesting information there that the subject really deserves a follow-up post to dig deeper into the areas of scrap storage, what tools to keep, and for how long.

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