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Craftsman’s Max Axess hand tools: I know they’re Gearwrench and you know they’re Gearwrench — no secret there. We all have eyes and can understand that the 51-piece toolset Sears is touting for Father’s Day is exactly that — Craftsman branded Gearwrench. It’s a smart move: take one of the best handtool systems in terms of innovation in the last ten years and put a Craftsman warranty on it. Step three, profit.

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Even though GW already had a great warranty. Even though many DIY mechanics already have this same gear with a different moniker on it. When any hand tool has the word “Craftsman” bestowed upon its shiny spine, the backing of that famous warranty ensures things are going to go well. None of that matters when gleaming kits by the thousands leave the store bound for shade-tree dads everywhere this week. But we can’t really blame them for it.

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The idea of an indexing box-end — complete with GearWrench’s well-known fine-toothed ratcheting system — makes a lot of sense. Believe me, there’s nothing more frustrating than trying to get at a damn bolt or nut that’s just a little bit off from any angle you can possibly reach with a straight wrench. (Pick yourself up a set of deep offsets, too.) But hey, GearWrench’s double box-ends go to 11, man. Both ends index.

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Way back in 2006 we posted our first hands-on with GearWrench’s XL Pass-Thru ratchets. The verdict? Awesome. We love ‘em. And they’re pretty reasonably-priced, too, with sets starting around $50. But as Harbor Freight proves again, if someone can make it, they can make a knock off cheaper. Witness above the “21-Piece SAE/Metric Go-Thru Socket Set,” offered for less than half the price of GearWrench’s original.

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It’s GearWrench’s mainstay: Start with a tool that everyone uses a lot, then make it configurable so it’s a hell of a lot easier to position (or re-position). Remember when ratcheting box-end wrenches seemed like some kind of As Seen on TV(tm) gimmick? Now even your grandpa owns a set. And who doesn’t keep an indexing ratchet around to get at hard-to-reach nuts and bolts? Now you can even score a nail puller with an indexing head.

It’s pretty much like your everyday nail puller — 12″ long with a forged steel head — but you can twist the head around through 180 degrees. The head locks into place in 14 separate angles, so you can set it up to get the best pulling leverage even when the nail is in between studs or otherwise difficult to get at.

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U-joint adapters let you stick sockets in places you woudn’t imagine they’d ever fit. For example, I once saw Sean plug together four extensions and two u-joint adapters to reach the top bolts on a GM transmission bell-housing. But with ass-saving capability comes damn-why-won’t-this-stay-where-I-put-it frustration: Most u-joint adapters flop around, making it difficult to maneuver the socket into place.

GearWrench thinks they’ve solved the problem by installing a small internal spring that lets the u-joint move, but holds it in place when you let it go — so you can bend your crazy extension-tree into place then jockey it into the abyss right onto the nut.

They’re including the spring u-joints in seven of their various kits, and they sell ‘em separately as well in a three-piece set containing 1/4″, 3/8″, and 1/2″ sizes. Street pricing for the three-piece kit starts around $33 and you’ll pay about $16 for individual adapters.

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Here’s a great idea I wish GearWrench had thought of years ago: Instead of making all ratcheting wrenches combinations, why not produce some that combine a ratchet with a standard box-end? Besides the fact that it lends itself well to a really slick and marketable name, it’s also super handy when you really don’t want to slip — you know, when you need a standard wrench instead of the ratchet because you’re gonna pull hard on it.

GearWrench currently offers two sets: a 12-piece metric and a 9-piece SAE. Besides the double box-end configuration, these are essentially the same ratcheting wrenches you’ve come to love. Street pricing starts around $125, or about $18/wrench separately.

Gearbox [GearWrench]
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If you can’t get enough reach with your ratchet you can just add an extension, but what’re you supposed to do with drivers?  A standard-sized blade, about 6″ or so, gets me through most jobs, but recently I was adjusting my headlights, and I needed a longer, thinner blade — GearWrench created their Long-Reach Torx Drivers for jobs just like this.

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The GearWrench Roto Ratchet will help you get that ratchet where you need it — its head rotates a full 180 degrees for access to fasteners in tight locations.  At first I thought this product was unique to GearWrench, but then I saw a Kobalt version at Lowe’s;  either way, it looks like it might be one of those “I should have bought it” tools.

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Straight from Dr. Frankenstein’s lab, these hemostats will help you hold on to smaller parts and keep fluids from spilling out of disconnected hoses.  I’m sure there are other uses for ‘em, too — think legal, folks! Store ‘em with the rubber gloves, dental mirrors and picks, and all the other medical tools that have made it into the shop.

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Alexandria General Supply is selling this Gearwrench Flexible Hex Key Set for $24.41.  Flexible hex wrenches like this will help you access that oddly placed socket head screw — they’re great problem-solvers.

Flexible Hex Key Set [Alexandria General Supply]
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