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Occasionally we get pictures of tools and we just don’t know what they are. We love that — and love to check out what folks have dug out of their stash and try to ID it. In this case, reader Glen sent in a picture of this bit of steel. To us, it looks like an adjustable fence or guide. My first thought was that it was part of a shoe for a saw, but the pin and tube on one end is really throwing me.

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Ok — have some pity on a relatively new cyclist, if you will. I’ve been writing about tools here for many years, but I just recently got into running, swimming, and (yep) biking. But I quickly realized that while I can easily work on my bike in the garage, I don’t have the garage with me when I’m out riding, and I’m getting to the point where I’d like to ride at times when I can’t easily call someone to come get me if things break. So I’ve begun kitting out the bike with the tools necessary to get it back on the road after basic breakdowns.

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Besides tubes and the means to inflate them, my next choice is something that’ll let me deal with other minor adjustments — specifically a multi-tool. What you see above is the ParkTool IB-2, the first tool I’m trying out. It’s small enough to fit in my road bike’s little saddle pouch, but it’s packed with a variety of tools, including 1.5, 2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, and 6mm hex wrenches — damn, there are a lot of hex nuts on bikes — as well as a T25 and straight-blade screwdriver. Conspicuously missing is any kind of Phillips head driver. I paid $17 for the tool, which seems a buck or two higher than the average street pricing.

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TM reader dgdaner asks: “I farm and ranch and keep the tools I use for fencing in a toolbox in the back of my fencing pickup. I’m too cheap to buy a full-size aluminum box that mounts permanently, so I use smaller (usually plastic) toolboxes that I can carry around. They stay out in the ND weather, and many times I go to use them I find the box half full of water. What’s your best suggestion for a replacement?”

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He mentions that the best he’s seen (in his price range) was a Craftsman model which “didn’t use rivets to hold the hand on, so the lid is sealed.” We did a quick search (and looked around our local big box) and found a number of Stanley models that seem similar to the Craftsman the reader mentions. But I can think of at least one other possibility.

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In my neighborhood you’ll find fences of almost every possible (wood) construction, from basic no-gap picket fences (like mine) built with the cheapest pre-assembled panels and 4×4 wood posts that builders could source to mega-buck 8′ board-on-board fences with outside-the-yard metal posts and fancy cap/floor finishing. Certainly if one had an unlimited amount of cash to spend, the latter would make a lot of sense. But how do these fences really rate in terms of value? And what features, if any, make more of a difference than others when it comes to function and longevity? I have a few ideas, but as I’ve owned exactly one fence (which is cheap and rotting, by the way), I thought it’d make more sense to ask TM readers who’ve maybe experienced a little trial and error.

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When I was a kid, my father put together a great metal toolbox for me, complete with what I now realize was a mix of mechanic’s and household tools — perfect for, say, working on my bike or building small projects. I don’t have a picture of it, but I remember that it was a mid-sized metal box similar to the one pictured above. As an adult, though, I find myself increasingly assembling tool kits on the fly for household or mobile projects, and recently I’ve favored tool bags for that application. That got me to thinking: What do you use to carry your tools, and more importantly, why?

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Creating tools for specialty applications isn’t something tool companies started a year ago. Hell, most modern tool conglomerates started out looking to solve just one problem. Milwaukee originally founded to provide a 1/4″ power drill light enough for Ford’s assembly line, for example. That’s why I used to love rolling ’round the flea market tool tables with my Dad when I was a kid. Sometimes we’d find a usable wrench or socket to add to the collection, but the real joy came from picking up some weird-looking tool and asking “What it it?” Or, maybe even more importantly: “What is it for?

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What you see above is called a “spud wrench.”

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I’m sure a lot of Toolmongers already know what this is and what it’s for. But a friend who found one of these in a toolbox he bought asked me what it was, so I thought I’d share here as well, just in case. I’ve always heard it called the “try square,” which my father told me was due to the fact that “trying” is kind of a work-slang for checking something to see if it’s straight. But it seems others call it a “tri-square” as well.

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A quick run to Wikipedia suggests that this might “refer to the three purposes of this tool: 1. To check squareness, 2. To check flatness, and 3. to lay out lines.” Ok — that’s certainly what I do with it, but it never occurred to me to call it a “tri” square. Can any of you old-timers (or high-timers, either way) confirm this?

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The one linked (and pictured) above is from Irwin and looks pretty nice, featuring a hardwood handle. Super nice ones will often feature brass rivets or rare woods, though all it really needs to do is be straight to do its job. Mine sees a lot of use marking steel for cuts in the shop as it’s easy to slap it on a piece of tubing and draw a nice, straight 90-degree line. I use the ruler markings to mark tubing cuts for closures, too.

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So what do you do with yours?

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I have a cool little simple combination square that sees lots of use around the shop in terms of everything from basic metal fabrication to hanging pictures. I inherited mine, but you can buy one pretty much just like it from dozens of manufacturers. Hell, I saw an Irwin model that was identical except for its blue finish. Then I came across the one pictured above.

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My first thought is that it’s the result of too many committee meetings or focus groups. Can you even identify all the tasks for which this thing’s designed?

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I received a couple of emails this week asking about the process of getting replacement keys for toolboxes. I’ve had a little experience with this on my own, but to offer a real answer, I headed to Google, then called around a bit among our TM contacts. Short answer: You’re pretty damn screwed. Read on for the longer version.

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I saw a post over at Lifehacker today touting the old idea of slapping a little heat shrink tubing around a tool and shrinking it down to create a custom “grip,” and that got me thinking about the various ways I know how to accomplish this — and what ways you as Toolmongers might know that I don’t.

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My favorite method is PlastiDip. It’s been around forever and works pretty simply: just open up the tub/can and dip the handles of your favorite pliers or whatever in. Pull ‘em out and let ‘em dry and you get a protective, grippy rubber-like coating.

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