Virtually unknown outside the telecomm industry, spudgers are at least as handy as needlenose pliers when working on something small — especially electronics. They’re available with various tips and handle styles, usually in bright colors. More pictures below the cut.
Spudgers come in handy for all kinds of small work. The wire tip is perfect for setting DIP switches, removing jumpers, scratching corrosion from hard-to-reach contacts, straightening wire after unwrapping, and cleaning fingernails. The plastic end dresses wiring blocks, places labels, smooths labels, peels labels, pries cases open, snags wires from crowded harnesses, and twists trimmer potentiometers.
As promised, pictures of my personal spudger collection / arsenal:
As you can see, the orange one has a sharpened tip — which’ll break skin if you’re clumsy. The yellow one has seen better days, and in addition to the obviously bent wire tip, it also suffered a cracked plastic end. It used to be the same shape as the black one next to it! The flat one up top is a computer-style spudger, or “black stick.” It lacks the wire tip of the telecomm spudgers, but has a finer blade on the opposite end.
Spudgers are sometimes available at big-box stores but only as part of a very expensive installer’s kit bundled with other stuff you probably already own or don’t need. This drives me nuts, because I know I would’ve bought several over the years if they were sold singly like other tools.
They’re available on eBay for a few bucks each — or significantly less if you buy a dozen at a time. That’s what I did a few months ago, and I’ve been giving the extras to friends. But then most of my friends are in telecomm and know exactly what spudgers are for. A quick Froogle search returns dozens starting at around $1.
Leave one in your pencil holder and see what people say!