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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:

spudgers-ends.jpg   spudgers-tips.jpg   spudgers2.jpg

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!

Street Pricing [Froogle]
Search for ‘spudger’ [eBay]
Inspection and Probing Tools [Specialized Tool Co.]



9 Responses to Finds: The Spudger

  1. Rick says:

    Haven’t you discussed Spudgers on this site at some point in the past?

    I know I’ve read about them here.. maybe it was just in a comment post.

  2. It was driving me nuts too, but I couldn’t find anything with the in-site search or Google. The only instance of the word “spudger” seemed to be in context of the Paladin PowerPlay. If this is a dupe, I apologize. Anyway, the pictures are better this time around.

  3. Old Donn says:

    We had access to boxes of these on the job, but I’ve never seen them in stores. They’ve pretty much disappeared from the job too, since much of our hands-on has gone digital. We had plastic ones like the one pictured, and wooden ones that were better suited for close proximity to soldering irons. Either/or, they’ve pretty much gone away. If you come across some at a flea market or garage sale, get them.

  4. Ahh yes, the orangewood sticks. You can find them at any beauty supply in the manicure section. The high density wood and heat resistance make them perfect for pushing surfacemount components around while the solder’s melted, you’re right!

    I’m curious why your job would have less use for spudgers as things go digital. Connectorized cables have always been a big part of central office work, but distribution frame and DSX wiring isn’t going away, at least not in most RBOC offices. (They’re installing DACS equipment, but put a DSX on either end rather than wiring straight in.) They come in handy for getting crud out of Amphenol connectors, too.

  5. Old Donn says:

    Whoa! I said going, not gone. While there are some distributing frames left, and B-boxes outside, it’s nothing like the old vacuum tube, wire spring relay phone company I hired on with. Everybody had a tool pouch, (with spudgers and orange sticks), back then. Now only a select few do anything requiring hands-on.Most sit in front of terminals punching buttons.

  6. Still lamenting the loss of the relay contact burnishing tool… 😉

  7. chris says:

    When I was doing telecom the guy I worked for (Old Ma Bell guy) called these “booger pickers” They are a completely indespensible especially if you’ve ever tried to get a stray wire out from inside a 66 block

  8. Old Donn says:

    Aside to Nate. Re:burnishing tool. I’ve still got one.

  9. Maru says:

    If I need anything pointyor or flat, I use the two ends of my manicure wooden sticks that are 3 for $1. My all around poking sticks are those bamboo kebabs sticks that sell for $1/100 pcs.

    If I need a hook, I use my thin nylon knitting needles.

    I did buy something specifically for my tweaking hours, several types of nylon forceps/tweezers.

    Can’t believe people sell these nylon/wood poking things for $2.95 or even $9.99. Reminds me of when I buy stuff for our laboratory. Scientific suppliers slap on a label on ordinary kitchen stuff (like a cordless mini hand blender that sells for $9.99) and then sells it for $60. Or kitchen 3-mode timers for $55 when you can get one for $15 or less.

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