A friend turned us on to About.com’s list of “The World’s Most Useless Tools” — penned by writer Lee Wallender — and we’ve been kicking it around endlessly. As you might imagine, we take issue with some of his findings (and completely agree with others). Let’s take a look.
#1 on Wallender’s list: The Yankee Driver.
For those of you (both of you) not familiar with the term (coined and owned by Stanley), the Yankee Driver is a push screwdriver. (That’s one on the left in the photo above. Thanks, Andrew Turner, for the CC-licensed photo. And that’s a really nice version up top, available from Garrett Wade.) Wallender skewers the Yankee, saying:
“…I don’t know if tit ever really worked. But I have never been able to get it to work, and I don’t know of anybody else who has. […] The problem is that it does not work. Wait, take that back. The Yankee driver will work, but only under the most optimal conditions. The screw has to fit perfectly into the hole. There can be no resistance at all, zero friction.”
He recommends instead getting “a nice lithium-ion 18V cordless drill” and leaving “the Yankee to your grandson to play with.”
We can’t agree. While we certainly reach for a Yankee driver far less often than a cordless drill, we’ve learned over the years not to make such blanket statements about tools. Any tool that’s lasted fifty years on the market is useful to someone, even if that someone isn’t us. I’ve personally seen these used to remove machine screws at lightning speed, and I’m betting that tool companies don’t continue to manufacture these solely as toys for the grandkids.
Pro tip: Not everyone needs an 18V drill/driver. Many 10.8V-12V compact models offer plenty of torque and runtime for home jobs and weigh a hell of a lot less.
#2 Magnetic Stud Finders, #3 Foam Painting Edgers
Gotta agree with Lee on these. Magnetic stud finders depend on finding nails, which may or may not be buried pretty deep. And considering that you can pick up a good electronic stud finder from any number of manufacturers for less than $20, why bother? While I’m no painting guru, I agree that I’ve had better results just using a decent brush.
#4: The Crescent Wrench
Wallender seems personally offended by the adjustable wrench. As he says: “Perhaps long ago, in my childhood, I barked a knuckle while trying to use a Crescent wrench — who knows?” His objection: “No matter how hard you tighten them down, they had considerable play.”
We certainly agree that if you have a properly-sized box-end wrench and you can fit it over the nut, that’s a far better solution than an adjustable. But I’d love to see Wallender handle a mobile job where he has to carry all his tools with him and has no idea what he’s going to come across. Sure, you might “bark a knuckle” from time to time, but that’s a better solution than trying to remove a nut with your teeth or fingers.
And that’s the point: the adjustable wrench is a compromise designed to save space and offer utility you might not otherwise have in a small tool kit. My father always carried a large and small adjustable wrench in his car toolkits just to handle situations where he didn’t have a better tool.
#5 The Channellock “Wrench”
Calling it the “Channel Lock” wrench (seemingly oblivious to the image copyright displayed below bearing the “Channellock” brand name), Wallender pans it, saying it’s “helpful notches are trouble: they never seem to give you the size that you want” and that “you end up stripping the bolt head, nut, or whatever you’ve clamped onto.”
First of all, Channellocks are definitely not the tool of choice for removing a nut — unless you don’t have a better option and you expect to chew up the nut a bit. (Which happens from time to time.) If, on the other hand, you’re grabbing onto a piece of metal of various thickness, Channellocks are handy as hell. We have tongue-in-groove pliers from a couple of different manufacturers in the Toolmonger shop, and we use them regularly. (We just don’t use them as adjustable wrenches.)
#6: Vise-Grip Knockoffs
These can be real pieces of crap. But I have a great use for off-brand locking pliers: welding. Who has the cash to buy 20-30 sets of locking pliers just to hold down the occasional welding job? I certainly don’t. But I can easy afford a drawerfull of the cheap-os. Bonus: I don’t give a damn if I end up melting a set every now and then to get the job done.
Lee, I feel your pain. I’ve stepped in it with comments like yours before. From one tool writer to another, let me offer a piece of advice: Before you write a piece about how useless something is because you don’t have a use for it, ask your readership how they use said tool. The responses will educate you (as they do me!), and the process will save you a ton of nasty email.
The World’s Most Useless Tools [About.com]