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Your favorite low investment/high payoff tools and gadgets

Posted: Tue May 12, 2020 8:54 am
by thunderskunk
My father always told me to have a pair of scissors in my tool box; most folks don’t have them in their own kits (usually box cutters or wire nippers instead), so the idea is people are always coming to you for the scissors. If they lose em, you can rest easy and say “don’t worry about it, they’re just scissors.” In short, for $2, you might make a few friends. In contrast to lending your $300 3-4” micrometer and not getting them back leaves everybody sore down under.

I also stole an idea from someone to make a well-worn ER-16 extension into a dowel-pulling slide hammer. Costed me nothing but a few hours and a half a rod of 6011 and has saved me several hours of frustration.

So just for kicks, what’s your favorite cheapo gizmo in your box? I’m in “hurry up and wait” mode, and I know a lot of folks are cooped up at home. Figured there’d be some pretty cool answers.

Re: Your favorite low investment/high payoff tools and gadgets

Posted: Tue May 12, 2020 9:27 am
by PeterCraymer
I will second the scissors. I have had to help make gaskets for a steam chest on a run day out of a latex glove box and needed them! was a real pain to do with a box knife and drill bits, but we got-r-done and played trains!

I have a blade from an old flat head screwdriver that once had a wooden handle. The entire thing is about 13" long, 3/8" square and still has the flat blade on the end. It is the best chisel, prybar, lever, wedge and whatever else! It was destined for the trash and is one of my favorite tools.

Re: Your favorite low investment/high payoff tools and gadgets

Posted: Tue May 12, 2020 10:35 am
by FLSTEAM
A center/edge finder for the mill.

John B

Re: Your favorite low investment/high payoff tools and gadgets

Posted: Tue May 12, 2020 10:46 am
by Marty_Knox
A Whitney JR punch set. I paid about $65 for it back in 1986. But it is the handiest tool for punching holes in gaskets and sheet metal.

Re: Your favorite low investment/high payoff tools and gadgets

Posted: Tue May 12, 2020 11:43 am
by gwrdriver
A Tapping Stand.
I made mine from offcuts from various sources. The base was a dumpster remnant of 1" structural steel plate, working surface 8"x10". The column is 1.25" diameter steel, copper lapped to within a 10th over its length (my first go at lapping.) The arm is built-up from CRS, pinned and soft soldered together. Yes, soft soldered and its not gone anywhere. The ring at the top is a "clinch-collar" which works like a compression fitting and locks or unlocks the arm within a few degrees of turn.

The best thing about it, other than being made for little more than the price of the Jacobs #31BA 3/8" drill check, is that it reduced my tap breakage from some, to ZERO. I've found that it easily manages up to about 1/4" threads but above 1/4" the knob doesn't provide the leverage needed, but it will squarely start larger taps. In a couple of decades I haven't found the need to increase the leverage.

Hands down, the best thing I ever made for my shop.

Re: Your favorite low investment/high payoff tools and gadgets

Posted: Tue May 12, 2020 11:55 am
by Marty_Knox
It wasn't a low investment, but it has been the very best tool to keep my customers happy. I bought a decent digital camera about 7 years ago.
Now when a customer asks 'How's my boiler coming?' I can send them pictures.
Guy Gordon's boiler - picture taken yesterday.

Re: Your favorite low investment/high payoff tools and gadgets

Posted: Tue May 12, 2020 11:58 am
by Glenn Brooks
Somehow I have three pairs of scissors in my toolbox, one in the garden shed. Four new pairs in the house. Wonder how that happened?

My favorite go to tool is a cheapo #2 flat head screwdriver. The kind with black and yellow plastic handle. Used to be $.99 in the bin at the hardware store. Many years ago I bent 2” on the end of the shank into a 90* angle and ground the tip to a triangular shaped tip.

Used to use it to scrape out joints and seams on boats. Now I use it to grab little lost nuts and bolts out of hard to reach corners and recesses on the loco and around the shop. Also makes a great scraper to scratch loose flaky paint, coal dust and soot before doing maintenance of the loco.

Glenn

Re: Your favorite low investment/high payoff tools and gadgets

Posted: Tue May 12, 2020 12:00 pm
by SteveM
Marty_Knox wrote:
Tue May 12, 2020 10:46 am
A Whitney JR punch set. I paid about $65 for it back in 1986. But it is the handiest tool for punching holes in gaskets and sheet metal.
When we remodeled the basement, we used metal studs. You screw them together with these screws that are supposed to drill into the studs as you are screwing them in, but they wander.

I used the Whitney Jr. to punch holes in the appropriate locations and the job went a LOT faster.

Steve

Re: Your favorite low investment/high payoff tools and gadgets

Posted: Tue May 12, 2020 12:05 pm
by SteveM
I picked up a Rivelica Outlock which is a tool for holding soft jaws under tension when boring them. Got it at an auction for cheap. It does an amazing job. There are cheaper solutions than buying one of these new (they are around $900) but I got this so cheap it was well worth it.

Image

Steve

Re: Your favorite low investment/high payoff tools and gadgets

Posted: Tue May 12, 2020 12:06 pm
by Glenn Brooks
gwrdriver wrote:
Tue May 12, 2020 11:43 am
A Tapping Stand.
GW,

Nice Work! I’ve often thought about making a tap stand. I assume the shank with the knob and chuck is threaded, so it cranks up and down? Or does it just slide up and down, and the knob turns the tap into the work?

Haha, Maybe I answere my own question.

Thanks!

Glenn

Re: Your favorite low investment/high payoff tools and gadgets

Posted: Tue May 12, 2020 12:24 pm
by SteveM
One of the best investments I've made in my shop (and for not a lot of money) is lathe chucks.

I have a cheap chuck that probably cost me $30 that only came with outside jaws. When they only have one set of jaws, they sell for less, and when it's only the outside jaws, it's even less. As Joe at Plaza Machinery used to say "It takes less time to change chucks than to change jaws".

I have a second 4-jaw on which I keep the jaws reversed, so I don't need to change that one either.

When I got a chance to buy a chuck with 2-piece jaws (from Joe at Plaza), I grabbed a nice one for $60. I made aluminum jaws for it (you can see them above) but have since found that US Shop Tools sells them cheap. I also lucked out and picked up a set of hard jaws for cheap, so I can even use those if I need to.

I picked up an 8" 4-jaw for about $75. Don't expect to use it much, but I have one job in the pipeline that requires gripping an 8" diameter disk of steel by the outside edge, so now I'm all set.

To paraphrase Norm Abram (when he was speaking about clamps) you can never have too many chucks.

Steve

Re: Your favorite low investment/high payoff tools and gadgets

Posted: Tue May 12, 2020 12:26 pm
by SteveM
One of the shortcuts to making a tapping stand is to get an extension tap wrench.

That way, you have the shaft, a proper tap chuck and the handle already made and you just need to build the rest around it.

Steve