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Happy Friday everyone.Humble Mechanic Tool Box

Today on the Automotive Podcast, we are talking about tools. It is a subject we have talked about on the blog before, but is always fun to revisit. Today’s view comes from all the years and dollars that I have spent on buying mechanic’s tools, as well as tools for the house.

Today we look at:

  • Tool Brands, Snap-on Tools, Matco Tools, Craftsman tools, Harbor Freight, Makita, and more
  • When to spend the big bucks on Mechanic’s Tools
  • When to save some money on Mechanic’s Tools
  • The tools that are my favorite both in the shop and at home.
  • Questions to ask yourself when trying to decide on which tool to buy
  • Toolbox advice

Thanks for watching. As always, post your comments below. If you have an idea for a shop topic, please post them in the comment section as well. Or you can use the contact me form.

For more information on Mechanic’s Tools, just click that link.

VW cabby with top removed

Hi everyone. Today I want to give you all an update about what has been going on with the Cabby, with the blog, and things here in general. It has been a busy busy spring. Even though the blog updates have been low, the work level has been really high.

At the shop
Things at the shop are almost always interesting. Remember a while back we had hired 3 new guys. A guy right out of school, a guy with some general experience, and a Mercedes Benz master tech. The MB tech got put on my team. Well a few weeks ago he called in sick. Then the next day, just didn’t show up. I had a feeling that he was going to quite, but didn’t really expect it to happen like that.

We had also hired an experienced VW service advisor. Well, his wife took a job out of state, so he just up and quite too. Just when we think things are on the right track at the dealer, we lose 2 guys. This is just part of the business.

There is a down side for me. It puts me behind on much of the shop duties I have. I had to bring our scan tools home just to have time to up date them. It also means that most nights I am working late. That also puts me behind on my stuff at home.

Cabby Update
Most of what I am doing now with the cabby is little VW cabby with top removedthings. The interior is most of the way back together. I completely removed the top and the rear windows. I must say that I am thrilled with how it looks I have a few ideas to give it a more finished look.

The next part of the project is getting the stereo worked out. I hooked up the radio that was installed in the car. Only 1 speaker works. That doesn’t cut it for any car, but it’s pointless in a convertible. The challenge is building a great sound system, but having it very stealth.

Tools
I posted a few weeks ago about breaking a bunch of tools in one day. Among the broken tools was the tool I use most often, my Makita impact driver. After a bunch of back and forth with a repair place, and Matkita, I have a replacement gun on the way. They stepped it up big time and took care of it.

I also purchased a 1/2 impact wrench from Kobalt. I will have a full review soon. I want to get some more time with it first. I will say that I like it, and it has a ton of power. I don’t think it would replace an air impact.

I have also picked up a few other tools, an engine compression gauge, and a TDI timing kit. I also picked up a few things to try my hand at fiberglass work. This is something I have never done, but I think it is a great skill to have.

I have also been planning my garage remodel. Once electrical is done, it’s game time. You guys do not want to miss how cool this will be.

Homestead
I don’t talk much about our homestead much here. It has little to do Growing Hops on a Homesteadwith cars. If you guys are in interested in that, I can talk about it more. Or you can check out NChomesteading.com. My wife does the updating there.

Spring time is full throttle here. We have planted 10 trees this past weekend. I also transplanted about 20 hop cuttings. Last year I had some success, but the percentage was low. This year I am doing more cuttings and should get better results. We also picked up a really awesome apple tree. This tree has 5 different apple varieties on it. How cool is it to have 1 tree that produces 5 different apples.

I had also taken a few hop rhizomes out on to the property and did some wild planting. I went to see them last night and found they are doing awesome! They are bigger than the ones close to the house.

Sort A Tool Wrench Storage Tray

Sort A Tool Wrench Storage TrayAs a professional auto mechanic, tool storage is very important to me. At work, all of my tools are organized in a way that helps me be neat and efficient. It took me years of fine tuning my tool. I sort tools in the following way:

  • Most frequently used
  • Size order, like a set of wrenches would be
  • Type of tools, wrenches with wrenches, sockets with sockets, and so on
  • By size of the tool, this is based on the size of the drawer they are in.

I have seen tons of different types of tool organizers. Some are great, some are junk, and some are crazy expensive. When the folks at Sort-A-Tool asked me to review their Wrench Sorting Tray, I was honored. So let’s take a closer look at the Wrench Sorting Tray.

About the Wrench Tray
The tray is made from hard black plastic. It can hold up to 28 wrenches. The Wrench tray has a footprint of 13.5″ x 10″ x 1.5″ which means it will fit most tool drawers. Included with the tray are labeling stickers to help you quick identity wrench sizes. One other cool thing is these are made in the USA!

The Pros

  • The hard plastic is durable and easily cleanableSort A Tool Wrench Storage Tray
  • Separations for each wrench
  • Holds a lot of wrenches
  • the spot for small wrenches is raised making it easy to get them out.
  • There are 2 parts trays built in
  • Labels for quick size identification
  • Makes great use of the space
  • It is portable with the wrenches moving
  • Almost impossible to put wrenches in the wrong spot
  • Its small enough to fit in most drawers of most tool boxes
  • It will not scratch up your wrenches

The Cons
Before I talk about the cons I just want to say all the “cons” I talk about are personal feelings. It comes only from the way I store tools. Keep in mind, they may not be an issue for you

  • If you use the labels, metric and standard wrenches are mixed together.
  • It only holds up to a 19mm wrench
  • The “sizing bar” at the top was a little strange to use for me. I asked my wife to take a look at this feature. She liked it saying “it was easy to find the right spot for the wrench”
  • There is limited flexibility in storage

Sort A Tool Wrench Storage Tray

Final Thoughts
I really like this tray! As I said above, any “cons” I wrote about were extremely minor. Almost to the point of nit picking. I think this is one of the better wrench holders I have put my hands on. I usually try and look at a product like this from 2 sides “Is it good for a pro mechanic” and “Is it good for a home toolbox”. I think this tray is great for BOTH! You can get them from Amazon SortATool Wrench Tray, They are also coming out with a socket storage tray later this year. I am excited to see it.

Have questions about this product? Please post them in the comments below. If you have a product you would like reviewed, please use this contact me form. I will be more than happy to provide a honest review of any product.

Sort A Tool Wrench Labels SORTATOOL will get you sorted out! SORTATOOL is a tool sorting and storing product line for professionals and enthusiastic DIY mechanics. The patented wrench sorting and storing tray has been a popular product in the US for over 10 years.  A novel socket sorting & storing tray will be launched around April 2014, and additional sorting and storage solutions for all the other things in tool chests and boxes are in the pipeline.
Tool Lodge Storage

Hey everyone. I am having a hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that it is December 6th already. This year has been sort of a blur. For the blog it has been an AWESOME year. I may not say it enough, but I really do appreciate each and every one of you. You guys seriously rock.

Today I want to chat a little about tool storage and Tool Lodge Storageorganization. This is a very personal thing for a lot of people. Things get even crazier when you bring it to a professional level. Every one organizes things different. At work, I stage things in a way to get to them fast. At home, I like things nice and pretty. To be honest, my tools at home are a mess. 🙂

The folks at Tool Lodge were nice enough to send me a sample of their tool drawer organizer. They asked me to check it out, and give them my thoughts. I did that, and I figured I would share them with all of you as well. One quick thing, Tool lodge did send this to me at no charge. But as you all know, I give my honest opinion no matter what. That is how I roll.

Overall I think the product is well built. It is a foam wrapped in a felt type material. The backing is plastic and seem to be pretty supportive. You can even add magnets to the bottom. That would be good if the holder will not cover the entire drawer. Here are a few pictures of the process.

Orginize The ToolsHere is a shot of some tools set out. The most important thing seems to be laying out your tools properly. If you look to the bottom left of the picture, you can see that I punched a ratchet into the foam.

Tool box storgage Tool Lodge

This is a close up of the ratchet I pressed into the foam. Pressing a tool seemed very easy to do. I was able to apply pressure by hand and set the tool so it would not move. Then I tapped the tool down into the foam. Tool Lodge recommends using a soft (rubber or plastic) mallet. I used a regular hammer and a block of wood. It worked great!

Tool box storgage Tool Lodge

This is the imprint of the ratchet in the foam. You can see it does a good job of forming to the tool. You can even see the lines of the handle. If you look at the middle of the imprint, you can see an section pressed in that does not fit the ratchet shape. This is from the supplied grip tool. It lets you dent a spot to be able to grab the tool. This is one of my favorite parts about this system.

Tool box storgage Tool Lodge

I also wanted to see how a box wrench would set in the system. Here you can see the tool and the indent in the foam. It does a pretty good job of setting an imprint that matches the tool.

Like I said before, I think this is a nice tool storage system. Here is my overall breakdown of the Tool Lodge.

PROS

  • Tools look VERY cool. Hey, that matters

    tool box organization

    This is what an unorganized tool drawer looks like

  • Tools will always have a set place.
  • It is easy to see if something is missing.
  • Things can not roll around in the draw
  • Tools are easy to set in the foam
  • This is a GREAT system when people share tools
  • The felt will not mar tools
  • Product is well built
  • Custom sizes to most tool box drawers
  • The grip tool is great to get tools out fast.
  • No cutting of foam.
  • It’s way better than the foam that you pluck the squares out of

Cons

  • Once the tools are set, there is no changing or adding tools
  • I am slightly concerned about long term use, the tools may not fit as tight down the road
  • I worry about what happens if you drop a tool on the foam. Light tools would be fine, but something with some weight might dent the foam.
  • The felt seems to hold some dust. This is not a big deal, just a minor.
  • I wonder about oil saturation on the foam. My tools are not always spotless when I put them away. This is a Charles thing. It probably does not apply to some folks.
  • The drawer you use it in needs to be 2 or more inches deep.
  • It is a bit pricey to outfit an entire tool box

Well that about wraps it up. I think Tool Lodge did a good job building this product. For the person looking for this type of organization, I think you will dig this! If you have any questions about Tool Lodge, please post them in the comments. I will also be setting a few more tools just to see how they form.

Auto mechanic tools

With the holiday season in full swing, I though it would be fun to give some advice on buying tools for the tool junkie on your list. Shopping for tools can be overwhelming to say the least. I know a lot about hand tools, and a fair amount about other tools. I still get lost in the sea of wrenches, hammers and drills. I can only imagine how someone with little or no tool knowledge feels.

Who are you buying for?
Before you hit the stores have some basics in mind. You must know who you are buying for. That will get you in to the right aisle of the tool store. Try and break it down in to one of these categories.

  • The Automotive EnthusiastAuto mechanic tools
    This can be the person that loves doing their own maintenance. Or maybe does it to save some money. Hand tools are king when working on cars. Things like ratchets, sockets, wrenches make great gifts
  • The Wood Worker
    If you are buying for someone that works with wood, think saws and chisels.
  • The Electronics Junkie
    This is the person that builds and repairs electronics.
  • The DIY Home Owner
    This is the category that most folks fall into. Head to your local home improvement store, and pick an aisle. DIY tools for the house is just about everything. Drills, saws, ratchets hammers, shovels, the list goes on and on.

How to pick the perfect tool

Now that you know who you are buying for, it’s time to get shopping. There is a saying “buy it nice, or buy it twice”. This applies to to tools as much as anything. Buying good quality tools is a must.

No matter what tool you are buying, there are some brands that really stand out. If power tools are on your list, I prefer Dewalt and Makita. I have an impact driver from Makita that I use more than any other tool in my tool box. I like it so much I got a second one to keep at the house. They may cost a little more, but they are well worth it.

If you are shopping for hand tools, a few names stand out. Craftsman, Stanley, Snap-on, Matco and more. When buying hand tools, make sure the tools have lifetime warranty. Even the best quality tools break. You want to make sure your are buying a tool with some piece of mind.

The key to any tool purchase is you get what you pay for. If you buy that really cheap set from the dollar store, expect to get what you pay for.

Tools to avoid as gifts

I love getting tools as gifts. It shows that someone really knows what I love. There are tools that would not be great to give as gifts. Here are the tools that you might want to avoid

  • As Seen On TV
    This time of year the gimmicky tools are everywhere. If a tool claims it can do 75 things, plus make your breakfast, odds are it can’t do much of anything. I have tried many different things that were “as seen on TV” type tools. Few of them do the job they promise.
  • The big tool set
    Be careful when thinking about a big tool set. A 150 piece tool set may only contain 75 tools that most people would use. Tool kits can be a good buy, just be very cautious. Look at the number of bits and Allen wrenches, that generally dominates the total tool count.
  • Highly specialized tools
    Leave this one to the tool fan. I would not expect my wife to buy me a special VW tool. That is too much pressure on the gift giver. Many times specialty tools are too specific to the user.
  • The novelty tool
    The flashier it is, the worse it generally is. If a company has to put flames or flowers on a tool, they may be adding flair to compensate for poor quality.

The win win tools as gifts

If you can’t pick that perfect tool to buy as a gift, these tools make great gifts.

  • Flashlights
    There is no such thing as too many flashlights. My personal favorite is the Streamlight Stylus Pro. You can pick it up for around $20. I own about 7. It is the light I use in the shop all day. I also keep one in every car, and have a couple of backups at work.
  • Tape measures
    This is another tool that you can’t have enough of. I generally use 2 when I do projects. Even with that I still find myself looking for the tape measure.
  • Locking Pliers
    Most folks call these Vise-Grips. That is a brand, not a tool. Just like making a Xerox. It’s okay though, I call locking pliers Vise-Grips too. There are so many uses for locking pliers. You can use them as pliers or as an extra set of hands. They are also great for removing stripped bolts.
  • Clamps
    Clamps are a lot like vise grips, too many uses to list. Everything from holding a project together while the glue dries, or resetting a brake caliper piston.
  • Multi-Tool
    I know that I said tool sets may not be a great gift. But all-in-one multi-tools make great gifts. There are some awesome brands out there. I prefer Leatherman. I have owned quite a few of them, and they were all fantastic. You also can never go wrong with the original Swiss Army Tool
  • Pocket Knife
    Many tool fans carry pocket knives. Pocket knives are great gifts. You can use them for cutting tape on boxes. In a pinch, they can be used as a screwdriver. I would not recommend doing that as a first choice.
  • Zip Ties
    It’s does not matter what tool fan you are buying for. Zip ties are a must for anyone that drives a car, owns a house, or has a tool box. They might be as versatile as duct tape
  • How To Books
    If you have someone that new to tools or projects, consider a “How-To” book. Whether you want to repair your car, or rewire your house, “How-To” books belong on every bookshelf.

You can also consider anything that can help maintain tools. A knife sharpening kit is a perfect example. You can also never go wrong with batteries. If all else fails a gift card is a sure fire fall back. I hope that you are all able to find the perfect tool for that tool fan on your list.

Snap on Auto Mechanic's wrench

I was out shopping some tool storage things last week. I have also been looking for a basic tool kit I can buy for the house. Now that I have the Cabriolet, I do a fair amount of wrenching at my house. I don’t want to spend a lot of money, but I don’t want to buy junk either

Today I want to give you guys some advise on buying tools in a kit, or building your own set.

Buying A Set

You can make a really good arguments on both sides. Cost, storage, and needs all play into making this choice.

Pros

  • The cost per tool is cheaper.
    You will almost always get more tools for the money when you buy a complete set.
  • Its easy
    It is a grab and go solution, gotta like that.
  • Tool storage
    A lot of tool sets come with some type of storage setup. Generally that makes them very organized and portable.
  • They all will match
    This is just something to feed my tool O.C.D. 😉
  • You may get some tools you never thought you would need
    That 1/2in 3/8 drive extension may come in handy. It is something I would not buy separate.
  • They make great gifts (hint hint) 😀

Cons

  • You will get tools you might not need
    The first tool set I bought was a Craftsman kit. I don’t remember how many pieces came in the set. I do remember that about 1/4 of the tools were Allen wrenches. I didn’t need 50 Allen wrenches.
  • Most sets are not complete
    I have found that many sets are missing tools. The set I was looking at last week had no 16mm sockets. If you work on VWs that is something you need.
  • There are so many choices
    I get really overwhelmed when shopping for kits. Do I pick the one with 99 pieces, or the one with 104 pieces? This is about the time I give up shopping.
  • The storage might not be what you want
    Just because a tool set comes with storage, doesn’t mean it is a good one. It might not fit the space you have. It may not be the way you want your tools set up.

Build Your Own

Just like buying a complete set, building your own customer set has pros and cons. Consider these when thinking about building your own kit.

Pros

  • You can get exactly what you want
    No need to pay for the tools you don’t need
  • You can buy a little at a time
    Kits from the big boy tool companies are REALLY expensive. You can buy them bit by bit instead of shelling out the cash all at once.

Cons

  • Most likely you will spend more money
  • You will have to find your own tool storage
    Tool storage can be very expensive
  • It takes time
    Piecing a tool set together yourself will take time. If you are not in a hurry, no big deal.
  • You might get a mismatched set.
    This can be good or bad. Good you can get better tools for a job. For me, I don’t like to have tools not match. Sorry just a little OCD 😉

So what should you do? Well, like all good questions the answer is “It depends”. If I were starting with no tools, a kit would be perfect! Once you have the basics, you can add on from there.

 

Auto Mechanic Tools

Today we a a guest post from the folks over at ProTool Warehouse. Talking about buying tools in a set. This is the first type of guest post that I have done. I would love to know your thoughts on getting a different look into the world of car repair.

For those of you that have decided to join the ranks of the do it yourselfers, Auto Mechanic Toolshere’s a tip that can save you time and money, tool sets. Not only does it save time by eradicating the need to drive back and forth to the local department store for that tool you need, but it actually costs less in the long run to buy the whole set than it does to buy the
tools individually. There has been countless times where a kit has saved people a job by having all the tools right at their fingertips.

Wide Range of Kits

Whether you are in the market for tools to aid you in automotive, carpentry, sewing, electronics, or pretty much any profession or hobby out there, there
is a kit available for your convenience. You have the option of buying kits that are any number of sizes. The more pieces in a kit, the less likely you
will run into a situation where you are lacking a tool to do the job. There are a number of different sizes to choose from, ranging from 3 piece sets to
500 piece sets, depending on the amount of money you are willing to spend for the convenience.

Time Saver

As mentioned, buying a set of tools in kit style can be a serious time saver. There will be times when you are working on a project and will find yourself
in need of a particular socket, and with the tool kit you will have it right there within arm’s reach. You won’t have to go searching your miscellaneous
drawers or your cabinets to find the tool you were looking for. This benefit alone is worth its weight in gold. Without a kit, you have no idea how many
times you may have to stop in the middle of a project to go search for a socket which could have been right there , had you bought a kit, keeping the
project from extending into supper time.

Nice and Neat Storage and Space Saving

One of the benefits you will love about your kit is the way you can pack it up nice and neat after a project, with a place for every tool that fits
perfectly. You can simply slip it in your cupboard, under a cabinet, or in the trunk of your car out of the way of your hectic life until that day you need
it again.

What do you guys think? Is buying tools in a set the best way to buy tools?