Thursday, December 20, 2012

New Tool Review

As a serious tool user I'm always on the lookout for new tool ideas or modifications of existing tools. Over the past year I have run across a few that are worth sharing here. When I'm running a job my attitude is I'm not going to let the lack of a simple tool stand in the way of working efficiently. In the past tools were a major part of the cost of production where today labor is the all driving factor. In the old days you made do with what you had in your kit. Nowadays even a fairly expensive tool can easily pay for itself with a single use or small job. If a new or modified tool cuts down the time required to complete a job then it should be considered.  A simple back of the envelope calculation will usually give you a quick answer and solid justification.

A few months ago I walked by a toolbox that belongs to one of the machinery repair guys. I noticed a nice looking industrial black pry bar in a neat slot on the side of the box. I asked if I could check it out. When I pulled it out it was indeed a nice Snap-On pry bar. I move enough heavy stuff around that I never met a prybar I didn't like. This one is heading toward being my favorite.
 This model of pry bar comes in lengths from twelve inches up to a maximum like this one which is thirty six inches.
Here is a shot of the business end of the bar. The rolling curve is just what's needed when moving equipment around. This one has a little bonus in the head. The thin tip inserts into the smallest gaps and the curved backside gives you high leverage. This one has a little secret.
When you push the side button it releases a lock and the head can pivot and lock securely in a multitude of positions.
 This is what makes this bar unique in the world of pry bars. Snap-On has probably had these for years and I'm just discovering them now. If I had seen this when a Snap on truck visited the shops I worked in you can bet I would have bought one way back then.
What the pivoting head allows you to do is get the bar out of the way when your jammed up in a corner or have some obstruction preventing the full length of the bar to fit. I can still get all the leverage the bar can provide but at any head angle for the job. I think the three footer is almost $200 so its not cheap but it is unique and highly useful in my experience.
The next tool I want to show is a new type of pliers I have been evaluating. Knipex has been around for a while and continues to come up with new interesting tool designs. I have some of their other pliers and really like the quality and configurations. These new ones are interesting for a few reasons. They are kind of like Channel lock pliers that lock securely. One major difference between these and Channel locks are the jaws are smooth and the jaw faces stay parallel to one another when you open and close them.
This makes them more useful for things you don't want buggered up which for most of us is just about everything. Even the smaller sizes have a large range and can cover all the sizes that a pretty big wrench set would. I have been using them on some plumbing tasks where the fittings are weird hex sizes. The thin jaws slip in where an adjustable wrench won't or even a normal open end wrench. Each locking notch has a small operating range that the handles can actually clamp down on the fitting and prevent slippage.
You can see that these have application in quite a few areas. The other use I have put these to is for bending wire. I like a smooth jaw for wire forming tasks so the work comes out neat and not scarred up from the typical jaw serrations. These pliers have fairly narrow jaws which allows you to make wire bends close together.
I didn't have my little tripod or I would have shot a few more pictures of the wire bending. These very high quality pliers come in several sizes and are available from McMaster Carr. Price is reasonable for such a unique tool.
 The next tool was a pleasant discovery for a tricky little torquing job. We had to secure some bearing blocks to their bases in a way that we knew what the fastener preload was for seismic requirements. The fasteners needed something like 75 pound inches for the proper preload. The part that made it difficult was access to the fastener. The only head that would fit in the tight space were socket head cap screws. Screw size is number 10-32 so we would be using an allen driver of some sort. We were not excited about trying to tighten these with L wrenches.
What we found and used is a removable head torque wrench. The head has a pin lock system to retain the various removable heads to the handle. What we needed for our job were the dedicated hex driver heads that are available for it. I went ahead and got a quarter inch square drive for it at the same time so we could use it for other jobs. The offset for the additional head length is already calibrated into the handle. When using crows foot or any extensions on a normal torque wrench you need to calculate the offset caused by the extension. Not so with this wrench.
As is was we still had to take a little off the OD of the allen driver to make it fit up against the part. There are quite a few heads available for this wrench that extend it usefulness.
Here was our access problem.The mounting holes for the linear bearing are right up against the side of the body of the bearing. How are you supposed to torque these properly designers? We had several hundred fasteners to torque so this tool easily paid for itself on the one job. Cost for the torque wrench was less than $200.

The last thing I want to share is some PPE. Personal protective equipment. In particular some super versatile gloves. These are what I would call general purpose and semi disposable. You can wear them for a few days and up to a week depending on what your doing. I discovered them when I had to drive a bucketload of bugle head deck screws. I was doing the job bare handed and my index finder and thumb were paying the price. The thread crest is sharp and when you hold the screw with your fingers to get it started it rotates slightly in your fingers. Do this a couple pounds worth of screws and you get the idea. I had an old pair lying around so I decided to try them. The first thing I noticed was I could pick individual screws out of my pouch easily. They fit tight enough that you have excellent dexterity for even small assembly tasks. They didn't wind up in the screw like some thinner gloves do. They had the right amount of grip and slip for the deck screw job.
The palms are coated with a thin layer of micro textured urethane. The backs are a tight stretch knit that breathes so your hands don't sweat. You can actually feel the wind blow through them slightly. I get the large size even though I probably actually wear an extra large. The snug fit is the key to the amazing dexterity. The Urethane surface is grippy which allows me to use less pressure when grasping something. I noticed this when I had to move a large number of cardboard boxes. Your bare hands quickly get dirty and the boxes get more slippery. You compensate by clamping down harder which quickly fatigues and aggravates any hand maladies you might have.
My hands tend to cramp when I have to hold small parts for deburring. With these gloves I can use less hand clamping pressure and at the same time protect my hands from burrs and sharp tools. The urethane is thin enough to provide good grip but not so thick that you have no feel. I can thread fasteners together and do delicate assembly wearing these gloves. At less than $3 pair when they get crispy I just toss them and don't feel bad. One thing they are not good for is any kind of welding. The thin knit offers no heat or UV protection and just melts if you touch hot metal.  If the task at hand is a nasty wet one I use nitrile gloves underneath. The nitrile provides the wet protection and the urethane coating provides the abrasion protection and keeps the integrity of the nitrile gloves. You can see in the pictures how form fitting they are. My fingernails are clearly visible through the urethane.
Thanks for looking.



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