I thought I would share some of the tools that I have found to be essential to the hobbies workshop. I have had many hobbies over the years and lots of experience with trying to make things work with the wrong tools. So when I find the right tool I keep it close. In addition to the usual essential tools that most everyone has, here is a list of the odd but essential tools that have made it to the front of my work bench.
Nibbler. This thing is fantastic; I use it all the time. Making a square hole has never been easier. I use it for trimming brass, aluminium, and copper sheets, cutting out plastic cases, and opening up an existing hole when you don’t want to make a mess with the Dremel.
Tapered reamer. This is another tool that seems to find work with just about any project. It is made to open up a hole a little bit at a time. Trying to do this with drill bits is nearly impossible to do neatly. And step drills jump in steps, hence the name. But this will enlarge a hole in just about any material, in very small increments. It also works great to clean up the end of a small tube or pipe. Since it is pointed at the tip is also works well as a center punch to mark hole locations before drilling.
Alligator clips. These little clamps are extremely useful. I use them not only to hold small parts together, but as a heat sink, and as a third or fourth hand. One trick I learned was to use thick copper wires clamped in a vice, then solder alligator clips to the ends. Now you have made a small part holding squid!
Small hammers. I have found that having a few different size hammers to be incredibly valuable. My favourite is a small ballpeen hammer with a head about the size of a nickel. The added bonus is that you don’t bash your fingers as often. Also brass and copper hammers don’t create sparks or leave marks on the metal you’re pounding on. Hard rubber hammers don’t scratch aluminium. I must have a dozen hammers.
Hemostatic clamps. Yes, just like in the operating room. These are like giant locking alligator clips. You can get them for cheap at Surplus stores and they work really well for holding and clamping little things together. They are also handy for when you drop a little screw into something you’re working on.
Popsicle sticks. Don’t laugh. These are absolutely essential. I not only use them for mixing epoxy and paint, but as a single use measuring device. They work great as a template for drilling holes in cabinets for drawer pulls. Each hole ends up perfectly spaced and centred. They also work great to duplicate angles. Just glue two together with wood glue to represent the angle you want to duplicate. I have also used them to draw circles on metal or plastic. Use a thumb tack as a center, and then drill a small hole on the other end at the radius point. Put a scratch awl or pencil through the hole and twist it round. It is much easier and cheaper than a good set of dividers.
What do you find essential in your shop?