119 Comments
Nov 7, 2022Liked by Jack Baruth

We most definitively trust the project farm dude. I've been taking his advice almost as long as I've been taking yours.

Expand full comment
Nov 7, 2022Liked by Jack Baruth

Seconded. His old tests on the lawnmower engines were extremely entertaining, too.

Expand full comment
Nov 7, 2022Liked by Jack Baruth

I tend to trust guys like him with non-stylish glasses and no-nonsense short haircuts. As an engineer, I think his test methods for various tools are good too.

Expand full comment
author

Reminds me of the scene in Cryptonomicon where Randy finally meets the oral surgeon who can get his wisdom teeth out.

Expand full comment
author

Good to know. Milwaukee always does well in his testing despite being sourced from the same lowest-cost labor hellholes as the other stuff, so I wondered a bit.

Expand full comment
Nov 7, 2022Liked by Jack Baruth

He's an aspie like us, he knows his stuff, and he pays for it. No hand outs, no bias.

Expand full comment

Fwiw, I use Craftsman, simply because Lowe's covers the lifetime warranties and I have one in walking distance. They're all good enough.

Expand full comment
Nov 7, 2022Liked by Jack Baruth

The service technicians at my company have been slowly transitioning over to Harbor Freight they seem to be quickly filling the void left by SEARS era Craftsman in the most important way. That is when you rely on your tools to make a living, availability and no questions asked warranty replacement carry more weight than brand recognition and perceived quality. The techs all echo that all tools break, and its much easier to find a local Harbor Freight than it is to meet up with a tool truck guy, not to mention the cost benefit analysis. Now as traveling service technicians their use case is different than a traditional mechanic or mill wright who works at the same place every day.

I currently have a mixture of classic USA made Craftsman, Proto, SK, Williams, Snap-On, and ROW Gear Wrench, Craftsman, and Harbor Freight, hand tools. I wrench a bit more than the average home consumer, but well short of a professional (nights and weekends).

They are all pretty good for general consumer use. I'd say I've been the least impressed with the modern non USA made craftsman ratchets since they seem to break the easiest when abusing them vs my Snap-On, Williams, and Gear Wrench ratchets. Maybe it's just me but I've only ever broken tools, regardless of brand, when using them in a manner well outside of their original design intent.

I will say that I think Williams is a sleeper. In SAT analogy terms Willams is to Toyota as Snap-On is to BMW. Dead nuts reliable, no frills, all function.

I buy specialty automotive tools cheap on the first go around, and if I use them enough to wear out the cheap set I'll upgrade in quality accordingly. Some of those items just don't get used as often as they need to justify the cost of the "better" quality brand. I'd rather have all the specialty tools of a cheaper quality versus trying to McGuyver a work around for not having the right specialty tool.

When I was younger I always dreamed of having my garage look like the inside of the SnapOn truck, now that I have the means to make that happen my cost benefit analysis always skews cheaper.

This has become a bit longwinded so my last piece of advice is regardless of which quality set of screw drivers you have, always buy the cheap set of Harbor Freight acetate handle screw drivers when they are on sale. They are great disposable tools to abUSE on all those tasks we use screw drivers for that are not part of their design brief.

Expand full comment
Nov 7, 2022Liked by Jack Baruth

I'll second Harbor Freight. My brother in law earned a living as a mechanic, automobile flipper, and custom car builder. He uses Snap-On ratchets and Harbor Freight sockets because, as you note, sockets inevitably break.

Expand full comment
Nov 7, 2022Liked by Jack Baruth

For what it's worth just this year at my work SK warrantied a 25 year old screwdriver that had obviously been used as a pry bar. Took 3 months, but better than nothing.

Expand full comment
author

Good call on the screwdrivers. Hadn't really thought about that.

Expand full comment

Don't have one of these, but for a screwdriver to use for non-screwdriver things, I've always wanted one of these: https://www.handtoolrescue.com/products/nutreleaser8000?pr_prod_strat=copurchase&pr_rec_id=a89139431&pr_rec_pid=6655760105581&pr_ref_pid=4875152162925&pr_seq=uniform

Genius Tools are very good from what I hear, as well.

Expand full comment
author

Oh, that's pretty.

Expand full comment
founding

That's a great idea for specialty automotive tools, one I have done without actually planning it (Harbor freight finger puller snaps, go buy the actual LS harmonic balancer removal set).

You can also rent rarely used stuff for common applications from O'Reilly if there is one near you, although mileage may vary depending on who used it before you and what they did to it.

Expand full comment
Nov 7, 2022Liked by Jack Baruth

Always buy the LS specific harmonic balancer puller, that sucker is on there!

Expand full comment
Nov 7, 2022·edited Nov 7, 2022Liked by Jack Baruth

For used tools and garage equipment I've got two words: Estate Sales

Get subscribed to local auction/estate sale websites. You will not be disappointed.

Expand full comment
Nov 7, 2022Liked by Jack Baruth

LiquidBidding.com is another good one, this is primarily a "scratch & dent" liquidator with several locations in MI, they also ship throughout the USA. Friend of mine got a $1500 chest freezer for $80, invested about $10 to fix it. Found some other gems as well, but more importantly for you I have seen tools come up regularly.

Expand full comment
Nov 7, 2022Liked by Jack Baruth

Everything but the House has some hidden gems I've noticed.

Expand full comment

When I was doing my Volvo build, I may have been using a Harbor Freight engine hoist, but I popped for several Mitutoyo micrometers. I'm not risking an engine to save a few (hundred) bucks.

Other than that, my toolset is a dog's breakfast of old Craftsman, MAC, Snap-On, Husky, Kobalt, Harbor Freight, Northern Tool and Duralast stuff. I think I even have a few Starrett snap gauges somewhere that I bought about 30 years ago.

I kept a beat-to-hell Thunderbird Super Coupe and a 200,000-mile Volvo 850 Turbo running with this stuff, so I say it's a good collection.

Expand full comment
Nov 7, 2022Liked by Jack Baruth

Since i'm not in the US i cant say much for US made tools, but i am pretty fond of the stuff from WERA, though it is a bit expensive - the 1/4 inch zyklop is really handy for getting into tight spots on a car since the handle is adjustable, and the hex keys are so nice compared to the shitty ones i have used before.

As for my new favourite and most used tool, i am going to have to nominate the Milwaukee m12 fuel 3/8 ratchet - having busted my share of knuckles getting bolts out of tight spots with little access, this thing has really made my wrenching life a whole lot more pleasant, and i use it A LOT.

Expand full comment
Nov 8, 2022Liked by Jack Baruth

I absolutely LOVE my Milwaukee M12 FUEL High Speed 1/4" ratchet. It's often the 1st tool out of my box in the morning. "I use that $h1t on everything!" It's RED HOT :-)

Expand full comment
author

Did you get the plain Zyklop or the one where you can also spin the handle?

Expand full comment

The spin one - zyklop speed i guess its called.

It's real nice since it can be used as a screwdriver as well, so one less tool to drag along, and it helps get stuff out fast after the initial turn to break the bolts free.

Only negative is that the included bits are a bit long for tight spots, but i guess most people have some low profile 1/4" bits lying around for the real tight access work.

Expand full comment
author

Alright, I'll give that one a shot!

Expand full comment

Oh, and i just remembered my other recent addition that i love - a Milwaukee m18 fuel angle grinder with a paddle switch.

Its so much nicer to use then a corded grinder, and i like the paddle switch a whole lot better then the old slide switch.

And once you are on the Milwaukee wagon, why not pick up a m18 fuel 1/2 impact driver! I have the big beefy one and its got 1627 Nm of torque, so no bolt is safe.

Expand full comment
founding

Agreed on the Milwaukee angle grinder. I use one at work a fair amount and it’s a solid piece of gear.

Expand full comment
Nov 7, 2022Liked by Jack Baruth

My most-used tools are the USA-made Craftsman stuff my dad bought circa 1975 when he left the Navy and went to an aircraft maintenance school. Followed closely by the umpteen USA-made Craftsman hand tools I bought or otherwise acquired while I sold tools at Sears around the turn of the century. Upon entry of Crazy Eddie Lampert into the ownership spectrum of ole Sears and/or Roebuck, Craftsman went to shit never to return.

I like the industrial lines of tools - generally 50% more expensive than home-center prices, but more affordable than the virtually-identical tool truck lines. Proto, for example, is Mac without the 10% down and $30/week for life pricing. Spent a decade selling industrial tooling, where maintenance people can't wait for a truck to wander through the layers of security at some factory.

Expand full comment
Nov 7, 2022Liked by Jack Baruth

I’m not a tool nerd, but can offer that my most used tools are the corded shop vacuum and the battery blower. I’m not sure why but messes always seem to exceed my output x 10.

Expand full comment
Nov 7, 2022·edited Nov 7, 2022Liked by Jack Baruth

"Vintage USA-made bench vise"

Wilton Bullet (Machinist) Vice. These are still made in the U.S.A. and often for the difference in price of used vs new, you're better off buying a new one. I've got three of these things and can't recommend them highly enough.

"Vintage USA-made bench grinder"

Baldor, but I would just get a new one. Still U.S.A made

"Open-end and ratcheting wrenches"

Imported = Gearwrench. Domestic = Used SnapOn

"All sorts of specialty tools for FWD race cars, motorcycles, race cars with motorcycle engines, and so on"

Vice grips and duct tape?

"Possibly a drill press and woodworking saws"

Vintage Delta or Craftsman for a bench top unit. Vintage Powermatic for floor model

"Where’s the best place to get used tools?"

Check out auctions and Craigslist in your area, and put the word out to the locals you meet. School auction sites still can turn up some amazing deals but they are well known to dealers and flippers. Estate sales in metros with aging boomer populations. Register here. There are some very good guys in this forum. http://vintagemachinery.org/

"Is a used Snap-On wrench better than a new Icon from Harbor Freight? (I’m already up on KB Tools and have placed a few orders)"

Probably not when you factor in price.

"What will I need later but don’t know I need?"

A big air compressor. Scroll if it resides in the building, and reciprocating is OK if outside. Oh, and a bitchin vintage stereo.

"Do we trust the Project Farm dude?"

I'm a fanboy. He claims to purchase everything he tests. Where we have crossover, his findings mirror my personal experience.

"What’s your most-used tool?"

Milwaukee cordless (M18) drills, and impact drivers. I keep one in my truck at all times in case of a flat. A couple of years ago I bought a Milwaukee 7 1/4" M18 circular say, and I honestly can't recommend it highly enough. Anything that saves loosing skin off your knuckles is recommended.

"What do you regret buying?"

Recently purchased a Milwaukee battery powered sprayer. Total POS.

"What do you wish you’d done differently?"

I'm repowering my shop to 3 phase. This opens the door to buying cheaper (less competition) and more widely available vintage machinery.

Expand full comment
Nov 7, 2022Liked by Jack Baruth

AvE, when he does tool reviews, does a good job.

Expand full comment

RE: Baldor

Wel... Yes, they have factories in the US (I know people who worked there), but a *lot* of the stuff is now made in Mexico. Read the fine print.

Expand full comment
author

That's like my "USA-made" rotary lift, which has an Italian motor and a ton of Chinese parts. Didn't stop them from charging me 2x the price of a Bendpak tho.

Expand full comment

I will have a look at mine when I get home.

Expand full comment
Nov 7, 2022Liked by Jack Baruth

A couple of months ago I bought a brand new Milwaukee ratchet set at the behest of my mechanic friend (who is in his 60's and has accumulated all the good stuff over the years). The sockets are squared off on one end which 1) allows you to hand-turn it better or use a standard wrench on them and 2) they don't roll off somewhere underneath something lost forever. Their size is etched on both sides of them. The actual ratchet has 90(?) teeth or something high like that and turns like butter. Mechanic buddy said he found a youtube video where this ratchet beat out all the other brands, and held up to something like 300 ft. pounds before breaking.

Otherwise, there's a second-hand tool shop near me that I'll swing by on occasion and I have scored some good deals there - a set of standard USA made Craftsman wrenches for $20 for instance.

Expand full comment
Nov 7, 2022Liked by Jack Baruth

https://bridgecitytools.com/ makes crazy quality (and expensive) woodworking tools

years ago I bought tools from https://garrettwade.com/ not sure how they are today.

then there is Hardwick's: https://hardwickandsons.com/ they recently closed their Seattle store and moved to Post Falls ID. I used to shop there in the 80's and 90's when I lived in Seattle; they had a simply amazing collection of tools, common and obscure, crammed into their store. It was very dangerous to the wallet to go there. Their new web site looks to have an extensive list of tools, new and used.

Expand full comment
Nov 7, 2022Liked by Jack Baruth

Without getting too stuck into specific brands and such,

1. The best you can get for VERY frequently used tools

2. Disposable stuff for what is only needed very occasionally

Harbor Freight's ICON brand is nearly as good as snap on, but you have to weigh the cost/performance offset yourself. Snap ON itself isn't what it once used to be, same as Craftsman.

I know you have a tendency to get the BEST of something mostly to be able to say so, so as long as you're aware of that soft spot and spend your money 'wisely'. They're only tools at the end of the day.

Expand full comment
founding
Nov 7, 2022Liked by Jack Baruth

I bought a Festool track saw--it's basically a really nice circular saw that travels along a metal track with a tacky foam backing. The track is 55 inches, so this thing is absolutely magic for cutting down sheet goods (plywood etc.). The blade is better than my woodcrafter in my table saw. The kerf will be right next to the track, so you just line the track up where you want it and let it rip. There is a cordless one, but since most circular saws will dim the lights when they go, I can't imagine you would get much mileage, so I have the corded model. It has almost completely replaced my table saw, a nice 220 Laguna model with an Incra fence (check out the Incra stuff--a bit of a learning curve but once you get the hang of it, you can knock out repeated cuts creating lots of same-sized stuff). It's probably the most used carpentry tool I own. It's speedy, but the quality is exceptional. The festool stuff in general has a very good reputation (domino joiner is supposedly the best there is, their HEPA dust collectors are also very good). I just bought a compound miter from them, but haven't used it yet. Got tired of the Lowe's brand one that couldn't cut the same angle twice, ever, as if all the detents were slightly off. I'll post an update when I use this one.

A band saw is infinitely handy, I have a Laguna 14/12 band saw, 1 3/4 hp, with a proforce 3/4 inch blade. Not as good as the one used by SGT Shaftoe and compared with the Vickers, but still handy, and the 3/4 blade is capable of substantial resawing (reducing long stock of large dimension to thinner long stock). My drill press is from grizzly but I dream of a greasy old vertical mill with lots of micrometer adjustable frictionless knobs to turn huge blocks of metal into...smaller bits of metal?

Hand tools...my antique hand-me down Craftsmans are looking to outlast anything I have bought in the last decade.

Expand full comment
Nov 7, 2022Liked by Jack Baruth

I'm sure you'll get lots of duplicate answers but here's what I have to add. A lot of this stuff can be found used on FB marketplace, craigslist or eBay but people have caught on to what this stuff is worth so it's hard to find deals these days. So if you don't need to have this stuff right aways and can wait for some deals that's what I'd suggest.

Baldor is the way to go on bench grinders. They're still made in the USA. I snagged a 7" on FB for less than $200 and it had never been used. It's almost a thousand new. Living where you do finding a restorable Wilton bullet vise might not be too far fetched. Craigslist or FB is a good place to find deals on them since shipping is cost prohibitive most times. I found a 4" one that I brought back to almost new for a decent price this year just down the road. New ones are USA made but $$$$

I have a nice set of Armstrong ratchets and sockets and box end wrenches that are USA made and don't command Snap-On prices. I have some USA made Craftsman stuff I bought in the 90s new that have held up well.

Something I didn't see in your list that you'll probably need and is still available as NOS on ebay for a reasonable money is Nicholson hand files. The new stuff is Mexico made. You can also find good deals on nice American made Skil worm-drive circular saws too. New stuff is Chinese. Rogue dirt tools(hoes, mcclouds etc) are cool but hard to get these days due to supply chain issues.

Whatever compound miter or table saw you have or get, you should buy the Bosch collapsible stands. They're so easy to use. One of my favorite purchases for my Dewalt saws.

I like the Project Farm videos but his cadence drives me insane.

Expand full comment
Nov 7, 2022·edited Nov 7, 2022Liked by Jack Baruth

My kit is largely the Made-in-USA Craftsman tools my father bought in the 1970s and 1980s. I've added to it here and there over the years, but in the past year I've had to make a few purchases that I've been impressed with:

1. Assorted Wright Tool breaker bars, extensions, and a wobble extension. Made in USA. I have no reason to doubt the quality of the company's other tools.

2. Knipex pliers wrench set. These clever tools combine the best of an adjustable wrench and a Channellock pliers in a tool that is infinitely better than either individual tool. Made in Germany.

3. You've surely got an assortment of torque wrenches, but if you're looking, I've been happy with the CDI half-inch and three-eighths inch models I bought. Made in USA.

I've also got an amazing Facom Nano quarter-inch drive kit that fits perfectly under the seat of my VFR. Made in France. A friend of mine gave it to me; for many years, that and and a small assortment of other hand tools was all he needed to do all of the maintenance and repair on his VFR.

Expand full comment
Nov 7, 2022Liked by Jack Baruth

+1 on the Knipex pliers. I love mine.

Expand full comment

Have these at work and they're most excellent. Need to get some for home use.

Expand full comment
author

I have one set as part of my Abbey Tools bike case but should find a few more.

Expand full comment

Same! We lost our tools during the Baja 1000, probably stolen, maybe ejected, but I found a large knipex and used it to take the car apart and swap steering! It fit every bolt I needed and was strong enough to turn them!

Expand full comment
Nov 7, 2022Liked by Jack Baruth

Motorcycle: JIS pattern phillips head bits, and a cordless impact driver. made in Japan "Vampliers"- have saved my bacon numerous times.

Harbor Freight is my generic go to outside of the specific items listed above. If you have the space and funds, a whole motorcycle lift (not the janky Harley style ones) from HF is fine. Even better is to grab stuff like that motorcycle lift lightly used off FB marketplace.

More HF sourced stuff: 2-3 ton low profile hydraulic jack. "Earthquake" 1/2" cordless impact gun. Brake bleeding hand vacuum pump.

Expand full comment
Nov 7, 2022·edited Nov 7, 2022Liked by Jack Baruth

Almost forgot: get yourself a Chapman ratchet/screwdriver set. One of my few USA made tools in the garage, really handy sometimes to get at a screw in an awkward/tight orientation.

also one of my most consistently used tools in the garage? A $1.99 set of orange handled picks from Harbor Freight.

Expand full comment
author

DONE. On both counts.

Expand full comment
Nov 8, 2022Liked by Jack Baruth

Another one for if you're planning to start getting hands-on messing with carburetors/old bikes: Gunson Colortune ($60-100ish depending on adapter kits you need). Has proven to be indispensable on my recent string of old UJM revivals. Basically it's a see-through sparkplug with adapters for different sized spark plugs and wires. You screw it in and then run the engine, actually watching to color of the combustion. A nice "bunson blue" is considered ideal, white is lean, orange is rich. On the same brainwave, a Carbtune Pro carb synchronizer ($132 these days) if you plan on messing with your 4cyl bikes.

Expand full comment
author

I was kind of hoping you were going to do that for me!

Expand full comment

I am! Realistically, we should plan for the spring when I free up even more space in the garage and you should trailer both the Midnight Special and the '79 XS110F over. I'm gonna be diving into the carbs on my '78 here shortly, I'm running pig rich at the moment which is causing some epic backfires through that RC race pipe and getting me some unapproving looks in the subdivision. The idiot flipper told me he fattened up the jetting on a whim to account for the pipe. I should have a good feel for what's what after I get familiar with the '78. I suspect all the '79 needs is some work on the vacuum petcocks and the coil pickup wires. The Midnight Special? Full carb cleaning for sure, plus whatever turns up after that old tinkerer dude had his hands on it.

Expand full comment
author

Yeah, I was thinking I could work on the '79 with your remote instruction. The Midnight Special needs more than that, obviously.

Expand full comment

Always with FB marketplace!

The lift seems like a relatively cheap highly useful investment for moto maintenance. I get tired of plopping on the ground to do every damn thing.

Expand full comment
Nov 7, 2022Liked by Jack Baruth

I keep meaning to get one and then keep finding myself stooping on the ground again. I even seem to not use my workbench as often as I could/should, I seem almost genetically predisposed to squat/stoop on the ground in my old adidas flip flops like the guys in the Pakistani truck repair youtube videos lol

Expand full comment
founding
Nov 7, 2022Liked by Jack Baruth

I was a veteran of team flip flop for years. Last month, I finally ran over my foot pushing my Neon into the garage. It's been nano toe boots ever since.

Expand full comment
Nov 8, 2022·edited Nov 8, 2022Liked by Jack Baruth

I'm envious! I have been trying to fix my ass to grass squat for over a year. Ankles have opened up a bit and now hip/groin limitations.

Turns out two decades mostly sitting around will have deleterious effects on things like being able to squat and not tip over backwards.

Expand full comment

For hex keys and little hand tools, I've been pleased with my limited Bondhus purchases https://bondhus.com/ to date and have plans to buy more.

I have yet to twist one of their L-wrenches out of square which I can't say for the Kobalt and other hardware store special sets I've owned.

Expand full comment
author

I like Bondhus and have bought both their gold and rainbow sets, because with bikes the 4mm and 6mm allen keys are the equivalent of 10mm sockets in terms of lifespan, but the Project Farm fellow really dinged them in all categories, putting them beneath $3 Harbor Freight sets.

Expand full comment

2.5mm allen wrenches have similar lifespans around here since the standard fastener for 3D printers and other maker equipment is the 3mm socket head cap screw, so when I buy them I buy more than one. I typically use Wiha hex drivers, made in Germany. They have a swiveling top cap that helps speed things up. Recently, though, I bought some USA made Eklind ball-end hex drivers and they seem to be made well.

Expand full comment
Nov 8, 2022Liked by Jack Baruth

+1 on Bondus hex keys. My set seems indestructible.

Expand full comment