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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

8 tools to up your DIY game

We all started somewhere, and for most of us garage-dwellers, it was a set of sockets and screwdrivers. From there we progressively acquired tools to complete tasks and projects until we reached a point where there wasn't a project to be scared of.
https://www.hagerty.com/media/maintenance-and-tech/8-tools-to-up-your-diy-game/
102 REPLIES 102
edand
Pit Crew

A battery-powered impact driver (the small kind) has been indispensable to me lately. For a long time, I only had a much larger and heavier impact wrench, and I saw still turning a lot of smaller bolts by hand. A little electric tool that fits everywhere and doesn’t have too much torque (break less stuff!) is amazing for tighter areas and in-cabin work.
McNulty
Pit Crew

Drill press never hurt anyone? I was an Industrial Arts teacher from 1970 to 1985. In !985 NYS switched over to Technology education. In the 1970 I was drilling two pieces of steel welded together to make an attachment for a ceiling fan blades. The drill stuck and the piece broke loose from the vise and hit me in the hand. Thought I broke all the bones in my hand. Not to smart.
Had an Ag teacher using my metals shop. His students were not allowed to use the IA equipment. The drill press was and industrial model with varying speeds like a snowmobile clutch. One of his students put a drill in the chuck and turned the speed all the way up. The drill was in the chuck cockeyed and it was thrown out. The drill hit a huge window and it exploded. Luckily no one was hurt.
A drill press can hurt you.
Kyle
Moderator

The sentence is written to say that the additional accuracy of a drill press is a good thing to have. All tools are dangerous when used incorrectly (and often even when used the right way!)  

 

MarineBob
Intermediate Driver

Interesting comment. Spent 20 years in an industrial environment with every imaginable hazard. Dupont's STOP training was used continuously to promote safe work practices and it worked well. In their introductory training videos, guess what tool is showcased as a real shop danger? Out of how many possibilities? There is a guy operating a drill press. Simple tool, but lots of opportunity for all kinds of injuries. I think someone mentioned the need for a good vice and don't be afraid to use clamps. You can not hold a spinning anything. Ask how I KNOW. And I hang my safety glasses over the handle
GRP_Photo
Instructor

I still have a scar on my left thumb when a drill press spun a piece of angle iron into it back in '73. I tend to clamp things down to the table these days.
TonyT
Technician

No, a drill press can't hurt you, stupid people using a drill press can hurt you. Stop, pay attention, and THINK before using any tool, power or otherwise.
Hacksaw
Detailer

My most used tool is a hydraulic cart. It can move anywhere and doubles as a welding table, work bench, or raising and lowering shop items. I like it so much I purchased another one. I keep my chop saw on it. It can be lowered and put under a bench when not being used. Tip, buy the double stage, they go to over 50 inches high, you will need that extra lift.
Gordo
New Driver

My hydraulic shop press has been one of my most usefully purchases. Also handy to hold the beer.
DaveH
Detailer

Could go on forever, including a parts washer, sand blaster cabinet etc etc but a small 7" x 12" to 14" metal lathe.
The cheapest ones, brand new from China are $400 and good for very occasional use but spending double that to a grand with metal gears and an attached milling machine is best. Plenty of Tube videos doing reviews. Couldn't get by without one nowadays,make new bushings, clean up small rotating items, etc and made new nuts and bolts of ones which are hard to find.
Also ratcheting wrenches are now indispensable- stubbies,normal and long length, also the swivel heads and the S Curve ones.
A swivel head ratchet, but this one also swivels left and right.
MarineBob
Intermediate Driver

Not exactly a tool, but I keep a pack of qtips and I bought a bag of long handled type. Great for cleaning tight areas. When you need a skinnier head, whack the cotton on an vil on the back of your vice with a hammer. Did anyone mention a vice?
TonyT
Technician

I have a vice: buying too many cars. My bench VISE on the other hand is quite useful!
MarineBob
Intermediate Driver

A long bendy handle magnet has saved lots of time plucking dropped stuff in tight places.
wentwest
Intermediate Driver

With only one wall of a suburban two car garage as my "shop" there's not enough room for a drill press or a beer fridge. I still have the Bernz-o-matic propane torch from 40 years ago and it seems like California may have blocked MAPP gas because I sure can't find it here. But a good quality cordless impact tool is very important, good lights, a set of picks, and I use a set of hemostats (used to call them roach holders in my youth) to grab and manipulate small parts. A magnet on a stick, decent eye protection and a pair of shop reading glasses help a lot. And an old but functioning laptop gets me access to all sorts of info and I can connect it to a radio (remember those?) or a retired stereo tuner and speakers for some music.
MarineBob
Intermediate Driver

I read something about some MAPP component being more valuable to make some other product so that's why its no longer available....not sure if that is true or not
GRP_Photo
Instructor

There doesn't seem to be any shortage around here. The local Home Depot has 44 bottles in stock.
Zephyr
Instructor

From Wikipedia: In early 2008, true MAPP gas production ended in North America when production was discontinued at the only remaining plant in North America that still manufactured it. However, many current products labeled "MAPP" are, in fact, MAPP substitutes. These versions are composed almost entirely of propylene with minuscule impurities of propane.
MarineBob
Intermediate Driver

Depending on what you got, I have an Amazon echo plugged into 1970's stereo for pick your own music, works OK
MarineBob
Intermediate Driver

I don't think MAPP gas is available any longer. Read something about the components are more valuable making something else? It was a nice addition, even soldering large size copper pipe, heated quickly. For your torch, you can buy a hose set up that is easier to work with compared to having to aim the whole tank. Worth the investment
Kyle
Moderator

MAPP is not not what it used to be because the blend of gasses used to make it changed some years ago. It is still available as far as I know (bought the spare bottle just a few months ago) and is still marginally hotter than propane. 

 

I'll poke around for a hose kit for this torch. That would be handy from time to time.

GRP_Photo
Instructor

There's plenty of stock around here. Check Home Depot.
Dano
Pit Crew

Its now called Map-Pro, sold everywhere. 🙂 The reason for change is Map-Pro will get near same temps but much cheaper to produce.

MarineBob
Intermediate Driver

Lights: get a head light with LED's. When you are in a tight space its pretty good to aim light where needed, like under a dash
GRP_Photo
Instructor

If you opt for an oxy/acetylene torch, keep in mind that acetylene makes for a very satisfactory explosion. One fire inspector told me that the force is directed up, so it will remove anything above your garage if that's where you keep the bottles. I store mine in a garden shed, with a warning notice on the door to tell the fire department to stay away if the shed starts to burn. It's one tool that I only use outside.
warrene
Detailer

First rule; Get all junk or seldom used (never will use) crap OUT of the shop and keep it out.
Next; Put tools and other such back when that part is finished, then it'll be there the next time you reach for it. Hunting time is dead time, know where things are, don't change where you put things.
Make steps count, think, then grab all the tools you need the first time.
Use air tools as much as possible, let the air do the wrenching, I crank as little as possible.
4RenT
Advanced Driver

Great rule, to bad that I am bad at obeying it...

Gus
Pit Crew

I acquired a lot of big tools when I ran a small business cutting away machinery for training purposes.  I know most guys don't have the need, space or funds for tools like this, but they really came in handy when I was building 3/16 mile dirt track gokarts and my 3/4 scale 32 ford roadster! (blown 3.2 V6, 700R4, & 4:10 gears)    Tools I have in my shop: 3 HP Hurco milling machine - 54" table, 1 HP Chinese lathe - 48" bed (only problem with this is the scales are metric), 5 Hp 2 stage air compressor, 200 amp Miller Mig welder, 12 ton hydraulic press and a wide assortment of hand, pneumatic and electric tools.  The one I use the most is a work bench I made from 48"X40"X1/2" steel plate supported by a 2" heavy wall square tubing frame and 4 locking swivel wheels capable of supporting 2400 lbs.  The steel plate overhangs the frame by 1-1/2" making it easy to clamp work in place.

I do have fire extinguishers plus a garden hose with spray nozzle.  Yep, the beer fridge also.

mbr2000
Advanced Driver

I suggest buying a name-brand MIG welder from a welding supply store. I bought a Millermatic 175 (230 volts) around 20 years ago. The guys sent me home with everything I needed from helmet to spool of wire to a tank of inert gas. It still works fine and I can still get parts for it. Also, the shop had a demo unit that I was able to play with. One of the guys worked with me for awhile showing me the basics. Try that at a big box store or on Amazon!

By the way, another source of metal to experiment with is a muffler shop. I picked up some discarded brackets, lengths of pipe, and a muffler to play with. And if you need to do some sheet metal work, hit the local junkyard for an old body panel. You should also be able to find some larger gauge pieces such as brackets.
Kyle
Moderator

The muffler shop was not a place I would have thought of, but that is a great idea! 

Dano
Pit Crew

I would say vise before drill press. Along that line I would say workbench before drill press too. My jig table somehow turns into my work bench, lol. 🙂

TR6
New Driver

A Multimeter for those who tangle with the Prince of Darkness
jaysalserVW
Advanced Driver

Kyle---I want to applaud y our efforts to help the vintage vehicle public (esp) to better themselves in ways which don't break the bank. A lot of us cannot afford a plush garage but we CAN organize so that we can become more efficient and effective at what we need to do.
Kyle
Moderator

Thanks! This is a hobby that can be enjoyed by folks of all abilities (both physical and financial) 

 

Tomcat59
Intermediate Driver

It seems like there is never enough workbench area. My answer has been to buy a couple of plastic folding banquet tables. They are about $50 each, fold up when not in use, and give me room to spread out parts without resorting to the floor. Certainly not a replacement for a solid workbench, but very handy to supplement the available work surfaces.

I also keep a crow bar around, comes an handy on suspension projects.

Magnets on a stick have saved me more that a few times.

Fire extinguisher has been mentioned, I agree and would add a decent first aid kit. My hands seem to "leak" blood more often the older I get (even with gloves....) Nice to have a Band Aid handy to keep from dripping blood on a nice interior part.
Riviera63
New Driver

As far as taps go, get High Speed Steel, not Carbon. I also have an old stethoscope with a thin 8" piece of aluminum to listen for engine noise.
MacLotus
New Driver

Don't like to recommend or buy Chinese crap tools, but I have to admit my Harbor Freight digital calipers has been a game changer. One recommendation: remove the battery when storing the devise. Was always buying batteries for the thing until I learned this trick. Now they last years.
Lighting: If you're equipping a new shop or garage, or just tired of messing with fussy florescent ceiling lights, Home Depot is now selling 2' X 4' flat LED panels for $50 to $60 that are lite, bright, use hardly any electricity, and last for 50,000 hours. With the right switch they are even dimmable, for those romantic, late night oil changes with your sweetie.
Rick1
Intermediate Driver

One thing I would add to your excellent list is a small press, say about ten ton. Cheap, does not take up much room and is so much better than a hammer and drift!
Finzrfun
New Driver

Tool I seem to use almost every time I’m in the garage is a double-ended scribe; great for everything from marking pilot holes and cleaning crud out of tiny places to removing o rings. Also can use the hooked end  to maneuver a small piece  of sandpaper, or a small piece of soft cloth to get wax out of tight spaces around emblems and trim.

deckerbilt
Intermediate Driver

I take every opportunity to say the following, hoping it will reach the manufacturers.
When it comes to organization, and particularly sockets, I have yet to find a way of storing them that truly works. Sure, some will keep them tidy and handy but until the manufacturers emboss or laser print the size on 3 or 4 places around the circumference, most storage solutions do not effortlessly display the size facing you.
Kyle
Moderator

Interesting point. This hadn't really crossed my mind but will now forever bother me. Thanks for that. haha

4RenT
Advanced Driver

I agree, I found that for my black impact sockets to rub the lettering with some neon colored sidewalk chalk (to fill in the lettering) and rub the chalk off the surface.

If you have children or grandchildren, you probably have some sidewalk chalk somewhere.

brb
Instructor

For me, the tools that really changed the game were a welder, angle grinder, and metal chop saw. I went from being able to fix things to being able to create things.
Tristahn
New Driver

I like reading these articles and the comments to see what I may have missed. I need a drill press but I’d like to get a mini-mill instead. The vise, fire extinguisher, air compressors and impact I agree get used a lot. And air isn’t just for tools, I’ve thought about running a line to my kitchen if my wife would let me. You gotta have a good jack on that list, I shopped long and hard for a low enough profile one. Also heat gun if you’re shrink wrapping and doing wiring. And let’s not forget a Heavy F’n hammer with a short handle to put the “c’mon” into your disassembly.
sesom
New Driver

Under lighting, one of the handiest lights to have is a GOOD headlamp! Puts the light right where you need it - in front of your face - without having to fiddle about adjusting things. At my age, it really helps!
Robert_A
Pit Crew

Depending on the height of the garage ceiling, a small auto lift would be nice. Those are often sold though advertisements in many automotive magazines. A lift like a MaxJack makes it much easier to remove wheels for tire rotation or brake jobs. And, if ceiling height and budget allows, a sturdy Wildfire lift can take the vehicle up high enough to do undercarriage work standing up.

Another item worth having is a large chemical parts washer with a tub about the size of a double bowl kitchen sink. These are a must-have for engine and carb rebuilders, as the mechanic can put many parts into the wash tub at the same time, and dissolve all the grease and oil, and make the parts look nearly new, again.
acy76
Pit Crew

Excellent list. I would add hammers to any DIY toolkit, which seems obvious, but worth a couple of sentences since I have seen too many try to get by with a basic carpenter's hammer:

Someone mentioned a heavy hammer with a short handle and I couldn't agree more. They're generally called a "drill hammer" and Harbor Freight sells a great example for under $10. If I could only own one hammer for automotive work this would be it. Absolutely indispensable.

A set of ball peen hammers of various sizes is cheap and always useful.

Finally, although they're expensive, a brass hammer is a great addition. Two major advantages: (1) you don't mar steel since the brass is softer (think binking on the end of something with threads, which we're all tempted to do at some point) and (2) you won't strike sparks.

Hammer away!
dhaugh
Detailer

Whoever said Fire Extinguisher was spot on. Almost lost my garage and the house that's attached to it (mine) because I didn't have them.

You have missed the most obvious though, Rob and that's a lift. You can get a stubby little two post with the balancing cable in a very low bump on the floor into your low head room shop. A lift is a game changer! And, they're really not that expensive.
JohninNC
Instructor

A decent quality toolchest with DIY made labels has been nice, and I've been trying to follow the rule my Dad taught me as a little kid, "Put things back where you found them".
4RenT
Advanced Driver

"A place for everything, and everything in its place"

-Ben Franklin

7D5D100
New Driver

One additional tool I can see that is not included here is an air compressor.
If the DIYer has a MIG welder, then it would be logical for them to also have/want an air compressor. Not only to run air tools, but to run spray guns, air nozzles (to clean debris and cool metal) amongst other things. Additionally floor jacks, and jack stands as well.
brouggly
Pit Crew

Good list! Thanks.
In the lighting section I'm surprised you didn't mention a forehead light. A friend claimed "it changed his life!"
Also ear plugs, eye protection, face mask/ dust mask and a first aid kit belong in there somewhere. Those are basics, but amazing how many don't have some or all of those.