User Input

The Most Versatile Tool?


This is some handy stuff.

Good morning everyone.

As most of you are well aware, I’m something of a tool enthusiast. I’m always looking for something to make my tasks easier or give me better results, preferably both. I’ve also been known to buy tools just because they look particularly enchanting, but we won’t go there today.

No, today I want to talk about what is probably the handiest tool in my shop: double-sided tape. This stuff is just amazing.

For instance, today I needed to change a brake light bulb in my wife’s HHR (yes, I know. She loves the bloody thing). As is what is apparently standard these days, you can’t just remove the taillight lens by removing a couple of screws with a screwdriver and replace the bulb. Oh no, you have to go inside the car and remove a trim panel without breaking the tabs, reach up into the resulting void and feel around until you feel something that has wires going into what could be a bulb socket, and twist it this way and that and hope that it doesn’t snap off in your hand. If you do it right, you can then pull out the socket and wires, which is just long enough to allow access to the bulb, which you can then extract. After a quick trip to Kragen’s to pay $6.50 for two 25 cent bulbs, you insert the new bulb into the socket and then try to insert the socket back into the taillight housing, where the bulb promptly falls out of the socket and into the taillight. Lovely.

Of course you can’t get enough fingers into the taillight to grab the bulb, and removing the taillight housing itself is a horror that I won’t even contemplate, so how do I get the damned bulb out of its trap? Double-sided tape, of course. So I tear off a short piece of DS tape and stick it to my finger, spend 10 minutes trying to peel off the backing, then stick my finger into the taillight housing and onto the bulb and extract it. Violá, saved by the tape yet again. After properly seating the bulb into the socket, the reassembly was accomplished without further incident.

Primarily, I use DS tape in my woodshop for all sorts of odd holding jobs for which regular clamping tools are either too big or just don’t exist, and using glue is a bit too permanent. The stuff is stronger than you think, too. Use a bit too much DS tape to stick a board to a template (or anything else), and you’ll be spending some time with a putty knife and/or a palette knife to work it free without breaking the board or the template. I’ve even used the stuff as an ad hoc chuck on the wood lathe. Marvelous stuff.

So what do you lot consider your most versatile tool, or the tool you go to when nothing else seems to work?

  • I would highly recommend anything from the 3M line of VHB tapes. That stuff will hold most anything.

    • The Professor

      That's the foam DS tape, correct? I've used that stuff for metal-to-metal bonds, and you're right, that's some really strong stuff. For what I do, however, it's a little too strong and is a right bastard to separate the adhered pieces. Plus, when you finally do get them apart, you have foam and adhesive stuck to both parts, which is also a bastard to remove.
      The stuff I use is like masking tape with adhesive on both sides. It's really strong, but pieces can be separated without too much difficulty, especially if you use a bit of acetone. Once apart, the tape itself peels off the work cleanly. It's the DS tape you use when you change the grips on your golf clubs.

      • VHB (Very High Bond) is just the adhesive. It comes in a variety of thicknesses from just a few mils to 1/8" or so foam. All good stuff, you can usually just sort of roll it to remove it.

      • craigsu

        If acetone proves too strong denatured alcohol will work just as well and tends to be less harmful to surfaces.

    • Large swaths of The Exploratorium are held together with 3M VHB. On a side note, our radiant floor heating is playing havoc with certain varieties of Gaffer's Tape and Sticky-Back Velcro; but spills dry up quickly.

  • As for the tool to reach for when nothing else seems to work:
    <img src=""width=500&gt;

    The Estwing 3lb. sledge hammer.

    If that doesn't work, I have been know to use a Remington 870 for some landscaping work.

    • <img src="; width="500">

      Estwing's hammers are near and dear to me, but their sledge won't quite fit in my tool box. I refuse to part with this tool box.

    • The Professor

      You work as a millwright, correct?

      • Close enough, mechanical engineer.

    • "…I have been know to use a Remington 870 for some landscaping work."

      I once used an Ithaca 37 as a lockpick. Worked great.

      • 12 gauge slugs work good for pruning those high limbs and removing dead limbs caught up in the high branches. This was at the same house I used a full size Chevy Blazer to pull up the old shrubbery.

        • The Professor

          You guys must make interesting neighbors…

          • I really hated it when I had to move into a subdivision.

          • Oh, I wasn't at home when I….

            This isn't sounding any better, is it?

    • jeepjeff

      I'm not really working on a project until I've beaten the tar out of it with my BFH.

  • Needle nose pliers. It doesn't matter the job, automotive, home repair, building a birdcage, whatever – the needle nose pliers are ALWAYS part of the equation.

  • Which tool do I find myself reaching for most often? My VETO Pro-Pac XL. (Which just recently survived a nasty flood in the machine shop, thanks to it's plastic bottom.) ("Sprinkler", it turns out, is a rather jovial name considering what those things actually do when you activate them.) ("Saturn V Rocket motor only with water" would be a more apt descriptor.)

    <img src="; width=500>

    Not my bag. Mine's got measuring stuff in one side and hand tools in the other. I put it on a skateboard and it follows me around like K-9 does The Doctor.

  • sawer-massey

    I never leave home (or anywhere that I wear pants) without my gerber (not the new fancy ones, but my old trust blunt nosed pair), my leatherman crunch (vice-grips) or my pocket knife (of various varieties over the years). I also carry duct tape and paracord with me in my pockets at work. If I can't fix it with any of these things, well I may be sunk, or have to walk back to the locomotive toolbox.

    • The Professor

      I wore an old original Leatherman for years and years, but I recently swapped it out for a SOG PowerAssist tool. It's easier on my paws and it doesn't have the tendency to pinch my fingers like the Leatherman would if I wasn't paying sufficient attention.

      So, you work on locomotives, or just have a toolbox that size?

      • sawer-massey

        I'm a conductor. Sometimes, parts on rail cars break and I have to repair or "adjust them". There is a tool compartment on the locomotives so if I can't mend it with my pocket tools, I have access to a pipe wrench, hammer etc

        • The Professor

          Ah, I gotcha. My brother-in-law was a conductor for Burlington Northern and then Union Pacific, worked for the RR his entire life and now retired. He always has interesting and usually hair-raising stories to tell about working on the RR.

          • sawer-massey

            I work for the CPR in Southern Ontario. I do go across the border to the CSX and NS lines though. Only 25 more years until Retirement!

    • I thought I wanted a classic Leatherman. I never knew of the existence of the Crunch. You have opened my eyes this day Mr. Massey! A hearty thanks to you, good sir!

      • I might have to look into a Crunch. I have sort of a collection of multi-tools. My favorite is probably the Gerber, due mainly to the quick one hand opening of the pliers. I traded for a Leatherman MUT and the pliers on it SUCK, have to pull them apart manually almost every time.

      • sawer-massey

        The Crunch was the only reason that I allowed myself to own a Leatherman. My experience is that everyone of my friends who have had a Leatherman had it break unless it was the super expensive Ti version. Gerber has also gone downhill in quality over the last decade. My Gerber is a model that my father purchased over 15 years ago and he passed it on to me, where it has lived in my pocket for the last decade and crossed the continent twice. The other vice-grip version of a multi-tool was made by none other than Kershaw knives, which my father also had (and LOST!), but was excellent if not a bit bulky. </rant>

  • Slow_Joe_Crow

    I'm very fond of my soft faced dead blow hammer for applying gentle persuasion to recalcitrant objects. I also get a lot of use out my Park Tool AWS-8 ball ended 3 way Allen wrench since most of my current mechanical work involves bicycles or tightening bolts on IKEA furniture.

  • Vairship

    And after you successfully reassemble and reinstall that brake light, you find out it still isn't very bright. Because that piece of double sided tape you had on your fingers is still on that bulb, silently mocking you…

    • It'll only stick in place until it overheats, begins to melt, then catches fire. At that point it will fall to the bottom of the lens.

  • I was kidding about the tool bag. Nothing happens anywhere I go but one of these is involved. Not the most versatile tool, in that it only does one thing, but that one thing it does makes everything else possible.

    <img src=""width=250&gt;

    While I'm on the can't live without it tip… pants. Pants with lots of loops and pockets. Much like the tool bag, but they cover your ass. There's always two Sharpie markers, a 6" scale, a box cutter and the aforementioned flashlight in a pair of these, or I don't leave the house.

    <img src="; width="250/">

  • OA5599

    I have some tools that I buy because they are on sale, and I may need one some day. I have other tools I buy because I have a project that requires such a tool.

    I bought a dental pick as a tool from the first category. It was on sale for fifty cents from a swap meet vendor. In terms of dollars per time I've ended up using it, it certainly ranks at the top.

  • Pingback: Startdown: Did Some Ask About Tools? : Atomic Toasters()