This is the third installment of my toolbox essentials series. If you missed them you can read one and two. Here are 5 more of the tools I reach for almost everyday.


5. Socket tray

Okay, this one isn’t so much a tool as an organization aid but these things rock. I’ve used all sorts of these things, from the rail type to the cheap-o Harbor Freight models and the Hansen Global style work best for me.

The Hansen style seems to be the sleekest and offer the smoothest operation. I find the socket rail is a hassle to finagle the sockets on an off, and the Harbor Freight type are unnecessarily large and oddly shaped. This type can fit in a drawer and gives you the size of your sockets at a glance. This saves you the trouble of sorting through a drawer full of loose sockets rolling around willy nilly. Get organized, it helps get your projects done faster and keeps your blood pressure down.

4. Automatic Center Punch

This little guy saves time and space. You can operate it with one hand in a matter of seconds and is great for tight spaces where swinging a hammer at a punch is not an option.

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A center punch is a must for getting that hole drilled in exactly the right spot. Especially if it’s in a material you do not want to scratch up. Punch the spot to be drilled and then place your bit in the tiny dip. This prevents the drill bit from walking around and ensures the hole is where it needs to be. Occasionally these go on sale at Harbor Freight for $2.99 and I grab a handful because they tend to wear out, I guess you get what you pay for.

3. Deburring Tool

After a hole is drilled through material there is usually some junk left over on one side of the other. To clean this off I use one of these. It comes in handy with sheet metal, plastic and aluminum.

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This is especially useful if your newly drilled piece has to fit flush against something else. Cleaning the edges of the hole makes for a nice even surface and lends a professional, finished look to your work. One of these can serve double duty in your tool box as both a deburring tool and a countersink.

2. Ratcheting wrenches

I was late to the game on these things. They’ve been around forever but I couldn’t find any for a decent price. I only got my first set this year.

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I can vouch for Gearwrench, I found some on sale at Sears and use them constantly. These little gems can be pricey but one you go ratch it’s hard to go back. It is true that you don’t want to break a really stubborn bolt or nut with the ratcheting end, but outside of that I use them like I would a normal wrench. They’re great for getting into spaces too narrow for a ratchet handle and a socket.

1. Eye Protection

Squinting counts as eye protection right? No, sorry, and you can’t look cool wearing it either. However, after going to the doctor to have shrapnel dug out of your eyeball, or doing it at home in front of your girlfriend’s makeup mirror, the discomfort of looking like a goober seems like the better option.

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I prefer these. They’re reasonably priced and are good quality. If they aren’t cool looking enough you can always go for the hipster-chic look of Machinist Glasses . Or you could go for these, which may not protect your eyes at all, but you get the added benefit of looking like secondary villain in an 80’s sci-fi movie.

2 years ago Aaron Vick Starnes quit his well paying bank job to pursue inevitable poverty as an automotive writer. He has experience in automotive restoration, and works at a shop restoring and customizing cars. Follow him on Twitter @AaronVStarnes and check out his blog.