Video: 15 tools we wouldn’t be without – part 2

We’ve been asking a few of our machinery-minded contributors to nominate their favourite get-out-of-a-fix bits of workshop kit. In part one, we tested an inverter arc welder, an antifreeze tester, a tyre bead breaker and an unbreakable LED work light.

This week we’ve got hold of some open-ended ratchet spanners, a nifty wrench and a handy screwdriver/retrieval tool, plus a selection of top-quality water pipe tools.

 

Some of the stuff we’ve chosen might seem expensive but quite often there are cheaper versions available if you shop about. (Just try typing the product name into Google Shopping and you’ll soon find the cheapest deal).

Next week: 12-volt to 240-volt inverter, bi-metal hole-saws, bearing fitting kit and an auto-ranging multimeter

What are they?

As the name suggests, a spanner with a ratchet mechanism built into what would be the ring end, but it’s not enclosed, instead it has an opening.

Why are they so useful?

By having an opening in the ratchet end it can be slotted over threaded adjuster rods, hoses and brake-lines which a standard ratchet spanner wouldn’t manage.There are even versions with a jointed end to crank the ratchet into difficult to reach spots.

Who makes them?

Laser Tools.

How much does they cost?

They’re not available as a complete set but sizes range from 8mm to 19mm. They’re not cheap either and cost between £15 and £20 each. We’d suggest just going for a 10mm, 13mm, 17mm and 19mm.

Laser list prices – £21.74 (8mm) – £26.80 (19mm)

Best online price – £12 – £22.46

 

Ratchet wrench

What is it?

A multi-size ratcheting wrench for tightening or loosening hex-head nuts and bolts.

How does it work?

The spring-loaded jaws open up to deal with hex-heads from 17mm to 24mm. As pressure is applied, they clamp up and as they’re drawn backwards they loosen their grip, creating a ratchet effect. To reverse, it’s just a case of flipping the wrench over.

Why is it so useful?

It grips any hex-head 100% and doesn’t slip so you don’t get the inevitable spanner-rash so often caused by adjustables. Small enough and cheap enough to have one on every machine.

Who makes it?

Stanley.

How much does it cost?

Stanley list price – £15.95

Best online price – £8.32

Magnetic retrieval screwdriver

 

What is it?

A multi-bit screwdriver with a built-in telescopic magnetic retrieval tool and a ring of LEDs surrounding the shaft.

Why is it so useful?

It lights up the area you’re fishing about in and doubles up as a screwdriver – another one worth chucking under the seat of the pickup.

Who makes it?

Rolson.

How much does it cost?

List price – £12.99

Best online price – £3.69

 

What is it?

A set of grips (or water-pump pliers as they are sometimes known) that really grip and only need one hand to operate. Do the job of a set of Stilsons but better.420mm (17in) long, the smaller set will comfortably hang on to anything up to 75mm (3in) diameter and the 550mm (22in) big daddies will handle stuff up to 90mm (3.5in).

How do they work?

How far the jaws open is really easily set by twiddling the adjuster nut on the threaded lower handle with your middle finger. Gentle downward pressure on the upper rubberized handle keeps the jaws clamped firmly shut.

Why is it so useful?

Seriously grippy serrated teeth will hang on to just about anything whether it’s a smooth shaft or a hex-nut. Because they clamp up so tight and there’s zero slippage, they don’t seem to damage what the gripping. Unlike Stilsons they’re dead quick to adjust. While the small ones have flat jaws, the big uns have a parrot-beak set up that really hangs on.Smaller versions can be flung into a tractor toolbox.

Who makes them?

Swedish company Bahco make these ‘Swedish Model Pipe Wrenches’.

How much do they cost?

These aren’t cheap bits of kit but we believe they’re worth their weight in gold (well, a precious metal of some sort).

Bahco list price – £79.78 and £99.02

Best online price – from £43

Plasson pipe squeeze-off clamp

 

What is it?

A threaded clamp that squeezes plastic pipe to restrict the flow of water.

How does it work?

Two rounded bars within a U-shaped frame are slipped over plastic pipes up to 63mm and the threaded handle then winds down to squeeze the two together cutting off the flow of water. Once removed the plastic then springs back to its original shape (almost, it does leave a slight dimple).

Why is it so useful?

When you’re puddling around in a wet hole full of muddy water, the level’s about to rise over your wellies and you can’t find the stopcock or it’s seized and the tap’s sheared off, this pipe repair clamp is a godsend.Its relatively fine thread means it’s possible to shut off pipes still under pressure and make a decent job of a repair without having to wear a snorkel and mask.

Who makes it?

Plasson.

How much does it cost?

Two versions are available – one for pipe up to 32mm and another for pipe up to 64mm.

Plasson list price – £49.75 (20-32mm) or £83.53 (32-63mm)

Best online price – £35.82 (20-32mm) or £60.14 (32-63mm)

Plastic pipe cutters

 

What is it?

A bit like a set of garden secateurs, these parakeet-beaked shears will cut through plastic pipe up to 42mm in diameter. There are even bigger sets on the market that will go up to 64mm.

Why is it so useful?

Cuts pipe clean and square without any burrs, pretty much guaranteeing leak-free connections. Their ratchet mechanism means they are truly one-handed and can be used in really tight corners unlike a hacksaw.Also ideal for working underwater in dark, muddy holes where you can see the pipe you’re cutting.

Who makes it?

These ones are from RS Components but there are plenty of others about from the likes of Silverline, Ridgid, Draper and Faithfull.

How much do they cost?

RS Components list price – £23.60

Best online price – £3 (different brand)

Reckon we’ve missed some obvious tools you shouldn’t be without? Please let us know by emailing james.andrews@rbi.co.uk or join in our forum discussion.