While in the course of a recent project, we ended up needing a machine to perform a particular operation. The operation was one that falls squarely into the (rather narrow) set of things that you would expect a “Dremel drill press” to be ideal for. And so (1) we got one, (2) found that it wasn’t very good and then (3) found an excellent alternative: The Drill Press Plus by Vanda-Lay Industries.
We got some excellent guesses in our recent mystery object post, right up to and including the right answer. Jim, Michael D. Pinho, and Einstein all answered correctly that it is a handheld wire straightening tool.
Manufactured by Du-Bro, you can find these in fishing stores for straightening “wire leaders.” Wire leaders are short lengths of steel wire used at the end of a fishing line when fishing for big fish with sharp teeth that might otherwise bite through your line.
They’re also pretty handy around the shop. We have two different sizes of these, for straightening different gauges of wire.
To use one, you place the wire that you wish to straighten in the center of the three hinged rods and clamp the rods together in your hand. And then, with quite a bit of effort, you pull the wire straight through the center. Doing so forces the wire to bend around the bumps on the rods, straightening out any kinks and twists with surprising effectiveness.
Here is an interesting thing that we picked up recently— and we realized that almost no one recognizes it. We’ll give you a few hints, but can you figure out what it is, and what it is for?
The object consists of three solid metal rods with raised bands around them, hinged such that that they can smoothly move with respect to one another, and that each of the rods can be turned freely.
In fact, you can fold it all the way over onto itself.
And here is a size reference, it fits nicely in your palm.
So, what is it? Please leave your educated guesses in the comments!
Update: Yes, it’s a wire straightening tool— read more about it here.
What is it? Hint: your life depends on tools like these.
Some time ago we wrote about five relatively obscuretools for doing electronics. But, five tools barely scratches the surface of the stuff out there, and here are a few more of our favorites. In this roundup we’ve collected some handy–and even important –tools along that you might not have seen before, along with some best-of-breed versions of everyday electronics tools.
When I reviewed the Feb. 2007 Lee Valley catalog, reader Dennis suggested we get the Garrett Wade Tools catalog. Excellent suggestion! We love drooling over tools, and the Garrett Wade catalog is a great place to do that. They carry a wide variety of “Tools for Enthusiasts,” primarily precision woodworking tools. They also carry high-end knick-knacks and home and garden items.
On our recent trip to the Electronics Flea Market we got a very nice pair of tweezers. There are tons of great cheap tools at the flea market, and these are no exception. Superfine tips and a nice black coating were a couple of the features that drew us to this particular pair. However, there was one characteristic that we could not resist: they are beautifully labeled “Non-Megnatic.” Seeing this enigmatic label gives me joy every time I use them. Feel free to post in the comments what you think the fantastic word “Megnatic” ought to mean.
Thanks to Kaden‘s recommendation, we get the Lee Valley & Veritas catalogs. The February 2008 edition arrived not too long ago, reminding us of what a good catalog is all about. Lovely photos and clear, tempting descriptions are are often augmented by illustrations. Sprinkled throughout are tips on how to choose and use various tools.
The catalog is forty pages plus an insert. There is a nice assortment of items from their hardware, woodworking and garden catalogs. What more could you ask for in a catalog? How about a fold-out cable tie spread and a technical bulletin? Your wishes are granted.
On page four there is a fabulous two-page spread of cable ties. The “Master Set of 1550 Ties” includes basic, heavy duty, and specialty ties. Specialty ties? Mounting ties, label ties, and releasable ties! One can never have too many cable ties.
If you can make it past the cable tie spread, you’ll get to the tools and hardware. I just don’t get tired of looking things like planes, picture screws, and drawer slides, and there is a truly impressive selection of the drawer slides. Right now I’m drooling over the double edged flush-cutting saw, which is used “to cut off a projection without damaging the surrounding or adjoining face.” I’m certain I will need one someday. I might have to come up with a project specifically for it, but I’m sure it will be worth it just to have an excuse to use the flexible yet rigid blade.
The center insert had an added bonus beyond the usual order page: a technical bulletin. With articles on whittling utensils and using food-safe finishes it contains lots of interesting information and useful tips. The bulletin ends with this note: “These bulletins are intended as keepers, thus the three holes. We will publish them as often as we have something to say and as we have time to put it to paper.” I look forward to the next time they have something to say.
If you are handy with a soldering iron, you’ve probably come across one of these ultra-handy soldering tools. It is various known as a
third hand soldering tool, a set of helping hands, or, as it was introduced to me, as “Mr. Hands.”
Mr. Hands is a great guy to have around for holding a small circuit board or for holding two wires against each other. He provides a third (or even fourth) hand to hold things and prevents your fingers from getting burned. There are all sorts of clever mods that you can perform to them, and they are very cheap– typically $2-$6. You can also make your own equivalent with the same kind of budget, which is good from the standpoint of being able to choose different designs. (I’m partial to the alligator-clips-on-big-fat-wires method, myself.)
The only weakness of Mr. hands is, well, weakness. He’s small, can’t hold heavy or big things, and probably got picked last for kickball. And if it starts to cause a problem, then that’s when we bring out Big Daddy Hands, shown here with Mr. Hands for scale:
My friend Jeff is responsible for this masterwork of laboratory instrumentation: the Badass High Vacuum Preparation Oven. Physics geeks can read the thrilling details here.
Jeff is really onto something here. More people would want to be physicists if Badass-Compliant Engineering were more common for everyday lab work.