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.
It’s time to reveal the mystery tool!
Wow– we’ve had some great answers– and some great restraint from those of you who already recognize it.
Thanks to everyone who participated!
Here are some of the guesses that were entered as comments– it’s a great list, and worth a read. My real surprise on this list: four guesses were that it was a piece of a time machine.
- Scoop for lifting boiled eggs out of water. (X5)
- Time Machine or part thereof (X4– WTF?)
- Golf ball retriever (X3)
- Eggcup (X2)
- Egg dipper for coloring Easter eggs (X2)
- Yolk separator (X3 — might work; kinda sharp.)
- Candle Snuffer (X2 — probably won’t work.)
- Antenna for communicating with intelligent aliens. (X2)
- A spiral (Yup.)
- Cocktail stirrer or Cocktail whisk
- Mayo whip
- Egg Beater
- Frothing whip for an espresso set.
- Heat sink for pouring hot water into glass (Does such exist?)
- Potato Masher
- Futon tataki, for beating the dust out of futons
- Magic wand for putting the magic smoke back into blown components! (Nice!)
- Magic wand – other (X2)
- Hair ornament
- Implement to politely push away public huggers
- Ectoplasm handler
- Sproingy Springtime hamsterlift
- Barbeque tool
- Rejected design for a supppository.
- Manufacturing tool to keep two materials separate.
- An “Infinite Speculum.”
- “I’m not at liberty to say.”
- Golden Ratio Bubble Wand! (Neat idea!)
- Instrument used to keep eyes open whilst driving. (Ow!)
- Fancy urethral sound
- A bismuth crystal scoop.
- Cone stand from an ice cream shop.
- Thalidomide baby contact-lens application tool. (High points for originality.)
- High quality nose picker.
To this list let me add my own “guesses”:
- Professional level egg-in-spoon-race spoon.
- Lollipop for robots.
- Support armature for world’s largest lollipop.
- Advanced nose-hanging spoon.
- Dieter’s ice cream scoop.
- Traditional umbrella for use during Festivus.
The tool is so simply and beautifully constructed that it is very difficult to judge the overall scale of the object. Is it three inches or three feet long? Of course, it turns out to be pretty small.
Nine answers assumed that the tool was the right size to hold an egg. And it sure is– a robin egg. ;)
You could indeed balance a chicken egg in the spiral, but it would be unsteady. The most popular answer was a tool for lifting boiled eggs out of water. Even for robin eggs, that would be difficult because (1) there’s very little angle between the spiral and the handle, and (2) the handle is very short. It might work as a golf ball retriever if the water trap is no deeper than your Beta bowl and you don’t mind turning the bowl upside down to get the ball out.
Honorable Mentions: The tool would be very good as a…
- Tea bag remover thingy
- Olive spoon for getting olives out of jars.
But of course, as one person answered, it’s a tool…
What is this mystery tool? Leave your guesses in the comments!
This particular item is one of my personal favorite tools. (We’re not the experts at this game, but we do like to play.)
P.S.: If you do instantly know what this is, please save your spoilers and let’s hear the guesses instead, m’kay?
You’ve got your wire strippers and your soldering iron…now what? You probably know that there is a standard set of essential tools that you need on your electronics workbench. You can find helpful lists of these tools at Lady Ada’s site and Dan’s Data.
However, real tool junkies always want just the right tool for the job. Here are five electronics tools you may not know you were missing. These esoteric tools go a bit beyond the basics that everyone should have.