Introducing "Outside the Box"...

...a new series of posts about some of my favorite tools that don't come in your basic starter sets.

I don’t have to tell anyone what kind of basic hand tools to get.  Anyone who has even the slightest interest in working on cars, already knows what he needs.  Look in any gearhead’s tool box and you’re going to find pretty much the same thing every time.  Almost everyone who has been wrenching for more than a few years has everything pictured below in his toolbox and more.


What separates the men from the boys is the stuff that’s not in their toolboxes.  Stuff that’s either too big or used too seldom to take up valuable toolbox real estate.  I’m talking about stuff that might sit around for years between uses.  Stuff that gets stuffed high on to top shelves or crammed into cabinets behind more commonly used things.  I have doubles of some speciality tools because I forgot that I already owned them when I purchased the duplicates.

The very fact that such tools are used so infrequently is what makes them so glorious.  These tools are the life savers.  The ones that get the job done when nothing else will.  The ones that get you out of a jam late at night or on a Sunday evening when you couldn’t go out and buy one if you wanted to.  The ones your friends ask to borrow and obligates them to bring the beer next time.  The ones they wish they had, but will never get.  The ones that make you succeed where others fail.

Speciality tools are expensive, especially when you figure their cost on a per use basis, but they are often cheap when compared to farming work out to a professional that has them.  Often the cost of having someone else do a repair will be equal to or greater than the cost of the special tool required.

Speciality tools are very expensive compared to the cost of tools sold in basic tool sets because of their low production and the mere fact that they are not included in tool sets.  Imagine how expensive a complete set of sockets would be if you purchased each piece individually.  I have much more money invested in speciality tools than in basic hand tools.  In fact, my first 400 piece Craftsman tool set that I got way back in 1980, was only about $200. They’re only about $400 now.  I have some speciality tools that cost over $400 by themselves.

Almost everyone who builds or repairs things, struggles with deciding whether or not to buy tools they will not often use, and that’s why speciality tools are so, so...  special.  People who own speciality tools have more invested in them than just the money it cost to buy them.  Most of the speciality tools I have are the result of suffering for years without them, the painful decision process of buying them, and the regret of not buying them sooner.

I can’t tell you how many times I wished that I had a certain tool, tried to get by without it, and ended up wasting time, damaging equipment, and/or injuring myself in the process.  More often than not, I end up eventually buying the tool and at that point, all of that suffering instantly becomes pointless.  If the end result is buying the tool, I might as well have spent the money in the first place and avoided all the grief, but at the same time, I can’t just go out and buy everything whether I need it or not.  My only comfort is knowing that everyone else who gets their hands greasy, goes through this too.

Each of every gearhead’s speciality tools represents a hard earned victory.  If you ever need to borrow one, make sure you bring it back ASAP, along with at least a twelve pack of the lender’s favorite beer.  If you find yourself needing to borrow the same tool again, perhaps you should consider buying your own.

Next time - We're gonna talk about battery chargers.


  1. I know exactly whereof you speak. To me, the worst thing is having your tools ripped off, you turn in a claim to the police and insurance, and then, about six months later you reach for that tool you only use on special occasions, only to find out it was ripped off with the others.

    1. What you speak of is one of the things that I fear most. If my tools got stolen, I would just go out and buy the basic hand tools. No real big problem there, but the specialty tools are a different story altogether. I would have to go through the whole "can I justify buying this" process with each and every one of them, all over again. I would never want to have to endure that.

    2. Yeah. I can't tell you how many tools I didn't replace, because I had used them once but wasn't sure if I was ever going to need them again.

    3. The day will come when you will need one and you will experience both the grief of having them stolen and agony of trying to decide if you should buy one, all over again. My heart goes out to you.