The Most Useless Tools You Can’t Seem to Part With

I’m a tool person. No matter how hard I try, I eventually end up with a bunch of tools that I just can’t bear to banish from my workshop. Why? I’m gonna keep it 100%: it’s the same emotion behind hoarding — fearing that you might need a thing later and not be able to have it.

The stuff costs money, and if you have to script to buy a bunch of tools pertaining to Project X, you expect to still have and probably need those very same tools — even if they have to sit in a box on my shelf for 20 years, taunting me every time I have to move it to one side.  “Heat-bending element” the box’s label describes at tool I haven’t used in at least 5 years. I have a bunch of these white elephants. I’ll probably need to heat-bend acrylic real soon… yeah.

I’ve found that pretty much everyone in our crowd can relate. You buy a special tool for one project and it was expensive and tremendously helpful, and since then it’s been sitting around uselessly. You certainly couldn’t part with it, what if you needed it again? So you store it in your house for 20 years, occasionally coming across it when looking for something else, but it never actually gets used.

Join me now in a walk down our memory lane of useless tools.

Tools That Are Too Nice

There’s a cliche about upholstered furniture too nice to sit on so your parents covered couch and armchair in plastic. I have the equivalent pocket knife. It’s an old-fashioned Italian pocket knife with a hardwood handle and Damascus steel blade. It is literally too nice to use for anything. I beat the hell out of my tools and would feel terrible if it was ruined. Because of this experience I will never buy anything that pretty again.

This isn’t the same as not liking a fine tool, but there’s a big difference between expensive-and-utilitarian and just plain posh. The fancy layered steel blade and the walnut or whatever handle and the brass hardware, it doesn’t make a better tool necessarily. I just want the damn thing to cut and to not break in doing so.

There’s a seductive thing in the way stores market tools, and everything else. The expensive, easy-on-the-eyes product exists to fill a specific need, but the target audience isn’t necessarily you. Earnest gift buyers often make the mistake of buying you something way wrong by assuming that the absurd model is automatically better than the next one down.

Keeping It In The Family

Inheritances are a great way to acquire hardware you can’t use or get rid of. My dad had a badass half-inch power drill with a brushed stainless steel case, and it was glorious and macho. I think my sister ended up with it. But by and large, when you end up with a relative’s tool, it often becomes a serious barnacle.

Nostalgia is a strong cause of tool hoarding. I acquired some relative’s beautiful steel L-square. I don’t use it very often and it doesn’t store readily. It’s the sort of thing designed to be tucked up in rafters, and I don’t have rafters in my basement. The thing’s sentimental value exceeds its utility. Plus it seems like everyone who does things around the house should have a framing square but that rule of thumb still never has me pulling it out for projects. Everyone has these kinds of tools — Grandpa’s drill press sitting in the corner covered in sawdust. Guilt should never become a motivating factor in what tools you keep.

I inherited a miter stand from my father-in-law, and at one point I actually needed it. I was cutting cedar shakes for my house, and this otherwise useless hunk of metal was actually useful. I think a lot of the time we’re trying to recapture that glimmering of synergy and that’s why we cling to stuff we no longer need.

The Complete Kit of Uselessness

Did you ever buy one of those million-piece security bit sets? Everything’s in one kit… and at least three-quarters of it are never used. I keep mine on hand forever because I might need it — the complete set of Tri-Wing security bits, just waiting for that epic teardown that wouldn’t be possible without those bits. I bought the set dirt cheap and it’s starting to rust from the humidity.

Socket sets, if you’re not an auto mechanic, encroach on this territory but at least they usually come in a case of some sort. The opposite and equally risky end of the equation from the “one tool” you needed for that one project, is the complete set of bits, blades, whatevers, most of which you haven’t used but nevertheless take up real estate in the shop. As an added bonus, if your shop has moisture problems, you could find your tool has gotten rusty.

When you’re putting together your workshop it’s really nice to be able to say, I got that one taken care of. I have a complete set of Eklind hex wrenches, the one shaped like keys — Imperial and Metric, of course. I’m taking preventive measures against them getting scattered or damaged. I’m envisioning a wooden box that can hold them all in one location, with enough oomph that something can be piled on top, maybe even for years. They’ll come in handy any day now, I’m sure of it.

Specialize Tools Become Especially Ignored

I swear I need a dedicated room for all the special tools I bought just for one project, and never used again. For instance, the bike tools like a pedal wrench, chain breaker, or crank arm remover that pretty much don’t have a use outside that specialty.

When venting a clothes dryer, the cheapest handheld duct crimper tool was a reasonable acquisition. That was years ago, and the tool is definitely somewhere on-hand but there has never been a reason to locate it again. The same goes for a metal-cutting jigsaw blade, and the all-in-one-bucket kit of tiling tools. The notched trowel, grout float, and sponge are dirt cheap and not hard to part with but you know they’re still around.

Compulsive organization via plastic tub seems to keep the heap at bay, but those tubs carry with them a special shame. I haven’t welded in years. I really need to play with that Pi. They almost taunt you with how they’re neglected.

What Are Your White Elephants?

Yes, I am a tool hoarder but I bet you are too. What tools do you keep bumping into but never get rid of? We want to hear your white elephant stories in the comments below.

178 thoughts on “The Most Useless Tools You Can’t Seem to Part With

  1. As a tangentially related aside, it’s also relevant that designs carry with them some of the ways things used to be done despite the actual function or utility being largely useless. Also, what is the alternative to getting rid of tools? How do you strike a balance?

    “Jeans are an example of “skeuomorphism” (pronounced skyoo-o-morf-izm), a concept first invented by archaeologist Henry March in 1890. There are more definitions than you can count, but broadly it refers to the aspects of an object’s design that no longer have a function.

    The public likes cars to look a certain way. Though electric cars don’t need cooling grilles – batteries don’t get as hot and they’re chilled in a different way – many have them anyway to avoid looking weird. They’re purely aesthetic and often made of rubber. Meanwhile hybrid cars such as the Toyota Prius make artificial sounds to make them sound more like normal combustion engines.

    At its most basic, the concept includes mimesis, or one material masquerading as another. This includes laminate flooring intended to look like the natural wood of the past, retro plastic hair combs dyed to look like tortoiseshell, and resin billiard balls emulating those made of ivory. This form is almost as ancient as civilisation itself.”

    You can read the full story here.

    http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20171023-the-useless-design-features-in-modern-products

          1. I have the same problem (also in aus) – the electric car would be fine 85% of the time, but I don’t want to hire a car for the other 15%… But we are a minority even in aus, as I’m one of the few people I know who doesn’t think twice doing a 1000km+ in a day..

        1. The “you won’t be driving 600 km” argument is a red herring.

          The main problem is that an EV that goes far is so far beyond the price range of a reasonable car that you won’t be buying it. The ones that you might buy can barely top 100 km on the average, and that’s not even talking about when the batteries start to get old 6-7 years down the line; the batteries have a shelf-life of about 10 years. The middle age of a regular car is about 10-12 years.

          While the average shit-tier EV goes for about $35k the average consumer buying a car (not an SUV) is buying at $25k. Then there’s the residual value: EVs have little to none because the battery costs roughly a third of the new vehicle price, so it becomes a liability: the value of a second (third) hand EV to the buyer is negative because they’d have to spend more than the value of the car to replace the battery.

          For example, a second hand Nissan Leaf costs about £10k in the UK – about the same as a similiarily aged petrol version of the car sold under the name Nissan Tiida / Versa / Pulsar. Difference is, the electric version starting price is £10k higher than the petrol version, so it’s depreciating massively and you lose money.

          Then there’s the fact that even if you can drive a reasonable distance on a charge, if you run out at any point you’re still stuck wherever you are, because quick charging is not generally availlable and it still takes a rather unreasonable time, up to an hour where it is available. You can’t carry electrons in a jerry can, and charging from a regular outlet can take the whole rest of the day. You come home from work with 10% left on the battery and your kids call you “Daddy, we missed the school bus, can you come and pick us up?” – sorry kids, daddy’s out of charge.

          Range anxiety isn’t about how far you can go on a charge, but having to worry about having charge. I’m not anxious that I have less than 100 km worth of fuel in my tank at any give time, because there’s petrol stations all over the place and I can get more. If I get stuck, I can just buy a can of it and walk back to my car to get it going again, or call the AA. Even if I’m running late for work, it only takes five more minutes to top up along the way – not 45 minutes sitting there twiddling your thumbs while your Volkswagen e-Golf graciously refuses to fast charge because it’s below 0 C outside and it hasn’t got a battery heater (true story).

          Hence why it would be essential to have that 600-1000km of range, because if you can’t easily top up then you must have a reserve so you don’t have to worry about it. It’s not about how far you’ll be going on a stretch. It’s like with smartphones – everyone’s carrying power packs because the damn battery won’t last more than a day if you actually use it, and everyone’s anxious about running out, getting stuck somewhere without a charging cable or a USB port in sight just when they have to make that important call… People tolerate it because a dumb phone is not a smartphone, but everyone would rather have the old thing where the battery lasts a whole week. Meanwhile, what does the EV offer above a normal petrol car? Why do they matter?

          1. Anyone trying to sell an electric car, even as an idea, to the average buyer would do well to remember that 70-80% of all cars sold every year are on the second hand market – for the simple fact that most people just can’t afford to buy new cars.

            If you’re looking at an EV going, “Hmm… $42,000 with 215 miles of range and options, that’s not too bad” – you’re not the average buyer. Better check your perspective

          2. Re. the eGolf: I read the road test review in a car magazine at the barber’s.

            They left the car outside overnight a -5…-10C without charging it, and set off again in the morning, and of course the first thing they needed was more charge so they drove to a CHAdeMO DC charger nearby, but alas, the car wouldn’t accept the DC charge because its batteries were cold. They tested and figured that it would take 22 km of driving to get the battery above zero before it would accept anything more than the standard slow charge. That’s mighty difficult if you’re running empty already.

            Turns out the lithium batteries have a charge window between 0 – 40 C where going above risks thermal runaway, and going below causes irreversibe damage because not all the charge carriers are mobile at low temperatures, so the car’s BMS simply refuses to take it in.

        2. Electric car does not reduce pollution. It just dislocate it to different place. You still need to use some kind of fuel to produce electricity. Nuclear is not clear at all, solar cells are also nasty and too unpredictable, wind also unpredictable. We are still far far away from good green energy source.

          1. Well, that’s a question of morals – would you rather suffer from your own vehicle use, or push the pollution on some poor farmer in China whose fields get ruined because the solar panel company dumped silicon tetrachloride on them.

        3. The issue I have is that I need to go from one side of the country to the other, usually counting at least 100-300km per day(My average is 250km per workday). I can go for an electric vehicle, but then I have to charge it every time I have a trip, and leave my car 500m from my house (if the charger is not taken). On top of that, my lease contract does not cover big electric vehicles such as a Tesla, Opel Ampera or something that can further than 150km without refueling…
          So yes, I would LOVE to drive an electric vehicle, and its way cheaper, but unless someone who drives around the country can convince me otherwise, under the line its more of an hassle than a “good investment”.

    1. Install a few hundred ty-raps and you will love that thing. It’s on my list of favorite tools. Finally, I have the scars to prove that diagonal cutters don’t do the job as well. Those ty-raps are sharp.

      1. semiprotip (the real pros use the tool): if using diagonal cutter, cut along the *long* dimension of the tie. Cutting along the (intuitively obvious) short direction leaves those sharp edges that come back to lacerate you or someone else later. Cutting along the long dimension makes a baby-smooth edge with no lurking bloodletters.

        1. “cut along the *long* dimension of the tie.” I have no idea what that means…the long dimension would mean cutting it down the middle in my reckoning. How is that useful?

          Anyway, if you have just a few to cut, and they’ll be somewhere that might cause injury; just hit the cut end briefly with the flame from a lighter. It dulls the sharp edge and renders them harmless. If you do it more often, the flush cutter or the dedicated tool makes sense.

    2. There are also applications that require exact tension and no tails on each tie. That’s why some have MIL-STD-****** labels on them.
      In aerospace manufacturing, we use them daily, and I gleefully snagged one that was going to be disposed of for personal use.

      I don’t use it at home nearly as often as I do at work, but when I need to tie a zip-tie in any tight corner, or I just want the wires/hoses/whatever to stay bundled snug, out comes the zip-tie gun.

      It’s been used on a couple friend’s motorcycles, cars, at least one espresso machine rewire… It’s in my main go-to electrical tools bag.

    3. 08:30 pm Wed 13 June 2018 I bought a cheap very well constructed chinese tye wrap tool with the included cutter. I LOVE it ..I use tye wraps for holding everything as they are so cheap to purchase today. I weld a lot and a temporary way to hold metal for the first arc tacks save me a tremendous amount of time!!! Count me in as a true believer!!
      Cheers…Gerry.. Canada

  2. About once a year or every other I just get rid of tools that I haven’t used over the last timespan. Over time I have learned that spending some money (as in “spending a LOT of money”) for buying the RIGHT tools makes more sense than having them all. It is just FUN working with a good tool – may it look as cool or dumb as it will. Why spend 100 Dollar on a poorly working knife if you can have THE PERFECT knife for 600 Dollar and actually USE it because it ALWAYS WORKS?
    I don’t go for the cheap tools any longer except in cases where I know I only need a tool ONCE (like your duct crimper example).

    1. I believe this advice comes from Adam Savage, but I follow the method of getting the cheapest possible tool at first, and then if it breaks or is frustrating enough then you know you can justify getting the PERFECT one to replace it. This avoids spending top dollar on tools you thought would be nice to have, but wind up using rarely if ever

  3. And of course you shouldn’t own “a” socket set. A decent workshop should have metric and imperial in 1/4, 3/8 and 1/2 drive, same in deep reach and at least 1/2″ drive impacts.

    1. Don’t forget the ratchets, extensions, universals, and adapters that go with them.

      In the vein of the article, though, most of my woodworking tools tend to fall into this category. I have a jigsaw I almost never use, and at least two circular saws I trip over on a regular basis, but can’t bring myself to get rid of. The hand drills and drill press get used on a regular basis, but since I work mostly in metal, my circular saws almost never see the light of day anymore. I’ve also got some specialized tools for working on heavy trucks that I will probably never use again, but can’t seem to part with.

      1. When I started working with wood, I didn’t really know what tools I would be needing so I just bought a saw and some sandpaper and thought I’d see what comes along. Then as I was working and felt like I needed a tool, instead of dashing off to the hardware store, I found it much more fun to make up one on the spot: I snapped off a piece of hacksaw blade and sharpened it on the paper, and screwed it to a block of wood to make a shoulder plane; I made a hand drill, simple clamps, a sawing jig etc.

        The upside is that I don’t care if they break, wear out or get lost, because they’re so simple to make again. Especially the planes are the sort of stuff you may not even find in a store, except some really fancy combination iron with knobs and screws up the wazoo that costs hundreds of dollars.

          1. Here’s a really fancy one

            But you can easily imagine roughing something like that out of a piece of wood, sticking a drill bit on the end, clamping it down with a screw, a skateboard bearing on the other end, and just start drilling. Takes less time than driving to the hardware store.

        1. I had to replace the indicator stalk on my Dads car which involved removing the steering wheel. Knowing I tightened the bolt back to the right torque in the service manual makes me much more confident that it won’t fall off while driving.

          1. I probably shouldn’t go in this direction, but what the hell… I grew up and still live in a German ethnic area in the USA. Gutentite has an off color reference to a physical attribute of men.

          1. That looks shiny enough to have a properly dimensioned foam insert in the lid which keeps all the bits in place when you shake it. Just don’t drive around with the lid open (or drop the case on the floor…)

  4. Well I still have that tool for pulling staples out of ceiling tile. Tool for working with PEX plumbing. Tool for cutting acrylic. That chain wrench depicted above. Tool for measuring contours. And I’m sure there’s more if I dare to look.

  5. Oh man. Tools are a big weakness. I exhibit all the usual symptoms, so I’ll only mention the most aberrant behaviour.

    I have multiple complete ‘sets’ – a toolbag in the car (general, auto specific), electronic tools in my office, a small toolbox on the boat, a set for marine electrical service (occasionally paid). I just like to grab and go, depending on the job.

    I also have some “subsets” – a box of bike-tools, a bag of drillbits, sawblades and drill accessories, a bag of wrenches and a socket-set, holesaws.

    Power tools… we’d be here all day. Moving on…

    Probably the most pathological is that I am a complete sucker for pocket multitools and multiblade knives. I have a drawerful, of both originals and good clones, and they also appear in glove compartments etc.

    There’s one thing that keeps me from th hoarder designation: I won’t keep inferior, broken or useless tools. If I cannot depend on a tool to work when I reach for it… it’s gone. Just yesterday, I gave away a set of cheap wood holesaws because they were lame in just about anything but softwood.

  6. Weird tools are just like the other weird junk in my overflowing parts bin: They sit around in the way for 5 years until suddenly they’re the exact thing I need for a very specific task. If you have a large enough library of “once a year” oddities, you always have what you need for a strange job.

    1. I also keep some broken, damaged or Chinesium tools so I have no regrets grinding or bending them to make a custom tool.
      When you need a specific socket with splines on the outside, an angle grinder can do wonders to a camed-out 1/2″ socket. It won’t be great, but at least it’s free you don’t have to wait for any delivery.

    1. Real tools are things that extend and enhance your capabilities, so I’ve never felt that bad about having them, unlike other stuff one might collect. (how’s that for rationalization?) Just last weekend, a lady needed a screwdriver… and I had a multitool in my pocket.

      “If the women don’t find you handsome, they should at least find you handy.”
      (Red Green)

  7. There’s the “It was such a great deal I’m hanging onto it” sort of tools, too. One item that’s taking up a lot of space in my shed is a 1950s era CRT oscilloscope with a US Navy surplus tag on it. I found it for $5 at a rummage sale, and bought it because OF COURSE I’m buying a five dollar 1950s era oscilloscope. But since buying it, I haven’t even tried to hunt down the weird power cord it needs to see if it works.

      1. Just be very careful with that old scope. Chances are it doesn’t work quite right, and as a result it will steal the next few months of your spare time as you track down the service manual, then diagnose the fault, source the unobtanium valves (tubes) that you need to fix it… Just saying, so you are under no illusions…

      1. This was me last week. I’m trying to install new speakers in my wife’s car, so I need those stupid plastic tools they sell to pop loose interior body panels without scratching them. I know I bought a set. I know I only need to use them about once every ten years, when one of us gets a new car and needs new speakers. Tear the house apart. Can’t find them. Curse, go buy another set, come home, pop off the door card, go get the harmon-kardon speakers I bought a couple years ago, open the box… and of course that’s where I put the stupid plastic body panel tools several years earlier, knowing I’d lose them anywhere else and the next time I’d need them was to install the speakers in the next car. gaaaah.

    1. So true! And not just tools, but all of that junk I keep in the garage: “Ha! I knew I would need this someday!”

      And the worst is when you realize you need that thing you kept for 10 years and finally tossed about 3 months ago!

  8. Now my plumbing tools, I touch about once every 3 years, alternately once every 6 for a fitting upgrade/replacement and about once every 6 for an emergency or repair that would lead to $1000s in water damage if not done right now. Each time they also save me a huge chunk on hiring a plumber. This is well worth the notional $5 a year it costs me to store them. I guess if you figure I have to have some place to live anyway, that might be $2.50

    1. Only if you know, what you are doing. I once saw a Xbox 360 whose owned decided to fix RROD by reflowing GPU chip. He didn’t have a proper tool, so he used a heatgun for paint removal. He reflowed the chip, the PCB and the case on the first try. Then he tried to sell it on local online auctions site as slightly broken…

    2. “Pro tools cost less than calling in a pro for the job and you keep control on the quality of the work. You also get satisfaction.”

      …and you get to keep the tools!

    1. Heh, just the other year I was doing some bodywork repair and needed to beat on a bit of sheetmetal and I was thinking “Damn, I wish I had a shoe anvil right now…” …. yah, bit of an off label use… there’s probably an actual bodywork dolly the right shape.

  9. My most specialized and most horded for inexplicable reasons tool: Motorcycle fork oil level gauge. I bought mine for maybe 80 bucks 10 years ago. I’ve used it twice rebuilding forks. I just looked and you can get new ones for $20.00…I still can’t throw it away. I MIGHT need to rebuild a fork!

  10. l build fix and make things for a living
    l spend alot of time ‘making do’ and making tools
    buy the right thing when l can (when it exists/is available)
    and as such have *a lot* of specialty tools which don’t get alot of use…

    had a purge a year or 2 ago
    not if tools really, but of materials, projects, and broken power tools (to scavenge for repair parts)
    and less than a month later 2 important tools broke (reciprocating saw, and circular saw) unobtanium parts…..which l had had in storage for such an eventuality

    lesson learned

  11. Oh, got several:

    1. Rubber strap wrenches (as seen on TV) that I used to use to open a cartridge filter housing for an old hot tub
    2. A tool that released the clip on the underside of an old car’s window crank
    3. A veneer trimmer from a cabinet refacing job

    But my biggest useless white elephant, and it’s not that old:

    4. A Kobalt pistol-grip ratchet screwdriver with retractable bit load from a “revolver-style” cartridge. One cart has phillips, one cart has standard, and one cart has star tips.

    And my “I will never willingly get rid of this” tool, even though I don’t use it much:

    5. A Black & Decker Quantum stick cordless screwdriver, purchased through an outlet store. I’ve got NiMH packs for it.

  12. I have a gear pulling tool, it’s clunky and doesn’t store well. I used it once because buying one was only slightly more expensive than renting it from the auto store. It’s also cheap and I struggled to even use it that one time.
    I’ve learned that if I buy second hand tools, I usually have no problem getting the job done or getting rid of that tool after a couple years of being an eyesore.

  13. I collect the ability to do things. Having tools is just a side effect. I have a lathe & mill mostly so that I can make customs tools when needed. I have a special building for my tools. It’s called a workshop. Took many years of hard work to be able to buy that.

    A friend who was visiting me bought a flute from a pawn shop that had a loose foot joint. He was quite blown away when I made an expander to fix it. It took two tries, but I’d never made one before. So there was a design iteration.

    I certainly don’t *want* to use my 3/4″ sockets, but I’ve got them when the need arises.

    I inherited a bunch of random stuff from my Dad along with tools found or part of a pile of stuff I got. I toss all the odd stuff in a bunch of drawers. I use that stuff as raw material for custom tools. For example a box wrench with 1/2″ on one end and 7/8″ on the other for the nuts on the lathe cross slide. Or the bent ice pick made out of a screwdriver for flipping the DIP switches on the Emulex SCSI-ESDI adaptor cards in old Sun shoeboxes without having to pull the 1/4″ tape drive out. Don’t have the Emulex cards, but I’ve still got that tool at my electronics bench. Comes in very handy for odd tasks where fingers don’t fit.

  14. I have worked off and on as an auto mechanic, done some engineering prototyping, and fixed anything at home I could do cheaper than hiring a pro for. I have a basic philosophy on tools: if it is something I will use regularly I will get something of a high enough quality I can be productive with it, if it is a one time or rare job I will get the cheapest thing that safely works. Even if it is only used once if I saved money by getting the cheap tool versus hiring someone else to do it then I still consider it a win.

    Still haven’t figured out criteria for getting rid of any tools. That’s way more complicated since it involves a certain amount of fortune telling. And like other people have said old random tools often are a good starting point for a custom tool that doesn’t exist yet.

  15. I have a whole shed full of them. The most useless is probably a set of coil compressors. I used them 20 years ago when I repaired the suspension on the only car I could afford at the time, an old Cortina. These days I can afford modern cars and they get replaced before they get old enough to have suspension repairs. But, I dream of one day having a project car to restore, so they hang around.

  16. When does it really get bad? When you have a home and a cottage. Then you have an excuse for 2 of everything.

    But it got even worse when a charity used tool store opened near me. Now you can have every obscure tool for discount prices.

    A 24″ extension for your bit and brace(made in 1887)? May need it someday, it goes along with the universal joint extension for drilling near a wall.

    The Park Tools cotter pin press for cottered cranks that cost $85 new and is on sale for $5? Well, my bike does have cotters, so I might need it someday. Picked up the $1 chain breaker too..

    The aforementioned zip tie tightening and cutoff tool.

    A couple of good things have come out of it. You can pick up a higher quality tool and donate your lesser quality one. And it has allowed me to create a toolbox(purchased used) for each specialty. Sheet metal, electrical, plumbing, angle grinders, clamps, zip ties, gas welding, arc welding, tubing coping tool&cutters, bike tools, auto specialty tools, etc. Then pick up the auxiliary tools needed and keep them in the box. Using the coping tool? The wrench you need is right in the box with the tool, no hunting it up in your automotive box out in the truck. Really, really handy.

  17. You can almost measure my life in tool phases. When I was young I worked on cars. I don’t work on cars anymore, so those jackstands are pretty useless. When I was a bit older I did woodworking. Now, aside from the occasional fixture I don’t so that nice dovetail jig is useless. Then there was a stained glass phase. Now the stained glass tools are useless (except those really nice flush cutters)…

    Funny story about pocket knives, though. I carry a replaceable blade utility knife. My friend carries a pocket knife. Every time we are doing a project together I ask to borrow his pocket knife so I can cut concrete sheet or turn a screw and for some reason he won’t loan it to me, so I have to use my utility knife.

      1. I warn first-time borrowers that the knife is sharp.
        Coworker asks to borrow a knife.
        I produce a small multitool. “Will this work?”
        “Is it sharp?”
        I demonstrate by shaving some hair off my arm.
        “Yeah, it’s sharp.”

    1. Well apart from screw driving, that’s what a utility knife is for. Maybe if you’d stop abusing knives and risk stabbing yourself turning a screw, you’d get to use his knife now and again.

      1. Table knives make better screwdrivers than utility knives. Is true. Growing up, we never had a screwdriver in the house, but all the table knives had little twisties at the tip. I thought was normal.

  18. I bought a set of NPT pipe tap and die some years ago for a project building an RV-van. I was threading 1/2 NPT into a water jug, and the harbor freight set came with 1/4, 3/8 and 1/2 NPT bits (or something like that). I used the 1/4 NPT bit the other day when I needed to blow out the sprinkler system, and to do so needed an air fitting. Reinforcement I guess…

    In the multiples of a tool department, I have these 2 bags of tools separate from everything else. One is nothing but screwdrivers or other handled-with-a-metal-rod type things. Every now and then, I’ve had a need for a junk screwdriver that I can grind to a specific size for an application. This is where collecting random screwdrivers has come in handy. The other has all my socket drivers, anything for driving a screw from the outside (hex, square, octagonal, whatever) as opposed to from the inside (like a phillips/flathead). I have butchered bits out of there too, knowing I had a spare extension rod or whatever it was.

    Clamps. I have a metric crapton of clamps. Spring clamps, C-clamps, etc. I collected a whole bunch while doing a countertop one year. There have been occasions where I have used them all while doing a woodworking project. But for the most part, they sit in my bag, in one big jumble (I don’t have a pegboard, sadly… I’m very space constrained).

    And my last big collection might not be tools, but it’s hardware. 5gallon bucket, filled with nails, drywall screws, zipties, nuts, bolts, hinges, and various other hardware scavenged over the years. It comes in quite valuable at least once a year when I need some random one-off screw. And it totally brings back the memories of days where I was playing with legos, sorting through all my parts. Except stepping on this stuff will probably take me to the hospital, rather than just putting one into a rage of pain.

  19. Seems to me there is a VERY elegant solution

    TOOL LIBRARY!!!! combine your resources in a way that benefits everyone and gets your, currently, undeeded tools out of the house/apartment/shop!
    For instance, I don’t need two drawknives that are nearly identical, I need one, I do need access to bike tools, like stuff for pulling sprockets.

    I’m sure we’ve all been in a pickle where you reeeeaaaaallly needed a special tool for a job, and to buy it would cost hundreds of dollars so you make due, bust a knuckle or two and invent three new curse phrases.

    I actually have access to a tool library through a local library, but it was slim pickings last time a looked, there is another tool library, but they are closed on the weekends, unlike the local library and are open while I’m at work during the week.

    Anyway, just thought I’d throw that out there.

    1. Yeah. They tend to happen informally too. Once you’re known as a tool hoarder, colleagues and friends all try you first when they need something. And if they have old relatives die, you’re the one who gets offered the stuff out their shed…

      1. I read in an editorial(?) in The Family Handyman; that if you own a set of scaffolding, you probably shouldn’t own a pickup truck, or else you’ll be stuck hauling the scaffolding to your friends’ house for them to use!

    2. I tell you what, as soon as everyone else isn’t a fucking gorilla with no mechanical inclination, no understanding of preventative maintenance, and no respect for the value of a tool to do work beyond its financial value, I’ll start lending my tools, or consider borrowing them from others.

      Until such time, I’d prefer you bring me the work and let me do it for you, than lend you the tool just for it to come back fucked, rusty, and dirty anyway.

  20. No, no, no, no I do not agree. Every tool is good and might be used someday. I will never get rid of them and even fix some that break! :) So yeah, I’m like you. As for that really cool knife, try keeping that in a pocket when you are dressed nicer, and use it man, it’s a tool. btw, I have over 30 knifes, rotate most of them, some are too big to carry though, LOL

  21. When I received my grandfather’s 100-watt American Beauty soldering iron, I already had perfectly good irons that I used regularly. I’ve never even plugged it in, but I admire its braided-cloth cord and turned hardwood handle. After decades as a central-office technician for the phone company, he took it home with him when he retired, over 50 years ago.

  22. Now that I’m scrapping metals & discarded appliances for fun & some pocket money, these tools are kinda essential: cable snipper pliers, electric screwdriver, angle grinder and a nice big bench vice. And a hammer of course for when you encounter “tamper proof” enclosures or want to harvest the copper wire from a transformer.

      1. Ahh! The BFH in the middle with the red head that looks like Thor’s hammer…carried one of those on my belt for years to set scaffold pins when I was building stages. While the other dudes were tap-tap-tapping the pins to seat them with their ‘little’ weinie hammers, one good blow was all I needed. Mine has a hole drilled in the handle for a tether. The guys 50′-70′ below me appreciated it. Now it’s my go-to BFH for anything that needs a good thrashing.

  23. Not sure which gets this accolade here. There’s lots of candidates though.
    The 30t hydraulic pipe bender with full set of dies I’ve used once, but keep for those occasions I might make another structure from heavywall pipe. Its useless on tube that I need a bender for more often as it squashes thinner wall stuff flat (although I have a mandrel bender now anyway) and theyre so cheap that theyre common to see secondhand when someone buys them expecting them to bend tube and has to sell them on because they fail totally at it.
    Or the four arc welders. I should slim down on those simply because the two I need least take up so much space, one rotary set that can do up to 300amp, a ac/dc transformer tig with water cooler, a solid alloy foot pedal you could club people to death with and other madness that also has arc mode that needs a 180amp 3 phase supply to run flat out, but is great for welding things that need 400amp together, which I can’t do as my supply peaks at 80amps/phase so its been in use as something to chain a motorbike up to for years since moving house, The modern inverter set I use most of the time and a small portable one I picked up years ago when I was working away from home and needed something small to buzz up a weld to get something back on the road to get home but is a complete joke.
    Trouble is, where do you sell a tig set that weighs 700kg and comes with its own steel trolleywheels and lifting eyes and needs a 180amp supply? or the hobart rotary which is so big the buyer would need a decent pick up truck. They both weld really nicely and after a nuclear war they’ll probably still work with just some singe marks but, theyre just dead weight 99% of the time.
    Heres the problem though, when I’ve broke down and sold things in the past, its been such a trial by fire dealing with idiots and stupid questions I’m totally put off dealing with that just to get a few bucks back. Really I’ve had such bad experiences I’d rather just set fire to the money it brings and take it the dump. So as space isnt exactly at a premium here, it sits until it either gets cannibilized for parts or pushed back into service.

      1. I know that one, it’s where you tell a trainee he can bend pipes by filling them with sand, so the walls don’t collapse, then you laugh your arse off when he tries it and it just forces the plugs out of the ends getting sand everywhere and still the pipe creases and flattens.

      2. Yeah, and welded end caps on to stop the sand coming out, also filled with cerrobend to stop the bend deforming. Thinwall is still a nightmare in it and thinwall is usually on view so any defects are glaring.
        So really the trick with a hydraulic bender to get smooth progressive bends in thinwall is to put it at the back of the shop until you need to bend up something substantial and use the mandrel bender instead.

  24. I regularly visit scrapyards in my area, so i buy every tool or material i find useful most of the time for 0,3 dollar per 1 kilogram. So i have like 10 of adjustable pliers, 5 of “the bigggest screwdriver”, XXX of rusty but functional wrenches of all possible sizes, several chinese socket sets that i never broke but use regularly, like 6 electric drills because i collect the older tough NAREX brand and other east bloc tools, but i buy even chinese if can be repaired or is OK. I use like one or two. I have 4 DT9205A and M multimeters that i find most bang for the buck, placed on all places i might use them and i use them frequently. I have boat-anchor size measurement equipment, all i used sometimes and will use. i eliminated all large things that are not useful to me like 5 of 1MHz oscilloscopes with 1kW of tube heating power or germanium era counters.

    I strategically place the tools everywhere so i can always find that one that isn’t lost. Car, my room, attic, garage, second garage, cottage… I buy at scrapyard, most of the time repair little thing or nothing and use or spare the tool. Or i buy the cheapest, but checked to withstand my use. But bits are other extreme, i buy only NAREX and TONA, because i destroy BOSCH and other brands with few uses. They use some indestructible slavic magic materials in NAREX and TONA.

    I bought a dollar angle grinder at flea market and build a house with it, and only changed brushes for some little file-adjusted bosch ones. So i can reccomend to learn how the tools works, know how to repair them and know what to buy.

    My friend buys ste- i mean, used BOSCH profi line and Fluke meters at auction websites, and uses them all for small side jobs and he can depend on them. He gave all chinese and broken scrap he had before to me, i repaired and improved and use it happily :-) When it breaks unrepairable i disassemble to useful parts, use some other to another purpose and throw away the rest while taking another myself-refurbished tool from the pile.

    1. Ah… multimeters.. yes I do have rather a lot of those… you can never have too many multimeters.. or setsquares.. or spirit levels (I recently reconditioned one from the 1890s )…. or screwdrivers … or ….

  25. My grandfather said – sagely – Buy the best tools you can afford – young you get cheap stuff – as you get older you replace the broken cheap stuff

    But now I always get the best tool I can – and will probably never have to replace it – Sadly – some of them are just there on the pegboard – getting oiled regularly – kind of a man thing – show them off …

  26. Though I probably have a fair share more tools than I need, my real problem is books mostly technical/text. Anytime I find my self at a thrift store I leave with about 3-4 new technical manuals. Do I really need another book on Mitsubishi ICs from them late 70’s? No, but it’s only 50 cents so I buy it anyway.

    I have more dead trees than California I reckon.

  27. It used to be that I lusted for fast computer parts, camera lenses with a red ring, big knobby tires, and nerd bling to make me look smarter.

    These days my lust is reserved for machine tools. My life goals have reoriented with tools as the biggest feature.

    Practicing good 5S would help out with the clutter. It works great.

    1. My concession to 5S at work was an official spot for my tape dispenser and stapler.

      At home my new workshop was well organized until i finally sold my started home and I brought all my other tools back home. Now my shop is a legendary tripping hazard.

  28. A lot of towns and localities have a tool library (sometimes as part of the same library that lends books) that would almost certainly welcome a donation of a bunch of those once-in-a-blue-moon tools especially because those will really sVe hassle, time, and budget for many fellow tinkerers (as well as preventing them too from getting saddled with a chain wrench and plastic bender and whatnot).

  29. As a machinist you always have dozens of those tools.

    Like super large micrometers, reamers, uncommon size taps and dies, etc

    Because “if that job comes…” you can’t not having it.

    Sometimes i wish i can rent or resale some of those tools.

    1. I have a 1″14 UNF tap I used 16 years ago to cut 2 threads, and a 6″ internal micrometer that a claim to have used half a dozen times, unfortunately all 6 times were on the one engine, rather sadly the wear ridge at the top of each bore was so huge that it obviously needed new liners, the fact that I ould accurately measure cylinder ovality was fairly irrelevant.

      1. I’m not seeing the point of that, unless you’re looking for miniscule increases in bore ovality after a 500 hour dyno test and teardown. Specs I’ve seen for engines I’ve dealt with are like “maximum 60 thou” and you take off measurements with an internal caliper and think either (i It’s under 20 thou I’m good… ii) it’s over 40 thou, better rebore/line. iii) it’s between about 20 and 40, how long am I keeping this POS anyway???

  30. I have multiple sets of tools. It is somewhat of an addiction. Now the ol lady is into it too. She now likes the kitchen screwdriver and pliers sets on the wall. I have tools in my car, tools in my truck, tools in the mechanical shop, tools in the wood shop,l tools in the electronics shop, tools in at least 3 rooms in the house, and tools out in the sawmill building. I have more *nice* screwdriver sets than I can count. I hate cheap screwdrivers. I have sockets from 1/4″ drive up to 1″ drive. I have more wrench sets than I can count from ignition wrenches to extra large for tractors and construction equipment. And lots of specialized tools. But you asked about the whitest of white elephants.. Many years back I installed a bunch of large capacity sheet feeders on a certain brand of laser printer. They were held on with clever latches and two screws. They provided special drivers to install them, the tips were designed to fracture at the correct torque. I installed all of them with one of the drivers and a careful hand and someplace in the shop I still have a box full of those odd self destructing drivers. Why? You tell me, I have no idea but they seemed too useful to chuck. In my defence though, I have used $1 store screwdrivers for connection pins before. They work great and have a nice handle to use to put them in and pull them out. You need to cut the heads off so people don’t swipe them for their previously intended purposes though. I may have that kind of use in mind for them…

  31. For me such tools are like money in the bank, even if you don’t use it it’s still comforting and satisfying to have it available and that comfort alone is enough to make me content.
    The exception is if it’s a item that is too damn big/heavy, then it becomes a burden.

  32. You will cringe inside but I bought a huge socket set and took them all out of the case and dumped them in an ammo box. Takes a quarter of the room and fits in my car. My white elephant is a crimper for coaxial connections… might need it in a few years if I make custom cables… if I ever move a TV

    1. Exactly what I did in my Jeep. A very complete tool assortment fits nicely in a 50-cal can, hardly takes up any space, and should be water proof. Yes, it sucks looking for that one special socket, but you’ll find it eventually.

  33. I actively campaigned to inherit my grandfather’s table saw. He departed this earth, I got it… and I cut the motor out and removed the saw arbor and threw it away in a different trash can than the main body, because that stupid thing was the most dangerous tool I’ve ever seen. I never figured out what was wrong with it but the motor and blade had a very slight, random, side-to-side oscillation that at best cut a wavy line and at worst was a kickback nightmare. I am currently in the same campaign for my mom’s old radial armsaw for the same reason, and a while back surreptitiously stuck a nail into the armature coils of an employer’s circular/skilsaw because the retaining bolt was slightly damaged and would creep loose during use, so some day that blade was going to fall out while spinning. There are alternate reasons to collect old tools: because you want to keep someone else from getting injured.
    I have a chisel from 1885 (ish) that I use on a weekly basis, because it’s so well-made. Sometimes I find alternate uses. Granddad gave me a bunch of ship augers. If I wanted to bore a 28mm hole a meter deep in a timber, with a brace & bit, I could. Well, it turns out those do a perfectly good job of drilling holes in clay soil for mounting LED lights along the front walk, or for planting.
    I have also found that I can make friends with people even cheaper than me, and since I am never again going to use a Suntour Superbe Pro freewheel removal tool, but my friend who just bought a cheap bike with a thrashed freewheel is, I give him the removal tool, and we are both happier.

        1. Well, I’m not a Devil’s Advocate, but I do play one on the Internet, it may be that particular employer had no intention of fixing the tool, either by sending it to a repair center, or obtaining a new bolt (we all know of some mfgr’s that make it difficult to get replacement parts) I do agree with the OP that some tools need to be destroyed, before they kill, and kill again. If that employer was such a louse when it came to making sure his employees have safe tools, destroying the tool may have been the best course of action.

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