Get Your Hands on the Right Hand Tool!

Someone once said, “Half of any job is having the right tool.” I am often surprised at how often management, as well as installers, tolerate “making do” with incorrect or damaged hand tools. This can be anything from dull wire cutters and strippers, to crimping connections with the wrong tool, to drilling with dull drill bits. Many times, a competitive bid is won or lost by the amount of time needed and the quality of the actual installation. Additionally, using the right tool can make for a more enjoyable installation experience.

I want everyone reading this article to end 2005 with a resolution for the New Year: Take a serious look at your hand tool inventory and treat yourself to at least one of this month’s suggestions that will make your upcoming installations more enjoyable and professional. Go ahead, you know you have been putting it off and you deserve it. A good tool does not always have to be expensive, but it should be carefully selected as the right tool for the right job.

Multifunctional Tools Are Hot
The other day, I saw an installer’s tool pouch that was half-full of a large variety of individual screwdrivers. I recommend you save yourself extra weight and space by switching to a new multifunctional driver. Since this will be an important tool in your pouch, make sure to get a professional-grade tool. The following are some examples:

MegaPro™ MEGALOK — This multibit screwdriver is a very compact and versatile 14-in-1 bit driver. These quality drivers have features such as snap-in bits and a retractable bit holder in the handle that lets you see all your bits.

Picquic® Pro™ — Another professional multibit screwdriver with special clips to secure bits; unique push-through hand-bit storage that makes sure you store a bit before getting the next, which helps in not losing bits; and a detachable shank for power use.

PowerPlay™ — This Paladin multitool is like the old Leatherman® tool on techie steroids. These are great when you want a backup tool or to put your whole pouch in one pocket. This tool has wire strippers, crimpers and 110-punch blade.

Gardner Bender’s Circuit Alert™ — These wire strippers are a new generation of multifunction tools mixing electronics into hand tools. The device is a set of wire strippers with an audible/visible voltage sensor built into the handle.

Keep Your Tools Organized
Part of your tool kit should be tool organizers. The better organized an installer is, the better they can keep track of their tools. The Stanley Mobile Work Center (see photo on page 22 of December issue) is a good way to keep tools and parts organized. Another option is the Tool Kaddie by Wizard Industries (, a durable portable storage container.

Labor Saving Devices (LSD) also has a handy collapsible parts bag that is great for taking to the job site. When at the LSD site, make sure to check out some of its special installation tools as well.

Some Tools Are Free!
Yes, you read right, free tools. The next time a security industry trade show is in town or you are at your local distributor, ask them if they have any premiums. Premiums are the freebies passed out at shows to old faithful and prospective customers. Now I know most of the time they are just a pen or key fob, but if you ask, you may get something a little nicer and more useful (see photo page 24 of December issue and look to sidebar at right for the answers to which products in the picture were obtained as “freebies.”). It is not uncommon to get some handy trouble lights, levels or maybe even a tape measure, level and note pad combined — Wow! Hey, the price is right, so give it try.

Another tool supply source is what I call “almost free” regional and national tool discounters. One in our area, and maybe in yours, is a company called Harbor Freight Tools. I have also found great deals online at places like eBay and, yes, once in a while I find a great tool deal at a local garage or estate sale.

Tool Expenses Can Be Reimbursed
I think we can all agree that having the right tools is important. Many times, owners will initially provide tools to their technicians but require the tech to replace lost and stolen tools. The tool loss may not be the fault of the technician, but he/she is responsible for replacing it. The technician will often put off the expense of buying the tool, and everyone then suffers from a reduction in productivity.

There are government programs, such as Section 62(a)(2)(A), § 1.62-2(b), S1.132-5(a)(1)(v) and S1.62-2(c) (1) of the Income Tax Regulations, that allow for tool reimbursement for technicians by their employers. As with many tax codes, there are some specific accounting rules that as of August 2005 were clarified by the IRS.

Those interested in setting up tool reimbursement programs may want to look at third-party management organizations, such as Make sure some tool budgeting is in place so that old and missing tools are replaced in a timely manner. Both boss and technician can lose considerable productivity and expense if tools are missing.

Ways to Combat Tool Theft
Losses at construction sites are estimated to be between $1 billion and $2 billion, with tool theft being one of the key areas of loss. More than 50 percent of contractors in a recent survey stated they had equipment stolen in the past 12 months. More than 75 percent of jobsite theft occurs at night or on weekends. What can be done to protect tools?

The basic steps are to make sure your tools are locked up, taken off-site at night and clearly identified to deter theft. We are in the security business, but it is surprising how often we do not follow our own security rules. Select a bright color spray paint and mark your tools so that they stand out at a jobsite. (TIP: Place your fingerprint in the wet paint to provide additional identification. Get an engraver and place either your phone number or license plate number on your tools. I use my Web site on equipment. Police seem to prefer license plate numbers for easy recognition.)

For further jobsite protection, you may want to look at the new Black & Decker SiteLock® security system.

Some other “cool” tools to consider are:

‘T’ reamer — Used by sheet metal workers, this is a very inexpensive and handy tool. Many times, installers are faced with holes that are just a bit out of alignment or too small. This will make everything perfect.

Robertson driver and screws — You have heard me talk about this one before. These square drive bits and screws will make your life so much easier. Many of the aforementioned multibit tools come with Robertson bits.

Two-speed electric screwdriver — Check out the 2.4V driver made by Milwaukee Tools. I know that many in the past have not had good experiences with electric screwdrivers. This one is rugged and comes highly recommended from experienced technicians and may be worth a try.

Please Share Your Ideas for 2006 It has been another enjoyable year of sharing “Tech Talk” tips and ideas with you. My thanks to all that have sent in your suggestions and ideas. In the coming year, I will be looking for topics that you want to hear more about. Make sure to take a moment and send an E-mail to indicating what you would like to read about in 2006. Remember, this is your column, so keep in touch.


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