MAKE Asks: Your Go-To Tools

MAKE Asks: Your Go-To Tools

Make: Asks is a new weekly column where we ask you, our readers, for responses to maker-related questions. We hope the column will spark interesting conversation and that we’ll get to know more about each other.

Whether it’s to use them as an adjustable wrench in a pinch, or to break free a stripped bolt or screw, my Vise Grips are always close at hand. It’s a versatile and durable tool that has a special place in my toolbox.

This week’s question: What is your go-to tool when working on a project, whether it be for fabrication, electrical work, crafting, or anything else?

Post your responses in the comments section.

72 thoughts on “MAKE Asks: Your Go-To Tools

  1. phlamingo (@phlamingo) says:


  2. Mike Wilson says:

    Mine is my leatherman super tool 300. it is all ways in my back pocket so i can use it in a pinch. also people im around a lot remember that i carry it and ask me when they need a screw driver or a pair of pliers

    1. Mike Wilson says:

      my 2nd got to tool would have to be the 2 pound solid brass sledge my dad made about 20 years ago and its still going strong

  3. Joseph says:

    Mine has always been a leatherman squirt e4

  4. miroslava von schlochbaum says:

    basin-wench many curses and blooded knuckles until i was wised-up to this essential plumbing tool.

  5. Robin says:

    My go-to tool for MacGyvering just about anything electrical is my Weller butane soldering iron: It makes a great torch for lighting just about anything, a hot air gun for heat shrink, a hot knife for cutting plastic or fusing nylon rope, and it’s a pretty good soldering iron on top of that. Last week, I used it to fix my friend’s car stereo input jack while he was driving (don’t try this at home…).

  6. Ed Lojko says:

    For cars, boats, mowers, and various other projects that have electrical components it would have to be my digital multimeter. Then there’s my persuader; it’s a mallet with two plastic heads. ;-)

  7. Kevin Gunn says:

    No question: Leatherman Supertool. It handles ALL the little bits nicely when the “right tool for the job” is out of reach.

  8. Jason Anderson (@JasEriAnd) says:

    I have two, my Leatherman Wingman and a pair of Husky RoboGrips. I’ve used them on so many projects I think I could thread a needle and sew with them now.

  9. William Abernathy says:

    Two: The Leatherman is always always on my belt (unless I’m using it…) When I have to do anything more involved, the Starrett combination square always seems to find its way out of the tool chest and onto the work bench.

    One more must-have for everyone: a vise.

  10. R. Mark Adams says:

    My drill press- it is a fantastically useful tool – not only for drilling holes, but also as a small drum sander, router or even hacked-up as a milling machine substitute. My older daughter likes it so much, she said it was the thing in the house she was going to miss the most when she moves out…

  11. Joel Finkle says:

    Sometimes, you just need a blunt instrument: Two of my favorite tools definitely fall in that category.
    1) Linesman pliers: better grip than a needlenose, when working with electrical outlets/appliances/light fixtures. Also useful for nipping bits of cementboard when putting down tile underlayment.
    2) 2-pound Sledge. It may not have the heritage of Mjolnir, but nothing’s more satisfying than taking down drywall and studs with one of these puppies.

  12. reboots says:

    Lineman’s pliers are an awesome and indispensable tool for electrical wiring, automotive work, and hundreds of other applications; from a gentle squeeze to full-on destruction. Klein makes the best I’ve owned.

    1. reboots says:

      And while Mr. Finkle beat me to the pliers recommendation, I’ll see his mini-sledge (great tool) and raise the mighty splitting maul: axe times sledgehammer, perfect for demolition (and pretty good for splitting wood, too).

  13. andyseubert says:

    My Leatherman wave is always by my side. the next most reached for tool is my Klein 11 in one screwdriver. While the leatherman has excellent driver bits, it is not comfortable for more than a couple of screws.
    Unlike most x-inone drivers,Klein’s is very sturdy. It can drive Phillips,flat,square,and torx as well as 1/4 and 5/15 nuts. Very handy for many many disassemblies. From hard drives to switch cover plates to hose clamps,the 11inone covers it with grace and strength. Klein makes great tools.

    1. joe says:

      wow, I thought I was reading myself with this comment. My favorite three, leatherman wave, dremel tool (any of them) and my klein 11 in 1.

  14. Jared Boehm says:

    I got this cordless screwdriver a year ago for $55 on sale and you’ll have to pry it from my cold, dead fingers.

    It’s Lithium-Ion so it never needs charging, came with 2 batteries, has a crap-ton of torque, and it’s super-light. I LOVE it and have used it for everything from putting together my kid’s playhouse to building a fence.

  15. mpechner says:

    I don’t have A tool. My EDC is a small bit screwdriver set, pocket knife and a leatherman. My soldering must have is my hakko, tweezers, flush cutters, needle nose, halogen light and blue masking tape. For fixing computers and stubborn gear, “the attitude adjuster”, my 4lb sledge. I honestly can pin down one tool.

  16. BrazenArtifice says:

    My most-used “tool” is a large half-inch-thick sheet of scavenged plywood, screwed to the wall above my workbench and studded with carefully placed pin-head nails. Having all my most-used tools hanging from those nails, well organised and at arms reach, has been the biggest frustration-reducer in my mad science lair. Its like being a surgeon and having an assistant to hand me tools, but I don’t have to think of the right word to describe it – I just reach out on instinct. Some people use peg-board for this, and paint shadow outlines of the tools to show where they are supposed to go – I have vague memories of this from high-school woodwork and metalwork classes.

    I’m hoping that with time and experience my home-built 3D printer will be my go-to tool, but my CAD skills aren’t that advanced yet!

  17. John Morse says:

    My most used tool is the 6 inch stainless steel flexible scale. I’ve worn out at least a dozen in the past thirty years. I can stir my coffee, cut cake and bread, kill flies, play music, clean my fingernails, it’s a shim a screwdriver a prybar and a scraper. I’ve used it to push things to where I can get a grip, it’s a catapult and a hockey stick. Sometimes I’ve even used it to measure stuff.

  18. chuck says:

    I’ve owned several Leatherman tools (Leathermen?) and I have to say I find them awkward and uncomfortable and while quite versatile, every feature seems like a compromise. There I said it- hate away.
    For me my most important tool is an xacto knife. Cutting, weeding,stripping, reaming, piercing, tweaking, spreading, carving, prying, scraping, cleaning- it does it all.
    My other must-have tool- and I’m shocked no maker commenting on this site has said this- is my COMPUTER! It’s a drafting table, an instrument tuner, a research library, a communications tool, a camera and editing bay, a recording studio, and a whole lot more. The computer has contributed more to my creative output than any other tool. Thanks to sites like Make it’s made me better at what I do. Endless chats and boards have inspired me and helped me learn from others. With a few peripherals and key programs, this small box replaces lots of bulky gear. Also the computer and the communication, cooperation, and cross pollination it enables is probably the biggest contributor to the resurgence of the maker movement.
    I also have to have lots of graph paper.

  19. Brawndo says:

    Leatherman Charge TI. It’s not the correct tool for any job, but it’s good enough for almost any job. It’s portable enough to carry with me all the time, and versatile enough to make keeping it around worthwhile.

    Don’t get me wrong, there are many problems with it, but until I find something better, I will continue my search for the perfect multi-tool

  20. Ryan says:

    Does a CNC mill count?

  21. Stephen Upham (@spu3) says:

    In addition to my Leatherman, my favorite go-to tool is a Lutz “6 in One” screwdriver. I have one of these in every boat, car and workspace. Indespensible!

  22. Christopher Gosnell says:

    4 in 1 Multi-bit screwdriver (one of those that is interchangeable from two sizes of straight blades to 2 sizes of phillips and my Robo-Grip Pliers. Best pliers made.

  23. nisker says:

    Sonic screwdriver of course – no seriously the one single tool that I think gets the most use would be a small flat head screwdriver. It’s good for prying, scraping, nudging, poking, probing, wedging out the center pin in a security screw, marking, and well to drive a screw (including phillips/pozi).
    A close second would be a pair of needle nose pliers

  24. burnsbothends (@burnsbothends) says:

    It’s usually a three-way kit of an awl, fresh xacto, and my leatherworking marble slab. The slab is unusual, as it’s a foot square heavy non-active tool, but if I need more weight to press books? Slab. To prop something up? Slab. Smoothing? Slab surface. Dulling striking impact/ protecting surfaces, display, keeping something slightly cooler than room temp, surface for creasing, straight edge, extra hand, it does it all. If the slab can’t help, and I can’t poke or cut my way into a solution, it’s time to break out the kit.

  25. trkemp says:

    I have several tool kits for various jobs and the two things all of them have are an X-Acto knife and a Sharpie. A close third would be a screwdriver; especially one of the convertible ones with four screwdriver tips and two hex wrenches.

  26. Dak says:

    The Leatherman Juice S2 is my go-to EDC tool. Just barely small enough to be OK in jeans or dress pants, it’s the tool that’s always ‘on me’ for when something is broken, and has full size scissors (or trade the scissors for a corkscrew with the C2, or go a little bigger with the Cs2, etc.). Rounding out the tool set are my iPhone (4S) so I can look up reference data, take photos of areas I can’t see (no inspection mirror needed), and plan work.

    If I can bulk up (minimal tool bag): add a Picquic Multi screwdriver. This is the best replaceable driver screwdriver that I know of, and the bits are long and robust enough to be used with power drivers and drills (AND you have to put the last bit away to get the next one out, so you do NOT lose them).

  27. Jake Spurlock says:

    I love screwdrivers, and I have them stashed all over my house.

  28. rocketguy1701 says:

    My goto tools:
    -Leatherman Wave
    -Wiha screwdriver (the one with the 4mm bit set, adjustable length) for small stuff,
    -Snapon ratcheting screwdriver for rackmounting/demounting equipment, and bigger stuff. (this is possibly my best tool ever, and my only snap-on tool)
    -Vise Grips, curved jaw, both the large and small, also the needlenosed small.
    -Estwing blue handled hammer, 12oz
    Power Catagory:
    -Super Sawzall (blade assortment for various tasks, including the trimming blade, will trim trees faster and cleaner than a small chainsaw!)
    -Hakko 928 Solder station (oldie but a goodie)
    -Hitachi 18V NiMh Cordless Drill/Driver (Plenty of power, batteries last a long time)
    -Milwaukee circular saw (w/Diablo 60 tooth blade, very smooth cutting)
    -Strong tools ST-250 one hand bandsaw (cutting conduit or other lengths of metal material is cake).

    And of course the Replicator, but not sure that really counts.

    I’m about to augment that with shop tools, but since I don’t have them, I can’t go to them yet…

  29. pogofrog says:

    Stanley Fatmax folding utility knife, just get one !

  30. Simon says:

    Picquic Mariner and Multique screwdrivers.

    I cannot understand why trade people carry a full tool pouch of screwdrivers when the Mariner and the Multique can replace all of them.

    By default, my Mariner have the Robertson (square) #2 and the Multique have the Phillips #2 (star) bits ready for 90% of all screws that I encounter. Switching bits is a breeze (no end cap to mess with it) and you can use them in your power drill as well.

    Aside of these screwdrivers, I carry 6″ linesman pliers, a LED Maglite, electrician scissors and knife and a small pen-style multimeter. That’s all a need to thackle tasks through my work day as a telecom/alarm tech.

  31. Eofhan says:

    Scott E-Vest, Leatherman Skeletool, and a 2AA Mag-Lite (modded with an aftermarket LED and buttcap switch). These are never far from me.

    Bosch tablesaw.

    Excel. Yes, the spreadsheet application. If there isn’t a formula for it, VBA can do it. Biggest difficulty is remembering it’s NOT the right tool for every job.

  32. CJ says:

    Seriously I don’t know how anybody could pick just one. I think I rewritten this about 13 times now. So I have to generalize. My Truck (Tacoma). I can’t get myself or my stuff where I/they need to be without it. More importantly since I can’t pick just one I have to have something to load them ALL in to get them there. I use it as a saw horse, a lunch table, a security box, haul, pull, push, a cell phone charger, it plays music, gives me the news and most importantly at the end of it all gets me back to the ones I love. I suppose the same could be said for just about any vehicle, but they way I live I couldn’t do without it. I would love to list about 50 other tools but my problem is I’m a jack of all trades, master of none. Which is sad because I would love to Master anything.

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In addition to being an online editor for MAKE Magazine, Michael Colombo works in fabrication, electronics, sound design, music production and performance (Yes. All that.) In the past he has also been a childrens' educator and entertainer, and holds a Masters degree from NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program.

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