Our new Deputy Managing Editor, Brian K. Lind, writes a new column with a special focus on useful tools and tips and tricks at the workbench.
Sailing, sailing instruction, and boat repair are hobbies I developed while working at a summer camp on Upstate New York’s Lake George during high school and college. When I relocated to Seattle just over a decade ago, that hobby turned into a career a short time after I started working for a sailboat charter company. The job required learning about—and then being able to fix—a wide variety of sailboats and their diverse systems. I unclogged heads, replaced bilge pumps, repaired engines, and performed electrical repairs. From there I moved on to work at a variety of outfitting companies and spent a brief time doing estimates for a boatyard.
As boating became more of a career and less of a hobby, I started to assemble what is now my cherished tool chest. Though I don’t work on boats much anymore, that doesn’t keep an old client or a friend from calling me for help or advice on a project, which, more often than not, finds me elbow-deep in a project, usually paid with a warm six pack of beer.
Through the past decade I’ve gone through many tools, I’ve broken a few, and have sent plenty to sleep with the fishes. I have purchased both cheap and top-of-the-line tools. In
some cases, the expensive ones are great, and in other cases, a complete waste of money when the cheaper option will do. Over the years, though, I’ve developed a bond with a trio of tools that go everywhere with me. If these aren’t on your boat or in your shop, they should be. Here are my suggested required tools of the trade:
MEGAPRO 13-IN-1 RATCHETING SCREWDRIVER
All screwdrivers are not created equally. And while I usually argue that multipurpose tools fail at doing one thing well at the cost of doing many things marginally, that is not the case with this screwdriver. With four sizes of Phillips heads, four Torx heads, two square heads, two flat heads, and a ¼-inch hex shaft, there is rarely a fastener I can’t remove on a boat. The ratcheting handle is a godsend for undoing long fasteners or undoing a fastener in a hard-to-reach place. From removing panels to tightening a hose clamp in a jam, this screwdriver is my go-to for any job.
$40 MegaPro; www.megapro.net
OLFA HEAVY DUTY SNAP-OFF KNIFE
I carry this utility knife everywhere, and I use it more than my pocket knife for boat projects. With its snap-off blade you can always have a fresh, sharp point and blade for cutting away old caulking, stripping the end of a wire, or cutting hose. Since the blades are difficult enough to break, you can extend more of the blade to use as a scraper, and I’ve also used it with scalpel-like precision at times. You can also get single long blades, as well as wood-cutting saw blades, making it the perfect knife for everything from fine woodworking repairs to cutting waste hose.
$10 Olfa; www.olfa.com
CRESCENT FLUSH CUTTERS
This tool only has one use for me on a boat, and that is removing zip ties and cutting zip ties FLUSH. In my mind, having a tool simply for zip ties is a necessity, because they organize everything on a boat, from wiring to plumbing. Using a large set of wire cutters or a knife risks damaging or severing existing wiring. These small flush cutters are the perfect solution for undoing wiring bundles to investigate problems. I’m also a believer in always cutting zip ties flush to their lock so that when you reach into a wiring nest or small cabinet you don’t pull your arm out cut to ribbons, The only tool that does that job accurately is a pair of flush cutters.