Spannerhead Dot

Cherry Picking

July 12, 2011 by Matt

Engine Hoist

Now that we own a home with a garage, as part of my ongoing effort to transfer all my tools and assorted car items out of my parents’ garage and into ours, my dad delivered my engine hoist last Thursday.

It’s one of those tools I’ll probably only use half a dozen times, if that, but it still feels good to have in my garage. I don’t mind it taking up space. I think it’s a “comfort tool,” a tool that I rarely use, but enjoying knowing I have the capability to do what it allows me to do. Or maybe it’s the thought that it allows me to do what I’d like to do, even if I don’t have the time or money to undertake such a project (in this case, pulling the engine out of my Datsun 240Z as part of a restoration effort). It’s one more piece of the project puzzle, in other words—a known quantity. I had a Harbor Freight gift card at the beginning of the year, and contemplated buying a hydraulic press, knowing that it would probably become a comfort tool as well. But in the end, logic won out, and I bought, among other things, a radial arm saw, which I use on a weekly basis. Wearing that thing out.

Fortunately, in contrast to the limited versatility of the engine hoist, some tools exhibit that happy convergence in that they’re both inexpensive and incredibly useful. My favorites include:

Telescoping Magnetic Wand

My telescoping magnetic wand. $1.50 and it has literally saved me hours of frustration. The first time you drop a radiator bracket bolt down into the bottom of the shroud, or a door card screw into the bottom of the door structure, you’ll be singing its praises, knowing how much you would have had to disassemble had it not been handy.

Swivel-Neck Socket Driver

My swivel-neck socket driver. Despite the fact that its name is really fun to say, some don’t like its “wobbly” feel when they have to deliver a lot of torque to a fastener. I’ve rarely had an issue with that, though, and the ability to bend the handle 90° and treat it like a fast crank once a bolt breaks free—priceless.

Ratcheting Box-End Wrench

My ratcheting box-end wrenches. Now, these aren’t particularly cheap, but in my opinion, they’re worth their weight in gold for situations where a socket is too bulky, and a regular wrench would take tediously long to loosen a nut. And they’re just good for general tinkering, even in situations where their unique abilities aren’t required.

The next tool on my to-buy list is a small air compressor and tank. Just brainstorming what I could do with it, I have a feeling it won’t be a comfort tool.

Filed under: Tinkering


  1. John D says:

    Fortunately, having worked in remodeling (and other associated fields) for the past 5 years or so, I NEED lots of tools. Having the correct tool for the job is a must and I rarely have space for one car to pull into my two car garage. Sometimes I do miss the space and wish I could actually use the garage the way it was intended…but mostly there is a great satisfaction in knowing that I have what I need to get the job done quickly.

    And btw, working on houses is MUCH easier/less frustrating than working on cars. With some readily available tools and materials you can do most anything, while cars typically require a specific single use tool (or specific variation thereof) in order to get the job done. And if something breaks, well, you need to wait for that exact new part or sometimes disassemble many other things just to get to where you’re going. So going from working on cars to houses is much easier than the reverse and, while I still enjoy performing basic maintenance, I am now happy to leave the more involved work to those who have the time and tools to take care of it for me.

    • Matt says:

      I knew you would appreciate my love for tools. :)

      From my admittedly-limited experience as a homeowner (~6 months), I can definitely still say I prefer working on cars to houses. Yes, you may be able to do more on a house with a more limited set of tools, but a car, to me, is a more “self-contained” entity, if that makes sense. The house sprawls all around me; I can stand back and fit the whole car in my field of vision. It’s just more…mechanical. After fixing a car, I love to just visualize all the parts whirring and rotating properly; can’t really do it the same way with a house (at least I haven’t yet had the same sense of satisfaction—perhaps I will).

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