My Favorite Tools
Updated: Jul 19
Here are some of the tools in my toolbox that I absolutely love. These are those few items that are a pleasure to use every time! In cases where they are available on Amazon, I will include a link.
Auto Wire Strippers
I have had my automatic wire strippers since my college days in the late 1980s. These have worked flawlessly for me for over 30 years so I guess mine are vintage but you can still get a brand new pair. The ones I have are branded Kronus but these Irwin Vice-Grip branded ones look absolutely identical in every way except the color of the handles. I remember paying something on the order of $80 for these back then (I was doing a huge wire-wrap project at the time) so I was pleasantly surprised to see they are now just over $20!
Dueling Soldering Stations
I recently replaced my 30-year-old, 15-watt, soldering iron with a Weller WE1010NA soldering station. I did a lot of research and came to the conclusion that the Weller or Hakko stations would work well for me. I honestly think that the Hakko has a slight edge when it comes to performance but for me the Weller was a no-brainer because it is the modern version of the vintage stations we used in college in the 80s.
I love how fast the Weller heats up and the ability to set a specific temperature. It does drop a bit when working on a heavy trace, like a ground plane but then it quickly ramps back up. My buddy has the Hakko and recommended it to me but I honestly hate the way it looks (and that's just me).
Siglent SDS1104X-E Oscilloscope
When buying an expensive item like this I tend to research obsessively to find the best bang for the buck so when I decided it was time for a newer oscilloscope in January of 2021 I spend weeks trying to figure out what to get. In the end, I settled on this Siglent because of its deep feature set and upgradability. I have been using it for a few months now and it works quite well. I admit I am still getting used to having all the options since it replaced/Supplemented a 1972 Tektronix 453A.
I recently discovered BongoTies and am absolutely in love with them. They make cable management and any task, I would have used Zip ties on, quick and easy. They save a lot of time or such an inexpensive product. You simply wrap the rubber band around the item and insert the hourglass-shaped dongle through the end.
This little tester is amazing for how little it costs. I mainly use it for capacitor testing but it can do much more. Test transistors, diodes, resistors, inductors, and a lot more with the push of a button.
Its ESR accuracy is a bit limited but, for me, it is more than sufficient to see if an old electrolytic has failed.
For well under $20 I think there is room for it in any toolkit!
Deoxit D5 does an amazing job of cleaning and de-oxidizing electrical contacts.
I use it on virtually every electrical restoration I do. I like the spray can (It comes with a straw) because I can direct it into old switches and contacts or just spray it directly onto a cotton swap for application.
It is also very useful for cleaning up old sockets and connectors that have become unreliable or completely failed due to oxidation.
Torx T-15 (Mac Cracker)
To get into classic Macs you need a T-15 Torx driver with a long shank. I found this one fits well and, as an added bonus, it is a security driver so it can be used for XT-15 fasteners as well. I got it on Amazon but any long shank T-15 will work.