My Favorite Tools
Updated: Aug 28, 2021
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.
Early on I cheaped out and ordered a meter from a Chinese reseller. It seemed to have similar specs to this one but it was a disaster. I finally gave up in disgust and ordered one of these.
This thing rocks! It has yet to let me down and the feature set is impressive. When it comes to doing electronics there are 2 things you need. A decent Soldering Iron and a Decent Multi-Meter! These are the things you use each and every day.
You can order this directly from the EEV Blog site or, do as I did since they were out at the time, and order it on Amazon. This link will take you to a choice page so you can shop where you prefer!
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.
Misc Bits and Bobs
Helping Hands Part Holder: https://geni.us/RWRT_HelpingHand
Wire Strip and Crimp Tool: https://geni.us/RWRT_StripCrimpTool
Heat Shrink Tubing: https://geni.us/RWRT_HeatShrinkTube
Scratch Brush Pen: https://geni.us/RWRT_ScratchBrush
Scratch Brush Refills: https://geni.us/RWRT_BrushRefill
Soldapullt Solder Sucker: https://geni.us/RWRT_Soldapullt
Anti-Static Soldering Mat: https://geni.us/RWRT_SolderingMat
Keycap Puller: https://geni.us/RWRT_KeyCapPuller
File Set: https://geni.us/RWRT_NeedleFile
Punch Set: https://geni.us/RWRT_Punch_Set
N-95 Dust Masks (NOT for COVID): https://geni.us/N95Mask
Tri-Flow Oil: https://geni.us/RWRT_Tri-Flow
Tri-Flow Grease: https://geni.us/RWRT_Tri-FlowGrease
Magic Eraser: https://geni.us/7VHJ
E6000 Glue: https://geni.us/RWRT_E6000