Tools I'd Like to See

I carry the Leatherman tool (handyman tool) in its "holster" on my belt, and find it quite handy, particularly because I always have it with me. There are also smaller, simpler, keychain tools of this type. At least the simpler ones should come as kits, to be assembled at the hardware store, where a special riviting machine is available. Then you could choose from a wide variety of "blades" to custom-assemble the tools you want. There could be two to four different sizes of handles. When one blade wore out sooner than the rest, it could be replaced.

I tend to like simple parts that can be put together in a variety of combinations. I'm not into having a special tool for every purpose. Several kinds of woodworking clamps could be replaced, and many more made possible, by a system of various shapes and sizes of heavy extruded aluminum with many threaded holes (with steel thread inserts). As well as making the complete clamps, sell the parts that aren't easily available so the craftsman can drill and thread holes according to his needs. Parts should include: extrusions, steel thread inserts, clip-on or clue-on knobs for hex heads of common bolts, swiveling clamp faces for ends of bolts, suggested configurations.

Why can't the handle of the locking pliers ("Vise Grips") be made to accept a variety of interchangeable, and replaceable, jaws? I've seen only very limited examples of this.

I also have a Makita cordless drill that uses a 9.6 volt NiCad rechargable battery. The replacable batteries can be used for many different (Makita) tools. They sell a flashlight for this battery, but it's more bulky than most flashlights. The critical parts of a flashlight are battery, bulb, contacts and frame to hold them together. Since the Makita batteries have both contacts on one end, why not a simple flashlight that just clips on the end of the battery? (Also why not generic rechargable batteries, instead of each tool company designing their own?)

Epoxy cement in little plastic double envelopes, with a "neck" between them that would open under pressure so the two parts could be mixed. Then one envelope would be cut off and the neck would become a spout.

There are many different shapes and types of blocks to hold sandpaper. But how about having the abrasive impregnated in the rubber or plastic material itself?

Circular saw blades with fine circular grooves every quarter inch, and heavier ones every inch. It would make setting the depth of cut a lot easier.

A hydraulic tree trimmer using a garden hose. A trigger valve in the handle would send hose pressure to a hydraulic cylinder activating the cutter. A pneumatic version, working off a paint spray compressor, might shoot a heavy piston up the tube to impact a plate attached to the cutter.

Do-it-yourself kits for repairing scratches in windshields, and eyeglasses (probably separate kits). I've heard of commercial services for filling "bullseyes" in windshields with clear cement. I want one just for filling small surface scratches. It would include one or more solvents to get the glass very clean, clear cement with optical properties similar to that of glass, a solvent and/or "soft" abrasive to remove excess cement without scratching the glass.

Soft plastic lenses which stick to the inside of eyeglasses by a drop of oil. They would come in various focal lengths and diameters and be used in place of jeweler's loupes and other magnifiers. Perhaps they would be made of the same material as soft contact lenses. The edges could be trimmed to properly fit, or to make bifocals.

Most eyeglasses could be much cheaper (and most of the optical industry put out of business) if they were modular, assembled from a large inventory of lenses. I understand this is happening somewhat for third world people, but for economic reasons, I doubt the rest of us will see them soon. (Or does Lenscrafters etc. already do this, or perhaps a compromise of selecting and grinding, and still charge traditional prices?) Ideally, each lens would come in two parts, one spherical one cylindrical, to be cemented together into one, therby greatly reducing the needed inventory. The lenses would be circular, so the cylindrical part could be rotated to match the angle of astigmatism. The next step would be an automated eye examination. I think the complete system could potentially be handled by maybe trained pharmacists at drug stores.

An electronic device to locate roof leaks. It would be used on a rainy day. A simple version might have a tone generator and a Wheatstone Bridge circuit. The detector,used on the roof, would have one input from wire attached to a wet indoor surface and one in contact with the wet roof. The circuit would be completed by the water coming through the leak (assuming the water had continuity and didn't drip between roof and ceiling). The resistance of the water would be reduced when the detector was near the leak. Perhaps it could vary the frequency. But I'm not sure the resistance would vary enough with distance through the water. So another possibility is a radio-frequency signal. Two wires would go to the wet indoor surface. The phase of the signal coming through the water would be compared to that coming through the wires. Phase "contour lines" could be drawn around the leak.

Product Information Deficiencies

I tend to buy cheaper tools, and merchandise in general, because the price is the one quality I can count on.

Every battery is "heavy-duty", "lasts longer", but how much longer? What's its actual theoretical and practical capacity in watt-hours? Some specialized batteries don't even give the voltage. How does an AAA, AA, C and D batteries compare in energy capacity? How do different kinds of bulbs, such as Maglite bulbs, compare in output and endurance?

Every drill is "harder", "lasts longer", but how much longer? Without this information, knowing how they're tempered or coated is unimportant.

An ad for a small butane torch says it heats to 2500 degrees. So what? It doesn't tell us the temperature of propane, MAPP gas, acetylene etc. for comparison. So it's hot enough to melt aluminum, copper, gold and silver solder, but in how big of pieces? This is only temperature we're talking about. How much _heat_ does the torch put out, and how concentrated, at this temperature?

Use of percentage figures is often confusing. "...water savings, which is 70% above industry standards." What exactly does this mean?


Send me your thoughts.
Dan Robinson, danrob@efn.org, Eugene, Oregon
My home page: http://www.efn.org/~danrob/