I love tools. I really love tools. I give tools as wedding presents. The first gift I ever bought my wife was a set of kitchen knives. I keep tools at home, in my car, and even in my desk at work. At first glance, I’m not the kind of guy you should ask for tool advice. “Do I need this?” you might ask, and without thinking, I’d answer “Yes, of course—you need everything!”
But I have paid the price for my addiction. I’ve bought the wrong tools. I’ve bought overpriced tools. I have even bought terminal crimpers I’d be embarrassed to give away.
After sitting down and thinking about it, there are a few reasonable tips I can offer about tools. Maybe I can save you a little pain and a little money. So, here are 10 tips about tools for building an Experimental aircraft:
1. No matter what plane you are building, get a small set of woodworking tools. You’ll need a hand or power saw, carpenter’s square, and a few wood bits, including countersink bits. You are going to be building things for your project like workbenches, jigs, plan stand, support stands, paint tables, etc.
2. Always buy cutting tools new such as saw blades, drill bits, sanding tools, wire cutters, chisels, punches, hole saws, cutting wheels, shears, tin snips, etc.
3. For specialty tools that you only need once or twice, try to find someone to borrow them from. Check out your EAA chapter, local airport hangouts, or folks on Internet discussion groups. If you need to buy them, buy them when you need them, and you can sell them when you are done. For the most part these tools will keep their value.
4. If you are the one lending tools, be sure your name is engraved on the tool and use an index card to get the date, name, and contact information of the person borrowing the tool. Tear up the card when the tool is returned.
5. Safety glasses, goggles and hearing protectors are tools, too. Always buy new and get a few spares for when friends drop by.
6. Be sure you know how to use specialty tools correctly and safely. The most dangerous tool in my toolbox is the fly cutter. I’m still recovering.
7. Do not use the same sanding discs or belts that you use on aluminum as you use with steel. Do not use steel wool on aluminum. Grinding small bits of ferrous metal into aluminum can cause serious corrosion down the line. Discs and belts are cheap. Get two and mark them.
8. With battery-operated tools that are only used occasionally, be sure to remove the batteries when you are done with the tool.
9. Besides a tool chest, a tool cart can be very handy. They can be low cost and can hold the tools you are using right now.
10. Take care of your tools. Keep them clean, protect them from the elements, and oil the tools that require it. When I give a tool set as a wedding present, I tell the newlyweds that lifetime guaranteed tools, like a lifetime guaranteed marriage, still require care and maintenance.
David Boeshaar is a systems analyst for corporate Disney. A former mechanic, teacher, and computer help desk guru at a major university, he is now building a Van’s RV-9A for fun with his brother-in-law. As the new guy in aviation, Dave has learned lots, both good and expensive, and hopes to pass along a little help to the builders coming up behind him.