Know Your Tools

These are definitions of common tools found in and around the shop.

In fact every tool on this list has been in my shop at one time or another.



123 Blocks:

Interesting tool used in the setups on milling machines. All the ones that I have are defective; the holes do not allow a standard 3/8-16 bolt to pass through to allow them to be bolted to the mill table.  Trying to drill the holes larger is a good test for the strength of drill bits. The also only seem to come in one size.

7X10 Mini Lathe:

A collection of parts to make a lathe. Some assembly is not required, but disassembly is! After many hours of cleaning and modifying is known to become a good serviceable lathe. Sold by just about every tool supplier under their own name in a variety of colors.


7×12 Band Saw:

A metal cutting band saw that has a unique stand designed to wobble and dance when running. Those that are not fond of dance, quickly replace or redesign the stand. Also known for its ability to produce smoke from its motor to test the shop smoke detectors. The built in vise is designed to frustrate the operator with its inability to hold small or short items being cut. See also 7×10 Mini-Lathe, substitute Bandsaw for the word Lathe. This is one of the most used tools in my shop.


Adjustable Crescent Wrench:

One size fits all, but you will need multiple sizes. Used for Metric and SAE Bolts and Nuts. Closely related to Pliers and Vise-Grips, in its ability to round off nuts and bolts.


Alan Key Wrench:

They come in many sizes Metric and SAE. They come in many different hardnesses. Hard ones snap off while soft ones round off. The ones of the correct hardness have a tendency to round out the Allen head screws. A special variety comes with a plastic T handle that has the ability to slip in the handle. I have been told that this is to prevent you from over tightening the Allen Head screw or set screw.


Ball Peen Hammer:

A Hammer with one usable end, the other end is shaped like a ball so you know not to use it. Common features include loose handles that float in the hammer head.


Central Pneumatic Air Tools:

These are static display models of real air tools. They are very life-like and can usually be picked up cheap. They look good spread around your shop, and are designed to fill your tool box until you can afford real air tools.


Cutting Oil:

Designed as an insect repellent for the shop. High sulfur content oils work best. When heated they release a pungent smoke and odder sure to run everything out of the shop. Also good for testing the smoke detectors in the shop, or as a reminder to the wife that you are working in your shop if said shop is located in your basement. Also used to coat the walls behind your lathe in nice patterns that paint will not cover up.


Drill Chuck Key:

These come in many sizes. One of the unique things about them is that no two drill chucks use the same size key. Much shop time is spent by the shop owner searching for a key that approximately fits the drill chuck they are using.


Drill Press:

A tall upright machine useful for suddenly snatching flat metal bar stock out of your hand, spinning it around and smacking you in the knocks with said metal. Also good for raising burs on your drill bit shanks if you do properly clamp your work piece to the table.



Often sought after add on to the milling machine, and lathe. No machine has ever been designed to have one added, and no two installations on any machine are the same. Scales are sold in different lengths none of which is what is needed for the machine.


Electric Hand Drill: 

Used to shorten drill bits. Also used to spin pop rivets in their holes. Almost every model I have has a button on it that keeps the drill from turning off when you are drilling a delicate hole. I believe there is a federal requirement that it be placed within easy reach of your finger or thumb while holding said drill.


E-Z Out Bolt Extractor:

Known for its hardness which allows it to easily grab a broken bolt. Common practice is to drill a hole in the broken bolt, insert E-Z Out into the hole. Attach wrench or socket and turn counter clockwise. It will grab and break off even or below the drilled hole. This works good in preventing anyone from removing the broken bolt, and the ability of anyone attempting to re-drill the hole out. known to be harder than any drill bits in the shop.



George is a 4 foot long pipe designed for the insertion of Open End Wrenches, or Ratchet Handles into one end. The other end can be leaned on, jumped on, or hit with a hammer. It has the ability to test the strength of most tools, and fasteners. Common tests performed would be to test the ability of a ratchet to slip before the test bolt snaps off. Another common test is to test the ability of a bolt or nut to not round off before the wrench slips off, bends, or breaks. My Grandfather had a similar tool, mine is a little bigger and longer.



A cutting tool designed to not follow a line. It defies science in that a force in one direction causes an equal or greater force in the opposite  direction. Also good at removing skin from knuckles from blades breaking.


Hand Taps:

Designed to fill drilled holes with an item harder than most drill bits, to prevent someone from re-drilling the hole at a later time.


Machine Parallels:

Common use for supporting workplaces in the milling machine vise. Come in varying heights and widths. An interesting feature is that once machining has started they will move to a location directly under the drill bit, or into the path of a milling cutter. Due to their hardness they are designed to as a audio alert the operator when the drill bit or cutter has broken through or cleared the work piece. This is usually followed by the operator speaking in french to confirm the operation.



A tool similar to a C-Clamp, only useful on flat parallel surfaces. They have a tendency not to clamp well on uneven surfaces. Common problems are handles that slip easy which will not allow them to tighten them down all the way. The frames are known to bend and spring if tightened too tight. They have a very small clamping range and are very expensive. I recommend a good set of C-Clamps.


Mini Mill:

Sold by many manufactures in many colors. This mill is known for its ability to strip gears in the head. It also has a unique feature of a floating head that allows it to move about while milling. The more precise the finish you need the more the head moves. Also see the 7×10 Mini Lathe, substitute Mill for the word Lathe.


Needle Nose Pliers:

Designed to not be able to hold on to much of anything. Also known to always be too fat or short to reach any given part.


Open End Wrench:

Come in a variety of sizes, Metric and ASE. Used in the toughing up of knuckles. Also has the ability to disappear at will. It is common for all wrenches of the same size to disappear at the same time. Other common uses are the insertion of the wrench into a long pipe (See George) to allow the removal of bolts by snapping them off instead of unscrewing them.


Oxyacetylene Torch:

Used in the home shop for heat treating, loosening stuck parts, welding and cutting. Can deform parts very quickly. Also good at testing nearby objects flammability.



Sometimes used with the wire wheel to hold parts. They improve the chances of throwing parts across the room. Universal in that they work for both Metric and SAE bolts and nuts equally in their ability to round off the heads. They come in many sized and shapes.


Propane Torch:

A small torch found in many home shops, mainly designed for plumbing work were it works well on setting studs and rafters on fire. Usually does not develop enough heat for use in heat treating. The shop owner can usually be found testing its ability to not heat something hot enough.


Pry Bar:

A lever primarily used to test the operators ability to stack odd items under it fulcrum point, then test his balancing ability to stand or bounce on its raised end. Works well at deflecting, deforming or driving into the ground any item placed at its fulcrum point.


Quick Change Tool Post:

This tool is designed by the manufacture as a sales tool to sell their matching tool holders. No two lathes in any shop will contain the same type or size.


Screwdriver Philips Head:

This tool is good for changing Philips screw heads into secure rounded out screw heads that can no longer be removed.


Screwdriver Standard:

This is a good tool for enlarging the slots in common screws. Also useful as a pry bar, or for stirring liquids.



A highly sought after machine that is not made any longer. Features include incredibly long machining times. Complex set ups, and hard to find parts. No metalworking shop should be without one.


Sherline Lathe and Mill:

These are small versions of their bigger brothers sometimes costing as much, if not more. They are designed to teach the shop owner that larger is usually better. However they do not teach the shop owner the art of moving heavy rigid equipment.


South Bend Lathe:

An older lathe that is highly sought after by many people, based on rumors that they were highly accurate based on the number of them being used and sold. Know to be badly worn and in need of repair. More hours are spent rebuilding these lathes than using them in most cases. In most cases an old South Bend is kept as a 2nd lathe as you need another to build the repair parts.


Sheet Metal Snips:

Used in an attempt to make persuasion cuts in sheet metal.  Also see Hacksaw


Slip Jaw Pliers:

These are a flawed design that has been around for a long time. In fact they are named after their main flaw, and most manufactures advertise them as such. That flaw/feature being when you need to hold something tight the jaws slip to the next larger size rendering them useless for holding the object you are trying to hold.  Also good at rounding off the heads of bolts and nuts.


Taig Lathe and Mill:

See Sherline Lathe and Mill!


Trouble Light:

A device with a long extension cord designed for the destruction of the common 60 watt light bulb.



A tool for removing metal splinters from your body. Also works well for launching small parts across the room.



Used to deform parts and mar said surfaces while attempting to working on them. If designed with a swiveling base, the included locking mechanism will only clamp hard enough to keep the base from spinning with a little less force than is needed. The tommy bar on said clamp is always made of a grade of metal that will allow it to bend in such a way that you will not be able loosen it with out it bending, or binding in such a way to further keep the user from loosening or tightening the clamp.



Generally used to finish the job for the job of rounding off of bolts and nuts. that an adjustable wrench or pliers did not complete. They have the ability to lock onto an item just hard enough so they will not self release unless hit with a hammer


Welding Gloves:

These are designed to give you a false belief that you can touch something hot without getting burned. In fact their design is interesting in that once you touch something hot the glove heats up, retaining the heat in a prolonged transfer to your hand. Trying to remove the gloves once they are heated seems to be directly related to the amount of time it takes to get the glove removed from your hand.


Wire Wheel:

Used in the cleaning or rust and paint removal from small parts. Randomly throws said items across the room at incredible speeds. Sometimes the parts are thrown so fast that they disintegrate on impact. I have seen this happen many times in my shop as the part is never recovered, even though its impact with something was heard.  Also works well at removing skin from fingers, and testing your ability to withstand holding hot items. Another common use is to test your ability to remove wire splinters from multiple locations of you body with tweezers.



This is an attempt lubricant. A quick dissipating lubricant used in the attempt to keep two surfaces from sticking, or rusting. Sold in both spray cans and liquid form.


I hope your enjoyed these and hopefully picked up a tip or two along the way!



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