Everyone knows drills, saws, and sledgehammers, but what about froes, super saws, and Odd Jobs?
Milwaukee Tools Fluorescent Light Tester
When a fluorescent bulb goes dark, the problem can actually be one of three things: the bulb, the ballasts, or the pins. By touching the bulb with its extending wand, this niche diagnostic tool can isolate the problem. You probably don’t need one for your basement lights, but the guy who works maintenance in a 12-story office building loves this thing.
This tool is specialized for the task of making shingles. The strange name comes from the antiquated word "froward," which means "away," in reference to the direction that the tool cuts. To use it, place the froe, blade down, on the edge of a log length, then hit the top of the blade with a wooden club, forcing the froe into the log. Next, pull the handle toward you and pry off a thin slice of the log. Voilà... shingle! Since buying a box of square-edged shingles is significantly less effort than making each and every one by hand, this tool has long since passed its heyday. But it still can be used to build up the kindling pile.
Crain 812 Super Saw
Resembling a cross between a router and a circular saw, this ominous-looking tool is used to undercut baseboards and doors to install new flooring. If you're a flooring guy, you know what a difficult task this can be without a specialized tool. If you're not a flooring guy, well, then this thing just looks dangerous.
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Arbortech Power Chisel
Who knew a tool as timeless as the chisel could get a technological upgrade? The Power Chisel has the slender body of an angle grinder and a motor that delivers rapid hits to a chisel end. The result is a tool more powerful (and much louder) than a traditional chisel.
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Stanley #1 Odd Jobs
Stanley produced this all-in-one layout tool between 1888 and the 1930s. It looks like a directional arrow from a street sign and was originally advertised as 10 tools in one (including level, depth gauge, try square, and compass). There are a few companies that make replicas, but originals can still be found on eBay for a couple hundred dollars apiece.
You would think that a sharp tool you swing in the direction of your ankles wouldn't last long. But the adze can be traced back at least to ancient Egypt. You use the adze to shape tree trunks and square them up into beams; it looks like an ax with the blade oriented on the horizontal. But with modern-day milling capabilities so much faster and easier, for the most part the adze has gone the way of the dodo.
Channellock Rescue Tool
This lifesaving tool has functions designed specifically for a rescue worker. It can cut wire, tighten a fire-hose coupling, pry a door open, and even close down a gas valve. And it's just about the right size to fit in a back pocket. Not exactly a tool you're going to find on your grandfather's workbench.
Think of this one as an 18th-century Sharpie. During the heyday of timber framing, builders would use this tool to number beam ends for layout purposes—sort of like "tab A into slot B." If you're ever in an old house with exposed beams, look for gouged-out Roman numerals at the beam ends and you'll see the work of a timber scribe.
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