It’s no secret I’m a sucker for good tools—and especially interesting good tools—and every once in a while something comes along that’s extra special. Last month while Graham Jackson and his wife, Connie, were visiting us, Graham handed me a red plastic box, the length and width of an index card and an inch tall. Inside was the most densely packed assortment of bits I’d ever seen, along with a cunning ratchet no bigger than a cigarette. (Does that analogy even work any more? Will OT&T now garner an R rating because I mentioned smoking?).
Where was I? Right: The Wadsworth Falls Manufacturing Company ratchet works by means of a dead-simple, hardened spring-steel tooth inside the bit opening, which clicks past or locks on to the fine splines forged into each bit (engagement arc is only 12 degrees). Moving parts are minimized, and the tiny ratchet is rated to 400 inch-pounds of torque (33 pound-feet), which is probably all you could exert on it with one hand. To reverse you simply pull out the bit and insert it in the other side. Also included is a screwdriver-type handle into which the bits fit, either directly or on the end of the four-inch extension that also works in the ratchet. There are even a couple of little knurled plastic bit holders for very fine or tight work.
And the bits? There are 43 of them, including metric and SAE hex, Phillips and standard screwdrivers, and Torx, plus an adapter to accept 1/4-inch sockets. Add a set of 1/4-inch-drive sockets from 6mm to 13mm or so, and this kit would probably suffice for half the minor repairs you might need to do on a four-wheel-drive vehicle or motorcycle. After sourcing my own, I did a few odd jobs around the house and Ford truck—after cleaning off the black gunk that coats all the bits—and found the kit just handy as hell. The—count ‘em, nine—standard screwdriver bits are so precisely ground I wouldn’t hesitate to use them on my English shotguns.
The bonus is it’s all made in the U.S. (and thus, yes, not cheap at around $80). Available from a variety of outlets, just Google.