The One-Case Tool Kit Lite (OCTKL) has been gathering dust the last few months. Trail dust, that is. It’s seen enough use that I thought a report was warranted, although I’m not sure the kit has assumed its final form. (See here and here for the initial articles.)
In many instances the contents simply migrated from the OCTKL’s 60-pound progenitor. But I wanted to try a few different things, and I explored a couple of new-to-me manufacturers. Here’s what I’ve been doing.
I go back and forth on screwdrivers. Sometimes I think Ace Hardware stuff is just fine. A 12-piece set there will run you $29. Snap-on charges $187 for seven pieces—four standard, three Phillips. That’s $26 each. Yes, they’re U.S.-made. Yes, the Snap-on items incorporate hex fittings so you can apply a wrench for extra torque, so they’re obviously durable. But seriously? I’m perfectly happy to drop $180 on a half-inch Snap-on ratchet, which might be the critical tool for a major repair. Less convinced I need the same commitment for screwdrivers.
Out of curiosity I started browsing Snap-on’s “Industrial Brands,” which comprise various subsidiaries that make tools for Snap-on in various countries of origin. One intriguing brand was JH Williams, which in at least some cases appears to manufacture tools equivalent to Snap-on tools of earlier generations. On Amazon I found a basic five-piece Williams screwdriver set, #100P-5MD—three slotted drivers and two Phillips—for $38.23. Also available was a comprehensive 19-piece assortment for $115. The Williams drivers appeared to be exact clones of the Snap-on screwdrivers I, er, actually bought about 15 years ago—right down to the hex fitting. The handles are identical—a rather slick black composite, which at first seems contra-indicated. However, they are shaped well for grip, and the finish makes them easy to clean up in the field—an important benefit in my book. I bought the basic kit as an experiment, and so far they’re performing perfectly.
I was surprised to see the Snap-on Industrial Brands website lists the origin of the Williams screwdrivers as the U.S. I figured they had been made offshore. As best I can determine, these are indeed identical to the previous generation Snap-on screwdrivers. Hmm . . . Seems like a bargain to me.
So . . . what about other Snap-on Industrial Brands? One that’s been around forever is Blue Point, which I seem to recall originally was used to label Snap-on’s power tools. Now Blue Point covers a wide range of products, including hand tools. I decided to try a set of 3/8ths inch, 12-point deep metric sockets, which seem to be impeccably made, and grip fasteners with every indication of the tight tolerance that is a hallmark of high-quality sockets. The Blue Point sockets are made in Taiwan, which has become the source for high-quality tools from several other companies such as Facom.
I wanted to keep the OCTKL compact and as light as possible, but I didn't want to simply dump my sockets into one of the pockets of the Blue Ridge Overland bag. So I ordered a set of flexible urethane socket rails from Off Road Trail Tools. They come in 1/4, 3/8, and 1/2-inch sizes, weigh next to nothing, and can be cut to length if you don’t need all 14 posts.
On to . . . needle-nosed pliers? Yes. I find myself using these frequently, yet I’d never found a reasonably priced pair that I really liked—until I tried the ones pictured, from Park Tools, who are more or less considered the Snap-on of bicycle tool makers. Their NP-6 pliers have five different gripping, cutting, and crimping sections, fat and extremely comfortable and secure grips, and a gentle spring that keeps them open unless squeezed, meaning you only have to manipulate them in one direction. Well worth $25.