Tool Time
What we recommend for a basic tool kit.

We think about it, and then try to remember everything, and then recite a list off the top of our heads, which isn’t the best way to do it. So we decided to put our tool kits together, take some pictures and tell you a little about what we like. Because we like tools. We’re starting today with Gareth’s setup. He describes this as the kit he would put together if he needed to work on either control or machinery, but didn’t know exactly what.

He’s got a great selection here.

On the control side, he’s got the Fluke 117 multimeter, which has 2 nice features: The screen is backlit, so it’s great in a dark theater, and it also has an ammeter, for checking current. Also check out his probe assortment- they don’t take up a lot of room and they improve the quality of his life. He also carries a full soldering kit with a mini Pana-Vise clamp. He’s tried to get by with the smaller (and cheaper) standalone irons, but when it comes to soldering encoder wires, a full setup is the way to go. It’s heavier, but Gareth decided over the years that the extra weight was worth it.

He’s got a couple of custom items, too.

There’s a brake testing light, a couple of limit jumpers, a 24volt wall adapter for bypassing the Showstopper and even an Ethernet crossover adapter. With these, he can reduce the control down to the minimum to help troubleshoot. In the lower right is a Gareth classic- the pipe-style vise grips. The ends work like regular grips and he can also grab pipe or (when it comes to that) machine shaft. The orange bit case has a right angle driver with ratcheting 1/4″ & 5/16″ sockets so you can use with screw & allen bits or chuck up 1/4″ drive sockets. That little driver is a life saver when working in cramped machines where the last set screw is stuck between a rock and a hard place. Then there’s the usual assortment of wrenches, pliers, nippers, nut drivers, allen keys, and a flashlight. Rounding out the kit is the red bin, which he keeps stocked with small mechanical parts like master links and keys. That’s Gareth’s kit.

But we want to know about what you guys keep around.

Is there a special tool you can’t live without? We want to hear from you, and we want to see your setups. Take a picture, tell us what you got and email it to me at If we get anything good, we’ll post it here. And who doesn’t like to look at tools?