What’s in Your Toolbelt?

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The Milwaukee Hackzall cuts anything anywhere.

You can’t carry everything, but bring the right tools for the right job

By Mark P. Evans

Batman has an amazing utility belt but mine’s pretty cool too.

I’m packing some serious equipment when I suit up for a night of fighting mechanical crime and protecting public health: I am the masked technician that swoops in under cover of darkness to bring safety, security and civility to the fair citizens of this great city.

When I’m in character, my toolbelt includes lasers, sensors and a variety of other high-tech gadgetry as well as many heavy-duty implements with incredible power when the situation calls for a little muscle.

Epic tools

The most powerful tools are logic and common sense of course, but a battery-operated Hackzall (Milwaukee Tool) with a full charge and a new blade is a real contender. It is a truly awesome weapon to behold. That and a cordless grinder complete with a diamond blade give me the remarkable ability to dismantle anything, anywhere. The warning label on these mood-altering tools should read… “Only useth ye these mighty implements for the forces of good and guardeth ye well they never fall into the wrong hands.” Epic tools merit epic warning labels.

In the right hands, a skilled trades practitioner can confidently cut out and re-fit major sections of piping within the narrow time frame of off-hours repairs.

Lightweight tools that pack a lot of punch yet still fit inside my toolbelt are ideal for projects that must be packed in, completed then packed out at the end of each operation.

It’s a lot of work just setting up to do a lot of work. I often have to park far away, haul tons of equipment way up to the penthouse boiler room then work off a ladder for extended periods. All that equipment has to be lugged back to the truck and put away before the work is finally done and by that time, I’m in no mood for unnecessary complications.

When and where

A parking lot attendant briefly complicated my site departure recently. I discovered his feeble attempt to lock and chain my service vehicle into an unmarked “restricted zone” after a brutal late-night service call downtown.

No one was around and there was no way of contacting the over-zealous attendant who was obviously unaware of the multitude of onboard devastation devices typically found in a mechanical service truck. I didn’t even need to access those tools to escape, I was carrying enough equipment in my magical utility belt to break out of—or into any place I desired. I could have cut his car into itty bitty little pieces, but I resisted the dark side and just cut the lock to free myself from the chains that unjustly bound me.

A cordless drill complete with a carbide-tipped hole saw makes stainless steel seem like wood.

Toolbelts do have their downside though. It’s a nice theory to have your tools located around your waist where you can easily grab them but try to pick something up off the floor. It might as well be on the moon. I’m already carrying too much mid-torso bulk, so bending all the way over that plus a heaping pile of waistline accessories is nearly impossible. I plan on losing a few pounds, but until then I’m using suspenders to keep my tool belt high and my pants from hanging low. It’s a balance/counter-balance arrangement.

Several of my associates are permanently deformed from long-term tool-belt use. Much like a tree grows around an obstruction, their bodies moulded and misshaped over time resulting in painful self-imposed harm.

Sometimes you have to wear a toolbelt. When I’m slopping away in a muddy trench installing service lines, I wear one even though it gets in the way and makes it hard to “assume the position.” You have to keep the tools out of the muck somehow.

I find it handy to wear a utility belt while laying out or installing overhead lines. My laser level tucks right into one of the pockets, so my hands are free to climb, mark a line or just hold on. With this snazzy little device, I can shoot a beam of light the length of the room to accurately measure my distances and to line up long runs across vast expanses. It has replaced my plumb bob and my chalk line, but I still keep those tools in my “sentimental tools” toolbox.

Other image-evoking gizmos you can find in my waist-bound tool carrier are a stud finder and a moisture detector.

Less running, more doing

From time to time, I pick up repetitive action jobs like installing all the water heaters for a multi-unit housing project. For that work, I keep just the specific tools required for that project in my pouch. Using mass production techniques, I put it on, do the job, take it off then move on down the line.

Safety items, such as a multimeter should also be part of your toolbelt. You have to prove the power is off.

I gear up with a multimeter, manometer and leak detector to prove electrical circuits, gas pressures and absolute hazard containment for each appliance.

You can’t carry everything so it’s important to mind the lessons of which items you brought the first time and which items you had to run back for. The more you run, the less you get done.

It is a little embarrassing and reduces productivity, but it does help work off the ever-growing paunch of experience that interferes with more and more bodily movements over time.

I remember watching Batman as a kid, so he must be even older than me. I bet he grunts when he tries to bend over his utility belt too, they probably just edit that part out.

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