Tool Dictionary

DRILL PRESS: A tall upright machine useful for suddenly snatching flatmetal bar stock out of your hands so that it smacks you in the arm andflings your beer across the room, splattering it against that freshly painted part you were drying.

WIRE WHEEL: Cleans paint & rust off bolts and then throws them somewhere under the workbench with the speed of light. Also removes fingerprint whorls and hard-earned guitar calluses in about the time it takes you to say, “Ouch…”

ELECTRIC HAND DRILL: Normally used for spinning pop rivets in their holes until you die of old age. Can also be utilized for dulling drill bits.

PLIERS: A special tool used to round off bolt heads.

HACKSAW: One of a family of cutting tools built on the Ouija board principle. It transforms human energy into a crooked, unpredictable motion, and the more you attempt to influence its course, the more dismal your future becomes.

VISE-GRIPS: Used to round off bolt heads. If nothing else is available, they can also be used to transfer intense welding heat to the palm of your hand.

OXY-ACETYLENE TORCH: Used almost entirely for lighting various flammable objects in your shop on fire. Also handy for igniting the grease inside the wheel hub you want the bearing race out of.

WHITWORTH SOCKETS: Once used for working on older British cars and motorcycles, they are now used mainly for impersonating that 9/16″ or 1/2″ socket you’ve been searching for the last 15 minutes.

CRESCENT WRENCH: A wrench that you can never get to fit the nut tight enough to keep it from slipping off just when you apply a lot of pressure, peeling skin off your knuckles. Known by the British as an “Adjustable Spanner”.

HYDRAULIC BOTTLE JACK: Used for lowering an automobile to the ground after you have installed your new disk brake pads, trapping the jack handle firmly under the bumper.

EIGHT-FOOT LONG DOUGLAS FIR 2X6: Used for levering an automobile upward off a hydraulic jack handle.

PHONE: Tool for calling your neighbors to see if he has another hydraulic bottle jack.

TWEEZERS: A tool for removing wood or metal splinters.

SNAP-ON GASKET SCRAPER: Theoretically useful as a sandwich tool for spreading mayonnaise; used mainly for getting dog poop off your boot.

E-Z OUT BOLT AND STUD EXTRACTOR: A tool ten times harder than any known drill bit that snaps off in bolt holes you couldn’t use anyway.

TWO-TON ENGINE HOIST: A tool for testing the tensile strength on everything you forgot to disconnect.

CRAFTSMAN 1/2″ x 16-INCH SCREWDRIVER: A large pry bar that inexplicably has an accurately machined screwdriver tip on the end opposite the handle.


TROUBLE LIGHT: The home mechanic’s own tanning booth. Sometimes called a drop light, it is a good source of vitamin D, “the sunshine vitamin,” which is not otherwise found under cars at night. Health benefits aside, it’s main purpose is to consume 40-watt light bulbs at about the same rate that 105-mm howitzer shells might be used during, say, the first few hours of the Battle of the Bulge. More often dark than light, its name is somewhat misleading.

PHILLIPS SCREWDRIVER: Normally used to stab the lids of old-style paper-and-tin oil cans and splash oil on your shirt; but can also be used, as the name implies, to strip out Phillips screw heads.

AIR COMPRESSOR: A machine that takes energy produced in a coal-burning power plant 200 miles away and transforms it into compressed air that travels by hose to a Chicago Pneumatic impact wrench that grips rusty bolts last over tightened 58 years ago by someone at Dodge, and neatly rounds off their heads.

PRY BAR: A tool used to crumple the metal surrounding that clip or bracket you needed to remove in order to replace a .50 cent part.

HOSE CUTTER: A tool used to cut hoses too short.

HAMMER: Originally employed as a weapon of war, the hammer nowadays is used as a kind of divining rod to locate the most expensive parts not far from the object we are trying to hit. Thumbs included.

LEVEL: A device used to prove to your wife that the door you just replaced in the bathroom is indeed straight.

TAPE MEASURE: A telescoping device used for measuring lengths; has sequential numbers & a whole bunch of little marks on it between those numbers.

MECHANIC’S KNIFE: Used to open and slice through the contents of cardboard cartons delivered to your front door; works particularly well on contents such as seats, vinyl records, liquids in plastic bottles, collector magazines, refund checks, and rubber or plastic parts.

PROTECTIVE GLASSES: A safety device that you always forget to use until after you need it.

WANT LIST: A scrap of paper that has meticulously recorded your needs & you discover you have lost after you have driven 20 miles to the hardware store, & you are getting so forgetful that you can only remember 2 of the 12 items that were on it.

DAMMIT TOOL: Any handy tool that you grab and throw across the garage while yelling “DAMMIT” at the top of your lungs. It is also the next tool that you will need.

EXPLETIVE: A balm, usually applied verbally in hindsight, which somehow eases those pains and indignities following our every deficiency in foresight.

JESUS CLIP OR SPRING: Small clip or spring you are trying to install when it suddenly goes flying across your garage to be lost forever and you say “Jesus where did that thing go!” These parts are usually not sold separately, so you will have to buy the complete assembly at 100 times the cost of the clip or spring itself. You console yourself by thinking you have extra parts on hand. In reality you will never again use anything off this assembly. It will occupy a shelf in your garage until you die and someone cleaning out your garage throws it away, asking “Why did he have this laying around?