The Basics of Tool Care

Taking proper care of your tools will help you perform your job more efficiently.

Take a moment today or tomorrow to look at your hand tools. Is this what you see?

•Tools are properly stowed in an organized fashion, rather than being tossed into a bag or box.
•Each wrench has its own cradle (or pouch slot), and wrenches are arranged by size. They even face the same direction.
•Sockets are snapped into socket trees or arranged in socket trays. They are sorted by size. You have one set for SAE and another for metric; they aren’t mixed.
•Screwdrivers are neatly arranged. No one has a chipped blade or dirty handle.
•Torque screwdrivers and torque wrenches are set to zero, not left on the last setting used.
•There is not a single spot of grease or dirt on any tool. You always wipe each one off before putting it away.

Many times, when someone enters the mechanical or electrical trades but doesn’t have much experience on tools, this concept of being clean and organized with tools seems like pointless fuss.

But if you look at the tools of nearly any master craftsman, any world-class pit crew mechanic, or that coworker who is noted for precision work, this clean and orderly arrangement is what you will see. It’s one aspect of a mindset that puts cleanliness and order high on the list of priorities. If your tools are not clean and organized, how likely is it your work will be clean and organized?

Cleaning tools before putting them away also means you don’t reach for dirty tools when doing the next job. Do you really want to be cleaning grease off your clothes, hands, and work surfaces throughout the day? Or would you rather use clean tools and eliminate that waste of time?

Check out the service vans of successful electrical shops, and what do you see? Clean and organized. Being organized is the most efficient way to work. And as noted, it helps with the mindset that should permeate everything you do in your work.

Suppose when you’re done working in a control cabinet, the customer comes out to inspect. The wiring looks haphazard instead of being neatly routed. There are greasy fingerprints on the white inner panels and even on the wire labeling. What kind of calling card are you leaving?

How you treat power tools is also important. For example, how do you put away your power screwdriver(s) and drill(s)?

•Bits inspected. Damaged bits removed for replacement, good bits put back into the correct storage slots.
•Chuck and body cleaned off.
•Battery removed and put back in its storage slot, if a tool set is designed that way.
•Tool and accessories go into the case they came in; that case was designed to be used to take that tool set to and from the job.

Don’t develop the habit of tossing drill and driver bits into a can, where they can be easily damaged or lost. Dumping out a can and sifting through various bits while you’re in the middle of a job is inefficient at the very least.

Take the time to put driver and drill bits into their correct storage places. This provides two advantages:

1. You can immediately account for a missing bit before leaving a work location, and probably find it shortly. That is more efficient than not finding it in the middle of the next job and having to run to the store to buy one.
2. When you are ready to use a particular bit in a particular size, you know exactly where it is.

Test equipment care is also important. When done using a tester, remove the leads (unless they are integral) and put them in their designated storage container or slot. This saves time when you go to use the tester again and also prevents testing errors because of bad leads. But the biggest advantage is that you prevent a source of electric shock by protecting the leads when you put them away. Turn meters off and set the measurement function to the safest position (e.g., the highest AC voltage on a digital multimeter) rather than the last setting used.

Try to think of how you can be clean and organized when you’re working. Even if you still have a long way to go to become a master craftsman, you will look like one along your journey.

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