I could talk guns all day...and I often do. I'm not completely sure, but I believe that it's related to that "NRA Instructor" certification that I have. I'll look into it more and let you guys know. In the meantime, here's something that some of you might be interested in...
Prepping For The TJ Toolkit: Modifying A...A Crowbar...? Huh?
Again, you've read my words correctly: I'm going to do a write-up on making modifications to your everyday, average crowbar...and no, I haven't lost my tiny little mind (although it is
quite easy to misplace). First, though, there's an apology...
I know that at this point - at this late
hour - there is a great wailing and gnashing of teeth throughout the land in regards to my long-delayed TJ Toolkit articles. In response to the lamentations, please let me tell you, clearly, that I have sincere thanks for the rabid interest and sincere regrets about the interminable delays, and it is because of this interest that I wanted to write the following preface to the toolkit articles: I feel that everyone is owed an explanation of exactly why it took so f****** long to get started. Now, I alluded to the explanation in a previous post...so let's see who was paying attention!
The TJ Toolkit Articles have taken so long to get started because of:
The difficulty of making decisions about the kit composition.
Answer A, compounded by "perfect tools" not always being readily available.
Answer B, further compounded by the lack of a readily-available digital camera.
The stuffed chicken having taken a protracted vacation in Provence.
With some additional information provided, C
is the proper response. While we already know that I hate digital cameras with a passion and don't own one, the real issue at hand was that I kept re-working my tool list. Why the constant re-working? Simple: the perfect tool arrangements didn't exist
. When I went to find myself an ultra-portable screwdriver set I couldn't find one that had either the drivers or the driver bits I wanted...they either had the wrong drivers, the wrong bits, or not enough of the bits/drivers that I needed and too many of the ones that were useless. When I was trying to assemble a list of wrenches or sockets I ran into the same problem: I couldn't find tool sets that had what I needed without giving me a lot of extra, useless stuff.
Valuable Information: The further I got into making a stripped-down-and-still-capable kit the more I realized that I didn't actually have most of the stuff that I wanted to carry. This came as a bit of a shock, but it's not really that surprising when one thinks about the following fact: most garage tools are single-purpose or single-function, and - when placed into a mobile tool set - single-purpose tools are your enemy. Tools that are going to be carried into the Wasteland have to be capable of fulfilling as many different rolls as possible.
Thankfully, most of the issues associated with making an efficient collection of screwdrivers, wrenches, pliers and beating devices could be solved with a bit of judicious research and honest appraisal of the needs at hand. This was more a process of refinement and cutting-down than it was anything else. After all this was done, though, I was left with needing a decent pry bar. And that's when I found out that vehicle-specific pry bars are hard to find. In fact, they really don't exist at all.
Let me re-emphasize something, here: your tools have to be multi-purpose. You can't afford to lug around stuff that either takes up dead space and/or only has one function, and most pry bars are expressly designed to destroy houses...which means that they are not
expressly designed to fulfill stranded-in-the-Wasteland repair duties. Since I was striking out with buying the perfect pry bar I decided to take the traditional Jeeper route and modify the hell out of something that was available, and thus create exactly what I wanted. If I'd be able to buy the perfect pry bar - or the perfect screwdriver/wrench/socket set, for that matter - then I would have been able to get the first TJ Toolkit article done a LONG time ago.
This, then, is the explanation that I feel you are owed in recompense for the long delays...and if you take home nothing else from this post, then remember the following: the perfect TJ Toolkit does not exist on any store shelf.
If you want one, you're going to have to address YOUR needs with YOUR Jeep and make up YOUR perfect kit. It will take thought, time, effort, money, and - likely - a few hot pieces of scrap steel thrown heedlessly about the garage in frustration.
In my case, I stumbled the most over that simplest of tools...the humble pry bar. I know, I know...leave it to me to complicate the hell of out of a simple machine...but you really should have expected no less, unless you're one of the slower members of the class. Here's what I started with...
Pictured: Not exactly what I wanted.
That's a basic 36" crowbar, and it cost me all of $10. It's got a lot of the qualities that I want:
- Long enough for good leverage, and short enough to stow in a variety of places inside a TJ.
- A narrow, solid, thickened end that doesn't thin out.
- Lack of a nail-removing notch.
- The shaft has a hexagonal cross section, which is good in case I ever have to put a wrench on it to twist it.
- The ends are hardened steel, so they're pleasantly durable.
- Capable of bashing the f*** out of some headcrabs. You know
However, there's one big problem...all that yellow, cane-like stupidity out on one end. Think about it: what good is that end, really? Has anyone ever
really used the hook end of a crow bar when working on a Jeep? I haven't. I've often wished that it wasn't there...mostly because the hook is in the way, and other times when I wanted to slip a pipe over the end for more leverage. On top of those two excellent points, the hook also takes up extra space...and this is why I was having such a ridiculously hard time finding a simple, efficient pry bar: almost none are made with straight ends, and of the few I found, none were immediately available for a quality assessment. My best best for a straight-end bar is actually a tool known as an "alignment bar," and if you've ever worked with heavy equipment or steel construction you know what one of those is. And you know why they cost about $60 apiece. And why they're still not ideal for this situation.
Anyway, I didn't get one of those. I got the better $10 option, and because it's almost
what I want - and because it looks like something from a Vaudeville act - it just needs a bit
of shortening and modification...
Pictured: Maintain a minimum 32" clearance from headcrabs at all times.
Before you ask: no, we're not going to use a table saw to cut it. That would be retarded. We're going to use a miter saw.
Pictured: "Told you so..."
Here's a tip that I found out the hard way, a long time ago: go slow when you cut with abrasive wheels...they can build heat when the material gets thin, and heat will destroy the temper of any steel that you're working with. I managed to not do anything like that this time...and after I finished I decided to do a bit of refinement in several areas: specifically, the prying end and the now-cut-off straight end. The prying end didn't need a lot of work but I recut the bevel to thicken it slightly and I dressed the sides to get them nice and pretty and even...the factory casting/machining was okay, but not great.
The new straight end got the bevel corners knocked off. This should help slightly-fubar'ed 3/4" ID pipe slip over the end to provide additional leverage, and also makes the hexagonal shaft a LOT more comfortable to grip should you need to pry a tire on or off, or swing this thing into a zombie skull. I also ground a chamfer on the back edges to keep the sharp corners to a minimum.
Some sanding to allow paint adhesion reveals that this is actually a two-layer paint job...at least around the back half where they dipped it in yellow and then turned it to dip it in black. I have no idea why this was necessary...but since I'm going to shoot it with some flat black, anyway, it doesn't really matter.
I also happened to have a box of extra steering knuckles just lying about and doing nothing productive with its life...so it got turned into a paint stand.
Pictured: And after. Much better.
And that's pretty much it. I spent four or five days
looking for the right pry bar, and about twenty minutes making a marginal one into what I wanted. What did I gain for having expended a third of an hour? A more multipurpose item that takes up less space and doesn't have a stupid hook in the way of usage or storage. It can be paired up with a simple piece of 3/4" ID pipe for some serious leverage and is more comfortable to grip, in general. If you want to get creative, it's now more easily able to be used in place of bar stock or steel tubing for a trail repair: tie rod, drag link, steering shaft...basically, wherever you could stuff it.
Am I splitting hairs? Probably. But now I have what I want, and I feel confident with it being part of Greta's basic tool kit. Confidence will often get you farther than experience, and as far as experience goes: I'm now more creative when it comes to making a tool work for me...AND THAT'S WHAT A TOOL IS SUPPOSED TO DO.
The Moral Of The Story:
Think outside the box, and don't accept "adequate" for anything you're going to carry into the Wasteland. If you don't have what you need, then make it...you'll save time in the end and be better off for having done so.
There's more on the way...we here at Muppet Labs rarely sleep.