Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Growing Up

Today is the day I just took another important step into adulthood.

Today, I bought my first torque wrench.

It is a CDI, not a full Snap-On, though you don't know how much I miss chasing the Snap-On truck like a parade of sled dogs following the bearer of the doggie chow. (Isn't that an automatic reflex in everyone? I know you can make every head pop out of any nook and cranny in an airplane shop just by calling "Snap-On truck's pulling in!")

I was flat-out astounded that my husband had never before, in his entire life, used a torque wrench. All through my formative years, this was one of the things that marked the transition from shop help to apprentice; the trust to be given a job that required a torque wrench. And the fully certified mechanic saying "Let me see your conversion math. All right, you got it. Now, this is the right torque wrench for that job. If you drop it, I break you. Let me watch you set it." I knew I was getting competent when I was allowed to borrow the torque wrench without being double-checked (and you'd better believe I checked my inch-pound to foot-pound math very, very carefully.)

Calmer Half, though, learned his wrenching in the African Bush Mechanic school of hard knocks. This apparently involved more shooting at things with teeth while changing your tyres, and digging out, and "Is it tight enough? Stomp on the wrench again!" and "Well, if it won't move, use the tank to tow it."

So I carefully explained the caveats to him - that there are lots of tool brands I don't know, and I have no rigorous tests or reviews to prove anything. However, my Daddy kept a small basic stash of Snap-On tools and advised "Ten bucks saved on the tool costs a thousand an hour in the emergency room." Also, every airplane mechanic I knew in Alaska used 'em. Sure, they had a lot of other brands, and some things heavily modified by torch and welder to be the perfect tool for the job, but the strong advice was "Get Snap-On as soon as you can afford it."

Calmer Half smiled at me, and said thoughtfully, "I'm going to use it for an AR-15. It's only working on something four inches away from my favorite pair of eyes. I think that's recommendation enough."

Wow. My very own torque wrench!


  1. Wow - congratulations! Koolness and groovitude... :)

  2. Nice! Snap On and Craftsman are the ONLY way to go... inch pounds to foot pounds in#=ft# x 12... And check the math three times...

    kilograms to ft pounds, I gotta go look it up... sigh

  3. Start throwing in an offset crows-foot to torque and the math gets very interesting.
    One of the things I do not miss from my days as an aircraft mechanic.

  4. SWEET!

    Of course, the problem with all those AR builder tools is that you can't just leave them lying around unused after just the one. That would be wasteful.


  5. Congrats! One of these days I'll invest in a good torque wrench and not have to simply hope that the loan-a-tool from the local AutoZone is calibrated close enough. *cringe* A good tool is indispensable. I was turning wrenches professionally the first year Jennifer and I were married. Together, we brought in about $12,000.00 after taxes that year. Jennifer was justifiably concerned when I spent $80.00 on a Snap-On ratchet. The subsequent years have justified the worth of that ratchet as well as some other good tools that I purchased during that chapter of life.

  6. For torque tools, look at Mountz. Not cheap, though. They have ones that can be set, locked, and remain accurate, unlike most other brands. Working in a surgical laser company around '90, I made sure to specify the specific Mountz torque wrench needed for a critical assembly process. I knew I could not rely on the production people involved, to release the setting every time they finished using it. Or, to even set it correctly to start with. I had the same wrench in my own toolbox at home, so I was already familiar with it. IIRC, they were located in San Jose, just a few miles down the road from that company.

    Hmm, I would guess that the patents on that wrench have expired by now, so other brands may have the same capability of not losing torque accuracy when left set for extended time frames. That 3/8" drive click wrench was around $300, last I checked, which was some time ago.