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NewMetalworker.com Top Ten Tools of 2011

Our viewers still like quality and value!

Text & photos by Tom Hintz

Posted - 12-15-2011

This is only year two for our NewMetalworker.com top Ten Tools list but it is already becoming apparent that our viewers like tools that they can count on down the road, not just today. Price is important but it appears NewMetalworker.com viewers look for value just as much as price.

Congratulations to our Top Ten Tool manufacturers for 2011! I hope to see many of you back in this list in 2012!

1. Lincoln 2450 VIKING™ Auto-Darkening Helmet

It’s not a big surprise to find a welding product atop this year’s Top Ten list, nor is it a surprise that Lincoln makes the helmet. The comments from NewMetalworker.com viewers focused on the large viewing area, the very adjustable darkening system and to a lesser degree the patriotic graphics. There is nothing wrong with looking cool while you work!

I have been using the Lincoln 2450 VIKING™ Auto-Darkening Helmet in my shop since the review and it continues to impress me with how it makes welding easier for me because of the even shading and large viewing area. The Lincoln 2450 VIKING™ Auto-Darkening Helmet really is my pick for the best of the NewMetalworker.com Top Ten Tools of 2011. Even better is that this helmet won out easily as the viewer’s favorite as well.

Click Here to see my review of the Lincoln 2450 VIKING™ Auto-Darkening Helmet.

2. Heli-Coils

When it comes to saving a metalworkers butt, Heli-Coils™ have to be at the top of the list. These ingenious threading/rethreading tools save time, effort and literally everything from engine blocks to large chunks of the machines we use simply by being able to replace threads or place a fastener where there was none before.
A common thought from the NewMetalworker.com viewers was that while they may not use Heli-Coils™ every day but when needed there really is no substitute. I have been messing with metal for well over 40 years and I cannot remember when I first started using Heli-Coils™ but I do know that they have saved LOTS of time and money.

Click Here to see my review of Heli-Coils™.

3. Bessey Metal Snips

Like many of you I never looked forward to using metal snips because they never cut easily or stayed on a layout line as closely as I would like. Then along come the Bessey Metal Snips and my opinion changed in a big way. When metal snips are made correctly, they work just fine and don’t need super strength to get the job done. Bessey has long been a favorite of NewMetalworker.com as well as NewWoodworker.com because they make well thought out products that hold up. The Bessey Metal Snips follow that tradition and do it in a large range of sizes and designs that cover just about any snipping type job I can think of.

Click Here to see my review of the Bessey Metal Snips.

4. Milwaukee Angle Grinder

Angle grinders are just a part of metalworking and the Milwaukee brand enjoys the same status. People who work with metal just like Milwaukee tools and the NewMetalworker.com viewership is no different. The Milwaukee Angle Grinder captured the viewer’s interest with its solid construction, power and ease of use. The paddle trigger was mentioned often as a key feature. While Milwaukee makes lots of larger grinders the NewMetalworker.com viewership likes the “Small” (Milwaukee’s term) Angle Grinder because it handles shop work easily and dependably.

Click Here to see my review of the Milwaukee Angle Grinder

5. KETT KD-200 Shear

I first became aware of KETT metal cutters in the racing world where they pretty much dominated interior and bodywork throughout the short track world. The ability of the KETT KD-200 Shear to slice through sheet steel and aluminum with ease makes this tool invaluable to lots of metalworkers who never see a racecar. NewMetalworker.com viewers liked the smooth, non-distorted edges left by the KETT KD-200 Shear as well as the easily replaced cutters. Though I heard from several NewMetalworker.com viewers who currently use a KETT KD-200 Shear none had anything bad or even lukewarm to say about it. That is about as good of a testament as you can get on the Internet that a tool is well liked and doesn’t blow up.

Click Here to see my review of the KETT KD-200 Shear.

6. Drill Doctor

As soon as I started using the Drill Doctor in my shop I suspected that it would show up in the Top Ten list. Metalworkers like doing things themselves and having a reasonably priced machine that makes sharpening otherwise dead drill bits so easy just had to impress a bunch of NewMetalworker.com viewers. And, indeed it did! Here again we find an easy to use but very effective tool that serves a common purpose in metalworking shops from the home-based hobbyist to full-on pros. Being able to freshen up the only bit you have in the size needed isn’t just a labor saver, it can absolutely save the day! I am confident that I am not alone in finding a nice clean spot in my cabinet for my Drill Doctor to make sure it is ready the next time I need it.

Click Here to see my review of the Drill Doctor.

7. Milwaukee M12 Cordless Ratchet

Like many of you I have used air-powered ratchets for years and fought with the air hose the whole time. But, I kept fighting with the hose because a powered 3/8”-drive ratchet was so helpful! Milwaukee Tool realized the benefits of a powered ratchet so applied their Lithium Ion battery technology to a ratchet to not only make it powered but to rid us of that &#@&$% air hose at the same time. Some NewMetalworker.com were skeptical of how long a battery powered ratchet would work but of the viewers I have heard from that have actually used the Milwaukee M12 Cordless Ratchet all are just as amazed as I am. It really does work and keeps on working far longer than I would have thought. That’s why I actually USE tools I review to see how they do in the shop, not just on paper. The Milwaukee M12 Cordless Ratchet showed it really does work and that got it in this year’s Top Ten list!

Click Here to see my review of the Milwaukee M12 Cordless Ratchet.

8. KD 40-piece Gearwrench Tap & Die Set

Where woodworkers use glue, metalworkers use nuts and bolts. Being able to put threads where you need them, or save existing but damaged threads can be huge. With that in mind it wasn’t surprising that the NewMetalworker.com viewers welcomed the KD 40-piece Gearwrench Tap & Die Set review with lots of visits to that page and a surprising number of positive emails. I have used this set several times in my shop since that review and have yet to find the KD 40-piece Gearwrench Tap & Die Set doing anything wrong or unexpected. The ratcheting tap handle is a huge advantage when cutting threads, especially when the hole is too close to an obstruction to spin the handle all the way around. These taps and dies cut just as well today as they did when I first got them so considering the original price, this turned out to be a very good deal.

Click Here to see my review of the KD 40-piece Gearwrench Tap & Die Set.

9. Johnson Magnetic Torpedo Level

People who like to build square and level things also know the frustration of trying to hold a mortal level while tack welding something in place at the same time. I have seen people using rubber bands and tape to hold levels on a piece so the builder could use both hands to get it welded in place. The folks at Johnson Level and Tool recognized that issue and added magnets to a high quality torpedo level and that problem is solved. I know this sounds too simple but adding those magnets really makes the torpedo level a ton easier to use, even when the piece being worked on is itself level. The magnets keep the level in place until you are done. Now think about working 10 or more feet up…. Yeah. The magnets are a REALLY good idea!

Click Here to see my review of the Johnson Magnetic Torpedo Level

10. Sandflex Hand Blocks

Just to prove that the NewMetalworker.com viewers are not abnormally attracted to things with motors, the Sandflex Hand Blocks made this year’s Top Ten list because of viewer interest and my frustration over not knowing about these wonderful little shop helpers sooner. Just cleaning metal enough for welding can be a trying chore but the Sandflex Hand Blocks make it almost fun. If you want to keep a metal surface like on a drill press looking good, the Sandflex Hand Blocks are what you are looking for. Factor in a surprisingly low price tag and you really have no excuse for letting your machines get cruddy looking or welding through the junk. They are not powered in the traditional sense but you will think that there might be a little motor inside of the Sandflex Hand Blocks when you first use them.

Click Here for my review of the Sandflex Hand Blocks.

There you have it, the 2011 Top Ten NewMetalworker.com Tools. We already have a bunch of new Tool Reviews scheduled for 2012 so stay tuned. I think we are going to have lots of great tools to choose from next year around this time!

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