German Tools

When a person earns a living by working with their hands, they gain an intimacy with those tools. In a shop environment, I rarely use multi-tools, instead preferring to use simpler, single purpose versions that are usually larger but more elegant. I keep a set of long L-bend Allen wrenches from Pedro’s handy, but if I can I prefer to use T-handle wrenches. Park Tools and several others sell Allen wrenches that combine the plastic handle of a T-wrench with the basic shape of an L-bend (one tool end poking out sideways from the handle), but that puts the ball-end at the long extension. The problem is that it’s easy to maul the head of a bolt if you tighten hard with the Bondhus. Thus I can’t put real pressure on the long extension of the Park Tool plastic handle L-wrench, yet plastic handle makes those wrenches awkward in many of the situations that you would want to use that Bondhus in the first place. That’s why I came to the solution of keeping both T-handle wrenches and simple L-bend wrenches. And I’m rather particular about my T-handle wrenches; I like a certain balance to them. My favourites are made by Wiha of Germany.

I keep duplicates of a lot of tools at home. In fact, one of my oldest tools is a Wiha 4mm Allen T-handle that actually pre-dates my baptism into cycling. It’s old enough that the handle says “made in W. Germany”; that is, it was made before the Reunification. It came with my Dutch-made inline skate frames. The handle is black plastic and shaped slightly different from the today’s red plastic Wiha wrenches. My newest Wiha is a green T-handle Torx T25, a long-delayed acknowledgement that T25 is here to stay. Now that I have a sturdy tool that is a pleasure to hold in my fingers, I am strangely more at peace with the heretofore despised industrial standard.

One tool that I have at home but not at the shop is a parallel-jaws plier from Knipex. This thing is amazing, like a cheat code to one of the golden rules of bike mechanics: thou shalt not use pliers on nuts and bolt heads. Usually if you use the common plier on fasteners, you end up badly marring the surface and any wrench flats, because the angling jaws rely on their teeth to grip. And then when you bring your bike in for me to service, I mock you as an uncultured savage. But the Knipex plier is different because it keeps its smooth jaws parallel like a proper box wrench. I still wouldn’t use it on a bolt that I needed to really hoss on, but I can confidently use it in most situations. At work, I have a wall of box/open wrenches hanging; at home the Knipex is a handy alternative that takes up much less space. And it’s quicker than hunting for the right size.

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