Hooniverse Asks: What’s the Most Useless “Special Tool” You’ve Ever Bought or Used?

When I was a kid I loved going to the toy store. The big one in my town was called Macabob’s and you could have your birthday party there if your parents were rich. Today I feel the same giddy enjoyment when I walk into Harbor Freight or the tool section at Sears. Both of these retailers have a pretty good selection of your standard tools, covering pretty much whatever work you may want to undertake.
The thing of it is, your regular wrenches and pliers and screwdrivers and such don’t seem to be enough for some people, and someone is always coming up with some new tool that’s supposed to work better than your run of the mill option. Sometimes those work pretty well. I have a set of box/open-end wrenches each with a little notch on the open-end side that allows grip when turning one way, and releases when going the other, so you don’t have to pull it off the nut you are addressing. It’s a pretty good improvement on an old standard.
Sometimes those specialty tools don’t quite fulfill their promise. Sometimes they don’t work at all. I once was given a ball with various sockets on it. The purpose was to give you easy access to the most-used sizes, but the problem was the ball was both inconvenient to use and insufficiently space efficient. I think I threw that one away. Or maybe it rolled away. What about you, have you ever found a tool that failed to live up to its hype?
Image: hulala.my

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    1. Kiefmo Avatar

      I own a manual drill of the older variety. I only pull it out when my electric drill is out of battery and I am not done with drilling. So, almost never.
      I didn’t know someone had tried to redesign the manual drill. Leave it to Fiskars.

    2. Sjalabais Avatar

      I sort of like the idea until I think it through.

    3. mad_science Avatar

      Heh, my 3 year old has one of these. He lacks the hand size and strength to hold the crank in place to loosen the chuck. This creates extra slow downs for me.

    4. Fred Talmadge Avatar
      Fred Talmadge

      I like my manual drill for soft woods and small holes. Then again, I don’t have a cordless drill either.

  1. GTXcellent Avatar

    I think I actually got these as a gift, versus buying them, but Craftsmen makes a ‘Screw-Out’ that does not work. Regular Easy-Outs (the threaded left handed types) are a hit and miss affair – these are just plain miss. I couldn’t even make them work with a nylon plug that had broke.

    1. dukeisduke Avatar

      That looks like some “As Seen On TV” ones I’ve seen before. Utterly worthless.

    2. SlowJoeCrow Avatar

      They seem like a debased version of these things
      which actually work

    3. smalleyxb122 Avatar

      I have a set of those (also a gift). I haven’t yet found a use for them.

  2. Tanshanomi Avatar

    I got one of these as a Christmas gift. I think it’s still in the bottom of a tool box somewhere. Never successfully used it on anything, ever.
    BTW, Tim’s a moran.

    1. CraigSu Avatar

      Interesting as I have owned the Home Depot version of this for years. It’s my favorite adjustable pliers. My wife was so impressed she had me buy her the smaller version as her very own because it fit her hand so much better. She won’t even let me use it.

      1. dukeisduke Avatar

        The Husky version? Their tools used to be made by Danaher, that made Craftsman tools. Their warranties even covered each other’s stuff, for a while anyway.

        1. CraigSu Avatar

          Husky it is. I can never remember the Home Depot house brand. Lowe’s is headquartered just north of where I live so I have no trouble remembering that Kobalt is their house brand for tools.

    2. JayP Avatar

      I’ve had a set for years. It’s great for working on pipes, rusted big things and Fords.

      1. marmer Avatar

        I detect redundancy here…

    3. dukeisduke Avatar

      What’s Bob Vila doing nowadays, anyway?

    4. smalleyxb122 Avatar

      I think the non-locking ones are okay. I have 2 different sizes of the locking ones, and they don’t work for shit.

  3. 0A5599 Avatar

    Not exactly a tool, but a tool organizer. I bought something that goes in the drawer of a roll around toolbox to keep sockets sorted and accessible.
    Problems: you couldn’t take all the sockets over to the work area unless you did it one by one. It killed a lot of storage space compared to a rack. And if you use at least one deep socket with it, you can’t use the shallow drawers for it.

  4. onrails Avatar

    Having grown up with Craftsman when they still had their stuff together as far as quality control goes, any of their recent tools seem to be pretty bad, especailly if it has moving parts.
    That said, during one of the Hoonmas gift exchanges a few years ago, I got a 1/4″ drive (I forget the brand) ratchet with a double twist (down the centerline of the handle, not just down the centerline of the socket) mechanism. I’ve only ever had need for it once, but it was the only way to efficiently get a bolt out of the ship-in-a-bottle tight area I was working in. My other ratchet (admittedly needing to be replaced) couldn’t get enough swing to engage the ratchet, and it could have been done with a small wrench and serious hand cramps. The twisting is a very awkward motion, but once the bolt was loose and didn’t need much torque, it sure saved the day.

    1. dukeisduke Avatar

      About four years ago, Sears (thinking they had to compete with the cheap Harbor Freight garbage) started switching Craftsman tool manufacturing to China. As of a year ago, the screwdrivers were still American made, but that’s about it. Now I have to go used, or shop eBay for Craftsman stuff.

      1. mad_science Avatar

        Huh, I never knew they made that switch. 90% of my hand tools are Craftsman and have held up just fine, but they’re from 2005.
        If I had to do the “big buy” again, I’m not sure what I’d get.

        1. 0A5599 Avatar

          Black Friday 2014 I replaced a bunch of hand tools taken in a burglary. I got pretty much one of everything in terms of sockets and combination wrenches. All of it was Chinese Craftsman replacing circa Y2K USA Craftsman. I think the new wrenches are comparable, and maybe even a little better as far as chrome plating, since I doubt China has anything equivalent to our EPA. Screwdrivers seem a step down. The plastic carry cases are garbage.
          I tend to stock up on heavily discounted tools, and everything on my invoice was at least 50% off. I think most hand tools these days are made in the same couple of factories, so it is harder to find USA ones anymore.

          1. ol shel Avatar
            ol shel

            Do Craftsman’s screwdriver handles still smell like vomit? Each time I open that drawer…

          2. mad_science Avatar

            This thread actually prompted me to see what buying what I have in Made in USA tools would cost. Answer: prohibitively expensive unless you’re a professional mechanic/corporate account.
            Part of the problem is only the truck brands of Matco, Cornwell, Snap-On, S-K, etc are MIUSA, and from what I can tell they don’t offer the “451 Piece Mechanic’s tool set” for $500ish that I once got. Instead they have “8 SAE ratcheting box/open” for $250ish listed on their sites.

  5. nanoop Avatar

    I bought a set of helicoils that were not from Helicoil. The tool to insert them and to snap off the pin snapped. I got the job done by improvising, but this was only possible because it was M6 threads, providing enough space in there, and in Al.

  6. P161911 Avatar

    Back when I had an E30 I almost bought the BMW service light reset tool. A little research revealed that the only thing that it did was short two pins on a connector. A piece of wire worked just as well.

    1. smalleyxb122 Avatar

      Kind of like the GM OBDI “code reader” that shorts A and B so the Check Engine light flashes the code.

  7. neight428 Avatar

    The end of mine looks like a mushroom. The hammers broken on the thing outnumber ball joints successfully separated with it. There are better tools to do this with, tools I did not become aware of until it was too late.

  8. PotbellyJoe★★★★★ Avatar

    A “third hand” for brake adjustments on my old, old bike. Useless because there are ways to work without it, and useless because now everything is disk, V- or better designed brakes that what the old systems were.
    I laugh at the new “Aero” bikes that have the U-style brake mounted to the frame behind the bottom bracket and remember how much of a pain they were too work on before and now they put them in a hrad to reach place under the bike. No thanks.

    1. JayP Avatar

      I recall this tool as well… it as was more a toy and was more fun.

      1. smalleyxb122 Avatar

        Pretty sure I bought one of those every year at “Santa’s Secret Workshop” in gradeschool.

    2. marmer Avatar

      You still have it? What do you want for it? I have two very old bicycles that need this and I haven’t been able to find one.

    1. Fuhrman16 Avatar

      What is it?

      1. smalleyxb122 Avatar

        It’s a rear brake caliper tool. A shitty “universal” rear brake caliper tool.

  9. engineerd Avatar

    This is me. I usually cause jobs to take 3x longer than they should because I don’t pay attention to the instructions or try to rush through them. My mom thinks I’m special.
    Baka Rack!

  10. stigshift Avatar

    Perhaps slightly off topic, but a garlic press. Always thought they looked cool and would really save time. Literally destroys garlic. I used it maybe three times and said fuck it. Taught myself better knife skills… On the automotive side, the worst tool ever is the old ubiquitous angled tire iron. Use it on your bumper jack (remember those?) and then use it to round off your lug nuts while simultaneously knocking you car off of said bumper jack.

    1. Sean McMillan Avatar
      Sean McMillan

      I think the same can be said for any oem lug wrench. I was changing a tire on my wifes volvo a few weeks ago and actually bent the lug wrench trying to loosen the lugs.I was using my jack handle for extra leverage at the time and now the two are inseparable.

  11. mad_science Avatar

    A gift:
    Supposed to be a better/different adjustable wrench design. Utterly useless as it’s slow and takes up more room than a box or ratchet would. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever used it, ever.
    Oddly enough, I swiped this image from another “useless tools” thread:

    1. Tiberiuswise Avatar

      I got one as a gift too. I doubt anyone ever bought one for themselves, ever.

      1. gerberbaby Avatar

        Funny, I got the same gift once…never ever used mine either.

  12. Tiberiuswise Avatar

    A “gift” from former in-laws. “He likes doing things with tools, he must need one of these. It will probably replace all his other tools.”

    1. JayP Avatar

      Proof that any tool that does more than one thing, does none of them well.

    2. Sjalabais Avatar

      Made in Chernobyl?

    3. mad_science Avatar

      We had such a tool in the tire shop I worked in for hammering on and removing balancing weights. Worked well enough for that, but not better than a proper hammer and pliers would have. Maybe a good to throw in the emergency or camping kit?

  13. Jaap Avatar

    Electronic keyfinder, you whistle: it goes beep-beep-beep. So it should.

  14. Manxman Avatar

    These adjustable wrenches that I bought in the 70’s was going to replace all the box end wrenches in my tool kit. Needless to say they only worked on the TV commercials. The old slip joint knuckle busters were in my dad’s toolbox and I’ve kept them to remind me how he would bite his tongue to keep from cussing in front of me when the jaws would slip and the handles crush his fingers. Channel locks work so much better.

  15. smokyburnout Avatar

    I played with one of these for a few minutes in the tool aisle of an auto parts store a few years back.

    Neat to watch moving, but fairly limited in application and apparently not particularly strong

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