Tools in the Office

A friend of mine asked me for suggestions for the contents of a small repair/utility kit to place in a locker at his office. In his own words, he wants to be “the handy guy”.
Every time I have moved office, I have virtuously left my tool collection for my successor, (not that I had much choice in the matter last time!) Each time I have regretted this, as over the next few months I have needed tools I no longer have.
What to have in such a kit will depend on the office, and the sort of equipment likely to be encountered.
I once returned to my office to find a pair of colleagues attempting to help someone remove a finger-ring. I quickly confiscated the hacksaw(!) and demonstrated that a needle-file was the correct tool for the job.
A dearly missed friend of mine was a craftsman of the old school. He brought the best tools he could and they served him well for his entire lifetime. Good job he was cremated, since he would turn in his grave at my next suggestion!
Bear in mind the likely frequency of use of your office tool kit. For items that are only likely to be used occasionally, it may be warranted to acquire some of these items from “budget” sources.
Images are for illustration only! No recommendation of particular brands or models should be inferred.

Office Folders

My starting point for an office tool kit would be to find a penknife and/or multi-tool.
Swiss Army Champion
If you are a regular visitor to these pages, chances are you already carry a number of useful items as part of your EDC.
It is also possible that you have a couple of older items that you have replaced with something better and more suited to your needs. You may have brought yourself a full-sized multi-tool, only to decide it is too heavy for constant carry and your needs are better served by something such as a Swiss Army knife and a mini-Leatherman Squirt.
In my kitchen drawer I have a couple of penknives donated from lost property. One is large and bulky and includes a set of pliers. Both penknives hang on a hook in the drawer and are useful for tasks such as tightening cooking pot handles.
If you have a surplus penknife and/or multi-tool, make this the starting point of your office tool kit.

Screwing in the Office

The next addition would be some “proper” screwdrivers.
There are some places that the screwdrivers on a penknife or multi-tool cannot reach, or are too big for. If you have to remove a number of screws, or they are hard to remove, conventionally handled screwdrivers may be more comfortable and effective.
Items such as phones or laptops tend to use quite small screws. You may encounter cross/Phillips/posidriv or Torx-headed screws.
Have a set of several small screwdrivers of approximately 3 to 5mm width for the flat heads, and the other types of similar size, such as PH/PZ 0 to 2.
Small Screwdrivers and Spudger
Some items have very small screws! A set of precision/“jeweller’s” screwdrivers is worth having. This will also make you popular with spectacles wearers.
Precision Screwdriver set
As an aside, the very small screwdriver that fits in the corkscrew of a Swiss Army knife is worth acquiring for your EDC. I once saw someone’s glasses fall to bits while they were talking to me in a pub. I repaired them there on the spot.
Very Small Swiss Army Knife Screwdriver
You should also have at least one fairly hefty large slot screwdriver.
Recently an important keycard was left in a cabinet and the key-holder was absent with Corvid. I was told to get into the desk by any means possible. Unable to pick it, I used a large screwdriver as a wedge and prybar and opened the drawer with negligible damage.
Having a crowbar at work might raise eyebrows. A large screwdriver or two is more acceptable and in many respects more versatile.

Pinching in the Office

Next I would add a set of pliers. By “set” I mean a kit containing several pairs of different forms, for example fine, long-nose, curved, broad and side-cutters.
These are for all the jobs the pliers on a penknife or multitool are not ideal for.
Insulated handles are nice to have, although you should not be working on anything with live electricity.
A number of times I have been called on to repair colleagues’ jewellery.
Set of Small PLiers
I have a nice little set of five tools, each about four to five inches long. I picked these up in a model-railway shop.
These are backed up by a pair of heavier duty long-nose and standard pliers of about six to seven inches long.
○ Precision screwdrivers and fine pliers would be among the first tools I acquire for an office tool kit.

Nuts Loose in the Office

It is probably not your job to fix the sink. Even if you do actually know what you are doing, there are numerous good reasons why this should be left to someone paid to do the job.
You may, however, come across loose nuts on furniture in an office environment.
Your tool kit should have a set of Mole grips or an adjustable wrench for such contingencies.

Cuts in the Workplace

In this day and age, the sight of a penknife blade may cause some of your colleagues to soil their underwear.
A Stanley knife/box-cutter may be a more acceptable tool should you need to cut open packaging.
More assaults are probably committed with Stanley knives and box-cutters than penknives, but hoplophobia is not rational.

Tape It!

Final component of the basic kit would be a roll of duct tape and a roll of electrician’s insulating tape.

Additional Items

• Reorganizing is a popular distraction in offices. Will the desk fit? I am often asked if I have a tape-measure.
• Sometimes items using allen screws are encountered, so a small set of allen/hex keys might be handy.
There is a joke that Mole grips or duct tape are for things that move that shouldn’t, and that WD40 is for what won’t move but should!
• WD40 is handy for a number of things in the office. As well as being a lubricant, it can be used for cleaning.
• Modifying your office environment with a hammer will probably be frowned on. It may prove tempting next time the printer or photocopier plays up!
As a starting point for your office tool kit you may have used a pre-made home kit, such as the one shown below, which includes a hammer. A claw hammer does make a useful substitute for a prybar.
Home Tool KIt
• A magnifying glass may be useful for dealing with those tiny screws.
• A magnet is good for finding any screws you drop or keeping removed screws going astray.
• If working with small parts, tweezers may be handy. So too might a plastic “spudger”. You can probably carve the latter from the less-brittle examples of plastic cutlery.
• A small sewing kit may also prove handy.
• I am inclined to suggest a small flashlight might be a handy addition. My step-son will probably just point out that most people have phones with lights.
Whatever you decide upon, keep your tool kit under lock and key. Useful things like tools have a habit of getting borrowed and not returned.

Other Utility Items for the Office

My friend said tool/utility, so what else might he want in his locker? His EDC should cover most of his needs.
No idea about my friend’s current lifestyle. He may still enjoy a wild night out on the tiles. He might want a toothbrush, toothpaste, a razor and deodorant in his locker.
Female readers may wish to keep a supply of hygiene items.
Your place of work should have a stock of medical items, but you may maintain a supply of personal medication, and other items such as your preference in painkillers and anti-histamine, for example.
Spare clothing, such as clean underwear, warm hat, bandana, scarf, gloves, jumper and a poncho/rain-proof. A spare lighter and a space blanket is always prudent.
This is venturing into the topic of “get home” bags. That is a topic for another day.


Keep Your Knives Close!

Probably high time that I told this story!
Many years ago, I went to buy a coffee at the café at work. The usual staff were not there.
Another young lady had been sent there instead. She was struggling with trying to open up in an unfamiliar environment. She had brought her boyfriend with her, but he was not much use and had decided his best approach was to stand by looking gormless.
I waited patiently.
The lady got to the stage of installing the milk boxes in the dispenser. I was familiar with these from my own experience in temp jobs. They have a blind-ended plastic tube. The end of the tube must be cut off before the box can be used.
The poor girl was unable to locate where the usual staff had placed the scissors, or whatever else they used. Futility, she gamely hacked away at the tube with a blunt butter knife.
I took pity on her.
I produced my trusty Swiss Army Knife, unfolded a blade and offered it to her.Swiss Army Ranger
I will admit, at that point I was seduced by the chocolate bar display. I only caught what occurred out of the edge of my vision. It was over before I could intervene.
What happened was this:
The young lady had taken my knife and hooked the blade behind the tube. She had then pulled it towards her. She had assumed my knife was the same as the usual semi-blunt objects she had encountered in cafés. It wasn't.
The edge went through the plastic like it was not there. The girl recoiled a foot or so. Luckily the blade missed her.
“That is a sharp knife!” she exclaimed. She seemed oblivious to the fact that she had nearly just cut off one of her breasts.
I accepted back my knife. Silently, I vowed that in future I would not to lend my blades to other people.
I have been duly wary since that incident. When my girlfriend reaches for certain tools, I cannot help but warn: “Careful! That is sharp!”
She returns this with an eloquent look. Part of it says: “I know! I am not and idiot!” but I think there is also a smidgen of pride that says: “Of course it is, it was you who sharpened it!”.
Morals of this story: Do not assume a tool is blunt. Do not assume someone else knows how to use a tool safely. Never cut towards yourself.

Adding a Pin to a Swiss Army Knife

The tools on a Swiss Army Knife sometimes end up performing tasks you never imagined! A few months back I went to unlock my front door, only to have the entire barrel of the lock detach and come away with the key! The metal file/saw proved to be ideal for reaching to the back of the lock and turning the bolt.
My girlfriend’s son had asked me why I always carry my SAK. Exactly for times like the above!

The Early Years

For the first few years of my early adulthood I carried a Chinese-made version of a Swiss Army Knife. I vaguely recall there were actually two, although I do not recall why I had to replace the first. To be fair, these were quite nice knives, with a good assortment of tools. The only problem I actually recall is a time when the corkscrew straightened out as I attempted to open a bottle of wine.
Back in those days, they were all I could afford, and they served well.
Once I had some money, I invested in a genuine Victorinox Swiss Army Knife (aka SAK).

Victorinox Champion

The model I selected was called the “Champion”, not to be confused with the “SwissChamp” that had become available a few years previously. The longer named Champion was less bulky than the Champ, lacking the pliers.
Swiss Army Champion
The seven-layer Champion was about the ideal maximum size for a SAK, and had a really useful selection of tools.
Sadly, my Champion was lost in an unfortunate chain of events that do not need to be told here. Even worse, the Champion had been discontinued, so I could not buy a replacement.
There was no ebay back then, so little chance of locating a second-hand one.
All the features of a Champion

Rise of the Ranger

As a replacement of the Champion, I selected a Ranger model. The most obvious difference between the two was the Ranger lacked a magnifying glass, fish scaler and Phillips screwdriver:
Swiss Army Ranger
• The Phillips screwdriver had proved useful at times.
• I don’t recall ever using the fish scaler/hook disgorger, at least not for its intended purpose.
• I didn’t make much used of the magnifier either, although now that I am older and more decrepit, I suspect it might prove more useful. As an aside, the magnifying glass on the Champion was very cleverly thought out. Its focal length was the same as the magnifying glasses’ height. In other word, if you placed your knife on a map, the detail under the magnifying glass would be in focus. This may have been the case for other models that had the magnifying glass. I wonder if the same applies to the newer pattern of magnifier?
Since I wear glasses, an early addition I made to both the Champion and the later Ranger was to add the mini-screwdriver that fits into the corkscrew. Originally this tool was only included with the SwissChamp. They were sold as spares, however, so I acquired one. This has proved very useful over the years, often coming to the rescue of companions rather than myself. Half a lifetime ago I repaired the glasses of a grateful Swedish beauty in old Jerusalem.
Corkscrew Mini-tools
Victorinox now offer three alternate tools, each with a different coloured end.
I have carried the Ranger for many decades now. The lack of Phillips screwdriver is compensated for by the Leatherman Squirt mini-tool I also carry. If you are in the market for a medium-size (91mm) model SAK, the Ranger must be one of the best options. The Huntsman model is a good choice, but I have often found uses for the file/metal saw of the Ranger.

Swiss Army Knife Wiki

Recently I came across the Swiss Army Knife Wiki. This site is worth a look around.
Some interesting information on how to use the various tools, and some applications for them you may not have known. My Ranger had a Phillips screwdriver all along and I never knew! I discovered that the tip of the can-opener is actually intended for use with Phillips screws as well as slot.
The tip of the file/metal saw can also be used on some Phillips or Pozidriv screws.

Adding a Pin to a SAK

The original reason I have been thinking about Swiss Army Knives recently is that I came across a blog post discussing the pin carried in the handle scales.
Below is a video on possible uses for “needles” [sic pins]. The channel has many other videos on various features of Swiss Army Knives.

Even before I watched the above video, I was thinking about adding a pin to my Ranger. I own a number of very fine drill bits, so creating a channel for a pin would not be too difficult. I could probably add a pair.
I have lots of cheap pins. I decided to try and find the pins actually used, since they were probably better quality and the head looked a little wider.
A number of ebay vendors offered replacement pins for Swiss Army Knives. The one I chose got my money since they offered another idea. Included with the five pins was a small magnet. This magnet was sized to fit in the can-opener. With such a magnet, a pin could be magnetized as a compass needle.
The bits arrived this morning.

Fitting the Magnet and Pin

The 5.8mm magnet was a perfect fit for the can-opener. The vendor included the advice that the tool next to the can-opener usually needs to be opened before closing the can-opener with the magnet stored in it. If this is not so, the magnet tends to pull out of position, attracted by the neighboring steel. Although stainless steel, the blades of a Swiss Army Knife are magnetic.
Magnet in Can-Opener
Finding a drill bit small enough for the pin was not a problem. Problem was most were too short to drill a channel as long as the pin. The other problem was my Ranger has solid scales. It lacks the air-spaces found on some newer and alternate scales.
Drilling a channel deep enough and straight enough proved problematic, and inevitably the very fine drill curved and the channel exited on the inner side of scale. This actually proved to be fortuitous, allowing me to file a notch on the inner side for end of the pin to rest in.
I settled for adding just one pin for now. Most of the alternate positions for a pin are obstructed by the rivets the scales snap on to.
Ranger Knife Modified
My Ranger with pin added (blue arrow) and notches on scale (green arrows). If the balloon goes up, I am ready!

Other Modifications

Incidentally, the back scale of my Ranger has two additional non-standard features.
One is a chip, where an idiot friend used my knife as a bottle-opener without using the bottle-opener! I could fix this damage, but it is a useful reminder to be more cautious of whom I trust.
More useful are a series of three notches. The second is five millimetres from the first, the third 57 mm for the first.
The first and third notch are used to draw a circle of 57 mm radius. The first and second are used to mark the circumference in five millimetre increments. Each millimetre of the circumference closely approximates one degree. Such a compass face can be used with various improvised modes of navigation.
Another addition I have made is to add a needle and thread. Take about a metre of invisible thread and pass one end through the eye of a needle. Tie the ends together and then wrap the thread around the needle. Push it down beneath the saw blade. It should be snug enough that it will not drop out if you invert the knife with the saw open. I used the metal saw rather than the woodsaw, since this is likely to see less use.
While you are at it, wax your woodsaw.