Workshop Definitions

The Handyman’s Dictionary

SNAP-RING PLIER: Special pliers used to propel snap-rings from the part you are working on to the farthest, darkest, spider inhabited recesses of the garage .

DRILL PRESS: A tall upright machine useful for suddenly snatching flat metal bar stock out of your hands so that it smacks you in the chest and flings your beer across the room, denting your freshly-painted vintage car (or boat or airplane) which you had carefully parked in the corner of the shop (or hangar) where nothing could get to it.

WIRE WHEEL: Cleans paint off bolts and then throws them somewhere under the workbench at the speed of light. Also removes fingerprints and hard-earned calluses from fingers in about the time it takes you to say, `Oh sh-….’

ELECTRIC HAND DRILL: Normally used for spinning pop rivets in their holes until you die of old age.

SKILL SAW: A portable cutting tool used to make studs too short. PLIERS: Used to round off bolt heads. Sometimes used in the creation of blood blisters.

CRESCENT WRENCH: Used to prepare a bolt head for the application of pliers.

BELT SANDER An electric sanding tool commonly used to convert minor touch-up jobs into major refinishing jobs.

HACKSAW: One of a family of cutting tools built on the Ouija board principle It transforms human energy into a crooked, unpredictable motion, and the more you attempt to influence its course, the more dismal your future becomes.

VISE-GRIPS: Generally used after pliers to completely round-off bolt heads. If nothing else is available, they can also be used to transfer intense welding heat to the palm of your hand.

WELDING GLOVES: Heavy duty leather gloves used to prolong the conduction of intense welding heat to the palm of your hand.

ACETYLENE TORCH: Used almost entirely for igniting various flammable objects in your shop. Also handy for igniting the grease inside the wheel hub out of which you want to remove a bearing race.

TABLE SAW: A large stationary power tool commonly used to launch wood projectiles for testing wall integrity.

HYDRAULIC FLOOR JACK: Used for lowering an automobile to the ground after you have installed your new brake shoes, trapping the jack handle firmly under the bumper.

EIGHT-FOOT LONG YELLOW PINE 2X4: Used for levering an automobile upward off of a trapped hydraulic jack handle.

E-Z OUT BOLT AND STUD EXTRACTOR: A tool, ten times harder than any known drill bit, that snaps neatly off in bolt holes thereby ending any possible future use.

BAND SAW: A large stationary power saw primarily used by most shops to cut good aluminum sheet into smaller pieces that more easily fit into the trash can after you cut on the inside of the line instead of the outside edge.

TWO-TON ENGINE HOIST: A tool for testing the maximum tensile strength of everything you forgot to disconnect from the engine being removed.

CRAFTSMAN 1/2 x 24-INCH SCREWDRIVER: A very large pry bar that inexplicably has an accurately machined screwdriver tip on the end opposite the handle.


PHILLIPS SCREWDRIVER: Normally used to stab the vacuum seals under lids or for opening old-style paper-and-tin oil cans and splashing oil on your shirt . It can also be used, as the name implies, to strip out Phillips screw heads.

STRAIGHT SCREWDRIVER: A tool for opening paint cans. Sometimes used to convert common slotted screws into non-removable screws.

PRY BAR: A tool used to crumple the metal surrounding that clip or bracket you needed to remove in order to replace a 50 cent part.

HOSE CUTTER: A tool used to make hoses too short.

HAMMER: Originally employed as a weapon of war, the hammer nowadays is used as a kind of divining rod to locate the most expensive parts adjacent the object you are trying to hit.

MECHANIC’S KNIFE: Used to open and slice through cardboard shipping cartons delivered to your front door . Works particularly well on the contents of the carton such as seats, collector vinyl records, caustic/flammable/difficult to clean up liquids in plastic bottles, collector magazines, refund checks, and rubber or plastic parts. Especially useful for slicing the work clothes of the person using the knife or anyone standing next to that person.

GOD-D*MM*T TOOL: Any tool that you grab and throw across the garage while yelling `GOD-D*MM*T’ at the top of your lungs. It is also, most often, the next tool that you will need.

The first comment on this post reminded me that I’d failed to mention this is not an original post. I found it on


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2 responses to “Workshop Definitions

  1. Brilliant, love it.

    I wish I could claim it as my own, but I stole it from and they had it listed with no attribution.

    This isn’t original, either, but having taken a glance at your site I know you’d appreciate it. Don’t forget that a borrowed say will cut anything.

    BTW…you’ve earned a link on this blog. You might also be interested in my other blog, too…

  2. Just funny. And don’t forget there’s a whole vocabulary that goes along with those tools. My dad called it “technical language” and explained that using it while working wasn’t nasty – it helped the tools work better.

    A just barely-related tool story. I loved watching the ROVs work during the BP debacle. I’d sign on to the live chat and follow the commentary from people who actually knew what was going on.

    One night, one of the poor ROVs spent 45 minutes trying to get a bolt loose, with about 40 engineers offering encouragement. Finally, he dropped the wrench. It was just – something. The ROV’s arms dropped down to his side and I swear to you he looked dejected – I wonder if he could hear all those folks around their computer screens going, “Oh, shhhhh……”?

    The list didn’t include a few tools that could be added. Like “box-end wrench:” a tool designed to round of the heads of nuts and bolts thereby requiring another plan of attack for their removal.

    When I was working in a boat yard in New Orleans there was an old-timer who gave me a couple of pieces of advice that have stood me in good stead over the past quarter century.

    When trying to loosen nuts and bolts always hold on to the bolt and loosen the nut. And when trying to loosen anything that has been in place for quite a while, especially in a marine environment, always tighten it first before trying to unfasten it. All you want to do here is to make the object (nut, bolt, screw) move just a hair. What the tightening does is to break it free from the corrosion that may be holding it. All too often people immediately try to loosen the object and if it’s frozen tight you’ll round off the corners of nuts and bolts or strip the heads of screws. With the edges rounded or the heads stripped you’re out of most options that don’t include destruction of the object and often whatever it’s embedded in. If, in the process of trying to tighten it to break it free of the corrosion, you round off the corners or strip the head you’ve only destroyed that part of the object in that direction. Now, you’ve got time to stop and think about what your next move should be because the corners or heads are still intact for the direction you need to remove them. Doing this takes a bit of practice at first to remember to tighten before loosening but after a while it becomes second nature.