Studio for Public Spaces outdoor installations are quite unique. Installing and maintaining these unique installations requires having the right tools handy at all times. Peter Taylor is one of our most accomplished technicians, and he puts a lot of thought into the assortment of tools he carries on his belt. Let's take a look at his tool belt.
Describe your job at the Exploratorium.
I'm an Exhibit Technician, and as such I support the fabrication, design, and maintenance of exhibits. I'm a bit of a jack-of-all-trades, and I work with lots of different departments and people. My job is so variable that it's hard to actually describe an average day. Sometimes I’ll be in a boat on the water taking care of exhibits in the lagoon or installing instruments on our NOAA buoy, sometimes I’ll be making parts for new exhibits, and sometimes I’ll be in charge of maintaining a gallery for the day. This variety is what makes the job so interesting!
Your tool belt’s pretty amazing. What motivated you to put it together?
Efficiency. I would be working on an exhibit and discover I needed something from the shop. I'd make a list of the things I needed, walk back to the exhibit, get a little further into it, then realize there was something else I needed that was hard to predict and not on the first list. The tool belt is an attempt at limiting these back-and-forth trips. It will never eliminate them entirely, of course, but it does really speed things up. It's satisfying to solve a problem right then and there, and it happens pretty often.
How do you select what tools are belt-worthy?
It's simply about noticing which tools I reach for most frequently. The very most common things, of course, are screwdrivers, wrenches, and pliers. Once I select a type of tool, I try to find a really good or multifunctional version of that tool. Quality goes a long way, though, so having a dinky multi-tool that has lots of functions, but is a pain to use, can be less efficient than going back to the main shop to get the real tool. Folding Allen wrench sets fall into this category for me. I want ball-end, L-shaped Allen wrenches. They are faster to use, can get into more spaces, and are typically stronger, but they weigh more and are bulkier. I'll take the bulk tradeoff to allow fast, pleasurable use instead :-)
Do you have a favorite tool?
I have a few. I really love the C.H. Hanson auto-adjusting needle-nose pliers. Fast, reliable, secure, and with minimal lateral jaw play. Another favorite is the long Wera "hex-plus" ball-end hex wrenches. They feel excellent in the hand; I’ve never stripped a bolt head or marred one of these wrenches. McMaster also sells individual wrenches, so when I lose one, I can replace a single.
Any tools on your wish-list?
I'm always on the lookout, though most of the things I want wouldn't go in the pouch. I'd like to find a super adjustable, locking, non-marring, low-profile drill bit depth stop. I haven't found it yet, and I started designing something that might do the job. This wouldn't go in the pouch; I’d pull it off the shelf often, though. I'd like to replace the plastic thread gauge with a steel one, but I don't want the extra weight. Again, I might have to make or modify one with high Drillium content (lots of extra holes in it) to reduce weight.
It'd be nice to have a selection of male threads to figure out which thread fasteners to collect from the shop. Right now I measure the diameter of a hole and bring both UNC and UNF fasteners, returning the ones I don't use when I’m done. Maybe a set of lightweight titanium bolts? That could be cool. I guess the next most practical thing would be a really small multi-meter. I don't currently have any way to diagnose electrical problems without a trip back to the shop. I'm thinking the Triplett 2030-C, but can't vouch for it yet.
Can you talk about your tool modifications?
Most of the tools are stock, honestly. I make tools often, but the fundamentals that go into the tool pouch are pretty standard fare. I put a rotating loop on the back of my Klein stubby interchangeable-bit screwdriver. It allows me to pull it from the depths of the pack easily, and also serves a little like the swivel on a jeweler’s screwdriver. Similarly, there are pull-tabs of electrical tape on the Loctite anti-seize stick and Loctite blue. These tabs allow me to get at them when they are in their shared pocket easily. I laser-cut a new plastic window (replacing the broken glass original) for my clapped-out calipers a while back.
Any plans for upgrades?
I'm going to laser-cut a new caliper holster I designed, replacing a tattered cloth off-the-shelf one with some thicker leather. Maybe even laser-etch something on it. I think I’m going to replace the scriber with a more multi-functional pin-vise, with a scriber tip.