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What’s in Your Tool Box?

Also, we offer another unique solution to thwart troublesome mice

Fig. 1: A YouTube image from Discovery’s “Dirty Jobs” episode shows host Mike Rowe going up. The episode about a tower erection by Great Plains Tower aired in 2011. During a recent workshop at which I appeared, conversation turned to the best things to carry in your tool box.

More than one engineer told me he could buy a stocked Xcelite brand tool kit yet not use many of the tools it contained. That’s a big kit to lug around if you only need a handful of tools. I’ve seen engineers repurpose metal microphone boxes or canvas tool bags to lighten the load.

What kind of things do you really need to stock?

For an engineer of a certain age, how about bright LED flashlights to aid with weaker vision? Amazon offers a variety of hats and clip-on devices with the LEDs in the brim, or other similar headgear that light up the workspace. We’ve pointed you to these clever hats before.

Speaking of failing eyesight, how about a desktop magnifier for your workbench? These are also sold in small handheld versions.

Keep a variety of hardware — nuts, bolts, washers and screws — at hand. This will save time when the nut you need falls into the bottom of the rack or is missing. Use small pill cases, prescription bottles or — if you can find them — 35 mm film cases to keep hardware sorted.

Although it may take awhile to scan, how about a thumb drive with critical manuals and schematics? I’ve also heard of engineers keeping the INI files for the hard drive system on a thumb drive. In addition to alcohol for cleaning, how about stocking a bottle of Formula 409, Scrubbing Bubbles or other brand of cleaner, plus a box of rags?

Google “clean T-shirt material” for a number of companies that sell recycled clean white cotton cloth. They are cheap and ideal for cleaning.

So have I started you thinking? What else would you include in your ideal tool kit? Email suggestions to me at [email protected].


Kevin Reski is owner/operator of Great Plains Tower. He has also served two terms on the board of NATE, the National Association of Tower Erectors.

In a recent LinkedIn post, Kevin wrote about the effects of cold weather on machinery and diesel engines. Based in North Dakota, Kevin knows cold — and he knows that fuel and block heaters attract mice.

I found one of his solutions interesting. Kevin and his crew learned that mice can be repelled not only by moth balls, but by placing strong-smelling, pine-scented urinal cakes all over the heated machinery. These odors keep the mice away. Kevin and his crew also toss the cakes and moth balls into the bottoms of rope barrels to keep mice from entering and nesting there. The cakes are a small price to protect against pests that might chew up a 2,000-foot rope at precisely the halfway spot.


Great Plains Towers had the honor of hosting Mike Rowe and Discovery’s “Dirty Jobs” while erecting a 330-foot tower a couple of years ago. They attached an antenna in the rain and Rowe and his camera crew were a part of it. You can see the video clip at Great Plains Towers’ website:


Mike Payne does some tower climbing of his own. Fig. 2 shows him heading up a tower to perform some maintenance.

Fig. 2: Mike Payne is ready for some tower maintenance. Aware that hunters might aim at tower legs, Mike’s are solid rather than hollow and can withstand such insanity. However, guy lines and egg insulators are certainly prey to this nonsense too. In Idaho, where Mike does a lot of work, most folks own at least a 30.06 rifle; and a heavy-load .44 will generate just as much havoc.

Fortunately, most folks don’t pass their time aiming at guy lines and insulators.

Mike went up on a tower recently; halfway up he saw damage similar to what we described, which can be hard to see from below. He went back down and told the owner that he was done. Of course, he was never invited back.

Even if you don’t do the climbing yourself, routine inspection and maintenance is a must; so hire a tower service.


Broadcast engineer and fellow RW contributor Dan Slentz offered software tips in our previous Workbench. He’s back with a really neat educational site.

It is called, and it offers a variety of free educational classes. One that Dan thought readers would like is an introduction to 3D printing. I also found an introduction to Photoshop and modules on increasing your productivity. Classes are free.

Here’s the link:

Contribute to Workbench. You’ll help your fellow engineers and qualify for SBE recertification credit. Send tips to [email protected]. Fax to (603) 472-4944.

Author John Bisset has spent 44 years in the broadcasting industry and is still learning. He handles West Coast sales for the Telos Alliance. He is SBE certified and is a past recipient of the SBE’s Educator of the Year Award.