7 Tools I Will Always Have Duplicates Of

Kyle Smith

Buying tools is an addiction to some. The seemingly endless utility of these objects designed to enhance our lives and abilities can be intoxicating. Hence why even when we don’t need them, new (and new to us) tools find their way into passenger seats, truck beds, and backpacks as the artfully organized cache in my workspace grows and grows. I could probably just name my toolbox Audrey II, though my garage is only occasionally full of horrors, and the ‘box feeds on tool steel and carbide rather than human flesh.

My toolbox is not overflowing, but that only speaks to my self-restraint and judicious control over how often the solution to a problem is using the credit card versus my brain. We all want to own one of every tool. They are just fascinating. But even with one of everything, we would likely still want more. Some jobs simply require duplicates. Or at least I have convinced myself that occasionally having two of the exact same tool is the solution to my problems. Whether the logic makes sense or not, here are seven tools that I must have two of inside my shop:

Vice grips/clamps

Despite years of trying and a few consultations with my doctor, I have yet to grow a third hand. Something about evolution taking millions of generations just really puts a damper on me getting the extra holding power I could use most days.

Luckily, not only does a solution exist, but it’s affordable and easy to store. Years ago I resigned that anything that is locking or clamping should be purchased in pairs. This realization followed a discussion with a fabricator friend who hammered into me that it is impossible to have too many clamps. He was right.


To be clear, I’m dialing in the discussion of duplicates to exact duplicates. Two of the same tool. My drawer full of screwdrivers is surprisingly full when you consider there are relatively few popular styles and a minimal number of usable lengths.

Maybe it’s my use, but I always fear damaging a screwdriver tip just as much as damaging the hardware. A damaged screwdriver stalls a project as once the head is stripped the options for removal get destructive quickly. A spare screwdriver is a security blanket I shouldn’t need, but won’t wrench without.


You thought I wouldn’t include a 10mm joke? Impossible. A lot of my projects these days were built in countries that believe in base 10 measurement systems. If you have a more American bent to your tooling needs this might be the 1/2″. Regardless, not having a 10mm socket or wrench could easily stop a few of my projects in their tracks, thus duplicates make sense.


The easiest to justify on this list might be the extensions for a socket set. Stack them on each other to reach the depths of the engine bay that was previously reserved for engine-out services. It’s also convenient to have multiple to so I’m not constantly disassembling my tooling mid-job.

Wire brushes and cleaning supplies

Cleaning parts is one of the tasks that I do not seek out and only after some time have I figure out that any tiny roadblock in the process will flip the switch in my brain that says “not worth it. Just reinstall the part as is. It’ll be fine.”

But I want to do higher quality work than that, so having a surplus of cleaning supplies and materials has helped eliminate the feeling that cleaning things has a barrier that must be met. I keep these brushes and supplies around to not only remove the perceived barrier but ensure that it does not return unexpectedly.


Having worked on cars in situations ranging from ideal to downright dangerous, I’ll say one thing I have never heard is, “Wow, it’s too bright. I can see everything I need and it’s frustrating.” No, more light is often a cure for frustrations while working on cars. Small LED flashlights have gotten downright cheap, so a few in various sizes, shapes, brightness, and magnetism are just downright handy. It’s a struggle to work on something you can’t see, so light up your project.

Drill bits

They break and dull, and when you need one there is pretty much nothing else that will do the job. Drill bits are wildly affordable for the function they serve and having a duplicate set, or even just a few of the most commonly used sizes in your shop, allows a certain peace of mind that your projects will move forward even if an unfortunate happenstance breaks a bit. Good setups and usage will make drill bits last a very long time, but it’s not if things go sideways, it’s when. Preparation for that takes a lot of frustration out of your projects.

This is just the list for my shop and, of course, every shop is unique. I typically only have one major project apart or being worked on at a time and the tools go back into the box after each working session. In a larger shop or for someone with many projects running it might make sense to duplicate common tools just so things don’t get lost in the shuffle. What tools do you have to have duplicates of in your toolbox?


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    Have multiples of all the above and Also, don’t forget multiples of allen wrenches, wire brushes and torx bits!

    End wrenches. Quite often, the bolt head AND the nut are the same size (go figure) and a wrench on each requires that every size is duplicated. I prefer box/open end combos, but I also have quite a few that are box or open end at both ends.

    I’ve got a set of ratcheting box end and a set of standard. Could probably justify another set of standard, but haven’t run into a situation where I have needed them when I have the ratchets. And I fully recognize that calling those two different tools is a bit pedantic.

    My toolbox was filled with wrenches well before ratcheting end wrenches were available (at least in the Sears Store in my hometown – they might have been on the trucks that sold to pros, don’t know. I’m quite a bit longer in tooth than you, and learned wrenching by the “turn, remove, reposition, turn, and repeat all steps” method! 😜

    LOL. I bought my first tool set at Sears. Craftsman socket set and wrenches. One of the ratchet handles stopped working two years ago. 40+ years after I bought it. Took it to Lowes for my free replacement. Took getting an assistant manager to tell the Returns lady she was wrong.

    My main 1/2″ driver is a Craftsman that belonged to my grandfather, who passed away 40 years ago. Still works perfectly.

    I kind of wonder if your modern Lowe’s Craftsman will last as long.

    Totally agree. A set of combination end wrenches makes a good compliment to your box end and open end wrench sets.

    Yep. I have both SAE and metric combination wrenches. All Craftsman – anything better would’ve been stolen in the places in which I worked.

    We are fortunate to have four shops in the family compound. One for automotive, one for woodworking, and small basement workshops at both homes. Unfortunately that requires four sets of tools plus work benches, vises, tool boxes, etc.
    High quality tools for automotive, but we have a mix of hand me down used Craftsman and HF type tools that are used at the other shops.
    We try to have all the items on the list at each shop, and 90% of the time we have what we need on hand at each place, but sometimes I still have to take a walk to find a tool I need.

    Ken_L – did it dawn on you that you commented in the wrong article? You should be writing in the story entitled “7 tools I will always have quadruplicates of”. This article was about “duplicates”, man! 😂😂😂😂😂😂

    Jacks and jack stands.

    Also I am to the point I have three large tool boxes anymore for the tools I have more than one of.

    Just look at the number of hammer sizes and types you need anymore.,

    Sockets! While technically the same tool of various adaptations, my growing collection of sockets has helped quell the frustration of having to switch adapters or extensions while in an unwieldy position.

    12 point, 6 point, deep or shallow, ½” drive or smaller, having the exact socket for the job allows better accessibility and less risk of things going south. Recently a 6 point 16mm shorty saved the day while trying to access an engine mount bolt through an access hole at a slight angle.

    Not only that, but when that 1/2″-er drops and rolls under the car, out of the garage, down the driveway and into the street, you need a duplicate to reach for so you can complete your task. Then, when some neighborhood kid come riding his bike along, you can yell, “hey Spud, I’ll give you a quarter if you can find a round, shiny thing over in the gutter across the way”. Thusly getting your “duplicate” back.

    A few years ago we visited the hammer museum in Haines, Alaska. They had QUITE the variety, but wouldn’t you know it, I have one or two “specialty” types that they don’t have. I think I’ll name them in my will!

    I consider wire brushes and drill bits to be consumables and not really tools…

    In my past life I was a Diesel mechanic, and my old Diesel mechanic box sits at the south end of my shop. My father was a machine adjuster, and when he retired, his box came to reside at the north end of my shop. For the small stuff anyway, I pretty much have duplicates of everything… not counting my road kit and the tools on my boat…

    Feel free to judge my pedantry here: while I love my brushless cordless tools in a possibility unhealthy manner, the chance that their mystical magical electronics could fail compels me to always keep brushed corded versions somewhere on the property.

    Nothing to be judged – at least not negatively. I have way more corded tools than battery-powered. I likely grab the battery ones first, but I always know that as long as I am where I have a power outlet, I’ve got a tool that can do the job over the bench. And for particularly “tough” jobs (large drill bit going into thick metal, for instance) I’ll very often grab a big, corded tool as first choice.

    I keep two cordless drills at the ready not just for power but if I am working two bits I don’t need to change.

    Same on buffers. Different sizes for different areas of the car or compounds.

    Pretty much the same as my list of duplicates. I never get rid of a tool unless it becomes useless. That rarely happens, because I always buy really good stuff. Over the years, I have made up tool kits for various friends and relatives out of the extras, so I don’t accumulate too many duplicates.

    Two of anything is not enough, IE I have many wrench sizes in 4 or 5 different lengths, and multiple sets of drill bits from #80 to 1″. Lots of hammers and pliers of all types and lengths. I was in small engines for most of my life! 🤣😉

    I have duplicates so that when the tool I’ve just been using gets somehow “ lost” I can get the spare which somehow forces the original to “show up” again.

    So many of my tools never got lost again after my kids grew up and moved out. A few still do, but not nearly as many as it used to be. Wonder if there’s a correlation? 🤔

    Keep a duplicate of every tool you plan to give to your kids. As each child moves out, they get a set of basic tools to handle everyday jobs.

    You can thank Cellulose Acetate Butyrate for the smell. It breaks down over time to create a compound called butyric acid.

    Butyric acid! shades of organic chemistry! Rancid butter. I lost most f my old Craftsman screwdrivers or had them stolen, so am not blessed with the malodor. Some things just work out.

    I’ve been using Craftsman screwdrivers since day one of my career. Yes, I’ve replaced the most used ones several times ( looking at you #2 Phillips, 1/4″ and 5/16 nut driver) but a short trip to my Craftsman store and I walk out with a free replacement, for an initial cost of less than half the cost of Snap-On or Matco. No brainer for me. Newer Craftsman sets have a much more comfortable handle… and don’t have the smell! And no, I am not a Craftsman dealer.

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