Claustrophobic tools: Tough tools for small spaces

Conventional wisdom should generally dictate a logical flow for building and assembling your project.  But let’s be honest here, sh*t gets real and we’re usually building stuff on the fly between family time and our real jobs and sometimes conventional wisdom looks a lot like reckless abandon when all is said and done.

So quite a number of times recently I’ve run into a situation where a full sized tool (mind out of the gutter…) just doesn’t fit into the spaces I’ve left for myself when I need to drill a pilot hole or drive a screw.  Then I shake my fist at the heavens and curse myself for not planning ahead better.  Because full disclosure here, in my day job, I am responsible for trouble shooting issues that would come up five steps ahead so we can avoid them before they happen.  I know… it’s like a superpower, but an incredibly boring one set in the finance industry… zzzzzzzzzzzzzz.  Oh, welcome back from your nap!

Luckily, the tool industry knows that sometimes even the best planners can paint themselves into a corner or having to work in tight spaces is unavoidable.  So here are two of my favorite tools for spacially challenged jobs.

DeWALT Right Angle Attachment

This handy little attachment slides into the hex slot of your drill/driver and gives you a very low profile 90 degree angle to fit into spaces your driver wouldn’t.  You’re limited only by the thickness of the attachment (1.5 inches thick), the bit and the length of your screw.  The only draw back is that this is a two handed operation.  In addition to pulling the trigger on your drill/driver, you also need to apply pressure on the attachment to drive the screw in.  Not a game changer but sometimes it’s tough to get two hands into a work space.  Also, depending on the project, adding the extra length of the attachment to your drill/driver can be an advantage or a disadvantage.

There are a bunch of similar offerings from other companies, but the DeWALT seems to be the most reliable option plus, it’s usually around $20 on Amazon.  That beats buying a right angle drill that will run you $100+.

Ridgid Tools Palm Impact Driver

So let’s say you’re building a console table… for a recent contest…  Well in your excitement you assemble all of the inner workings of the drawers before you attach the table top and oh crap, if you attach the top with your driver inside the table you’ll never be able to get it out because the drawer pockets are too small to pull it back through.  DOH!  Then when you’re advertising that you have a new table for sale you can throw in the bonus sale that it’s a lot like your favorite sugary morning cereal, it comes with a surprise inside!  Hooray an impact driver!  Realizing this was a reality about to come true, I went out and bought the Ridgid Tools Palm Impact Driver (out of necessity of course!).  I was very skeptical about how it worked and why I would even need such a tool when it came out especially given the $100 price point.   And then I tried it.  This is legitimately the 2nd pocket screw I attached with it:


Luckily you get the edited version because I yelled “BOOM!  DONE!” in the full length video and that would have been embarrassing if you all knew that happened…  So instead you get to suffer through a shaky 10 second video from my phone as I operate the driver one handed.

So let’s talk initial takeaways.  There is no trigger like a traditional driver/drill.  “No trigger?  Are you crazy?  Is it telepathically controlled?”  Unfortunately, it can’t be controlled through the power of thought, but what it does have is a “push to drive” function where you literally just apply pressure and the unit starts spinning.  I was actually shocked how little pressure I needed to apply to get results.  Sometimes I feel like I need to really leverage a driver to screw into tougher material and this little “cute brute” did it without breaking a sweet.  In the video i’m using the little Ridgid left handed with my arm contorted through the inner-workings of my table drawers while filming with my other hand.  Needless to say, I had zero leverage to put a little ass into it.  Also important to note, the push to drive function is pressure sensitive, so if I did need to dial it up to 11, I would only need to apply additional pressure to tap into those reserves.  MORE POWER!!! MUWHAHAHA!!!!

Since it’s only 12v’s it is advertised as a “light duty” driver, but I’ve yet to see it falter where my 18v driver excelled.  Did I mention it also has an on board grip light like its big brothers?  If you’re using this tool in a small space, chances are you’re not going to have a lot of light, so it was pretty brilliant of the Ridgid designers to include it in this small package.

I honestly had little interest when this tool came out.  I figured it was an under powered gimmicky tool of the season you usually see catering to the holiday shopping crowd that wants a “cool gift” for dad.  I can legitimately say I was very wrong.  I find myself using it almost as much as my primary driver because it is so convenient and there is no sacrifice of power for that convenience.

Also worthy of a note, if you ever buy Ridgid tools, make sure you do so through the Home Depot.  When you purchase through the Orange place, your Ridgid tool can be registered for a lifetime warranty which is AWESOME.  Do you have an old cordless drill sitting around taking up space because the battery drained?  You get free batteries for life with registered Ridgid tools. Totally worth the investment. ~Lazy Guy

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Christopher Albert
Christopher Albert
5 years ago

Nice one, solved my issue!

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