Review: Fix It Sticks Replaceable
Last year, we reviewed the original Fix It Sticks, a project born from an incredibly successful Kickstarter campaign. This year, the company is expanding their product line, with a brand new version of their signature product, this time made of stainless steel instead of aluminum, and with replaceable bits, held in place by magnets. The original version used aluminum wrench bodies, and the the bits were permanently epoxied in place, to prevent wear on the comparatively soft aluminum bodies. Along with the new Replaceable edition is a dedicated T-Way wrench. The new products are both available available direct from their website, as well as a new Kickstarter campaign, which closes on April 8, 2014. The campaign funded with amazing speed. As of this writing, it has almost triple its funding goal, with three weeks to go. So, without a doubt, if you want this product, you can have it.
I have several different sets of hex tools, and although they can't be totally replaced, I often choose to grab Fix It Sticks instead.
TriRig was lucky to get a set of these tools early, and I have to say they live up to the promise. The original Fix It Sticks have become a staple on the TriRig toolbench - I use them literally every day, because they are simply the most convenient tool to grab for small, quick jobs. They usually live on my desk, right next to my keyboard, because I'm often making little adjustments to bits of prototype hardware scattered around my office. I find that a pair of Sticks is quite often easier to use the a conventional 3-way wrench, or a handful of standard T-handle wrenches. They're certainly much smaller and lighter than other tools, and their compact size makes them a natural residet on the desk.
That doesn't mean the Sticks can totally replace the other tools in my workshop. But for lots of quick little jobs, they're often the first thing I go to. I'm still very happy to have a dedicated set of standard L-handle wrenches, T-handle wrenches, and extra-long T-handles, for the jobs that simply require those tools. I also like having hex-shaped power bits for my impact driver, when I have to make a large number of identical operations. That might be something like removing forty-eight M4 bolts from a dozen Sigma Stems while prepping them for a tunnel test, for example. Anyway, the point is that for someone doing a LOT of shop work, a wide variety of tools will always be ideal. But for MOST operations, the Fix It Sticks are awesome. The new replaceable version offers a twist on the original, neither replacing nor superceding it, but rather offering a different option.
Different, not better or worse
Again, the new Replaceable Sticks aren't meant to replace the originals (if you'll pardon the pun). They're a different option, with a slightly different set of features. The new characteristics are easy to describe: the steel bodies are heavier, the magnets allow you to swap out any 1/4" bit, and internal magnets allow the Sticks to stay in place while in the T configuration. But that doesn't tell you why you'd use one over the other.
For example, I still really like the originals for mobile use (in the saddle bag of my bike). I like keeping three Sticks, with bits ranging from 2mm to 5mm, plus the Phillips #2. That lets me do nearly every adjustment I need to do on the road, in a very lightweight package of just 72g. For home use, Replaceable Sticks let me make custom pairs to do exactly what I want. For me, that's not too different from the mobile set, but sometimes I just want a slightly different bit on there. For example, I have a set of bits from a German brand called Wiha, that makes bits with less rounding on the tips. See this picture to see what that means. In use, that helps to prevent unintentional cam-out (when your wrench comes out of the bolt head), and it can be crucial when you're dealing with a slightly rounded bolt head that may be on the verge of stripping.
The point is, it can be really nice to have a customizable wrench, capable of accepting any standard 1/4" bit. And the Fix It Sticks form factor is ideal for bicycle use. The new Replaceable edition's only potential drawback is the heavier weight, given the stainless steel bodies, and the internal magnets. For shop use, that's meaningless. For road use, it only means a difference of 30g or so per pair of Sticks. Which, for most purposes, is also pretty meaningless. It's simply another option, and an excellent one at that.