This is What’s In Your Toolbox?, an occasional post series where we showcase tools and tips from our favorite fixers. Today we’re featuring Steve Porter, host of the TronicsFix channel on YouTube, where he tears down devices, buys batches of “broken” devices to see how many he can rescue and resell, and occasionally fixes a viewers’ broken device. Note: iFixit has previously sponsored TronicsFix’s videos.
Just a slight warning: If you’ve got a vivid, visually rich imagination, brace yourself for the “worst injury” question.
First off, explain to our community who you are and what you do!
My name is Steve and I run the YouTube channel TronicsFix.
How did you get started archiving and rescuing things?
I’ve been a fixer since I was a kid. I grew up on an alfalfa ranch 80 miles from the nearest town of any size, so when something broke we had to figure out how to fix it. I just so happened to be good at that ,and I’ve never stopped fixing.
What’s in your toolbox (or workshop)?
I have many toolboxes. Some large (automotive toolboxes), others small (sewing kit), many in-between (precision electronics toolkits), and I try to have the tools on hand to fix basically anything that I might need to fix.
How do you organize your tools/devices?
Organization is something that I struggle to make the time for. My current strategy (for hand tools) is to buy several of the things I know I’ll need the most. For example, I have 3-4 good large screwdriver sets. I keep one in my garage, one at my upstairs workbench, and one near my YouTube studio. For larger tools, I have a couple main storage areas and I just hope that it’s in one of those areas when I need it. It’s a dumb system.
What are some of your most-used tools?
This all depends on the job I’m working on but usually small hand tools and of course The Encourager (my hammer!) If I had to pick one type of tool I use the most I’d have to say screwdriver.
What’s your most-coveted, yet least-used tool?
That’s a tough one! I’ve got lots of specialty tools. There are some jobs (especially with cars) that require a specialty tool to do a job and you just can’t do the job without that tool. If I had to pick one I’d have to go with a borescope. It’s generally not needed for most jobs but a few jobs are made so much easier/interesting if you have one. For example, if I need to see inside of an engine I can use the borescope to see what’s going on inside without disassembling the entire engine.
Is there a certain tool or material you use often, but seems unorthodox for your field?
Yes! Dental picks. They’re so handy for so many things, especially when working on small electronics. I have multiple types at every workbench.
Every fixer has a brutal tool injury or failure story. What’s yours?
Oh, I’ve got many! Let’s see…
- When I was young I cut my thumb open with a razor blade (still have a scar)
- Had a tractor/post hole digger accident that ended with me getting 22 stitches in my finger (still have a great scar from that)
- Was using a torch to heat up some exhaust bolts near a rubber CV-type joint. I was looking up at what I was doing and didn’t notice the molten rubber until a piece dropped right onto my lip
- Was pounding in T posts using a post pounder when my thumb somehow got between the post pounder and the post on the way down (still have the scar)
… the list goes on.
What’s your advice for people who want to start fixing things?
Often people ask me, “How can I fix things like you?” and my answer is always the same: Just start. When you see something broken, try to figure it out. Try to figure out how it works and reverse engineer it to get it working again. There’s not a lot of things that feel more empowering that fixing something!
Anything else you want our community of fixers to know?
I’m always fixing something over on my YouTube channel: TronicsFix