Review of Tronex 5071 Electronic Technician PC/Computer Tools Made in the USA – Part 1
Tronex 5071 sub-miniature tip cutters
Photo ©2011 by Larry Neal Gowdy
Copyright ©2011-2021 - updated June 04, 2021
Update for June 04, 2021
It has now been about ten years since this article was first written. Aside from the two additional paragraphs under the quality section, plus a few minor changes of abbreviations and updated product information, the article is generally unchanged from its original version.
It is not an exaggeration when I say that I could talk for days about the differences between different brands of tools. Few things are as pleasing to me than holding and using a quality tool!
Before talking about the quality of Tronex tools it is useful to briefly touch on what quality and professionalism actually imply.
Quality is measured by how well a thing functions with creative harmony within its environment. A quality tool is easy to use, the tool is accurate, the tool is dependable, the tool fits the hand properly, and the tool performs the purpose that it was designed to accomplish.
Many brands of tools are not easy to use due to poorly chosen shapes that do not allow for accuracy nor for fitting the hand. Some brands of tools can also cause more problems than if no tool at all had been used. As an example, a cheap pair of needle nose pliers may have sharp edges that nick wire, and the nick will later cause the wire to break which will cause more loss of time for repairs. In the long-run the cheap tool is almost always more expensive than a high quality tool.
As an example, in the 1980s I paid over $200.00 for an electric drill to be used for drilling holes for wiring in new and existing dwellings ($200.00 in the 80s would be like around $1,000.00 today). The drill's high performance of speed, stability, and accuracy saved me hours on each job, and the drill never gave me a problem. I sold the drill in a garage sale about twenty years later; it was still working fine, and the only defects were a lot of scratches and the chuck had begun to rust a little. During the twenty years I would have had to buy at least forty to sixty or more of the cheap brands, costing me about $800.00 to over $1,200.00 in costs plus countless hours of life.
Quality tools enable quality work, and quality tools are always less expensive than cheap tools.
The technician that arrives at a job site carrying dirty inexpensive tools is quickly judged by most individuals to not be qualified for the job: if the employee does not care about his tools of the trade, then the person does not care about their work. In comparison, the technician that carries quality tools that are clean and arranged properly in a tool kit, he is judged to have considerable experience and to care about their work.
When entering an office where all employees except one are wearing white shirts, and the one employee is wearing a burgundy turtle neck sweater, most of us interpret the non-conforming employee as likely being the highest skilled employee of all. Similarly with tools, in most occupations employees use a brand of tools that has been popularly accepted as the trade's chosen standard, but the employee that uses a brand of higher quality is usually interpreted as having a superior skill.
Tronex tools are of a professional quality; they are easy to use, the tools perform their intended purpose accurately, the tools fit the hand well, the tools are of an attractive design, and the tools set the technician apart from the crowd. By every measurement Tronex tools are professional grade.
The very first thoughts that entered my mind when holding a Tronex 5071 pair of cutters were (1) "industrial", and not as in 'industrial weight' but as in an industrial quality suitable for all manufacturing and service work, and (2) that the alloy metal is composed of a high quality strength and durability similar to what is sometimes found in medical/hospital equipment and aircraft engine parts (bearings, etc.). The Tronex cutters impressed me from the first moment of holding one.
Over the years I have worked as a senior air craft inspector, as an electronic technician in medical equipment manufacturing, as an electronic technician in publishing production, and my experience includes security systems, analog/digital PCBs, networking, and most all fields of consumer electronics. Generally, if an electronic device will fit in a home's garage, I have likely worked on a similar product.
One thing that has stuck in my mind over the years has been the memories of my observing the techs who stood-out from the crowd, the really good techs, the ones that really knew their stuff, the techs that really liked what they were doing, and the tools that they used. Tronex fits the choice of professional technicians.
Using Tronex for Electronic Service
"You don't know what you've got until it's gone" hit home with a vengeance. I had been experimenting with the idea of using inexpensive tools for job sites while leaving my better tools safely on the bench. I had purchased a cheap imported 36 piece 'professional computer repair tool kit' that I thought would surely be good enough for basic PC repair, but within a few weeks I had returned to using my best tools for all work. A simple job like repairing a broken Cat5 line was extraordinarily difficult with the cheap tools, but the repair only took a few seconds with Tronex tools. (The broken Cat5 wire was caused by a nick which was caused by a company's employee having used a cheap pair of needle nose pliers when the wiring was installed.) After so many years of using quality tools, I had forgotten how bad low quality tools really are.
Perhaps the best way to illustrate the usefulness of a quality tool is to first use a cheap low quality tool. The 'professional computer repair kit' has wire strippers that cannot strip insulation without nicking the wire, the strippers tear wire through a shearing action instead of cutting the wire, the needle nose pliers' cutting surface does not close tightly enough to cut through a Cat5 wire, the pliers' sharp edges deeply nick all wire, and the tools are not just useless, they are a liability.
With very little physical effort the Tronex cutters 'snap' through wire with a clean cut, a nicely solid feel, and a sound that describes an accurate cut that does not need trimming. In a real-world scenario, the inexpensive 'professional computer repair kit' tools might require about five minutes to properly trim and ready one end of a Cat5 cable, while the Tronex tools might only need about half a minute. During a day's use the Tronex tools can accomplish more in one hour than what the cheap tools could accomplish in eight hours. For me, I simply cannot afford cheap tools.
I have not yet had the opportunity to use the #5071 cutters on a daily basis – not as many circuit boards to repair nowadays – but each time that I do use them I am delighted with the very solid and precise cuts.
With the several different brands of tools in my collection, I have noticed that I now only reach for Tronex when I need needle nose pliers or dikes.
I had seen Tronex advertised in a catalog several years back, but the catalog's brief description of the nut and bearing rings gave me no indication of how the design might be better, and the catalog's photos also didn't help. Without seeing a Tronex cutter in person I imagined that the cutters would not be any better than other brands.
The normal slip/box joint used by most tool manufacturers usually has a bit of slop when new, and tends to quickly worsen with age. To confirm the differences in my own mind I just now grabbed my once-favorite needle nose pliers and worked them open and closed a few times. The slack in the box joint is sizable and more than a little displeasing. The Tronex cutters, however, have no felt slack between the nut and washer.
In aircraft and machining we are accustomed to working with close tolerances where a few extra ten-thousandth's of an inch can be unacceptably wide. A portion of my interpretation of "industrial quality" includes the thoughts that a machinist would surely give approval for Tronex tools. If a professional machinist were to design and machine his own tools, he would likely design his tools similar to Tronex's.
A precision tool is needed for precision work, and I am very pleased with Tronex's precision design. My dad – a retired TV repairman of 40 years – repeatedly spoke of "precision" when handling the Tronex tools. The quality design and fit of Tronex tools is very noticeable to experienced technicians.
Everything has a disadvantage, and the one thing that Tronex needs is a matching set of screwdrivers! Seriously, Tronex pliers are of such a delight to use that it seems a bit disappointing to have to use a different brand for screwdrivers. Perhaps in future years Tronex will widen their selection to include tools commonly used by all electronic technicians, but at present Tronex only makes pliers, cutters, strippers, and tweezers.
In the future I would also like to see Tronex offer different colored cushion grips. The blue color is fine, and I cannot immediately think of a color that I might better prefer, but I like choices, and having a choice for grip color would be a good incentive to buy duplicate pliers, one for the bench and one for on-site work, or perhaps one color for soft copper wire and a different color for hard steel wire. Too, if grip cushions were sold separately, customers could then buy new ones to replace badly soiled or damaged grips. Replaceable grips and colors are not much important, but it is the one and only thing that I can find to nit-pick (and I commonly fuss a lot about other brands!). I am both amused and a bit stunned that I cannot find a real disadvantage in Tronex tools.
I am impressed with Tronex tools, and I am at a loss of words to describe how well the tools fit the needs for professional technicians in all fields of electronics. The tools mirror professionalism in other trades as well, including machining, jewelry, and medical. Many of us are accustomed to carrying one brand of tools for one type of job and another brand of tools for a different type of job, but Tronex is ideal for all types of jobs. Whether I will be called to work on medical equipment at a doctor's office, to service the electrical at a machine shop, to service a corporate maximum security system, or to repair a computer at a residential address, Tronex tools are the professional choice for them all.
If you are a professional – or just want to look like one – Tronex is the brand.
Please visit Tronex for more information and a list of their tools.
(Note: Desco Industries is reported to have bought Tronex in 2019, but the Tronex tools are still made in the U.S.A..)