Q. Our local "Big Box" store has some imported sets of hammers and dollies at bargain prices, but I don't know what the quality is, or how long I can expect them to last. Can you give me any advice about selecting tools for doing bodywork, or how to tell the good ones from those that are inferior?

Joe Price
Via the Internet

A. Most of us realize that you usually get what you pay for. While I don't want to imply that anything made in Asia is inferior, there is a very broad range in the quality of tools made there.

Top-quality tools are made from forgings of sophisticated steel alloys, and the faces are carefully shaped and polished. Inferior hammers and dollies are made from cast iron and they dent easily, and have even been known to fracture on impact, which can be quite dangerous. All of the U.S.-made tools I've seen are very high quality, and there are some good tools made in England and Germany, too. I'd be especially wary of buying any tools that have the distinctive "cast" texture on the unfinished surfaces. That's a pretty good sign that you're looking at "tool-shaped objects" that really won't perform well in the long run.

Q. I just read through your metalworking column in the November STREET RODDER about using a hub and brake package for a rotisserie. I built a similar unit years ago, using the rear brake assembly from a Ford Escort. It worked great; you just pulled the e-brake handle to lock it. But that still didn't satisfy my desire to have a more efficient method of working on the car, with the rotisserie wiggling around taking up lots of space, and causing undue stress to the body shell and me. I needed more control and a less stressful method of supporting the larger body shells that had lots of rust in them, plus I wanted something compact to save space.

It seemed the front and rear framerails of my projects often had rust issues that prevented mounting the rotisserie brackets to them. I knew I needed to rotate the shell to gain access for the repairs and media blasting, so I thought the rear shock and suspension area would be a good spot to mount to, since that area was usually in good shape, and the same with the front shock and firewall areas.

After watching my neighbor's kids try to climb on top of a beach ball in their swimming pool, I had an idea; to rotate something in one spot freely with contact on the ground for better control. So the next morning I got busy making some sketches; two hoops around the body shell, with jigs mounting to the suspension areas. It seemed like it had to work. Then I just needed some type of rolling mechanism to mimic the pool of water, and I'd be set! Four prototypes later, I now have a method of handling classic cars, which works great for us in our busy shop.

A unique feature of the Roller Hoop is its brake system, which allows you to lock it in any position in seconds, and with the four foot brakes, you never need to leave your working area, just a quick press of the toe and you're locked. Need to roll it just a few more inches, or complete 360 degrees? A flick of your toe unlocks the brake, then you can rotate the body to the next position, press the pedal, and it's locked in place instantly. Need to move into the booth or onto a trailer? Just insert the jack-arm, lift off the Roller bases, slip on the quick attaching caster wheels, and it's rolling around like a big shopping cart within minutes. You can see more on our website: rollerhoop.com.

Doug Kielian
Auto Kraft Body & Paint Lincoln, NE

A. I must say, that is a very innovative idea, indeed. Thanks for sharing this with our readers, and I hope it will inspire some other people to send in pictures of helpful or timesaving tools or devices that they have invented.

You can email your questions to Professor Hammer at :covell@cruzio.com, or mail to: Covell Creative Metalworking, 106 Airport Blvd., #105, Freedom CA 95019; you'll receive a personal reply. Ron Covell has made many DVDs on metalworking, and he offers an ongoing series of workshops across the nation. Check them out online at covell.biz, or call for a current schedule of workshops and a free catalog of DVDs. Phone (800 747-+4631, or (831) 768-0705. Also check out Ron's YouTube Channel: youtbe.com/user/covellron.