'Special' tools, want vs need, and learning about what you just don't know (yet)

November 05, 2022 5 min read

I have been receiving the same questions on repeat recently regarding DMC Tools and our Race Spec® SS 1.0 Solid contact, specifically how the MH860 has unofficially (and incorrectly) been dubbed as a 'special tool'. I have covered this before in a video but I believe it will offer value to many by having it posted here permanently. This post is only about tooling, and if anyone is sitting confused about the SS 1.0 Solid contact - make it known and that can be addressed separately.

I'm going to presume that most people reading this will understand that the 'blue crimp tool' you are used to seeing is not just the DMC Crimper. In fact, it is one of many different crimp tools they offer from their catalog of 65+ indent style manual operation crimp tools, each with their own supported applications. I'm also going to hope that these same people understand the difference between these tools and their Amazon Special parasites.

The MH860 is only as special as what you may have thought to be the only solution when using Deutsch DT/DTP, common series of MIL-Spec connectors, and very few Deutsch Autosport/Souriau contacts. It's actually even more special because it in fact saves the average user $514 and has been around for over thirty years.

That's weird, how could something so old be new/custom/special? The answer is ignorance.

Quick Facts To Get You Up To Speed (Direct from DMC's Datasheets):
  • The AF8 offers virtually limitless application within the specified wire range of 12-26 AWG. Over a thousand turret heads are available to adapt the tool frame to your specific military or proprietary contact/wire combination.
  • The AFM8 meets the need for a miniature tool accommodating wire sizes 20-32 AWG. It is designed for most of the miniature and sub-miniature connector types that are so widely used in electronic systems.
  • The MH860 accepts the entire middle wire range of 16-28 AWG. It was developed to meet the demonstrated need for supporting the majority of electrical systems with one versatile crimp tool frame.
Many people refer to the AF8 as 'The DMC Crimper', maybe because it looks like the HDT-48-00 and maybe because that's all they know of. It is versatile as it can terminate Size 20, Size 16, and Size 12 contacts but it's 10" long, cumbersome, and often will require both hands for operation. I know many of you, myself included, went years of using this same tool to terminate Deutsch/MIL-Spec Size 20 (DTM) and Size 16 (DT) connectors - rarely using a Size 12 (DTP) but not knowing of a better way.

Liken this to using a 1/2" breaker bar on a M6 nut.

The AFM8 has been the go to for many that aren't terminating Size 16 or Size 12 contacts regularly and it's much easier to handle as it can be operated with one hand. It's 30% smaller, lighter, easier to use than the AF8, and supports nearly all Deutsch Autosport/Souriau 8STA contacts. The big downside was that if you needed to terminate MS/DT Size 16 you would in fact also require the AF8. There would be an overlap where you could crimp your MS/DTM Size 20/DTM with the AFM8 or AF8, but anything larger (MS/DT Size 16, Autosport Size 16, Souriau Size 12, and MS/DTP Size 12) would require you to have both tools at ~$784 before the cost of any positioners or turrets - and they're not cheap. Safe to say if you're tasked to terminate conductors worth a few hundred dollars then you shouldn't have issue in having the correct tools to do it.

I had used the MH860 on a handful of LEMO connectors that call for it in the past and admittedly didn't pay much mind to it. While working closely with DMC on a solution for the SS 1.0 Solid contact, it came up in conversation and I then found you can terminate a MS/DT Size 16 and Autosport Size 16 with it, effectively removing the need to even take the AF8 out unless using a Size 12 contact. Sort of makes perfect sense, doesn't it? A game changer for many of us....that never got the limelight. The tool was drawn in 1988, two years after the AFM8 and four years before the AF8. But hey, it's 'special' and 'custom'. It's also absolutely wonderful to end run terminate a 29-Way AS/31-Way MS and not be leveraging the AF8 against the table as you crimp with a 2" workable area at the back of a connector. Terminate one Deutsch DT connector with the MH860 and you'll find out exactly what I mean.

I consulted DMC to advise on the best crimp tool/locator solution for the SS 1.0 Solid contact. During this, I was suggested a custom disc/mechanism inside an AFM8. This would be similar to the MH992 (a precision miniature tool we use on coax that only looks like the AFM8) and I strongly opposed this as it would in turn require anyone using our contact to purchase a truly customized/specialty tool that would have no other use. It initially appeared to yield the best crimp tensile strength test results and we even have a rendering of the tool as a Race Spec only part but it didn't truly meet my goal. As the SS 1.0 Solid accepts a wire size spread similar to a hybrid between a DTM and DT, a stock AFM8 would not work because remember what I said at the start - it only accepts 20-32AWG.

And yes, I know - with the right amount of finesse you can cram some 18AWG wire in some Size 20 contacts and 'just send it'. That doesn't work for 16AWG, which is very common for PDM applications and it was important to accept 16-24AWG without having two separate contact sizes available that would need to be purchased separately. More cost for you, more inventory for us, and constantly looking to make sure you grabbed the right one during construction. It was the easiest solution but not one I was happy with. You also may not realize what you are subjecting the tool and conductor to while doing that. If you know better than I, and you know better than DMC, then go buy the SK2/2 (an adjustable universal locator for the AFM8) and you can fumble around to get the depth position correct along with playing roulette for the wire size selection (which also needs to account for the contact's wall thickness). I strongly advise against this which is why we have since stopped selling the SK2/2 outside of what is left in inventory as to not encourage the cavalier instagineers.

We stock positioners for the MH860 to suit the following common terminations we all work with regularly outside of our bespoke SS 1.0 Positioner, and there are plenty more than just this:
  • MS/DTM Size 20
  • MS/DT Size 16
  • Autosport Size 22 Pin
  • Autosport Size 22 Socket
  • Autosport Size 20 Pin/Socket
  • Autosport Size 16
  • Souriau Size 22 Mini Socket

Costs required for working with Autosport Size 22 and Deutsch DT on your project:
  • AFM8, AF8, required positioners $1050
  • MH860, required positioners $686
It's almost like I had your best interests in mind, isn't it?

If you need the ability to work with MS/DTP Size 12, then you simply also need the AF8 and that's showbiz baby. If that cost is off putting, rent the proper tool or browse surplus suppliers. If the MH860 sounds like what you wish you got had you known better, there are avenues to recoup a good portion of your previous spend (surplus suppliers, ebay, private sale, etc) and repurchase confidently with the information I've provided here.

Here's some reference, one Souriau planform type requires a tool capable of Size 8 contacts (the red one in the photo). It cost +$580 for the crimper tool/locator alone and at this time we have zero other use for that thing, but the client deserved perfection - and so should yours. If it's for yourself and not someone paying you for work, I can't tell you how to do things.....but the fact that you're here and reading this says you do want to do it right.

Work smarter, not harder and don't believe every word you read on the internet.

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