DIY Frequently Asked Questions

Hand & Power Tools FAQ's

What is a good tool to begin building my collection of tools for a woodshop?

A table saw or a bandsaw might be the most useful tool you can have in your woodshop and should be your first major purchase. We recommend a drill press as the second major purchase.

I need to drill a precise hole and can’t risk damaging the workpiece. What drill should I use?

The hand drill with a brad point bit is the tool to use when precision counts. Since a hand drill is turned manually, it can be stopped easily and precisely.

What is kickback?

Kickback usually occurs when the workpiece pinches the blade of the saw. In stationary power tools, the result can be that the workpiece suddenly lurches back toward the user. Power tools should come with an anti-kickback device that helps control this potentially dangerous situation.

What type of level should I buy?

A 9-inch torpedo level is good for hanging pictures and other small household tasks. A complete home toolbox will also include two-foot or longer carpenter’s level for larger projects like checking walls, bookshelves and fence posts.

How do I know if my level is accurate?

To check it, place it on a level surface, then flip it over. Both readings should be identical.

What is the difference between a band saw and a scroll saw?

The band saw blade makes a continuous loop and cuts by spinning in a circle. It can handle thick pieces of material, up to 6” thick. A scroll saw can only handle thinner pieces and uses a small blade that moves up and down.

I’m adding an interior wall and I want to make sure the studs will be plumb. What’s the best way to do this?

You can layout the top plate of the wall (generally with studs spaced 16” on center) and then use a plumb bob to plumb down to layout the corresponding bottom plate. Then you can begin installing the studs.

Does it matter what kind of blade I buy for my bandsaw?

There are different types of blades for different types of cuts, but here are a few blades that will give you versatility. A 1/4” wide blade is a good, all-purpose blade. A 4-tpi 1/4” size is good for quick curved cuts, or try a 6-tpi 1/4” blade for slower speeds and smoother cuts. The 1/2” hook-tooth blade is best for long straight cuts. For joinery or tight cuts, use a 1/8”, 14-tpi blade.

How long of a tape measure should I buy?

A 12-foot-long tape is handy for most household work, but I recommend a 25-foot one because it can also be used for carpentry, plumbing, and other major projects.

I want a hand saw for all-around use. What do you recommend?

A seven or eight point crosscut would be a good choice.

Does it matter what kind of blade I buy for my scroll saw?

There are different types of blades for different types of materials and cuts. Blades with larger numbers (7, 10, 12) are best for cutting thick materials. Blades with smaller numbers (0000, 00, 2) are best for cutting thin materials.

What do the teeth per inch numbers mean on sawblades?

The numbers indicate the number of points per inch on a saw blade.

Are more teeth per inch better when buying a crosscut hand saw?

Fewer teeth work more quickly, but provide a coarser cut with rough edges. Saws with more teeth work more slowly, but provide a finer cut.

What are some features to look for on a good planer?

Convenient features on a planer include a dust hood to collect dust, reversible knives that are often inexpensive and disposable, infeed rollers to grab stock and help feed it through the machine and preset depth stops to make it easier to set to a desired thickness.

What type of handsaw blade should I use to cut paneling?

Use an 11-point blade—with a fine cut—so that the wood will not splinter when it is cut.

Does the number of points on a blade also apply to hacksaws?

Yes the higher the number of points, the finer the cut.

What are some attachments besides drill bits I can use on my drill press?

You can use rotary rasps, sanding attachments and even a rotary planer for small pieces.

I want to cut some lightweight sheet metal, which hacksaw blade should I use?

Use a fine cut blade. On heavier metals, such as steel pipe, a coarser cut blade will be more efficient.

Can hacksaws cut other materials besides metal?

Yes, the fine teeth of a hacksaw can cut other materials too tough for wood saws, such as bricks.

I want a basic lathe. What size should I buy?

A 36” or 40” lathe is big enough to make stairway balusters and most legs for chairs and other furniture

Are staples interchangeable with different staplers?

No the brand of staples should match the brand of stapler.

What else should I consider when buying staples?

The thickness of the material to be attached and the hardness of the wood. In hardwood, a ¼ inch penetration is sufficient, but softwood requires up to 3/8” penetration.

The staples I am using do not go far enough into the wood, what do you recommend?

Your stapler does not have enough power to drive the staple into the hard surface. If you can, use a shorter staple or you will have to use a more powerful tool.

Can I use a staple gun to install molding and trim?

Some staple guns handle round-crown as well as regular staples, while electric staple guns can handle brads for molding and trim work.

My door is rubbing the frame at the top, what do you recommend?

You can shave off the top with a block plane, which is often the right tool, when you need to trim wood but not enough to use a saw. Block planes come in a variety of sizes to fit the job.

I need to plane a piece of plywood. What type of plane should I use?

When using a plane on plywood, be sure to use a double-edged disposable blade. The adhesive in plywood will quickly dull a regular cutting iron.

What drilling bits do you recommend for general use?

For drilling smaller holes in a variety of materials, choose a high-speed steel twist bit. These can drill holes from about 1/16 inch to ½ inch in wood, soft metal and other materials.

What type of pliers should I buy for general use?

10-inch set of adjustable pliers may look big, but they are a good choice for general all around use.

I need to drill a 1-inch hole in a piece of wood. What bit do I need?

For drilling medium sized holes in wood, a spade bit is a good choice. Common sizes range from ¼ inch to 1½-inch. They can also be used on chipboards and floorboards.

Is there any advantage of a metal leaf rake over a plastic leaf rake?

A metal rake usually has more spring and is better suited for large areas. It is easier to clean around flowerbeds, shrubs and bushes and does not rake up essential thatch in a lawn.

I need a pair of pliers that I can use in tight quarters.

Use a pair of needle nose pliers, which are good for this task as well as gripping small items, precision work, cutting wire, bending wire to wrap a terminal. The jaws and cutting blades meet evenly. If you hold them up to the light, you should not be able to see any diagonal chinks of light coming though.

What are the advantages of locking pliers?

They can turn many parts that no other tool can and they are especially suited for clamping onto small parts and gripping pipefittings. You can also use them when a nut or bolt head strips.  But be careful because you and deform some parts if you over tighten them.

I’m drilling in some wood, where I will probably hit some hidden nails. What bit should I use?

A spade bit is a good choice, because they are relatively inexpensive and you can resharpen them with a file.

What type of drill do you recommend for do-it-yourself projects?

Most consumers use a 3/8-inch model that reverses, has variable speed and has a keyless chuck. You should get one that draws at least 3.5 amps.

What type of drill bit should I use for cutting a large hole for a new door lock?

For larger holes use a hole saw. They range in size from about 1 inch to 4 inches. They have a pilot bit and a saw-toothed circular rim.

How do I take care of my pruning tools?

Simply keep them clean and wipe them down with light oil. Oil their pivot points and blades with 3-in-1 oil and sharpen them if need be. Also remove any rust with Naval Jelly.

If I buy a cordless drill, what volt-model should I buy?

A 12-volt model will handle the needs of most D-I-Yers. For bigger projects a 14-volt or higher model are a good choice. For lighter duty, a 9.6-volt model should be sufficient. For extended use, you should get two battery packs.

What drill bits do you recommend for general use?

For drilling smaller holes in a variety of materials, choose a high-speed steel twist bit. These can drill holes from about 1/16 inch to ½ inch in wood, soft metal and other materials.

What’s an auger bit used for in drilling?

It primarily used for cutting deep holes in all types of wood.

I need to drill a 1-inch hole in a piece of wood. What bit do I need?

For drilling medium sized holes in wood, a spade bit is a good choice. Common sizes range from ¼ inch to 1 ½ inch. They can also be used on chipboards and floorboards.

I’m drilling in some wood, where I will probably hit some hidden nails. What bit should I use?

A spade bit is a good choice, because they are relatively inexpensive and you can resharpen them with a file.

Can I drill a hole in concrete?

Yes a high-speed masonry bit is used on concrete, concrete block, cinder block, brick and stone.

What type of drill bit should I use for cutting a large hole for a new door lock?

For larger holes use a hole saw. They range in size from about 1 inch to 4 inches. They have a pilot bit and a saw-toothed circular rim.

Can I drill a hole in concrete?

Yes a high-speed masonry bit is used on concrete, concrete block, cinder block, brick and stone.

How do I choose a cordless power drill?

For occasional around-the-house chores, a lightweight 9.6V model is a cost-effective choice.  It will drive about 50 screws between charges. For light remodeling projects, a 12.0V model will drive about 150 screws. For heavy duty jobs such as drilling in metal or major remodeling, consider a 14.0V drill. An 18.0V model is usually only needed by professionals requiring high torque.

What is a saber saw?

It’s a portable jigsaw that can perform many tasks, such as cutting curves and holes. However, it can’t handle heavy jobs. Some models have orbital blade action for a more aggressive cut. Another feature some people like is blower that keeps the cutting line visible and sawdust free.

How do I select the right drill bit?

High speed steel is good for general purpose. Other metals such as titanium reduce friction and last longer. Cobalt is a good option for drilling in hard metals.

What should I look for when buying a saber saw?

Look to see if the mechanism for adjusting the base plate is sturdy. On less expensive models these are weak and will eventually wobble making it difficult to cut accurately. Look for a model that draws 3 amps and has variable speed.

What types of power sanders are there?

The four most common are belt sanders, finish sanders, orbital sanders and random orbital sander.

Which type of sander do you recommend?

For the homeowner, I suggest a random orbit sander because it balances the two main functions of a sander. It removes stock quickly and still provides a quality finish.

Isn’t a belt sander the best choice for removing a lot of material?

Yes, they work quickly, but I don’t recommend them for do-it-yourselfers because you have to be very careful. One mistake can ruin the piece you are working on.

My saber saw blades seem to dull quickly. What should I use?

That’s common, but make sure you are using the right blade for the material you are cutting—wood, tile or metal.

What are the advantages of a finish sander?

Rather than orbiting, it moves the sandpaper back and forth and should be used where it is absolutely necessary that the sandpaper move in a single direction. These often use square sheets of sandpaper, which also makes it easier to get into corners.

What is the difference between an orbital sander and a random orbital sander?

An orbital sander moves only in a circular motion, while the random orbital sander also moves back and forth. As a result of the two separate motions, it leaves less of a swirl pattern on the wood.

Which type of sander do you recommend?

For the homeowner, I suggest a random orbit sander because it balances the two main functions of a sander. It removes stock quickly and still provides a quality finish.

I have accidentally gouged some wood with my random orbital sander.

It’s best to put the sander onto the surface before you start it. In addition, when using an orbital sander, don’t press down too hard on the tool. Let its weight do the work.

What all-around circular saw do you recommend?

A 7¼ inch is the most popular size. It lets you cut to a depth of 2½ inches and to cut through a 2x piece of lumber even when the blade is set to 45 degrees.

How do you recognize a quality circular saw?

Look for amperage and types of bearings—top quality saws pull 12 or 13 amps and run on ball bearings. Lower quality saws use roller or sleeve bearings and are rated about 9 or 10 amps. While plastic housings are not a sign of inferior quality, make sure the saw has extruded or cast metal base plates. Stamped metal plates can warp.

What is a worm drive circular saw?

Unlike standard circular saws, these have the motor mounted parallel to the saw blade. In addition, they usually have a larger motor. These features provide for more powerful and stronger tools that are preferred by pros looking for heavy-duty, long-term use.

What can I cut with a circular saw?

With the proper blade, it can cut wood, metal, plastic, fiberglass cement block, slate and brick.

What are other features that I should look for on a circular saw?

How easy it is to see where the blade is cutting, is it easy to change the blade, will it cut bevels, can you use a vacuum attachment and can you attach a rib fence guide.

I need to make an accurate cut with a circular saw, but it’s difficult to keep straight.

You can get more accurate cuts by using a guide or fence that help you stay on the right path.

I have an old house and am not sure if the walls are square. How do I check for this?

Use the 3-4-5 method. Measure along one wall for three feet (or a multiple of three—the bigger the better). Mark this point. Next, measure along the other wall from the same corner four feet (or the same multiple) and mark the spot. Then measure diagonally from mark to mark. If the diagonal is five feet (or the same multiple), the corner is square. If not, it is out of square.

What type of blade should I use when I am cutting wood?

When cutting across the grain, a crosscut blade has a series of evenly spaced, medium-sized teeth that are bent alternately from the left to the right. When cutting along the wood grain, a rip blade also has teeth bent to the left and right, but its teeth are on the top of the blade, not on the inside. They are like chisels that scoop out the wood as the saw moves along the grain.

I need a tool box that will hold a basic set of tools… nothing too fancy. What type should I buy?

Tool boxes come in a variety of sizes and configurations. However, it sounds like you just need a basic plastic tool box to store a few tools and some fasteners. I would recommend a 19” model with one lift-out tray.

Do I need to buy both a crosscut and rip blade?

For general use, you can buy a combination blade that incorporates the features of both rip and crosscut blades.

What’s the advantage of a carbide-tipped circular saw blade?

The cutting edges are made from extra-hard carbide steel that will last up to 20 times longer and are good for cutting materials of different hardnesses.

Do I need a special blade to cut plywood with my circular saw?

Yes, a plywood blade has small teeth that provide a clean cut and reduces splintering.

Can I use my circular saw to cut masonry?

Use an abrasive wheel looks like a thin grinding wheel. It can also be used to cut fiberglass and light metal.

What factors are important when choosing a reciprocating saw?

Generally, the higher the amp the more cutting power. They range in size from about 4 amps to 11 amps. Other features include cordless options, orbital action that cuts more aggressively, adjustable shoe to change the depth of the cut and variable speeds.

When my tool belt is loaded with tools and fasteners it becomes too heavy to wear all day. I need all of my tools handy, but is there anything that can help?

Strapping a pair of suspenders to your work belt can relieve some of the strain on your back by allowing your shoulders to carry some of the weight.

My saber saw blades seem to dull quickly, is this normal?

That’s common, but make sure you are using the right blade for the material you are cutting—wood, tile or metal.

Is there a small power saw that is good for lighter work?

Yes, there are 3½ inch saws that are designed for trim work. However, they are also good for people who don’t want to handle a large saw. They can be used to cut everything from lattice to a 2×4.

I need a hex key wrench, but I don’t know the size?

Since they are not expensive, I would recommend an 18-piece all-purpose hex key wrench set.

What type of utility knife should I buy for general household use?

You probably should get a model with a retractable blade, especially if there are children present in the home.

Do I need to worry about what size straight-slot screwdriver to buy?

A screwdriver is most effective when the width of the head of the driver matches the width of the slot in the head of the screw. If you are going to buy just one of each, I recommend a number two Phillips head and a quarter-inch flat blade. However, I recommend that you get at least two sizes of each. In fact, you should really have a complete set of screwdrivers in your workshop to match the variety of jobs that occur around the house.

I need to cut the carpet out of a room that I am remodeling. Is there a special type of utility knife designed for this?

Yes. A carpet knife is what you need. Its angled design allows you to access hard-to-reach places where a regular utility might not be able to reach.

Do I need more than one Phillips head screwdriver?

Two sizes will handle most screws.

What utility knife do you recommend for cutting asphalt roofing shingles?

A fixed blade utility knife with a large hook replacement blade is your best bet.

I’ve been told that using a pair of pliers on the shank of the screwdriver can help loosen fasteners that are stuck. Is this true?

No. Pliers are prone to slip, even on square shank screwdrivers. It is OK to use a wrench, but only on square-shank screwdrivers.

Should I use snips to cut wire?

No. Snips are only designed to cut sheet metal. When cutting wire, always use wire cutters.

What size adjustable wrench should I buy for general use?

When it comes to gripping, bigger is generally better. If you are going to get just one I recommend a larger one: either 10-inch or 14-inch.

Can I sharpen the blades of my snips using a file or sharpening stone?

Generally no. Most do-it-yourselfers don’t have the type of sharpening device needed to sharpen the blades of snips. It’s probably best to purchase a new pair and properly maintain the blades.

I need a hex key wrench, but I don’t know the size.

Since they are not expensive, an 18-piece all-purpose hex key wrench set is recommended.

Why do snips come in right- and left-handed models?

The different types of snips are used to make cuts in different directions.

I need to cut a lot of 2x material for a project I’m working on. What type of square should I use?

A speed square is probably your best option. It has a flange on one side that buts up to the edge of the board to allow making square marks. It can also be used as a guide for your circular saw.

What are all the markings on my framing square used for?

They consist of rafter tables, which are used to figure lengths and cuts of rafters, and the Essex Board Measure table, which shows board measurements of almost all sizes of boards and timbers.

What square should I use to calculate an existing angle that I want to duplicate?

This is what a sliding bevel T-sqaure is designed for. You don’t have to calculate the angle, using this tool you can just copy and transfer it to the piece you’re working on.

I need to find the exact center of a circle. What’s the best square to use?

A framing square is the proper tool. Place the corner of the square anywhere on the circle’s edge. Then mark where the tongue and the blade intersect the edge of the circle and connect those two marks. Repeat the process at another point on the circle and the point where the two lines intersect is the exact center.

How can you check to see if an old square is still accurate?

Simply find a straight edge and make a mark at 90 degrees. Then flip the square over and make another mark next to your first mark. If the two lines are parallel, the square is still square.

I want to hang some shelves but first I want to make sure I don’t hit any electrical wiring buried in the wall with my anchors. What’s the best way to do this?

By using a stud finder with a built-in AC current detector, you can trace hot wiring behind walls to make sure you drill in the right place.

Do you have an ice melter that will not damage concrete or adjoining grass?

Yes, one option is a product that uses a specially formulated corn derivative.

What’s the best tool for measuring the inside diameter of a piece of copper pipe?

A pair of dial calipers will do the job, using the inside measurement blades.

The handle of my axe is split. Can I replace the handle without buying a new axe, and if so, what type of handle should I replace it with?

Replacing the handle of an axe is quite common. However, you need to replace it with a handle of the same size and quality as the original.

What’s the best way to sharpen the head of my axe?

With a file, restoring the head to its original shape.

Should I buy a single- or a double-bit axe?

If you aren’t going to be using it very often, I would recommend a single-bit axe. It does the same job and it’s safer to use than a double-bit axe.

I need to clamp two pieces of wood together, but I don’t want to mar the surface. What should I do?

If you’re using a C-Clamp, you can simply put two pieces of scrap wood on both sides of the work piece so that any marring of the surface will be to the scrap pieces and not the finish piece.

I have roaches in a basement room. What do you recommend?

There are both room foggers and roach bait.

I need to clamp a piece of laminate trim to my counter tops. What clamp should I use?

A three-way edging clamp is designed for this purpose because it can apply pressure to three sides of a surface.

I need a vise for general use on household projects. What type should I buy?

A standard bench vise will probably suit your needs. It is designed for light-duty applications and will handle a variety of tasks. All you need is a workbench or table to bolt it to.

What do you recommend for eliminating mice in the house?

There are a variety of traps or you can use pellets that you can place in the area.

I want a vise that I can take with me to use on different job sites. What do you recommend?

A clamp vise is an excellent choice. You can clamp it to most tabletops or even sawhorses and take it with you wherever you need it.

I need a tool box that will hold a basic set of tools … nothing too fancy. What type should I buy?

Tool boxes come in a variety of sizes and configurations. However, it sounds like you just need a basic plastic tool box to store a few tools and some fasteners. I would recommend a 19” model with one lift-out tray.

Are folding steel or plastic sawhorses as durable as homemade wooden ones?

Depending on the construction of the homemade ones, they are probably more durable and can be conveniently folded and stored out of the way.

When my tool belt is loaded with tools and fasteners it becomes too heavy to wear all day. I need all of my tools handy, but is there anything that can help?

Strapping a pair of suspenders to your work belt can relieve some of the strain on your back by allowing your shoulders to carry some of the weight.

I live in an apartment and don’t have room for a workbench or saw horses, but I still need a work surface to do projects from time to time. What do you recommend?

A folding workbench is ideal for general household projects, especially when you don’t have much work or storage space. Folding sawhorses can also be conveniently stored away and don’t take up much space.

I want to hide the nail head in some molding that I am installing.

Use a nail set to sink the nail head into the molding. Then you can fill the hole with a spackling compound, sand it smooth and paint it.

How can I remove the molding from my wall without damaging either the drywall or the molding?

A pry bar is more efficient than a claw hammer, and its smooth base keeps it from damaging the wall.

I want to tear down an old shed in the backyard. What should I use?

A wrecking bar or crow bar, which comes in different lengths, would be a useful tool.

I need a punch for general use, what type should I buy?

The center punch is probably the most versatile and can handle a variety of jobs that require a punch.

I am starting a tiling project and need to know what type of trowels to buy. Do you have any recommendations?

You will probably need several trowels, including a notched tiling trowel, a grout float and a margin trowel for mixing mortar. Be sure to buy the proper type of tiling trowel called for by the type of tile and mortar you are using.

I need a file to sharpen my lawnmower blade. What kind should I buy?

A flat file will work well. Just be sure to sharpen (redress) the blade using the existing angle or bevel of the mower blade. Also, try to remove as little metal as possible to make the blade last longer.

What’s the difference between a file and a rasp?

A file is generally used to smooth metal, where a rasp is specifically designed for shaping wood.

My crosscut saw doesn’t cut like it used to. What’s the best way to sharpen the blade?

With a taper file, which is a triangular shaped file specifically designed to sharpen saw teeth. Just be sure to follow the saw manufacturer’s recommendations for redressing the teeth and be sure the file size is the right size for the saw teeth you are sharpening.

Can I use a taper file to sharpen my chain saw?

No. You will want to use a chainsaw file, which is specifically designed for this purpose.

What are the differences in the various types of files?

Differences are primarily denoted by the type of teeth the file has. A single cut denotes a single row of chisel-cut teeth. These files are used on saw teeth and metals where a good finish is required. A double cut file is used primarily on metals where rapid stock removal is necessary and a rough cut is permissible. It has two rows of chisel-cut teeth. A curved-tooth cut features teeth that are milled in an arc. This cut is used on flat surfaces of soft metals for rapid stock removal and a fairly good finish. File teeth are further divided into four groups: coarse, bastard, second and smooth. Coarse and bastard cuts are used on heavy work, while second and smooth cuts are used for finishing or more exacting work.

I am trying to decide which is better for me—a gas or electric chain saw.

Gas chain saws can be used anywhere and are more powerful. Plus, they come in larger bar sizes. Electric chain saws must stay within the limits of an extension cord.

What is the difference between a two-cycle and a four cycle-engine?

With a two-cycle engine, you will have to mix oil with the gasoline. Four-stroke engines tend to be more efficient and usually require less maintenance.

What should I look for when buying a lawn mower?

For a mulching or self-propelled mower, you need plenty of horsepower so look for one that has a 5 to 6 horsepower engine.

What is an outdoor edger?

These tools provide a vertical cut into the soil, to create a clean line between a lawn and a flowerbed, driveway, sidewalk or some other structure. The fastest models are powered models. A non-powered edging tool looks like a shovel with a small blade shaped like a half moon. You can push the blade in with your foot so that it slices off a thin piece of turf, leaving a clean, straight edge of soil along the edge of the lawn.

When buying a trimmer or edger, should I buy a gas-powered or electric model?

If you can reach every corner of your yard with a 150-foot extension cord, you should consider an electric model. They typically cost less, are quieter and require less maintenance. If you have a larger yard then a gas-powered model may be better.

I need a tool to trim my evergreens.

Anvil pruning shears work well on light foliage. For heavier cutting, a lopping shear with more leverage will be needed. For other trees, a bypass shear provides a cleaner cut that those trees prefer.

I’m buying outdoor power tools. Which is better: an electric or gas leaf blower?

A gas blower provides mobility and is more powerful.

Are there tree trimmers you can use from the ground?

Yes, pole tree trimmers typically extend 12’ to 20’. Shears with a pulley and rope can cut about a 1” diameter branch, and saws are used on branches up to about 6”. For these and larger branches you may want to consider a chain saw.

What size of string do I need to buy for my string trimmer?

This varies greatly. You either need to bring in your old string or know what brand and model you have. If you don’t know, we can make a guess. If we are right, you won’t have to come back. If you have an electric trimmer its probably .064 and if you have a gas trimmer is most likely .080.

Are lawnmower blades specific to particular mowers?

Yes, you need to know the brand, width of the cut and whether it is a mulching mower. Some blades come with adapter kits that allow them to be used on different brands.

How big of a snow blower do I need?

Most consumers buy a single-stage model, which has a rubber paddle that reaches to the ground. People with driveways that are wider than two cars may want to consider a two-stage model. These can throw snow farther, because they have an intake and an impeller that throws the snow. However, these do not always clean all the way to the surface of the drive.

What’s a better choice in edgers: electric or gas?

Since all gas-powered equipment is noisy, some people prefer the electric models. The cordless models have run times of about one hour, which is generally sufficient for homeowners.

When purchasing outdoor power equipment, what should I consider in a leaf blower?

It’s best to buy a blower that can be reversed and also used as a vac. This allows you to sweep up the leaves, and some models even have a mulching feature.

I’m buying outdoor power tools. Are cordless electric hedge trimmers a good choice?

For general use they are more than adequate, but most only offer run times of less than one hour and some corded models are more heavy duty.

On long-handled tools, such as a shovel, what is the advantage of the more expensive one?

The higher-priced shovels have a sturdier construction and have better materials. For example, the composite handles are less likely to break.

Should I buy a long-handle or short-handle shovel?

Limited space of a job may require a short handle. However, a long handle supplies more leverage and allows you to work in a more upright position. As a result, a long-handled shovel is usually a better choice.

What are the advantages of shovels with curved handles?

These are called back savers, because they allow you to work without bending over.

What is the difference between a round-point and square-point shovel?

Round-point shovels are used for digging, while most square points are used for scooping.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of anvil and bypass pruners?

Anvils provide one blade that is pushed up against a flat surface. These are less expensive and are good on dried wood. Some experts also believe evergreens also prefer this type of cut. Bypass pruners allow you to cut larger branches (up to about ¾”).

What are compound pruners?

These use mechanical action so the tool does more of the work. It requires less effort and force.

What’s the best way to trim large branches with a saw?

About 6” to one foot away from the trunk of the tree, cut about half way up through the branch. Next, cut down from the top. Finally, cut off the stub at its collar on the trunk.

How do I take care of my pruning tools?

Simply keep them clean and wipe them down with light oil. Oil their pivot points and blades and keep them sharp.

What is the advantage of composite handles on an ax or maul?

These cost a little more than wood-handled versions, but they are stronger. This can be particularly important if you have a tendency to overstrike, which can break a wood handle. In the past, wood handles were easier to replace, but new composite designs make these easy to fix as well. Some people say they prefer the feel of wood and that it creates less vibration.

What tools do I need to spread mulch?

If you are using bags of mulch, simply pour them out and spread them with a rake. If you have had a pile of mulch delivered, you should use a pitchfork specifically designed for picking up mulch. Use it to put the mulch in a garden cart or wheelbarrow to move where you want to spread it.

Is there an easy way to move my refrigerator so I can clean behind it?

Yes, an appliance roller can be slipped under it. You can even leave it there.

All my hand tools are in toolboxes and drawers scattered throughout the house. What’s the best storage method and where I can find them easily?

Installing pegboard on a garage wall is an excellent way to keep your tools in sight so you can easily get them when you need them. Some people even draw outlines around the tools with a permanent marker on the pegboard so they know when a tool is missing from its proper location.

How do I remove paint from wood?

You can use a chemical paint stripper. Be sure to brush it on in one direction and always wear chemical-resistant gloves and safety goggles. You will also need a putty knife.

What type of sandpaper do I need for preparing wood before I paint it?

Aluminum oxide is a good multipurpose sandpaper. It cuts fast and lasts long time. It’s usually best to use three different grits of sandpaper. Start with the #320, which is a course grade. Follow this with #400 and then #600. Sand with the grain of the wood at all times. For sanding fine woodworking projects you may want to use garnet sandpaper.

What type of sandpaper should I use on metal?

For smooth finishes you should use aluminum oxide, and for extreme fineness you can use emery to create a final polish. Steel wool can be used for removing rust or smoothing surfaces between coats.

How does a sandpaper holder help me sand?

A sanding block helps speed up sanding jobs, relieves strain on your hands and makes your sandpaper last longer.

What does a number such as 120 on sandpaper mean?

These numbers stand for the number of particles per square inch. The higher the number the finer the sandpaper.

Is sandpaper better for smoothing coats between coats than steel wool?

It can be just a matter of preference, but steel wool is normally recommended. You might also want to consider a finishing pad. They don’t shed or rust like steel wool, and they can be rinsed and reused. They’re available for wood, metal and stripping.

What spray tip is best to use with my pressure washer when cleaning exterior siding?

Choose a tip that won’t damage the siding. A 15-degree tip is a good choice.

What can be used to produce a nice smooth surface when I finish furniture?

Using a fine steel wool between multiple coats will give you a smoother surface. Be sure to clean the surface with a tack cloth before painting each additional coat.

How do I tell which steel wool is finer?

The smaller the number, the finer the steel wool.

Why does the hook on the end of my tape measure move slightly? Doesn’t that affect the final reading? Do I need to get a new one for my toolkit?

It is designed to slide the same amount as the thickness of the end of the hook. That way it can accurately measure distances when the tape is hooked to the end of an object (such as the end of a board) or when measuring between objects (such as the width of a door jamb). If it were fixed, one of these two measurements would be off by the thickness of the hook.

What is a glaziers point and glazing compound?

Glaziers points are used to secure glass in a sash prior to adding glazing compound, which is a putty used to seal windows.

I need a good stepladder. What should I consider?

Wood stepladders are sturdy and the least expensive, but they are heavy. Aluminum stepladders are lightweight but more expensive than wood stepladders. Fiberglass stepladders combine strength and lightweight and are the most expensive.

How heavy of a hammer should I buy for my toolkit?

A 16 oz. hammer will handle most jobs easily.

What can I use to clean my deck?

You can use one of the deck brightener products that are on the market, or you can use TSP (trisodium phosphate). You can also use a power washer if you are careful not to mar the wood.

Is there one chisel that you can recommend to handle most household jobs?

No. Chisels are grouped according to the material they cut—either wood, metal, stone or masonry. The two main types, however, are wood and cold.

I need to buy chisel for a woodworking job. What size do you recommend?

You can handle most of your needs with a ¼ inch model and one larger one—either a ¾ inch or inch.

Are there any power tools I should own?

A power drill is a must for general maintenance. A drill, a circular saw, and a saber saw can handle most household repair and carpentry jobs. Power sanders have also become popular.

What are the quality differences between drop forged and cast metal hand tools?

During construction, drop forging removes more air bubbles. This means there are fewer weak spots.

How does the number on the shank of a drill bit relate to its size?

Bit diameters are usually marked by a single number—the numerator of a fraction. For example, an auger bit, which is marked by 16ths of an inch, with a number 8 would stand for 8/16″ or 1/2″. Twist bits are usually marked in the same manner by 64ths of an inch. Thus a No. 8 bit would stand for 8/64″ or 1/8″.

Can you recommend a tool that makes a good gift?

I would consider a cordless drill, a bench grinder, a palm sander, a level, a square, a chalkline or a new ladder.

What does the amp rating mean on power tools?

Generally, more amps translate into more power for electric tools.

Do you have a tool for cutting lightweight metal sheeting?

Yes, they are called metal cutting snips, and they come in a variety of sizes and designs.

Do you have a tool for cutting chicken wire?

Yes, tin snips are a good choice for cutting many kinds of mesh wire.

What’s the difference between PSA sandpaper and hook-and-loop sandpaper?

PSA has a sticky back and is good to be used on large jobs that are likely to wear out the sandpaper. Hook-and-loop paper uses a fuzzy backing that sticks to the bottom of a sander. It can be pulled off and reused before the abrasive on the paper wears out.

How can I remove the molding from my wall without damaging either the drywall or the molding?

A pry bar is more efficient than a claw hammer, and its smooth base keeps it from damaging the wall.

What’s the difference between a putty knife and a paint scraper?

They both look the same? Scrapers are too stiff for the efficient application of compounds. Putty knives are to flexible for scraping.

What is the difference between a professional power tool and a consumer tool?

A pro tool is designed to withstand heavier workloads and as a result they have more power. They also have motors that are able to withstand use for a long period of time without burning up the motor.

What weight hammer should I buy?

Buy the heaviest hammer that you can control, because the heavier the hammer the easier it will drive nails. However, the heavier the hammer, the harder it is to hit nails on the head and the more quickly your arm muscles will become fatigued.

What type of router do I use with my router table?

You can use either a fixed base or a plunge router with a table. The most common and easiest one to use is a fixed base. A plunge router may require a special attachment to use the plunge features with a table.

What’s the difference between a rip hammer and a curved claw hammer?

A hammer with a curved claw provides leverage for pulling nails. A rip (straight claw) hammer is often the choice of professionals because it is usually a slightly heftier tool that is used to rip apart wood that has been nailed together.

Which is better wood or fiberglass handles on hammers?

Some people say the wood provides a better feel and absorbs shocks. While wood is durable, fiberglass is stronger.

How does a biscuit joiner work?

A biscuit joiner uses a special horizontal blade that plunges into a piece of wood to create a slot for a biscuit. A biscuit is a football-shaped piece of compressed wood that helps join together two pieces of wood. To use a biscuit joiner, align the joiner on the piece of wood and push the handle forward. Make a similar cut in the second piece of wood at the place where the two will adjoin.

Why is there is quite a range in prices for claw hammers?

The higher priced hammers have sturdier handles and better steel in their heads. These hammers will perform better and last longer.

What size shop vac should I buy?

If you will be using it mainly for quick clean-up jobs, a small 1.5 hp model will do just fine. They are also easy to store. Medium sizes, such as the 6 gallon size, are still easy to maneuver and they will hold more debris than the smaller versions. Models below 10 gallons tend to be louder and easier to tip. The large models, those more than 10 gallons in capacity, are best if you want something for your garage or workshop and will be cleaning up large spills. While they take up more storage space, their larger capacity means they don’t have to be emptied as often.

Is there a hammer I can use with a chisel?

Yes, small sledge hammers weigh between two pounds and four pounds. A two-pound model is a good choice.

I want to hide the nail head in some molding that I am installing.

Use a nail set to sink the nail head into the molding. Then you can fill the hole with a spackling compound, sand it smooth and paint it.

What do the teeth-per-inch numbers mean on sawblades?

The numbers indicate the number of points per inch on a saw blade.

Are hand drilling tools used very much anymore?

With the advent of cordless drills, both hand drills and bit braces aren’t used very much anymore. However, they are still used on some job sites where there is no electricity for re-charging batteries and in fine woodworking applications.