DIY Frequently Asked Questions
Storage & Workshop Terms
A self-supporting device used for climbing that consists of two rectangular frames hinged at the top with one side containing the rungs for climbing. Non-adjustable in length and folds closed for storage.
Available in increments from 2’ to 12’ in height.
Steps are flat and riveted and are generally 3” or more in width.
Most models include a top plastic platform on top for storing tools or loose fasteners.
Available in wood, fiberglass and aluminum construction in various duty (weight) ratings, with fiberglass considered the best construction of the three.
Quality classifications include consumer (household), commercial (mechanic) and industrial grades
A type of aluminum stepladder with three steps for ordinary household climbing tasks. Some models feature extra wide non-slip treads for comfort during long periods of use.
Common step heights include 10”, 20” and 30”.
Most have a 200 lb. duty rating.
Most have a platform above the steps for resting tools and materials and a high handrail.
Folds easily for convenient storage.
A non-self supporting type of ladder with two similar sections that are linked with internal guides on the bottom of base section and external guides on the top. Sections are pulled apart to increase length.
Used for working in high areas and primarily for exterior applications.
Available in heights ranging from 16’ to 40’.
Smaller extension ladders are extended manually and secured with gravity spring lock brackets
that rest on the selected rung.
Larger extension ladders are extended by means of a rope and pulley running down the side of the ladder and secured with a cleat.
Generally available in all aluminum and fiberglass with aluminum rungs.
Rungs can be round or flat and are usually serrated for enhanced slip resistance.
Ladder shoes pivot to allow full contact with ground. Shoes can also be turned up to penetrate soft ground for extra stability.
Quality classifications include consumer (household), commercial (mechanic) and industrial grades.
Folding ladder that pulls down from attic access hole to permit entry. 3 sections unfold to rest on floor, then fold back up to store on top of pull-down access door. Generally made of wood or aluminum.
90-degree wrap-around hinges allow legs to completely fold up when not in use.
Different models accommodate different floor-to-ceiling height ranges.
Steps are usually double riveted for extra durability.
Generally rated either at 250 lbs. or 300 lbs.
Also called a combination ladder. 3-position, multi-lock hinges offer many different arrangements and combinations to become a step ladder, an extension ladder, a stairway ladder (modified step ladder) or a scaffold.
No tools needed for conversion between ladder types.
Most models extend between 12’ and 16’ and carry either a 225 lb. or a 250 lb. duty rating.
Common types include Danish oil, tung oil or Swedish oil. Provides coloring and protection in one step. However, oil finishes do not stand up to alcohol or water the way polyurethane does, so they are not recommended for high-traffic, abuse-prone applications.
Oils make nice, low-luster finish for furniture and other fine pieces. Waxing can provide water resistance with these finishes.
Lemon oil can be used to replenish fine wood with its natural oils while protecting the finish. It is best to use products that contain no beeswax or silicones that could cause a buildup or darken the wood.
Timber oil is a wood finish designed to penetrate exotic hardwoods such as mahogany and teak. This specialty wood finish helps preserve the hardwood and maintain its natural appearance.
Available in several shades, timber oil is a combination of tung oil, linseed oil and long-oil alkyds. In general, teak should be treated with oil-based formulas. Since teak is denser than many other common woods, wood protector should be applied with a brush or by rubbing it in with a cotton cloth.
Is available in a variety of configurations and made from a variety of materials, with steel being the most popular. Plastic toolboxes are available in a number of styles as well. Some are suited for light-duty use, while others are comparable to steel in quality.
The highest quality plastic boxes are constructed of polypropylene, and some models can hold up to 75 lbs. of tools.
Some carpenters and precision tool users use hardwood chests because the wood absorbs rust-producing condensation.
Carpenters’ toolboxes are specially designed so carpenters can carry hand saws and framing squares in the same box with other tools.
Stores tools as well as parts, screws, nuts, bolts and other small pieces. Available in a variety of drawer configurations, with four- and six-drawer configurations being the most popular.
Many tool chests also come with casters or wheels for portability.
Protects and adds luster to any stained or finished wood surface. Many formulations contain carnauba for enhanced durability.
Commonly used on hardwood floors and fine wood furniture and even marble surfaces.
Dries quickly and doesn’t cause surface to become slippery.
Pure preservative available in boiled and raw formulations. Boiled linseed oil has driers added to promote faster drying than raw linseed oil.
Offers superior penetration into wood surfaces and provides good UV protection.
Also improves the flow and gloss of exterior oil-based paint.
A classic finish for natural wood to seal and protect it.
Comes with a variety of drawers, holes and pegs for tool storage. Some models are equipped with vises to hold work firmly in place.
These units are generally expensive and can’t be easily moved around the shop.
Enables user to position a workbench wherever it is needed in the workshop. Some models feature adjustable leveling feet, adjustable height, detachable casters, latching doors, drawers, hooks for hanging tools, dust collection ports, quick-change tool set-up, lock-down hardware and corner tops.
They can hold large and small tools, and some models are designed to serve as a shop bench, router station or clamping station.
Is a portable specialty bench that comes as a tabletop or folding bench. The folding benches offer easy storage and a firm, broad base.
Many models come with a tabletop clamping device to secure work piece to the table and hold irregular pieces securely.
Made of either construction-grade tubular aluminum or steel or fabricated steel. Most require a wooden cross-beam (Generally a 2×4 or 2×6) be added. With a metal cross-beam there is danger of ruining saw teeth.
Most steel models have adjustable legs that fold up into the unit for easy storage.
Plastic units generally fold flat for easy storage. Some also are equipped with a lower shelf.
Most non-adjustable units are between 24” and 27”, which is considered a comfortable working height.
Generally made of steel or high-impact polystyrene and convert dimensional lumber into a sturdy wooden sawhorse. Brackets allow user to construct a sawhorse of any height and length.
Brackets are generally secured to wood with screws, nails or wing nuts. Other types provide flanged nail holes for easy nail removal with a claw hammer.
Selling features include ease of assembly since miter cuts are not necessary and sturdiness and convenient storage since most brackets allow legs to fold together.
Has greater solvency than mineral spirits, causing it to work more quickly. It also has a stronger odor and contains a small amount of resin.
Is available in denatured, wood isopropyl or methanol form. Wood and methanol alcohols are extremely toxic and should not be recommended for do-it-yourselfers.
Denatured alcohol, a safer substance, is used for thinning and for cleaning shellac and pigmented shellac primer.
Alcohol is excellent for removing grease and oil spots, fingerprints and other smudges.
Prepares surfaces before painting and assists paint and varnish in bonding to old finishes. Available in water- or solvent-based formulations.
Concrete Cleaner is specifically designed to clean and degrease concrete and masonry surfaces and to prepare concrete basement floors to be painted.
Is available in solid, liquid and aerosol form. Used to remove dirt, oil and grease from basement and garage floors, driveways, patios and sidewalks.
Some formulations are made for concrete only and should not be used on blacktop surfaces.
Cuts through and dissolves rust from metal surfaces to form a metal shield that can be painted. In jellied form, it clings well to vertical surfaces.
When brushed on, the rust dissolves quickly.
These products are extremely harsh on the skin; protective gloves should be worn.
The solution is applied with a stiff brush or aerosol spray and allowed to dry for 12 to 24 hours, depending on humidity (check manufacturer labeling and literature).
Used to help cut exact angles for wood trim and rafters. Better models provide a mechanism for a backsaw.
They are made of plastic, hardwood or aluminum.
Some boxes feature magnetic mount guides. The magnets grasp and hold the saw to the miter box saw guide or hold the saw blade to the plane of the saw guide.
The most common type of clamp—consists of a C-shaped frame, made of either forged steel or cast iron, into which an adjustable screw is assembled to change the jaw opening. The size of a C-clamp is measured by its jaw capacity—the dimension of the largest object the frame can accommodate with the screw fully extended. Most range in jaw capacity from 2” to 10”.
Also important is depth of throat, the distance from the center line of the screw to the inside edge of the frame. C-clamps range from 3/4″ to 14″.
Most have a sliding cross-pin handle or a wing nut that is used to tighten the screw.
Has a clamping device built on a flat bar, which is usually made of steel. The length of the bar determines the capacity of the clamp, which is the dimension of the largest object that can be accommodated between its clamping jaws.
“Reach” is the distance from the edge of the bar to the end of the clamping jaws.
Screw pressure applies the final clamping load.
Bar clamps are used for clamping large objects, making them popular with woodworkers and hobbyists.
These are bar clamps designed with a pistol grip to allow the user to tighten or loosen the clamp instead of screwing it. Can be adjusted by using just one hand on a trigger switch.
Perhaps the most significant innovation to come about recently in the area of clamps.
Available in jaw openings from 6″ to 50″ and a variety of sizes
Can be mounted to standard threaded or unthreaded pipe to clamp boards together while gluing. Clamping can be performed from one end or both, and jaws can be positioned at the ends or anywhere along the pipe.
Pipe clamps can also be quickly converted from a clamp to a spreader.
A hardened steel set screw holds the head firmly on the pipe, but is easily loosened. The 3/4″ size has a crank handle, and depth from screw center to pipe is 11/16″. The 1/2″ size has a crosspin handle, with depth from screw center to pipe of 7/8″.
Also called a cabinetmaker’s clamp, it consists of two hardwood clamping jaws adjusted to the work by two opposing steel screw spindles assembled into the jaws. The jaws adjust to a variety of angles and come in a wide range of sizes up to 10”.
They are used for clamping wood, metal, plastic and fabrics.
Handscrew adaptors can be used to convert handscrews into miter clamps.
Also available are handscrew kits so woodworkers can make their own jaws.
Designed to hold miter or butt joints at a 90º angle. They can be used for gluing picture frames, cabinets, molding and trim.
Similar to a clothes pin, this clamp consists of two metal jaws to which clamping pressure is applied by use of a steel spring. They are designed for use with thin materials.
Spring clamps are versatile enough for home, hobby or professional use indoors or outdoors, holding round or odd-shaped objects.
They typically come with 1″, 2″ or 3″ jaw openings.
Also called band clamps, they apply even clamping pressure around irregular shapes or large objects to hold tight by means of a spring-loaded locking fixture. Commonly used on cylinder-shapes and to hold chair legs while gluing.
Is the screw portion of a “C” clamp, designed to be secured onto any surface, with the screw used to apply clamping pressure. Also available in locking models, similar to locking clamps.
Three-way clamp resembling a C-Clamp with a third screw located in the middle of the throat. Used to apply pressure at a right angle to the side of the work surface.
Commonly used for installing molding and trim on furniture and countertops.
Also called Locking “C”-Clamp or welder’s pliers. A unique type of clamp ideal for holding work while welding.
Typical jaw opening sizes range from 2-1/8″ to 8.”
Tool that mounts on a workbench or table to hold work pieces securely in place between two flat jaws. Generally used in light-duty applications.
Available in both stationary and swivel models to hold work at various angles and positions.
A threaded spindle opens and closes the jaws of the vise to hold and release work piece.
Generally has jaws ranging in length from 3″ to 8″.
Jaw opening ranges from 4” to 12” in different models.
Has jaws made of wooden pads to hold work piece securely in place without marring surface of work piece. Generally mounted to the side of a workbench
Some woodworking vises have a fast-acting screw arrangement for the rapid positioning of the movable jaw prior to clamping.
Smaller vises have continuous screws and are light and easy to clamp on a workbench or sawhorse.
Similar to a bench vise. Generally has jaws ranging in length from 3″ to 6″.
Better models feature swivel bases so the vise may be turned to the best angle for each particular job.
Some utility vises either have cast-in pipe jaws or permit special curved-face pipe jaws to be inserted between the regular jaws to add versatility.