Read these 12 Hand Tools Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Tool tips and hundreds of other topics.
Aubuchon Hardware Tip: Lineman's pliers have insulated handles because this hand tool is meant to be used for electrical work. You should know that the insulation is not designed to completely protect you from electrical shock, and unless the tool is specifically made from non-conductive material, the hand tool should not be considered safe with live current.. Take the same precautions with lineman's pliers as you would with any tool. Don't let the presence of a little rubber on those handles fool you into thinking you are safer around voltage or live wires. Live current has a nasty habit of arcing or bridging the gap wherever it can.
Aubuchon Hardware Tip: An older hand saw will begin "pulling" to the left or to the right during the cut, telling you the saw needs to be properly set and evenly filed. If you have two options if you aren't willing to try this yourself; purchase a new hand saw as it will already be pre-set and filed, or you can hire someone to set and file your saw. Most people will go straight to the hardware store for a new model, but if you know someone who can do the work, you may wish to hang on to those old saws, especially if they have some kind of sentimental value.
Aubuchon Hardware Tip: Tin snips are color coded. Left-cutting tin snips are colored green, while right cutting tin snips are red. Straight-cutting tin snips are yellow. Most manufacturers still use this tin snips color code. Once you get the hang of it, it's smooth sailing, but some people like to mark the handles of their snips for quick reference.
If you are in need of left-handed hand tools, you may have to do a bit of searching in order to find what you need, but there are many tools out there designed just for you. Websites may not offer comprehensive tool kits designed for lefties, but items such as left-handed tape measures are quite plentiful online. You obviously won't need a lefty hammer or hand saw, but left-handed scissors and related cutting tools seem to be more plentiful online than ever. There are even left-handed tool belts! Unfortunately many sites that cater to lefties carry plenty of left-handed pruning shears, but toolbox items seem in short supply depending on where you look. A good many useful tools (including left-handed utility knives and box cutters) are hidden away under "garden" or "garden and DIY" rather than being given their own tool section.
Hand saws are obviously less expensive than power saws, but some object to the amount of elbow grease required to get through a whole project using only a hand saw. On the other hand, the hand saw is a great form of exercise, provided you don't overdo it.
When using a hand saw, it's important to start with a few strokes that make a notch in the surface you need to cut. This will help hold your blade steady deeper into the cut. Use the length of the saw for the cut, not just a few teeth. Avoid pushing with the handsaw, and you'll get a smooth cut with little "binding" as you move through the wood. If you are using good technique and the saw refuses to cut straight, chances are your saw blade is dull and needs sharpening.
Tin snips are much like shears, except they are designed to cut thin metal surfaces like sheet metal. If you are inexperienced with tin snips, be prepared for stiff cast-offs, which are often sharp and don't clear away easily. You may need to wear gloves while learning how to properly use your snips to avoid getting stabbed by a sharp corner or sliced by a jagged edge. Until you get used to using the snips, you will most likely create a jagged edge or two, so practice on a piece of junk sheet metal until you get the technique down pat. This will minimize your margin for error when working on the actual project.
Aubuchon Hardware Tip: Bolt cutters, like any cutting tool, often get dull over time. You can purchase sharpening tools for bolt cutters to extend the life of the tool, but if you damage the cutting surface of your bolt cutter, don't assume you must buy a new set of cutters. Replacement heads are made for many brands, and you may be able to simply swap out the head, saving the expense of replacing the whole tool.
If you need to put together a set of basic hand tools, a good set of pliers is essential. You'll need the pointy needle-nose pliers (good for bending and gripping wire), channel lock pliers (good for turning square and hex bolts,) and lockjaw pliers (good for turning anything stubborn, rusted-in, or tough to access with channel lock pliers). You can buy these individually, but it's best to get a basic pliers kit, which usually features all these items and more for a better price than you'd get making individual purchases.
There are five general types of bolt cutters. Some are made for precious metals, others are designed for high-tensile wires. Some bolt cutters are designed to cut metal heated in a furnace to extreme temperatures, and another type is made to cut steel with high carbon content. General use bolt cutters can cut through brass, "mild" steel, copper, and other materials most likely to be used in household DIY projects such as plumbing or lock replacement. Depending on the job, you may need a set of angle-cut, which make for easy insertion. If you need to cut flat surfaces, try a clipper cut blade instead of the angle cut.
A growing tool kit for woodworking should eventually include a file set. These hand tools have a variety of uses and very colorful names. A good starter file set will include a "Mill Bastard" which is good for sharpening bladed tools in your kit. The "Round Bastard" is good for smoothing openings or making them wider, and the "Slim Taper" is often used to smooth out corners. Additional files include the "Square Bastard" for keyways or slotted sections, and the "Half Round Bastard" which can be used on curved or flat surfaces. You can get all of these "bastards" grouped in kits of three or six files, which is excellent for a start. These files also come in mini versions for smaller projects.
Some types of pliers are also cutting tools. One such item available from your local tool supply outlet are called lineman's pliers. These pliers have a grip on the front part of the tool for bending wire, turning bolts, or other uses; there is also a cutting tool to the rear of the jaws meant to cut wire, cable, anything that will fit between the blades that is soft enough for this tool to cut. This hand tool is often used to strip the insulation away from speaker wires, nip off the ends of cable used to install track lighting, and sometimes, when clearly marked as such and made of non-conductive material, live wires! Most ordinary home improvement chores won't require the expense of an industrial grade pair, and it's bad for an amateur to get in the habit of working with tools around live current. If you are an occasional handyman or home repair enthusiast, respect the power of electricity and always unplug speaker wires, track lighting, and other sources of current before doing your work.
Aubuchon Hardware Tip: When using lockjaw and channel lock pliers, it can be quite easy to strip the sides off a bolt or similar fasteners. You don't need a death-grip to turn a bolt in most cases. Using a lighter touch insures the bolt or other fastener is able to be re-used when it comes to to reassemble the item you took apart with the pliers. If you have stripped a bolt with the pliers, don't try to replace it when the job is done. Discard it and replace with a serviceable bolt instead.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|