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Use and Care of Tools for the Handyman Explained

Oct 31, 2007
There is probably nothing that discourages a home handyman faster than being unable to find a specific tool quickly when it is needed. Some kind of wall rack or storage system should be set up for all tools as soon as possible. Arrange tools so that all screwdrivers are together, all pliers together, etc.

If lack of space does not permit putting up a regular workshop wall rack, then buy or build a tool box with compartments for all items. Do not simply throw everything together in one empty box. Sharp tools will be damaged, and small ones lost or misplaced.

Identify Tools

When working outdoors, the home handyman will frequently have small tools scattered around the outside on lawn or terrace. Make them all easier to spot by painting the handle of each one with a bright identifying color such as red or yellow. This also makes it easier for borrowing neighbors to remember where they came from.

Sharpen for Safety

Contrary to what some people think, sharp chisels, knives and planes are safer to use than dull ones. Dull tools may slip or gouge the work, and require extra pressure - all of which makes them more hazardous to use. Keep tools sharp by honing edges frequently on an oilstone. Grind them only when the blades have been badly worn or nicked.

Storing Sharp Tools

To preserve the edge on chisels, gouges and other sharp tools build a small rack which holds them vertically with the tips or blades shoved into the top of a slab of synthetic sponge. The soft material will keep the blades from banging against each other, and also keeps the sharp blades covered so there is less danger of the handyman cutting himself.

Screwdriver Care

When a screwdriver blade starts to wear it tends to slip out of the screw slots easily. This makes it difficult to tighten screws securely and chews up the heads of tightly seated screws which must be loosened. To prevent this, the blade tip should be dressed occasionally by stroking with a flat file to eliminate rounded edges and to make the end blunt once more. Be careful to maintain the original bevel of the side faces and file across the tip at right angles so as to keep the blade end square.

Claw Hammers

When the claws on a claw hammer show signs of slipping every time a small-headed nail is pulled, try renewing their grip by filing the notch between them with a triangular file. Use a corner of the file to slightly deepen and sharpen the crevice between the claws. This improves their grip so they will "bite" the nail head more firmly.

Hammer Handles

Hammer handles sometimes work loose because the wood has dried excessively so that slight shrinkage occurs inside the metal socket. To swell the wood back up again and make it tight once more, soak the head end of the handle in a bucket of water for several hours. The handle can be kept from shrinking in the future by sealing the top end where it comes through the head with several coats of varnish or lacquer.

Pliers Care

When pliers accumulate dirt in the serrated teeth on the inside of their jaws they have a tendency to slip and will call for much greater pressure in order to hold. To correct this clean jaws out with solvent and a stiff wire brush, and re-sharpen individual teeth occasionally by dressing lightly with the edge of a three-cornered file.

For Easier Reading

Steel squares and other engraved metal rules often become difficult to read as they get older. For easier reading rub a crayon across the markings. Select one in a contrasting color. Then wipe off with a flat pad of cloth that has been moistened with a little kerosene or turpentine. The color will be wiped off the surface but will remain in the bottom of the grooved markings.

Once your tools are in order, any work you need to do will be so much easier.
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