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Going Beyond Beginner's Basics When Selecting, Buying Tools

September 03, 1989|CHARLYNE VARKONYI | The Baltimore Sun

Some material things in life are pure addiction.

You start out one day pondering the joys of this newfangled device called a compact disc player and a few years later you just have to own one of those fancy models that plays five discs in sequence.

And so it is with tools. After you learn how the balance of a good-quality hammer feels in the hand, before you know it, you're browsing the tool section of the hardware store just for fun. You're bringing home new gadgets whether you need them or not.

So, when the thrill is gone from your basic tool kit, don't go wild. Go smart. Michael DiMenna of Schumann Hardware in Baltimore suggests these additional tools:

Pipe wrench: This heavy metal tool with serrated jaws is used to turn pipe fittings or anything that's round. For different size jobs, you may want to buy an 8-inch wrench and a 10-inch wrench. Prices range from $8 to $20.

Combination square: Some books suggest this as a "must have" for a basic tool kit, but you won't really need one unless you plan to do any project building. The square has a straight steel rule with a head station containing a small level. The head can be slipped along the rule and locked in any position for use as a marking gauge. Look for a 1-inch wide blade and expect to pay $4 to $5.

Set of wood chisels: These long, narrow steel blades with a sharp, beveled front end come in a variety of shapes and are used to make cuts in wood by chipping. Select a variety of sizes from one-half to three-quarter inch and expect to pay $5 to $6 each.

Cold chisel: Also known as a flat chisel, this tool has a tapered point on a thick, hexagonal steel bar. It's used to remove bolts and rivets and for cutting and chipping brass, copper and unhardened steel. Price: About $3.

Small hacksaw: Use this fixed frame saw that holds a narrow, fine-toothed blade to cut metal or plastic. Expect to pay $4 to $10.

Set of hex key wrenches: Also known by the brand name Allen wrench, this L-shaped, short, hexagonal metal bar is used for turning screws or bolts with a hexagonal opening. They are typically used to put together ready-to-assemble furniture and to repair air conditioner fan blades. The sets, in varying sizes, cost $3 to $5.

Pocket plane: Planes are carpenters' tools used to shave wood from boards. They cost about $5.

Sandpaper holder: For easier sanding, you may want to use a sandpaper holder. They come in sizes compatible with the sandpaper. Prices range from about $3.50 to $6.

Staple gun: Select a heavy-duty version and you will be able to tackle any project, from reupholstering a chair to tacking ceiling tiles. Expect to pay about $20.

Glue gun: Use a glue gun for any large wood or household gluing jobs. Cost: About $12 to $15.

Soldering gun: This tool is similar to a soldering iron but it is shaped like a gun. Use it to melt solder for making electrical connections. Price is about $19.

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