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Hand Tools of the Trade for Do-It-Yourselfers

December 29, 1990| From Home Products Guide

Do-it-yourselfers may already have a workshop full of trusted tools, gadgets and woodworking equipment. But new homeowners or occasional home maintenance people may lack the right tools to do a job quickly and correctly.

Home Products Guide recommends these makings of a basic kit of hand tools that will provide the equipment for most household projects.

* Measuring tape. A 20-to-25-foot flexible steel tape can measure most room dimensions and follow curved surfaces that straight or folding rules can't. A locking feature lets one person measure long distances alone.

* Lead pencil. A wide, flat carpenter's pencil won't roll away or break easily. If it does break, sharpen it with a penknife.

* Level and square. To check level and plumb, get a practical 2-foot-long carpenter's level with top-reading vials. A torpedo level (typically about 9 inches long) will work better in close quarters. A combination square checks right and 45-degree angles and can be used as a depth gauge. Some also contain one or two spirit levels and a scratch awl for marking.

* Chalk line. Use this or a weighted plumb bob to determine and mark vertical lines on walls.

* Compass. Use it to scribe circles or transfer measurements from one object to another.

* Utility knife. Use this on almost every project to score and cut materials such as wallpaper, flooring, roofing, laminate and drywall.

* Handsaws. In sawing, the more teeth per inch, the finer the cut. For only one saw, a 26-inch crosscut style is lightweight and easy to handle when sawing wood across the grain. Teflon-coated blades reduce binding and residue build-up. For finer angle cuts, such as for molding or picture frames, buy a backsaw or dovetail saw, both used with a slotted miter box. Use a narrow-blade keyhole saw to cut in tight areas or along curves. A hacksaw will cut metal or plastic easily.

* Planes. A block plane is the simplest, smallest plane, ideal for smoothing rough saw cuts or the end grain of boards, or shaving door edges to fit. Use a jack plane (one of several bench planes) about 14 inches long to smooth, trim and shape wood along the grain.

* Bevel-edge chisels in various widths cut wood by chipping it away. Wooden-handle chisels should be struck with a wooden mallet, not a metal hammer.

* Hammer. The standard is a 16-ounce model with a forged steel head for driving nails and a curved claw for pulling them out.

* Mallet. Tap finished wood in place, bend sheet metal and seat laminate or inlays with this soft-face hammer. Heads are commonly made of wood, rubber, plastic or rawhide.

* Nail set. Use this to countersink finishing nails below the surface.

* Push drill. Push its handle down and this ratchet-style tool rotates, drilling small holes in soft wood.

* Screwdriver. Two types and several sizes are necessary. A standard or slotted screwdriver has a flat blade; a Phillips screwdriver has a pointed or cross head. Use long-shank models for most situations, a stubby (about 1 1/4 inches long) model in tight spots. Magnetized tips help guide screws to holes and retrieve screws and nuts that drop. Multibit screwdrivers, particularly those that store tips in the handle, are easy to carry.

* Wrenches. Adjustable wrenches, locking or non-locking in design, have an open end that adjusts by a screw gear to tighten or loosen nuts and bolts. Box wrenches have enclosed heads that create more leverage by completely enclosing a nut. Combination wrenches have one end of each type. A socket set with ratchet handles makes tightening or loosening nuts faster and easier and gives a snug grip on all sizes of nuts, even worn ones.

* Pliers. Adjustable or slip-joint pliers are hinged to adjust to a narrow or wide opening. Their curved, toothed jaws help grip small objects. Long-nose (or needle-nose) pliers are handy for electrical work because they grip and bend wire and can get into tight places. Tongue-and-groove or channel-type pliers have slots or channels that position their parallel jaws to hold objects of varying widths. Locking pliers have a vise-like grip that leaves both hands free to work.

* Clamps. Use C-clamps to hold pieces together while glue dries. The 6-inch size is practical. Pipe and T-bar clamps are better for framing when using large pieces of lumber.

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