Thursday, March 27, 2014

Power Tools Every Homeowner Should Have

Unless they have servants who do the work for them, every homeowner (and many renters) needs to be be prepared for routine home maintenance and repairs. That includes you women, by the way. Here are what this longtime DIYer finds to be essential power tools to make those jobs go easier.

Start With a Cordless Drill-Driver

A good cordless drill belongs in every home toobox, which is why it's often the first power tool people buy. When choosing a cordless drill, look for one that's well-balanced and powerful enough for ordinary tasks, while still light enough that you can carry it around without wearing out your arm.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Your Guide to Wrenches for the Workshop

No matter whether your're a mechanic or a woodworker, there's no way your workshop could possibly be complete without assorted wrenches. The obvious problem is that there are boatloads of different wrenches out there for you to choose from. Which of them are a necessity, which would be nice to own, and which will end up being just another dust-catcher? The answer is, pretty much "It depends." Here, however are a few guidelines that might help you decide on how to begin stocking your toolbox.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Wagner HT-1000 Heat Gun

It's the Last Stripper I'll Ever Pay For!

House paint serves more than decorative functions, it's also the homeowner's front-line defender against moisture. That's why many older houses (like our 1895 Queen Anne) are covered in multiple layers of the stuff. When I had to do some window window repair on the dignified old gal, I remembered once more why the owners of historic houses speak "previous owner" as a profanity. Because of a few rotten spots in the window frames we cleaned everything down to bare wood before proceeding. Yep, more than a century's worth of paint; oil-based or latex; leaded or lead-free; green, white, red, brown, tan... they overmatched every chemical stripper we could find. That was before I wandered into the little hardware store on the corner and found a Wagner HT1000 Heat Gun. I may never buy a paint stripper again.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Choosing Measurement Tools

If You're Going to Measure Something, Measure it Right

You probably don't pay them much mind, but measurement tools are critical to completing a project well. A well-equipped workshop will have a variety of these tools, no matter whether your medium is metal or wood or you're a general all-around Mr. (or Ms.) FixIt. The range of available devices is impressive, but here are some basics.

Start with a Tape Measure

The most basic measuring device for the DIYer is a tape measure. They come in lengths from a pocket- or purse-sized six-footer up to a hefty 25-foot professional tape. When shopping, look for a tape that locks in place and has a sturdy blade that won't fold over from its own weight after being extended just a few feet.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Remove Rust from Tools with Ordinary Vinegar

Unless you keep all your tools in a humidity- and temperature-controlled environment or keep them protected with a light coating of oil at all times, you're likely to find an occasional rust spot on your babies. If you have kids who borrow your tools to fix bikes or build treehouses, it's even more likely. And finally, if you have a habit of collecting tools from along the roadside while walking or cycling (my hobby, if you must know) then you've seen enough rust to coat the Brooklyn Bridge.

Did you know you can remove that rust with a common household chemical, one that you probably have sitting in the kitchen right now? Yep - vinegar isn't just good for salad dressing, pickles and cleaning the coffee pot, it also removes rust. No kidding: and it's easy!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Your Guide to Hammers

Whether you need to hang a picture in the living room or drive stakes for a badminton net in the back yard, you'll need a hammer of some kind. It's a safe bet that every toolkit, even the most basic, includes a hammer. Most of them include only one hammer, which is typically a claw hammer that both drives and pulls nails. When your set of tools starts to grow, however, you're going to find a wide variety of hammers in the stores, with different features that make them superior than that "all-purpose" model when it comes to certain tasks.

Homemade Overhead Storage for Your Garage

When You Can't Fit the Car in the Garage Anymore

The neighborhood where we live now is decidedly suburban, without many sidewalks. Worse, in about every block you'll find that at least one house where a car is parked across the sidewalk, even though the house has a two or even three-car garage. Why? Well, people's stuff just plain takes over their garages, to the point that they can no longer fit a car in there.

If that's your problem, you might fork over hundreds of bucks to buy shelving systems and cabinets from some BigBox store. If you're handy, you might build your own shelves. But what do you do with the biggest stuff? Articles about garage organization tend to concentrate on storage along the walls, but often ignore the empty space near the ceiling. With just a few bucks' worth of materials you probably have lying around, you can build a ceiling rack for big stuff that doesn't fit on the wall shelves. At one house, I built one of these racks to hold full sheets of plywood; my current one is a little smaller.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Original Bucket Boss

Lightweight Tool Transport: the Bucket Boss System

The Original Bucket Boss is one of those inventions that just about every DIYer looks at ans mutters, "Why didn't I think of that?" If you're not familiar with 'em, a Bucket Boss is a canvas tool transport/storage system that fits into a five-gallon plastic bucket. They're sort of open, cylindrical sleeves that fit inside the bucket plus flaps that drape over the outside. They're made entirely of heavy weight, water-resistant canvas.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Craftsman Wrench Holders

Combination Wrench Organization in a Small Package

Question: What do you give the man who has everything?
Answer: Something to keep it in.

That’s an excellent idea, especially when you think of tools in general and hand tools in specific. Case in point might be one of those mechanic’s tool set with a thousand wrenches, every one of which immediately migrates to the bottom of the tool chest. And the one you want is always lurking beneath all the others. It's easy to avoid that syndrome with a Craftsman Wrench Holder, one more cunningly crafted piece of plastic (and therefore recyclable, too).

Monday, March 10, 2014

Akro-Mils Keep Boxes

I Think I'll Keep These Boxes 

There's somebody around this house who's, let's just say, "acquisitive." Over a couple of decades, that somebody's collected references and resources for all sorts of activities and lessons. Happily, that someone is pretty well-organized, and all these years has kept the stuff in collections. Some collections are pretty extensive, most are downright eclectic. For instance, who do you know who has a collection of snakeskins or an owl wing? Most collections are kept in handy containers, an Akro-Mils design called Keep Boxes.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Craftsman Socket Racks

Finding that Socket Gets Easier When They're Organized on Craftsman Racks

If your toolbox contains a screwdriver or two, pliers, a hammer and roll of duct tape; organizing "all" that stuff probably isn't much of a problem. Me, I'm nearer the opposite end of the spectrum: I've got drawers filled with sockets in my tool chest in ¼", ⅜", and ½" drive; both SAE and metric units; six and twelve-point and regular vs. deep-well. I do still have the duct tape, though. Hunting for a specific socket out of the dozens in those drawers would be more frustrating if I didn't have a lot of them organized on several Craftsman Socket Racks. I've got separate racks for ⅜" drive metric and SAE sets, separated by standard and deep-well. It makes life that much easier.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Dust-Off Compressed Air Duster

"Air" - Includes List of Ingredients

Everyone calls this stuff "canned air," but that's not what it is. Sure it's canned, but it isn't air. Air, which is what we breathe, is a natural gas whose composition falls within a narrow range, at least on Earth. You can see he average composition at the bottom of the page.

A can of this stuff is actually filled with a substance called difluoroethane, which is an inert gas in the fluorocarbon family. Fluorocarbons are far more compressible than plain air, which is whhh they're often used as propellants and dusters instead of little pieces of the atmosphere.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Master Magnetics Mini Magnet Sweeper

A Pickup Line for Every Workshop

My lawyer tells me that no job is finished until the paperwork is done; but for people with shop projects, the job isn't finished until cleanup is complete. That includes putting away your tools and picking up dropped fasteners and scraps before you sweep. If you’re like me, you leave nails and screws spread around the shop, because it’s easier to pull a replacement from the apron than it is to crawl after dropped ones. Cleanup is when you rescue the leftovers, and what better way than to use a magnet? You won’t even have to bend over when you spot another nail!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Gutter Getter Scoop

Gutters Full of Goop? Get a Gutter Getter

As much as we appreciate the trees around our house, sometimes I hate their beringed guts. One such time is the day I have to cleaning piles of leaves and twigs out of our gutters. Our house has a hip roof and a detached garage with a porte cochère; and by my conservative estimate there are about four million linear feet of gutter collecting leaves from a pair of huge (and beautiful) live oaks in the open space behind us. The previous owners (ptui!) apparently never cleaned the gutters, which was made obvious by the water pouring over the rims with out first big rain (two inches, four days after the move-in).

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Magnogrip Magnetic Tool Wristband

Get a Grip on the Small Parts: Get a MagnoGrip

Whether you’re putting together that table from Ikea, putting up curtains or performing a tune-up on your 1987 IROC-Z, at some point you're sure to find yourself crawling around looking for a dropped screw or other part. Pockets and aprons don't work – how many times have you drawn blood digging through pocket full of nails? And don't even mention trying to find the correct screw when there are four different sizes. It’s times like that we all wish we had three hands, like Zaphod Beeblebrox.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Wooster 11 in. Plastic Tray Liner

Cleanup After Finish Jobs is a Joy with Wooster Paint Tray Liners (Well, Almost)

The world of do-it-yourselfers separates into two schools: some finish and hate to build, the rest build and hate to finish. I'm a member of school number 2: I will gladly make sawdust all day long, but when it comes time for finishing, I’m perfectly happy to leave it to someone else. Makes no difference whether it's paint, varnish, stain, shellac. Me no likey. On the other hand, my wife belongs to school one, the finishers. We have a match made in Heaven.

Every once in while, I still get stuck wielding brush or roller. When that happens, I reach for a paint tray and add in a Wooster Tray Liner. If there’s anything thing I hate more than finishing, it’s cleaning up afterwards; paint tray liners cut that chore down to size.

Stanley 28-100 Mini Scraper

Every Home Needs a Mini-Scraper or Two

Unless you're a one-percenter who has white glove-clad staff dogging your every footstep, you'll leave a mess behind every so often. Some of them will be sticky, and Murphy's Lay says a few will certainly dry before being cleaned up, which means scraping them off. You don't have maids to do the dirty work, so who you gonna call? You call your Stanley 28-100 Mini Scraper.