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DIY tools - The Billboard

Top 10 Tools, A Workbench and Me


DIY Editorial published in the April 2016 edition of The Billboard:

1. Spanners – Your first purchase should be a shifting spanner, also known as an adjustable wrench or crescent wrench. Of all your tools this will probably see the most use as it’s like  having 50 spanners in one. The shifting spanner is an adjustable wrench with a sliding jaw that changes the width of the wrench, so you can use the same tool on different sizes of nuts and bolts.

2. Screwdrivers – Be careful of large, cheap sets. Look for ones with solid ends and a handle that fits your grip. A small handle means you will not be able to apply the torque you need. Go for three flat heads and three star, or Philips, screwdrivers in small medium and large.

3. Hammers – Buy a basic, all-steel claw hammer with a decent grip.

4. Tape Measure – A dependable retractable metal measuring tape is a must. Go for the most expensive you can afford. The cheaper ones tend not to retract properly after a while. As most rooms in a house are over 3m wide or long, I wouldn’t get a tape shorter than 5m.

5. Socket Set – When you have a large project that requires you to tighten and loosen nuts and bolts, it’s time to put aside your shifting spanner and reach for its more efficient brother. A socket wrench’s ratcheting mechanism allows you to tighten or loosen a nut without having to remove and refit the spanner after each and every turn. Go for the largest set you can afford, because the pre-boxed sets usually come with C spanners, ring spanners and other bits of equipment, such as Allen Keys.

6. Pliers – The pliers used most are long-nose, or needle-nose, pliers. An essential electrician’s tool, needle-nose pliers are good for any household project which requires you to cut, bend, grip or strip wire. To these add a pair of lineman, or combination, pliers with large enough side gaps for cutting through heavy wire. Go for the largest pair you can handle, Finally get a pair of side cutters, sometimes referred to as diagonal pliers.

7. Cordless Drill – A good cordless drill can be used for drilling holes into brickwork or driving screws into a 2 x 4. Make sure the drill you get has multiple speeds, is reversible and has lots of power.

The reversible feature will come in handy if you need to take screws out. Get a drill with two batteries –  there is nothing worse than running out of power halfway through a job.

8. Saws – The best saw to start with is a crosscut saw. A good general-purpose handsaw it is useful for trimming branches off trees or cutting lumber for a project around the house.

9. Spirit Level – Used for ensuring that anything you fix is not lying at an angle or skew. They come in various lengths, but for use around the home one about 50mm long should be fine. You can also download an app onto your cellphone which will do the trick.

10. Utility Knife – A knife with a short blade designed to trim wood or cut cardboard. The blade is usually retractable, back into the handle. Modern utility knives have the blade pre-cut into sections so when the end becomes blunt you can snap it off and the next section is ready to use.

Don MacAlister


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