Behind any well-maintained house is not only a conscientious householder but also a good set of tools. It is impossible to carry out even simple maintenance repair jobs inside the house or out without the right tool so start building up a good set right away.
BASIC TOOLS AND AIDS
Even if you do not intend tackling ambitious construction projects, it is useful to have the basic tools and aids for maintenance and small repairs. Always buy the best you can afford: good tools are costly items, but if you look after them properly they will last a lifetime and serve you well.
Keep a selection in your tool kit; make sure you always replace their caps and keep their instructions! Always read carefully any directions for use, and in general make sure that surfaces to be joined are clean and dry. Clear household adhesive is useful for quick lightweight jobs. Epoxy resins will make a longer lasting repair for china and glass. PVA woodglues are virtually essential, being the best to use for small woodworking jobs and repairs. Latex fabric adhesive is another good stand-by, recommended for repairing carpets, fabrics, and for sticking down overlaps on vinyl wallcoverings. The ‘superglues’ certainly do give a very strong bond, but they are rather fiddly to use, and must be handled with great care; it is essential to read the warning on the pack. Various other special adhesives are useful for particular jobs: your D.I.Y. shop or builders merchant will advise. Where possible keep any leftovers, along with small quantities of materials used as these come in handy for repairs or touch-up jobs.
Bradawls and gimlets
One of these is essential.
Both tools are used to make starting holes in wood for screws and other fittings with threaded shanks. A bradawl is simply a metal spike set into a wooden handle; you dig the spike into the wood and turn it round. A gimlet has a threaded spike, and goes in more easily.
A drill is the tool which you use to make holes in wood, walls, metal and so on. The part that actually makes the holes is called the ‘bit’, which is held in place by the ‘chuck’. Bits are changed according to the size of the hole required, and the type of material being drilled. On electric drills, you need a special chuck key to open the chuck or jaws of the drill to insert and take out the appropriate bit. Twist drills are used for making holes in wood and masonry bits for brick and stone.
Hand drills can be used for woodwork and small jobs around the home, but it pays to invest in an electric drill from the start. Power ratings for electric drills may range from around 350 watts to 500 watts; the higher the wattage the more powerful the drill and the longer it will last. Small single-speed drills cope with a limited range of tasks and may not be able to penetrate very hard masonry. With two-speed models, the slow speed is especially for drilling into masonry and for making larger holes in wood. Hammer drills are even better for very hard masonry and concrete: they have a special action to rotate and hammer the bit, chipping the masonry away.
If you do not have a drill, or only a drill of limited power, you can use a small tool called a jumper’ for making holes in masonry. This you hit with a hammer, turn slightly, and then hit again. It is essential to wear goggles to protect your eyes from flying particles.
Electrical repair kit
This is another essential: it should contain a screwdriver with insulated handle; fuse wire and spare fuses; torch with working batteries ; and a sharp knife or, better still, wire strippers.
G-Clamps are essential if you need to hold work steady while cutting, and for holding pieces in place while adhesives set. You can also improvize ‘clamps’ for adhesives from rubber bands, string, or sticky tape, so keep these in your tool box, too.
You will need this in addition to a general purpose wood saw. For example, a hacksaw will cut through metal pipes and rods, and plastic piping and gutters. Blades are removable, so always keep a packet of spares, and replace them frequently.
From the several weights available choose the one you find most comfortable to handle. Wooden shafts should be fitted securely to the hammer head with tightly-fitting wooden wedges. Hammers with the steel or glass fibre handles are more costly – but much longer lasting. Buy a claw hammer, so that you can use the claw for levering out nails.
Lubricating oil comes in handy for casing stiff nuts, bolts and screws, curing stifflocks and squeaking hinges, and maintaining tools. A small jar of grease is also useful, for protecting tools from rust.
Nails and screws
You will need a selection of nails, screws etc. Round nails have small round flat heads; ovals are neater with smaller heads, and panel pins are neater still for fiddly work. Annular or screw nails have rings round their shanks to use for fixing, for example, hardboard to a wooden floor. Use clout nails with large heads for securing roofing felts, and sprigs for holding glass in a window frame. Masonry nails are specially toughened for making fixings into brick, stone, etc. In general however screws make better fixings than nails; they come in various gauges according to thickness. The larger the screw the larger its number, from 4 to 20. Ordinary steel screws will rust unless protected by primer and paint, but chromium-plated or zinc screws will not rust; brass and black japanned screws are available for more decorative work and to match particular fittings. Ordinary screws have a countersunk head, designed to be driven flush with the surface of the wood; round-head screws stand proud of the surface and should be used for attaching metal fittings to wood; and dome-headed screws have an additional metal cap which is screwed on at the end of the job to give a neater finish on mirrors, for example.
An absolutely vital household tool: you will find it difficult to manage for any
TOOLS AND EQUIPMENT length of time without a pair. You can use them to grip, pull and cut.
Sandpaper is useful for smoothing off surfaces; have handy coarse, medium and fine grades, and use wrapped around a small wooden or cork block specially designed for this purpose.
Avoid large carpenters’ saws as they are rather difficult for a beginner to use. A small all-purpose saw with stiffened blade and small teeth will easily cope with most small jobs around the house.
Keep a general purpose pair in your tool box, to save borrowing from the kitchen or blunting your dress-making shears. ‘Tin snips’ are particularly useful for cutting sheet metal.
There are many types of screwdrivers, and it is helpful to build up a selection in your tool kit. Screwdrivers with chubby handles are for screws in inaccessible places, and screwdrivers with insulated handles are useful for small electrical repairs.
Screwdrivers with flat heads will turn ordinary wood screws which have a single slot across their handle; but cross-slotted heads are also found on many screws, such as those fitted into many household appliances, and toys. For these you will need a screwdriver with a cross-pointed head. A number 2 Pozidriv screwdriver will suffice for all the most popular sizes of screws. Another type of screw which you may come across is the ‘Phillips screw’. This has a plain cross-cut head and although now obsolete, it may still crop up around the home on appliances and so on. For this type of screw you may need a Phillips screwdriver as well.
Don’t try to make do with a school ruler or a cloth dressmaking tape -which will stretch with use. Buy yourself a proper steel tape, preferably with metric measurements along one edge and imperial along the other.
Sticky tape is obviously useful for mending torn paper and doing up parcels etc. Double-sided tape can also be useful. Sticky cloth tapes give a firmer but more visible mend, and you can use them for bookbindings, repairing carpet edges etc. Insulating tape is used to protect the ends of bare wires, and temporarily to bind a fraying flex. Weatherproofing tapes in various widths are useful for making repairs to outside gutters, skylights, roofs and so on. Transparent types are available for repairing cracked glass.
Another essential, this allows you to undo and tighten a wide range of sizes of nuts and bolts.
Again, you will almost certainly need one of these. Always keep a packet of spare blades handy, and use for a whole host of small cutting jobs. Special blades are available as necessary: for example, hooked blades for cutting sheet vinyl.
Keep a selection of these. Remember that when you make a fixing into a masonry wall you should not put a screw in directly. First make a hole with your drill, using the correct bit, and put in a plug, then insert the screw. Size of the drill bit, plug and screw must all correspond. Fibre plugs make excellent fixings and come in sizes to match the screw exactly. But the inexperienced may find plastic plugs easier, because one size will cope with a range of screw sizes.
You will need separate tools for household decorating, but stripping andfilling knives, and general purpose filers come in handy for general repair work.
For repairs outside, you may require these additions to your standard tool kit: a trowel for pointing, or applying cement rendering etc. A hawk , useful for holding mortar etc. and afloat for smoothing off large areas of plaster or rendering. A cold chisel, specially toughened and shaped for chipping away masonry; hit this with a wooden club hammer. A bolster, which is a special version of a cold chisel, with a wide flat blade used for cutting bricks etc.
You can cope with many small household repairs yourself if you have the right tools for the job, so it is well worth acquiring a good set.
– Toolbox; 2. Rubber torch; 3. Adhesii’es; 4. Screwdrivers, several sizes; 3. Ratchet screwdriver; 6. Retractable steel measure; 7. Pliers; 8. Wall plugs; 9. Spanners; lo. Saiv; 11. Hacksaw; 12. Sandpaper: fine, medium, coarse; 13. Oilcan ; 14. Lightweight pin hammer; 15. Claw hammer; 16. Trowel; IJ. Scraper; 18. Electric drill and chuck key; 11. Stanley knife 148