Choosing Tools For DIY

Your tools should be adequate to your needs — whether for general repairs and maintenance or craftsman use. When buying tools, purchase the best you can afford. A few good versatile tools are better than many inferior ones, which will give you poor results, as well as being liable to break or wear out quickly.

Budget-plan buying. The purchase of one new tool each week or month is a good idea. Your tool kit will grow surprisingly quickly and, when complete, will be a valuable possession.

Tools should be kept in storage boxes. This both protects them and ensures they are always readily to hand.

Never abuse tools. Use them only for the purpose they are intended to fulfill. Keep cutting tools sharp and protect all tools from the effects of damp. Avoid lending tools, Too often they will be neglected by the borrower.


The most-used tool in woodwork is the saw. The panel saw is intended for finished work but can be used for ripping, cutting down the grain or cross-cutting across the grain. A good average saw is about 21- in. (55 cm) long with 10 points (teeth) to each 1 in. (2.5 cm). Teflon-coated saws cut well through resinous or damp timber. The tenon or back saw is essential for fine work and has a stiffened backing to ensure a straight cut. A 10 in. (25 cm) saw with 14 points to 1 in. (2.5 cm) is a good choice.


Hold materials firmly when cutting. You need a vice, the basic holding tool, to do this successfully. Clamps can also be used to hold materials together. A portable vice is a good investment, as it can be fitted on to a variety of surfaces.


A basic hand drill, which accepts a variety of twist drills and masonry bits, covers most drilling contingencies. A hand push drill is a useful version of the hand drill. For drilling larger holes in timber you need a hand or bit brace, together with a range of centre bits and augurs. The brace can be used in countersinking. Accessories such as plug cutters are useful later additions: these enable a neat plug to be cut out of timber which can then be glued back over a countersunk screw head to present a virtually perfect surface.


A medium smoothing plane about 10 in. (25 cm) long with a 2 in. (5 cm) cutting edge covers most planing jobs, from preparing timber on the bench to easing doors and windows. Various manufacturers produce planes (sometimes with a rebate device for cutting slots and grooves) with throw-away blades, so that you do not have the problem of sharpening the plane iron. Planing files have a similar function to planes and also double as a rasp. By and large, they are not intended for fine work. In some cases they have replaceable cutting blades.

Measuring and marking.

  • A marking gauge is used to mark or scribe a line parallel with the edge of a board before cutting or chiselling. This is done by means of a small metal spike set on a wooden shaft with an adjustable crosspiece which slices up and down it.
  • A mortise gauge has two spikes and is useful for marking out for wood-working joints.
  • A retractable steel measure enables you to measure longer lengths of timber than with a wood or metal rule.
  • A metal rule about 2 ft (61 cm) long is an important acquisition, as it also provides a straight edge.
  • A try-square with a fixed blade is needed to form right angles for work of even limited precision.
  • A combination try-square enables you to mark accurate angles as well as right angles.
  • A slim marking knife will mark with greater precision than a pencil. You could also use a trimming knife, with which you can use a variety of blades for cutting various materials and also for cutting out shapes. Joining.


A hammer and screwdriver are the basic joining tools. There is a wide variety of hammers, from pin and tack hammers to claw hammers. The claw hammer is the best general-purpose choice: its claw enables nails to be withdrawn or floorboards to be prised up.

A 450- gramme (1 lb) weight is the best all-purpose choice. Hickory-handled hammers are considered to be the best for swing and control, though modern, glass-fibre shaft hammers handle well.

A good screwdriver length is about 10 in. (25 cm) long. There are two basic types of screw head, the slotted and the cross-headed or “sunburst” type. The slotted or “sunburst” head has a series of radial slots in the screw head. This sort of head has the advantage that the screwdriver is less likely to slip.

Wood shaping.

The basic wood-shaping tool is the chisel. The two main types are the firmer chisel, used for work of all types, and the bevel-edged chisel, a lighter type of chisel used for finer woodwork. The mortise chisel is used for really heavy bench work. A set of three bevel-edged chisels, such as a 1 in. (2.5 cm), in. (1.2 cm) and a *in. (6 mm) chisel, meet most general requirements.

On the level. A spirit level enables you to check horizontal and vertical levels and has many applications. A metal level is both durable and serves as a straight edge. Sharpening. Chisels and plane irons must be kept sharp if they are to do their job. Badly worn cutting edges may need regrinding on a carborundum wheel to restore the edge and remove pitted surfaces before sharpening on a fine stone and honing. To maintain tools in first-class condition a combination oilstone is important. Inspect tools regularly for sharpness and damage to cutting edges, for you may otherwise cause damage to the work you are doing.

Bench hook.

The bench hook is used to hold timber firmly when cutting with a tenon saw. The hook consists of a baseboard and two battens at top and bottom of each end. The battens are slightly shorter than the base width, so that you do not cut through them when using the board, which is reversible.


A set of paint brushes should comprise all sizes for tasks ranging from painting woodwork to painting ceilings. Paint rollers and paint pads are complements or alternatives. Various grades of glass and wet-and-dry sandpaper and a sanding block are needed for painting and other jobs around the home.


For simple plumbing jobs, your tool kit should contain a 10 in. (25 cm) or 12 in. (30 cm) long hacksaw and a junior hacksaw. Use high-speed steel blades for cutting. You also need a flat and a round file for taking burrs from cut pipework. Adjustable spanners are essential. Bending springs and pipe cutters are needed if you are going to manipulate and cut pipe.


Tools needed are a pair of cutters, round-nosed pliers, an insulated screwdriver and, optionally, a neon-tester, which glows when inserted into the live side of a socket. Hang a card of fuse wire beside the consumer’s unit where fuse wire is needed.

Power tools.

The basic power tool is the electric drill. It can accept- a variety of attachments to make it more versatile. As with all tools, it is wise to buy the best you can afford. Never use a basic fixed-speed power drill for cutting holes in concrete. Use one with a slow-speed facility or, better, a hammer-drill function. Attachments consist of saws, jig saws, orbital and disc sanders, lathes and paint stirrers You will, however, get better service by buying “integrated” units — such as power saws and orbital sanders, as these are designed specifically for the job they do. It can be tedious setting up an attachment on to a drill, particularly if you need the drill in its basic form for the same sequence of work.

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