The Basic Home Repair Tool Kit – Part Three
Hammers, Bars, Tapes, Squares and Levels
The home repair tool kit has undergone a transformation over the years. When I was younger, there were no power tools in my father’s vast array of tools. The brace-and-bit and folding wooden rule have gone. Now, everything needs to be plugged in or recharged. Not a bad thing at all, but not being a carpenter, like my father and his father before him, I wonder how mobile power tools make the professional carpenter.
However, the jobs to be done remain the same and the rule for buying tools remains the same, buy the best you can afford. So, let’s take a look at a few modern tools that would make up a very well-equipped set of tools.
Hammers: Carpenters make it look very easy to drive in large nails, but in fact, it is like most things, it takes a lot of practice to do it well. That is, without bending the nail or leaving dents in the surrounding timber from misses. The handle is the important part of a hammer, otherwise a rock would work just as well.
The handle increases the length of swing, amplifying the power of the swing. The heads come in different weights too. Most professionals will use a 20 ounce hammer, but a 16 ounce hammer is OK too.
Pro Tip: when withdrawing a nail, put a block under the hammer. Use the claw and pull on the block. It will increase your power and will not mark the timber.
Flat Bars: the flat bar is useful for light demolition. It is really handy for removing skirting boards and floor boards. Use a board to lever against so you don’t damage the surface your pushing against. You could slightly sharpen the ends of the bar with an angle grinder to make it easier to insert behind the boards.
Pro Tip: after removing boards, bend over or extract every nail to prevent injuries. Falling or stepping on rusty nails is a major hazard on building sites.
Tape Measures: most tapes in use in the industry are of the flexible, retractable type. They are sold by length. In the USA, they are still in feet and inches, whereas in Europe, one edge of the tape is in metric and the other in Imperial feet and inches. Most builders carry a five meter (15 foot) tape on their belt and a longer one in their bag or van. Try to measure from the I” mark, because the nd of an old tape becomes damages and may show more than an inch.
Pro Tip: mark the point you need with an arrow head or ‘V’. This is because if you have to make several marks and you come back later, you might not remember which end of the line is the mark, which can make a big difference if the line is not straight.
Combination Squares: this tool is unparalleled for checking square and marking straight cuts across timber. They often have a bubble in them too in order to make a rough check on level. A longer level is required for complete accuracy.
Levels: a bubble level is an essential tool for hanging shelves, doors etc. The longer the level the more accurate it is likely to be. A 2 foot level is minimum, a 3 foot level the norm. Make sure the bubble is precisely in the middle, about right is not good enough, because an error is magnified over distance. ‘A little bit out’ can mean a foot out in a garden wall.
Pro Tip: levels get bashed about and lose their accuracy. To make doubly sure, check one way then turn the level around from end-to-end and check again.