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Hand tools

Many do-it-yourselfers already own the basic hand tools required for building and remodeling walls and ceilings. Unless

you plan a special application, such as installing ceramic wall tiles, you wonít need any specialty tools.

But if you are in the process of accumulating tools, consider these general buying guidelines. Naturally, the selection thatís right for you depends not only on the work you want to do but also on how often youíll use the tools, how expert you are at handling them, and how much money you want to spend.

Durability. Buy better-quality tools when you purchase those that you use often, such as hammers and saws. Itís worth a little extra to have a set of screw drivers with comfortable handles or chisels with steel- capped heads that stand up better than plastic heads. But donít pay top dollar for heavy-duty contractor tools youíll use occasionally. Many have features you donít need. And the truth is that inexperienced do-it-yourselfers donít get professional results just by using top notch tools. Skill is in the hand that holds a tool, not in the tool itself.

Precision. Stick with basic tools designed to do one job well, and avoid multipurpose gimmick tools that are loaded with bells and whistles. That 9-in-i wrench and hammer may be handy in the car glove compartment but not so much on home improvement projects.

Strength. Look for hammers, wrenches, pry bars, and other mainly metal tools that are drop-forged instead of cast metal. Casting can trap air bubbles in molten metal, creating weak spots. Drop-forging removes more bubbles and makes the metal stronger and safer. In general, when manufacturers take the time and money to drop- forge a tool and machine-grind its surface, they leave the fine-grained metal in plain view. Inferior cast tools are sometimes disguised with a coat of paint.

Price. If in doubt, avoid the most and least expensive models. The top end often has more capacity than you need, and the bottom end often has fundamental flaws that make work difficult--even for a professional. There are some exceptions, of course. For example, a throw away brush is fine for slapping some stain on a rough landscape timber or fence post. But if youíre a practiced how-to painter looking for a pristine finish on your trim, by all means invest in high-quality brushes.

Also, be sure to wield the tool in the store: check the feel and comfort, whether it seems controllable, too heavy, or too light. If you shop in a large outlet where there are several brands of the same tool, try one against another. It can be difficult to compare tools such as power saws, which you canít normally test on the spot. But some tools you can test--for example, levels. Before you buy one, check three or four on the store floor or counter, and stack them on top of each other to catch the one whose bubble may be out of line with the others.

Hand Tools: A--rasp, B--needle-nose pliers, C--sandpaper and sanding block, 0--block plane, E-shaver/shaper, F--chisels, C--nail set, H--fiat-blade screwdriver, I--Philips screwdriver, 3--utility knife, K--pliers, L--aviation snips.






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