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- The Essential Toolbox
The Essential Toolbox
- Photo: northernautotools.com
When most people think of a hammer, the image of a claw hammer comes to mind. The head has a face that is used to drive nails; on the opposite side of the head is a two-pronged claw that is used to pull nails out of wood. The head is steel, the handle can be of fiberglass, wood (typically hickory), or steel. Fiberglass and steel hammers usually have rubber, plastic, or vinyl handles for a sure grip and shock absorption.
The claw hammer may be the carpenter’s most essential tool, but not all hammers are the same. They range in size from small tack hammers to huge framing hammers that are 18 inches long and weight almost two pounds. For most people, a good general purpose hammer is moderate in size, weighing perhaps 16 ounces with a 16-inch handle. The heads vary greatly, too, with flattened or curved claws. Chose a smaller hammer for finer work; go larger if you plan to drive large nails.
Most screwdrivers share an overall design, consisting of a steel shaft called a shank, a tip called a blade, and a handle. But there are lots of variations in blades and handles, not to mention the oddball screwdrivers that have no shafts at all but instead use ratchets offset at a 90-degree angle to the tip to drive screws in confined spaces.
Most handles are bulb-shaped, large enough to be gripped comfortably in the palm of the hand. Electrician’s screwdrivers usually have plastic handles — the plastic insulates the user from the risk of electric shock. Wooden-handled drivers are more often found in woodshops. Auto mechanics tend to favor drivers that have rubber sleeves on the handles for a firm grip. Drivers can be long or short, ranging from stubbies about 2-1/2 inches long to specialty drivers 2 feet or more.
C-Clamps and Bar Clamps
The clamp is a simple tool, consisting of a pair of jaws drawn together with a tightening mechanism, typically a screw drive. When working with wood in particular, a clamp is essential for pulling together the pieces to be glued and for holding them tight and flush until the glue sets.
While there are lots of types of clamps, for most around-the-house jobs, C-clamps or bar clamps will do the work. C-clamps have jaws in the shape of the letter C, with metal shoes at the top and bottom to grip the work piece. Bar clamps are usually larger, with a fixed jaw at one end of the bar and another on a tail slide that moves up or down its length. The pressure is exerted by both C-clamps and bar clamps by the screwdrive, typically driven by a T bar that forms a handle.
A recent variation on the traditional bar clamp is the quick-grip clamp. These rely on a pistol-squeeze action. Quick-grips don’t have the same clamping power as bar clamps but have cushioned jaws and are easier to use.
Random Orbital Sander
A convenient, one-handed tool, the random orbital sander is driven by an electric motor. The motor spins a shaft on which a counterweight is mounted. The combination of the weight, the spinning shaft, and an offset thrust bearing produces a random, varying motion. Which is to say, it spins and wiggles, never the same way twice, and does a neat job, producing little or no scratching across the grain. The motion also tends to clean the sandpaper, avoiding the clogged surfaces common to straight-line sanders.
The random orbital sander uses prefabricated sandpaper disks, available from coarse to fine, which will remove lots of material quickly or produce a fine finish. Depending upon the manufacturers, the sandpaper is attached with either hook-and-loop (Velcro) or pressure sensitive (adhesive) backings.
Random orbital sanders are sold as single-speed and variable-speed models. Most come with a dustbag attachment, which also reduces the frequency with which the dust clogs the paper and results in a somewhat cleaner work area.
The staple gun can be used to fasten all kinds of materials in home construction and maintenance work. Roofing contractors, insulation installers, carpenters, and all kinds of homeowners and hobbyists find a multitude of uses for staplers every day.
The staple gun is no more than the larger, tougher sibling of the desk stapler that’s a fixture in every office. The ammunition is bigger, as most guns take staples that are 1/4 inch to 9/16 inch long; the width of the staples varies with the manufacturer.
Staple guns come in hand-powered and electric models. The most common variety is powered by a spring: a large lever built into the handle at the top acts as trigger, and the spring squeezes out a staple when the gun is pressed into the workpiece. Electric models are faster and easier to use; another type, the hammer stapler is swung like a hammer. It’s great for construction jobs but not for delicate ones.
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